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The Unofficial Robert Bloch Website

Interviews

The Existential Robert Bloch

Lee Prosser


Robert Bloch has been creating imaginative fiction since 1934. He is a kind individual with a wry sense of humor and a keen, inquiring intellect; he remains a popular and entertaining speaker amoung students and adults. Bloch was awarded the prestigious Life Achievement Award at the 1st World Fantasy Convention in 1975 for his lifelong contributions to American literature. A subtle social critic, his critically acclaimed short fiction reveals his skill at exposing the cultural and social problems that exist in society. Born April 5, 1917, in Chicago, Illinois, Robert Bloch lives in Los Angeles, California. This interview took place through correspondence during March of 1983.

LP: As one of the world's most widely read authors, what do you feel is the continuing appeal of your writings after over fifty years of creating quality fiction? Is it your existential perspective?
RB: The truth of the matter is, I've only been writing professionally for forty-nine years, and if my work has any continuing appeal, I ascribe it to the fact that the readership keeps changing. New generations of readers -- and editors too, thank heaven! -- are constantly rediscovering material I've written years ago. There seems to be certain elements in imaginative fiction which are timeless.
LP: What do you feel is the attraction for science fiction and imaginative literature in general among today's secondary students?
RB: Unlike the other forms of so-called "escape fiction," these genres generally serve to stimulate intellectual curiosity in addition to providing entertainment. I think students respond to this, and find it superior to the sterotypy of "action-adventure," "espionage thrillers," "westerns," "whodunnits," and other such formularized material.
LP: What can science fiction offer the classroom teacher that other instructional material cannot?
RB: A broader scope. Good science fiction can deal with any and all disciplines; one can find examples of stories and/or novels which offer combinations of philosophy, psychotherapy, political economy, sociology, anthropology, together with the so-called "hard" sciences. As such, this material offers an excellent springboard for discussion without the rigid construction and constriction so frequently found in other genres.
LP: As a writer, how do you feel you have contributed to the educational process of secondary students?
RB: If I've made any contribution at all, it's through piquing curiosity -- through allusion and reference to subjects which require further independent study and research. In so doing, I merely repeat the pattern I discovered in my own reading as a student; the intriguing hints dropped by an author in the course of telling a story usually led me to investigate his data more thoroughly on my own.
LP: Why are students so fascinated and motivated by science fiction?
RB: Because it deals with the future -- and young people are the future.
LP: What do you feel is the role of a writer in helping educate citizens?
RB: His role is to be pretty damned careful about what he has to say. Over the course of five decades I've been many times astounded by the number of people who have written me or accosted me at lectures or conventions, quoting something I said or wrote many years ago and telling me what an effect it had on their lives and/or thinking. In most instances what they recall is something I've completely forgotten. Writing entails responsibility!
LP: Who were the early influences in your writing career? Did you read works by Poe, Jack London, L. Frank Baum, among others?
RB: Of course I read Poe, Jack London, and L. Frank Baum. London didn't influence me at all; the other two did. Along with H.P. Lovecraft, who shaped my early style; James Branch Cabell and Dunsany and Arthur Machen also made contributions. Attitudes were beholden to Mark Twain, O. Henry, H.L. Mencken. Then, as I reached my late teens, I gravitated towards Aldous Huxley, Somerset Maugham, James Joyce (up to but not including FINNEGAN'S WAKE), Jules Romains, Thomas Mann, and profoundly in the non-fictional areas -- Oswald Spengler and Ouspensky. Later my style was modified by the "hardboiled" school; Hamett, Chandler, Cain, et al. Out of all this mishmash -- and the average of at least one book per day read over a period of almost sixty years -- I seem to have arrived at a style of my own.
LP: Your works show a keen awareness of sociological and psychological insights. This is especially evident in your bestseller, PSYCHO II. Are you aware of this when you create, or does it come about unconsciously from personal experience and observation?
RB: I write what I feel is needed to strengthen various elements in a story -- characterization, in particular, requires explicit or implied viewpoint. Sometimes a character -- or a first-person narrator thinks as I do. At other times the opposite may be true. If necessary, I can think like a psychopath. One serves one's story; that's the primary rule. In so doing, I use whatever I think or believe about society and the individual under consideration in my narrative. But I doubt if I know a tenth as much about "human nature" as the average fortune-teller.
LP: Who do you consider the greatest influences in science fiction writing today, and why?
RB: I can't answer this one. When I look at much of "science fiction writing today" or what passes as such, I can only shake my head and murmur, "Now where in hell does this come from?" My guess is that a lot of younger writers are belatedly discovering Kafka, Hesse, Woolf, Proust; that I repeat is only a guess. But Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein and the other "Golden Age" writers are still the best-sellers.
LP: You are a highly motivated and optimistic individual. What good things do you envision for the future concerning secondary education?
RB: I am neither highly motivated nor optimistic, and my hope for the future is a return to an intellectually-elitist society, wherein the turkeys who don't want to learn will be turned loose to do what they do best -- physical labor -- and the attention of educators can be focused, at long last, on the gifted and/or potentially intelligent students instead of the retarded. Until our society offers assistance, encouragement, and rewards for mental achievement as well as for jock-activities, we will, in the interim, continue to waste our potential for true growth and maturity, individually and collectively. Without such growth we're on a collision-course with disaster.

Lee Prosser has been writing for publication since 1963 and has over 2000 publications to date. He lives in the Southwestern United States with his wife and five cats. ISHERWOOD, BOWLES, VEDANTA, WICCA, AND ME; RUNNING FROM THE HUNTER: THE LIFE AND WORKS OF CHARLES BEAUMONT; and NIGHT TIGERS are among his most recent book publications. He writes, composes music, and enjoys painting watercolors. He is the Book Review Editor and reviews jazz CDs at JazzReview.com.

Mr. Prosser was born in Missouri on December 31, 1944 and has received a Ph.D. in Ancient Religions (The New Mexico Theological Seminary), an MS in Social Science (Southwest Missouri State University), a BS in Sociology (Southwest Missouri State University), and an AA in English (Santa Monica College). He is currently working on a biography of Sri Ramakrishna and a biography of Gerina Dunwich. His future plans include writing books on the origins of Witchcraft and Vedanta.

More information about Mr. Prosser can be found at his website.

An interview with Mr. Prosser can be found here.

"The Existential Robert Bloch" is copyright 2002 by Lee Prosser. It was previously unpublished, and is printed here with his permission.