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Smoking With Ryan Dilbert

Interview by Beth Thomas (Read the Story) December 21, 2009

Ryan Dilbert

mask of smoke by Julian Schwarze

Where did you get the idea for Liu?

When I started writing the story, I was teaching English in Gongyi, China and that influence is probably pretty obvious. Even with a working heater, this would have been during one of the coldest winters I’ve ever experienced and so I spent a lot time sleeping face down with my arms tucked under me for warmth. Bear imagery (hallucinations?) soon followed.

Have you ever imagined yourself to be an animal, like Liu does? If so, what, and why?

I usually imagine myself to be a star athlete, a homicide detective or Otis Redding. I rarely picture myself as an animal. Liu is seeking strength from his images while I mostly explore alternate existences in a spaced out manner.

Wen Tian’s derision is the catalyst for Liu’s change. So in a way, she put him on the path to his (eventual) mojo. What will Liu do when he sees Wen Tian tomorrow?

That’s a great question. I would hope it would be something impressive.

Does Liu still imagine himself a bear at the end? Or has he transformed into something new, left the imagining behind?

Something I hadn’t thought of. I don’t think the transformation is complete. I envision bumps in the road, frogs in the throat and a gradual change into someone more bear-like.

How do you generally start a story? Where does it all begin?

My starting point varies. Sometimes it’s an image or a line, a setting or a smelly old man trying to feel me up at Whole Foods. For Imagines He’s A Bear, I thought of the first line first and the rest came pretty quickly.

About the Author

Ryan Dilbert lives in Houston where he teachers for Writers in the Schools. His work can be seen in Paperwall, Titular, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, decomP and Dzanc Books‘ Best of the Web 2009.

About the Interviewer

Beth Thomas is originally from New Mexico but currently lives in California due to military relocation. She works as a technical writer in the aerospace/defense industry—don’t ask what she writes about ’cause she can’t really tell you. She has a BA and an MA in writerly things from New Mexico universities. Her work has recently appeared in Pindeldyboz Online, SmokeLong Quarterly, Juked, Word Riot, and other places.

About the Artist

Julian Schwarze, born on May 12, 1989 in Frankfurt / Main, studied product design at the University of Art and Design Offenbach, graduated in 2015 and is currently a research associate and PhD student in project-mo.de with a focus on mobility design. His doctoral thesis deals with system transitions in mobility spaces and their user-centered design. During his studies he completed internships in design offices in the Netherlands and Hamburg. The main focus was on  brand- and user-centered design of industrial products, everyday products and packaging.

This interview appeared in Issue Twenty-Seven of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-Seven

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