Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Way of the Geek #10: Al Bruno III!

Al Bruno III is, in the words of his own blog The Wit and Weirdness of Al Bruno III, “...a writer of irregular talent whose work is irregularly read. He prefers to write comedy and horror but is sometimes unsure of the difference.” Check out his blog to read some of his writings!

Al was born in Albany, New York, the oldest of six siblings who range from five to 40 years old! He's been married to the same woman for 17 years (congratulations!), and has a ten-year-old daughter. He's employed in the tech support field. “It's good money, but naps at lunchtime are a must,” he commented.

Like many geeks, Al is what I call a “polygeek,” being into several different areas of geekery. His main geekery is Doctor Who, which he's watched since he was a kid. Al also plays a number of role-playing games, like D&D, The Call of Cthulu, and the World of Darkness – and has been known to run them as well. He's also a huge fan of horror in its various presentations. Al used to collect comics, but noted that financial and space constraints have made him “...one of those guys that waits for the trade edition to come out.”

When asked about his earliest geek memories, Al said, “I think that we all start out as geeks- loving comics, toys and cartoons but after a while the forces of 'maturity' tell us we have to set those things aside. Folks like you and me are the ones smart enough not to buy into that crap.” If he has to pick an earliest memory, he'd select watching “The Spanish Moss Murders” episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. “I saw it when I was five or so, and it was funny and scary all at once. There is a scene near the end where Kolchak is trapped in the sewers and the spanish moss monster just rises up out of the water behind him. It pretty much made me a weirdo for life. Even now, a lifetime and a half later, I still get chills now when I watch the episode, it doesn't matter how cheap the monster costume looks to 'mature' eyes I'm still five years old when I see it.”

I'd imagine that Al's childhood was similar to many of ours. “Sadly I didn't have a lot of friends when I was a kid. I was a bit odd- big vocabulary, weird ideas and a short attention span made me the bane of grammar school. I was close with my siblings for most of my childhood and they followed my lead on a lot of things. Puberty sadly sent us in different directions,” he remembered.

I have to admit, I'm a bit envious of one of Al's childhood memories: “I used to make my own animated films with a super 8 camera. I got fairly good with it before the bottom dropped out of the retail super 8 film market.” That's something I've always wanted to do! Al had some common memories with most of us, I'd imagine... “I also used to create my own comics as well, my art was pretty crude and after a while I decided I got more done by writing my stories instead of drawing them.”

To help him recall his childhood, Al said he's got one of the superhero drawings he did as a child laminated and hanging on his office wall, “to remind me not to forget.”

To help reconnect with his childhood, Al enjoys buying favorites from TV and movies on DVD, “Universal and Hammer horror films, geeky TV shows, Mystery Science Theater. That kind of thing,” he explained. There are, of course, some shows that he's still waiting for: “I would love to see them release the old SHAZAM! episodes on DVD. TV land played them for a while and my daughter and I really enjoyed them. Oh and the GREEN HORNET and Adam West BATMAN stories as well.”

Not much of his home is taken up with his geek collection these days (an advantage of DVDs, I suppose). His favorites would be his Doctor Who DVDs, which he wishes he had time to view again as a marathon.

Al's first convention was a Fantacon in Albany, NY, when he was 11 or 12. A highlight of that convention was getting Fred Hembeck's autograph, which he's sadly lost since then. Another convention highlight was an 80s-era con in Albany where John Byrne was a guest, and Al was joined by a lot of his fellow Dr. Who fans. “They had a bootleg episode viewing marathon after the con was over. It was my first chance to see the first and second Doctors,” Al remembered.

Al also recalled meeting lots of fellow horror geeks at a New York City Fangoria convention when he was in college. “There were always these guys that made their money selling glossy images culled from horror films,” he said, recalling those early 1980s days before the world wide web. “These vendors filled an important need back in the day.” Another big memory from that convention was meeting personal hero Clive Barker, who inspired him to be a writer.

Al's worked at a few conventions when one of his friends who ran a comic book store needed help, although he's not sure how much help he really was! “I was mostly there to check out the plus-sized babes dressed as Klingons,” he confessed.

He hasn't been able to attend any conventions regularly these days (time and finances, the bane of geeks worldwide), but he'd like to start going again.

Al's big claim to fame, geek-wise, is writing the fictional inserts for Eden Studio's survival horror role-playing game All Flesh Must Be Eaten and the kung-fu sequel Enter the Zombie. “I'm really proud of those, I've gotten a lot of compliments on them,” Al enthused.

Al said that his most unusual area of geekery is for female singer/songwriters, such as Kate Bush, Tori Amos, and Amanda Palmer, although he's certain he's not the only one into them!

Al's blog started because he wasn't having much luck getting his writing printed; at the same time, he was spending a lot of time on a gaming website's forums, where he'd post stories about his RPG experiences. The positive feedback he got from those led him to post some horror stories, which had the same reaction. He initially started posting his stories on a web page, but realized that a blog would help him maintain a regular writing workload. He spends most of his free time these days working on his blog. As his blog has evolved, he's been posting more and more frequently.

Features of his blog came along as he thought of them. He said, “Originally there was just the occasional serial novella or short story but I decided to post one of my longer works as a weekly serial novel- that was IN THE SHADOW OF HIS NEMESIS and it has been chugging along for over a year now. My PRICE BREAKS AND HEARTACHES stories were an outgrowth of my gaming stories- people seem to enjoy comical tales of my aimless formative years. Again I used to write them in a pretty scattershot format but now I am doing them as weekly updates. Then I participate in the #Fridayflash project. What's that you may ask? Every Friday online writers create a story that is no longer than 1,000 words and post links to them on the #Fridayflash page. Then I fill out the rest of my week with my 5 SECOND FICTIONS and links to other folks blog posts that amused me.”

So far, Al's blog has netted him a little money, but the biggest reward for him is “people finding and enjoying my work. And I have made a lot of great friends online.”

Other blogs Al follows include My Supa Life, Lovecraft Is Missing, The Princess and the Giant, The Vault of Horror, Day of the Woman, Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies, The Dreamin' Demon, The Lightning Bug's Lair, Mazz in Leeds, and of course Random Acts of Geekery!

With Al's level of geekery, it's bound to get some kind of reaction... he said that most of his family probably just rolls their eyes at it, but that his wife and daughter have been “fully indoctrinated.”

Al's inspirations include Clive Barker (naturally), J. Michael Stracynski of Babylon 5 fame, and anyone involved with the current Doctor Who revival. “I love it when us geeks make the big time,” he cheered.

When asked what his geekery means to him, Al replied, “I guess they're dreams aren't they? Dreams of something more than getting the corner office or buying a shiny new car. Those little imaginary places in our minds can keep us strong, they can get us through the dark times. At the risk of being a downer let me share this. Back when I was in high school I came very close to ending my life, one of the things that kept me from it was imagining what the Doctor would do in a my situation. Silly I know but that's how it was back them.” Doesn't sound too silly to me, Al!

Al's final words to his fellow geeks are, “Feel free to dream, feel free to hope and don't let the real world get you down.”

Thanks, Al!

4 comments:

  1. Wow. Thanks for the great article but I hope the photograph you posted won't damage any servers due to my sheer animal magnetism!

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  2. Great article and a great picture, your wife must really love you. I'll have to check out your blog, thanks.

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  3. Wait up, I thought I was the writer obsessed with Doctor Who and Kate Bush! This guy is moving in on my turf! The nerve!

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  4. Glad people enjoyed this installment!

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