WASTEFALL
Copyright 1990, Pulp Press, Vancouver

ISBN 0-88978-220- 2

Cover design by David Lester

The world according to Forrest is a garbage dump, a surreal wasteland in which anything can happen and usually does. Through a series of circumstances beyond his control, our hero Forrest must abandon the shackles of reality and search for fulfillment amidst the debris of a cynical, disposable society. But life here ain’t all easy – kids still grow up to turn against you, and love is still hard to find.

Wastefall is an acerbic environmental allegory, and Forrest an ironic observer of life who asks the proverbial question, ‘Is it bad luck to smoke a dead man’s cigar?’

Excerpts from a Q&A interview about Wastefall

Wastefall has been described as “Robinson Crusoe in a dump”.

It wasn’t ever just a take on Defoe, but I can see it for sure. It’s all about surviving in an environment that most of us would abhor, as does Forrest, at first, but then he adjusts, has dominion over it, comes to love it and then to worship it, literally.
It’s also a great part for an actor. Were you thinking about that from the outset?It was originally a movie idea, actually a sort of silent-movie idea very much influenced by the Italian comedy “Bread and Chocolate” by Franco Brusati and starring Nino Manfredi who is a genius actor.

The novel was optioned three times and the script massaged by each organization. Stephen pressed for an almost theatrical interpretation.

I wanted it done on a set, with a back drop, and maybe some old-fashioned glass shots. I like that epic look, DeMille’s Ten Commandments and Charleton Heston in the path of the wind machines, standing in for all of humanity.

When talking about dream casting, Stephen is cautious.

I love actors, I love all actors. I think actors can all do fabulous things, so I don’t say no to anybody. For all the movie people who’ve had it at one point or another, it’s a star vehicle. It’s perceived as a one-hander, and everybody mentions Robin Williams. That would be great, I did a movie with him and he’s amazing and a great guy, but he’s so mega that something like that is probably not going to happen. Lots of actors could carry the part, I’m sure. Forrest ages from about thirty into his King Lear dotage, and I always saw someone like Nick Nolte. You really want someone who can shamble and rage.

And the kid, don’t you have to have multiple actors?

Three plus an infant, I think. The child ages to adulthood. And like a child he is much loved and somehow much feared.

Feared?

As a kind of horrible mirror of the parent. You are always looking at your kid and wondering secretly if they are going to screw it up like you did. At least I am.

What about the Goddess, the other half of the human equation?

Oh, she’s the goddess she’s beautiful and she’s universal. She’s part of every woman...

Wastefall can also be described as a cautionary tale about the illusions that humanity has about progress and nature.

It’s the duality of our particular variety of ape. The big question of our time is, can we realize who we are and how we are destroying our world, in time to transform ourselves and do something about it? We’ve always known what we were about, we’re consuming machines, and we slash and burn and exploit and then move on if we can. We conquer nature, we think of that as progress, and then we turn around and shed tears when we visit a national park. So, I’m just asking, you know, are these two forces like the lovers in Wastefall, doomed to occupy separate dimensions, or is there some reconciliation waiting for us in the heavens.

What’s it like writing a novel in just three days?

I thought it was easy.

No way.

I did. We had two dinner parties while I was doing it. We had friends over one night and my in-laws the next. I’d eat something and then go downstairs and do a chapter and then come back up and have another course. I didn’t find it hard at all.

Did you stay up all that time?

Well, one of the disadvantages is that it’s always over the Labour Day weekend, and you start at Friday at midnight, so you’re sleepy right off the bat.

You can have an outline going in?

Yeah, I had this film outline…it was called Garbage, and right before that I was reading some magazine, it was an article about Dukakis and they were talking about pollution on beaches in Massachusetts and someone was quoted as saying that the problem was they had to police the entire wastefall…from the headwaters right out into the ocean. I love the word, I haven’t seen it too much since then. But no…when I got tired and wasn’t happy with what I was doing, I just went to sleep. I got through it twice.

That’s pretty incredible.

I write fast anyway, and it’s a great thing, the three-day novel contest. You just learn to disgorge whatever you’re thinking about. You really don’t have time to get precious with your work. You just purge yourself. It’s a lot better than staring at a blank computer screen worrying about every little comma.

Did you use a computer?

I can’t imagine doing it without a computer, but the woman who won the year after me did hers all in longhand!