Updated: Jul 7
For the tenth of our Beneath the Needle series, we are joined by Gustavo Bondoni, a novelist and short story writer with over three hundred stories published in fifteen countries, in seven languages. We highlight relevant character archetypes in relation to Lobster Bath, Gustavo's Flash Fiction feature included in The Needle Drops... Volume One. Naturally, we also discuss his upcoming work, horror media and veganism.
Gustavo Bondoni is novelist and short story writer with over three hundred stories published in fifteen countries, in seven languages. He is a member of Codex and an Active Member of SFWA. His latest novel is Test Site Horror (2020). He has also published two other monster books: Ice Station: Death (2019) and Jungle Lab Terror (2020), three science fiction novels: Incursion (2017), Outside (2017) and Siege (2016) and an ebook novella entitled Branch. His short fiction is collected in Pale Reflection (2020), Off the Beaten Path (2019) Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places (2010) and Virtuoso and Other Stories (2011).
So, Gustavo - Lobster Bath centres a particular kind of person, one who is self-absorbed and ignorant to anything beyond his peripheral, to put it lightly. It’s a fantastic satirical critique -- where did it originate from? A person of note, or were you aiming at a broader target?
I think the workplace jerk has become a modern archetype, and they come in as many shapes and sizes as there are jerks in other walks of life. I’ve always found guys like this to be a bit creepy and cringeworthy, so when the idea for the lobster bath hit me… that was the guy I wanted to dump in there.
Being such a prolific author, with a publication count surpassing three hundred, could you share some notable memories of any of your short fiction you’re particularly fond of in retrospect?
That’s like asking me to choose among my children! But yeah, there’s always some that I love particularly. There’s a story called “A Sip of Pombé” published by DreamForge which I particularly love, because it addresses nationalism, haves and have-nots and the underdog while still having a happy ending. I also still love the first story I ever sold because it seemed utterly fresh and different to me back then (it still feels that way, even though I have more knowledge now). It’s called “Tenth Orbit” and is the title work of my first collection. Finally, On the fantasy / horror front I love a tale called “Bridge Over the Cunene”, which was originally published in The World is Dead and is also available in my collection Off the Beaten Path.
With ‘monsters’ - perhaps more specifically prehistoric creatures - taking the spotlight in your most recent novel releases, what keeps drawing you back to the genre?
Horror is fun to write, and hopefully, my horror is fun to read. That sounds contradictory, particularly considering the body count in my fiction, but it’s true. The suffering of a character—which we know is fictitious—can allow us to explore feelings and situations that real life, especially oh-so-safe modern life, would never allow us to witness or experience first-hand. And a lot of the situations in horror fiction are way out there, forcing the author to stretch their imagination to give the reader something they haven’t seen a million times before, and entertain them.
"A lot of the situations in horror fiction are way out there, forcing the author to stretch their imagination to give the reader something they haven’t seen a million times before, and entertain them."
Could you share an experience of your time travelling abroad as a child, and how that led to your passion for fiction?
I’ve enjoyed reading since I was pretty small, but one thing that definitely made a difference and created a lifelong habit was moving to Zürich. Now, I was always an outdoors kid who loved sports, but sunset in Switzerland in December happens at 5:30 in the afternoon… and in the early ‘80s the only TV channel in English (we had cable… 8 channels, one in English) started transmitting at 7:30 (rock videos) and English-language programming at 8PM.
Reading took up a lot of that time, aided by the fact that the school I attended, the International Primary School of Zurich (now part of ZIS), was situated in an old lakeside house in which one room was crammed full of bookshelves. My reading started with Famous Five and The Hardy Boys, but eventually swung more towards genre fiction… right where my writing is today.
What’s next for you in regards to your craft? Is there anything you’d like to highlight to our readers?
I think horror readers would love my monster books (I may be biased). If so inclined, they might want to pick up Ice Station: Death first. It’s available from Amazon. For those who prefer short fiction, Off the Beaten Path is a good overview of what I’ve been doing.
Looking forward, there are a couple of really cool things coming. I’ve got four new books in the pipeline, and a re-edition of a previously published one. They range from a new monster book and an SF sequel to a linked collection of literary / mainstream shorts.
Amongst the wide berth of the horror genre, what’s a go-to favourite or inspirational piece?
Inspiration mainly comes from classic writers: James, Le Fanu, and Du Maurier. They knew how to scare people without necessarily having a monster chomp on them. I don’t often do that in my own tales (people are getting chomped or dissolved with acid all the time in my work, right there, centre stage), but I do use the tools they developed to get into the heads of the victims and, to a lesser extent, the victimizers.
"I’ve got four new books in the pipeline, and a re-edition of a previously published one. They range from a new monster book and an SF sequel to a linked collection of literary / mainstream shorts."
Returning to Lobster Bath, it suggests there’s an obvious criticism to be levied toward the consumption of animals and our attitudes and actions toward them. What are your thoughts on veganism and plant-based diets?
Ironically, I’m an unabashed meat-eater who particularly enjoys lobster. While I don’t mind people not eating meat, I find the ones attempting to evangelize those views extremely annoying. Having said that, I feel you shouldn’t be able to tell what the author thinks from his writing. If his characters are believable, they should convince you of their OWN beliefs, not the writer’s. That goes for political, religious or, as in this case, lifestyle views – a good writer should be transparent. A preachy one is boring. Of course, only readers will be able to judge if I was successful this time around.
In three words or less - what can our readers expect from Lobster Bath?
We really appreciate your time, Gustavo -- and for allowing us to share Lobster Bath in The Needle Drops… Volume One. Stay tuned.
Thanks for having me!
In 2019, Gustavo was awarded second place in the Jim Baen Memorial Contest and in 2018 he received a Judges Commendation (and second place) in The James White Award. He was also a 2019 finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest.
Learn more and follow Gustavo's future projects via his website at www.gustavobondoni.com.