Quick Fire At The Slaughterhouse With Christopher Grant

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by Christopher Grant

Alternate Endings is the brainchild of a conversation that Richard Godwin and I had with each other last weekend. The discussion was about whether or not variant endings would work in prose fiction. I had been reading about variant endings that Matt Fraction (one of my favorite comic book writers) had planned on having three variant endings to the third issue of Casanova: Luxuria (the first arc of the Casanova epic) and it fell through at the last moment when it seemed to be unfeasible.

This is why both Richard and Matt are credited with the creation of the site at the site.

Parallel worlds, supernatural or paranormal events, duality, general weirdness, dreams, et al, have been of particular interest to me for quite a long time.

Alternate endings to television shows or movies that I have seen dozens of times have been a fun little game that I’ve played for at least as long.

Instead of so-and-so surviving this round of Survivor or The Amazing Race, it’s X.

What would’ve happened in a world where Al Gore was declared the winner of the 2000 election instead of George W. Bush? Would the Twin Towers still be standing? Would Iraq have been attacked? Would we be going on ten years of US occupation in that country and eleven in Afghanistan?

These are interesting questions that can be answered in fiction.

What if the husband kills his wife in this version of your noir story but in the second version, she kills him as he attempts to kill her? And what if in the third, she and he end up dead when her lover comes into the picture and decides he wants the contents of their bank account? And what if in a fourth version, the lover is actually in love with the husband and they kill the wife together?

See? Fun, ain’t it?

That’s what Alternate Endings is all about.

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Christopher Grant is well known for being the editor of A Twist Of Noir, a magazine that has launched many fine writers. He is also a great crime writer himself with a wealth of knowledge about the genre and many others. His magazine Eaten Alive is dedicated to zombie fiction. And now he has launched Alternate Endings. Stories in his latest magazine have to have two endings, in other words, the same story twice, ending differently. To mark the launch of Alternate Endings he met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about parallel universes and the nature of reality.

To what extent do you think one second can make a difference in a person’s life?

Depends on the situation, I suppose. Life and death, such as a heart surgery or brain surgery, one second most definitely can make all the difference. In sports, say you take a second longer to shoot a puck or a basketball at the hoop. Clock runs out, buzzer goes off, game’s over and you’re the goat. Timing in European football, a goaltender takes a second too long and it’s goooooalll.

Timing in life is probably less intense than it is in gaming but life-changing events can take place in that one second, too. Someone chokes on something and you’re the only one in the room that knows how to apply the Heimlich maneuver properly but you’re not in the room because you stepped out to use the restroom. To the guy that just choked on that chicken bone, I think that one second was extremely important.

Do you believe in parallel universes?

I do, for the simple reason that I know that this universe exists, so it would be presumptuous of me to believe that this is the one and only universe in existence. I’m sure that this raises questions that shoot off of that, such as, is there another Christopher Grant right now in the universe next to this one talking with another Richard Godwin right at this moment? I can’t answer that definitively except to say maybe. I’m sure, in that other universe, someone is probably asking themselves the same question, is there one of me over there?

Just the thought that there are these places and these people that we can’t quite touch or communicate with (yet) is completely fascinating to me.

David Lynch explores parallel realities extensively in his films. How do you think Twin Peaks illustrates the concept and what does the giant mean when he tells Agent Cooper ‘there is a man in a smiling bag’?

David Lynch is a favorite of mine (as I know he’s a favorite of yours, too, Richard) both in what he directs and what he writes. Twin Peaks, now there’s a series that the general viewing public fell in love with and out of love with almost instantaneously, mostly because they were both fascinated by and not ready for what it was that Lynch and Mark Frost were putting out there. Oh, yeah, and Lynch and Frost wanted to keep the whole Who Killed Laura Palmer as a MacGuffin, something that would never be answered, something the public and the network couldn’t handle. Sometimes knowing everything isn’t good for you. Those of us that understood the show and understood why that mystery shouldn’t have been resolved still love it, though.

To your question of how Twin Peaks illustrates the concept of parallel realities, the easiest answer is the denizens of the Black Lodge and more specifically the Red Room. Bob, Mike, the Man From Another Place, Laura Palmer and her Doppelganger, Cooper (by series end), Leyland Palmer (or was that his Doppelganger?) and so on. Mike, the one-armed man, especially, as he’s the only figure that we see outside of the Lodge, as well as in, in any true capacity. The fact that he has to use drugs to become something like normal (or what we would perceive to be normal) is an interesting concept.

But parallel realities can be seen outside of the Black Lodge and outside of the various players from that realm, as well.

For instance, Josie Packard.

Here is a woman that at first appears to be completely innocent of whatever it is that Catherine Martell (her sister-in-law) is accusing her of (which we find out about later in the series). Even the way that she turns a phrase makes her appear innocent. The further into the series, even in Season One, we go, more is revealed about her and we understand that she had a different life before she inherited her husband’s mill, so much so that when she is killed, we’re still not completely clear on what all she was hiding.

Donna Hayward is another character that starts out pretty virtuously and, upon wearing something as simple as Laura’s sunglasses, becomes a completely different person. We find out in the Twin Peaks film, Fire Walk With Me, that this isn’t the first time that Donna has worn something of Laura’s and that something has had a strange effect on her.

I think the entirety of Twin Peaks is about duality and about parallel realities.

As for what The Giant means when he tells Cooper, “There is a man in a smiling bag,” within the series, we are led to believe that it is the body of Jacques Renault and whomever killed Jacques is probably the person who killed Laura Palmer. But I think there’s probably a deeper meaning there and might even point to Cooper being taken over by Bob at the end of the series, as what we see at the end of the series could be described as a smiling bag, since it’s not really Cooper.

Physicists posit that the event horizon of a black hole is the entry point to a parallel universe. Do you think it is possible we are living within a black hole and is the doppelganger our ideal self or our Nemesis?

Now, see, this is why I love doing interviews with you. The questions that you ask are thought-provoking and not the basic run-of-the-mill.

An event horizon is something that should interest noir fans and writers, whether they know it or not. Boiled down to the simplest explanation, an event horizon is a point of no return. The point of no return is present (or should be) in every noir story. It’s the part of the story where the man (usually the man) falls for the femme fatale and does something exceedingly stupid, you know, like murders the femme fatale’s husband because she entices him to.

If we are living within a black hole, that would go a way towards explaining why we have not received transmissions from other possible intelligent life in the universe. If our transmissions aren’t getting out, they’re not likely to bother looking for us, are they? At the same time, if you believe that we have been visited by aliens, where are these aliens coming from and why visit us? Is it possible that they’re not aliens but us from a parallel universe?

Food for thought.

As for the doppelganger, another interesting, fascinating area to explore.

They say everyone on the planet has a twin.

I have second-hand experience with this phenomena, due to my mom having had first-hand experience.

When I was a child, I remember hearing the story about how she was downtown shopping for, probably we three kids, and said that she believed that she saw her brother, George.

A little while later, maybe a small handful of years, we were traveling back home from a trip out east and stopped at a motel in Indiana. The next morning, she swore that she saw her brother again.

In both cases, George was neither in downtown Duluth, nor in Indiana, but rather in Milwaukee.

A couple years ago, she was upstairs and thought that she saw my dad standing in the doorway to their bedroom. She said he was just staring at her and she said she said to this figure, “I thought you were downstairs.” She came downstairs and he was still sitting in the chair that he had been when she went upstairs. I can attest that he had never left the chair.

Various famous people have had experiences with doppelgangers, including Abraham Lincoln, who saw his in a mirror on the night of his election to president in 1860. His doppelganger was a two-faced Janus-like reflection of himself. The one face was just as his own, the second, in Lincoln’s own words, was “five shades paler” than the first. This, of course, startled him and he sat up from the couch that he had laid down on and the faces disappeared. He laid back down and again, he could see the faces. He sat up and yet again, they disappeared. He was only able to experience this a third time after which, no matter how he manipulated the mirror or himself, he could not duplicate the experience.

After telling his wife about this experience, she said that she thought that this meant that he would be re-elected to a second term but that he would not survive that second term.
And, of course, she was correct in that assessment.

So is the doppelganger the ideal self or the nemesis?

Depending on your thoughts on death (and I could go off on a tangent on that topic), Lincoln’s doppelganger could have been the nemesis. In the same vein, it could have also been the ideal self. It may sound strange but perhaps death isn’t the enemy. If all we are is
energy in a shell (our bodies), and when we die, that energy is released, is death really death or is it birth?

Is the doppelganger an anomaly created by the brain or is it a tangible thing? Again, if we are nothing more than energy in a shell, then it’s both, isn’t it?

There is so much that we still don’t understand about the world that we live in, the universe that this world turns in and the bodies, especially the brains, that we inhabit.

Christopher thank you for a brilliant and thought-provoking interview.

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15 Responses to Quick Fire At The Slaughterhouse With Christopher Grant

  1. CG is a most stand up guy in this and any universe he or his doppelganger choose to occupy. Scintillating stuff here with two of the craftier word-crafters out there. Let’s not hope for happy endings but rather yearn for multiple ones. Cheers.

  2. Great interview and Alternate Endings seems like a smart idea!

  3. callan says:

    I loved reading your thoughts about twin peeks. I am a huge Lynch fan myself i never knew till I read this that Lynch and Frost did not want to reveal who killed Laura Palmer. It would have fallen in more closely with the pace of the show, but the public would have been pissed. Great stuff

  4. chad rohrbacher says:

    Great stuff — gives a lot to think about like maybe I really don’t need my meds 🙂

    Thought provoking for sure and I am psyched to read the new venture.

  5. Jason Michel says:

    Brilliant. Ticked allthe right boxes – Lynch, parallel universes & black holes – here’s a coincidence (if you believe in such things) today in the guardian –

  6. Jason, this is what’s known as a happy coincidence. Or maybe both Richard and I have some kind of weird power over The Guardian and what they print. Nah, that’s gotta be a coincidence.

    Chad, hope you enjoy Alternate Endings, with or without the meds.

    Callan, yeah, the public is always a fickle lot, aren’t they? If you don’t give them what they want, they hate you. But, as soon as you do, they hate you, too, because now you’ve ruined the anticipation and the anticipation was always greater than whatever the payoff was.

    And, Michael, I second that yearning.

  7. RS Bohn says:

    I have to admit that not only was this interview thought-provoking, but inspiring in some ways. Your musing on the doppelganger and parallel universes read (to me) somewhat sinister, and those vibes are fascinating.

    Alternate Endings is just another example of the way your creativity continues to expand. Well done there.

    Wait… just had a thought… zombie doppelgangers!?!?!

    Great interview, guys.

  8. Col Bury says:

    Fascinating stuff, chaps. Much food for thought here. Thoroughly enjoyed this. Top job.


  9. Miss Alister says:

    Way cool interview, Misters Grant and Godwin. It is fun all this, is why I dig the movie “What The Bleep Do We Know!?” which addresses quantum superposition and infinite other mind-bending concepts. It’s why I’m forever affected by “Sliding Doors” with Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s running to make a train, the doors close, and the movie takes off alternating between her life if she missed the train and if she made it. I love that! And therefore I particularly love that last Q&A. Brilliant stuff!

  10. Becky, zombie doppelgangers is a concept that I don’t think I’ve ever seen used. I’d love to see you run with the idea and share it at Alternate Endings.

    You’re not alone in feeling sinster undertones (overtones? both?) in the parallel universes and, especially, in the doppelganger. I think that with both it’s just a simple twist of what we are already. So, if this is Earth-1, Earth-2 has a Christopher Grant that is a crime fiction writer but he gets his ideas from the crimes that he commits. And perhaps doppelgangers are from parallel universes.

    Col, glad you enjoyed the interview. Richard is a genius when it comes to getting the most out of you with his thought-provoking questions. I had never even thought, until this interview, about aliens perhaps being humans from parallel universes rather than from different planets. This is what conversation with Richard does to you: expands the hell out of your mind and with beautiful consequences.

  11. AJ Hayes says:

    When I saw Grant and Godwin in the same place and conversation I thought “Okay. This is gonna be good!” I just didn’t have any idea of how good good could be. But then,as the man said, “The owls are not what they appear to be.” I’m drinking GREAT COFFEE! as I write this and there’s a chill creeping up my back as I remember my wife is the one of the few people I know who “got” Lynch from the first time she saw him. She’s also the only person who understood Mullholland Drive from the jump. We were walking out of the theater and I said, “what the hell was that?” She smiled and said, “Well it’s perfectly logical when you understand the whole first half of the movie is a flashback and dream combined.” Oh yeah. If she ever appears in front of you in the lobby of of the Waldorf in NYC and yells, “Get out of the way! There’s a buffalo stampede coming through here in five minutes,” you’d better book it. I’ve always thought, in a parallel universe, she is Queen Of The Bison And knower Of All Things Lynchianic. About doppelgangers and the rest of the stuff in the piece . . . I could tell you stories.
    Fantastic interview, guys. But then, I just knew it would be.

  12. Much of our life is about seconds, I think. Gaining them. Losing them. But who knows whether the gain is good and the loss bad.

  13. Paul, thanks for that. Like I said at the site, the concept was just waiting there to be plucked. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with.

    Miss Alister, I love those little possibilities, too. If you don’t turn the radio on when you could have, does that mean that you miss the traffic report and get stuck and, while waiting in traffic, do you miss something that you would have normally been there for had you not taken the freeway, thinking you’d get there quicker?

    AJ, consider your wife listened to if she ever tells me throw that sweater on because tomorrow it’s going to be ten degrees instead of the fifty it is today. It took me two viewings of Mulholland Drive to understand that the opening was dream and flashback and even then, I didn’t notice the Falling Into Pillow snippet until the third viewing. That film, by the way, gets better every single time you view it. Listen to the dialogue once you’ve familiarized yourself with the scenes. It was always there.

    And, Charles, your statement is so true. Who knows which one you want? Seconds gained are not necessarily seconds that you want and vice versa.

  14. richardgodwin says:

    Thank you Christopher for a great and insightful interview. I hope it will draw people to Alternate Endings.

  15. Terrific interview, Richard. Congratulations, Christopher on the launch of Alternate Endings. What an intriguing endeavor. Wishing you all the best!

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