Torontoist chats with author and card-carrying sci-fi geek (oh, and devoted daily LAist reader) Cecil Castellucci, who waxed rhapsodic about being back in Canada for the summer (her folks live in Montreal), and will be reading, signing and discussing her amazing debut YA novel Boy Proof at Nicholas Hoare bookstore this evening. Event is free, and begins at 6pm.
Since Napoleon Dynamite and even before, the mainstream has been celebrating nerd culture: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Star Wars….it’s officially cool to be a nerd. What’s that all about, and where are the real nerds supposed to go now?
Here’s the dirty truth. Everybody is a nerd. On the entire planet. People have associated nerdy with computers, or science fiction, or Star Trek. But the truth is that the guy who is obsessed with fly-fishing lures, that guy, he’s a nerd. So is the backyard birdwatcher. As the Internet has become really cool and people can zone in on their obsessions, they are embracing their inner nerd. It’s a way of expressing complete individuality. And that’s geek chic.
Your protagonist Egg sets herself apart from the other children of celebrities at her high school by shaving her head and wearing a white cloak everywhere. She also creates her own masks, with her father, who’s a renowned special-effects creator. What’s your dream sci-fi creature?
Good question. An alien I would like to see would probably have a big brain and a big heart. And probably nice, large kind eyes. But not like your typical alien him being a special-effects creator in the book. I was extra-ing to make money on movies in L.A., and I was interviewed to be a child ape on the Planet remake. (I’m very small.) I went to the interview, and it was just me and a bunch of little people at Rick Baker’s studio trying on these ape masks. In the end, my boobs were too big, so I didnt get picked to be an ape. I cried and cried about that.
She’s a hard-core sci-fi and comics devotee. What’s your favourite comic book?
The latest one I read, Y The Last Man. And The Runaways, about those kids whose parents are an order of evil people.
The fictional film in the book, Terminal Earth, is Egg’s Star Wars-meets-Star Trek film obsession. You stood in line for 6 weeks for the first Star Wars prequel. Thoughts on the final movie?
I was a little disappointed in Episode One, in shock and awe of Two, and by the time Three came around, I feel like I have Stockholm syndrome. “OhmyGod it’s so much better than One and Two!” But it’s still a thrill, the scrolling credits, the theme music, I’m always going to love Star Wars. Darth Vader starts breathing and I get excited. When I first saw Darth Vader spin off at the end of A New Hope, I was 7 years old and I wanted to write the sequel myself. It was the first time I understood that that was someone’s job. For me it was a really big deal. So waiting on line for Episode One was kind of like to honour that moment for me.
What is it about YA today, like the bestselling Gossip Girl series, that makes it the hot genre, to read and to market?
I think that there is always going to be mass-market fiction, and whatever gets people reading is a really good thing. Personally, I like different kinds of literature [than GG], a little bit more challenging. But there’s room for everything because different people have different tastes. If when you’re reading a book and it’s not for you, its just not written in your code. And some people’s code is Gossip Girl. Mine isn’t.
Were you a fan of Douglas Adams, Madeleine L’Engle and the like?
As a teenager, one of my favourite sci-fi middle-grade books was The Tripod Trilogy by John Christopher, coming of age, sci-fi, fantastic with these kids, tripods invade Earth, they have to walk across England to France and the white mountains and save humanity. That was my first big sci-fi book I found on my own. And of course, Madeleine L’Engle! I even wrote her a letter 10 years ago, gushing ‘I really want to write kids books.’ And she wrote me back and wished me luck! And I really like Citizen of the Galaxy, by Robert Heinlein. There’s something about that book…
What else are you up to in T.O.?
First stop: Coupe Bizarre. When I lived in Montreal, Vince always did my hair because we were in film school together, so whenever I come to Canada I try to get to Toronto, so he can do it again. Whatever he wants to do – he’s done incredible things. He would experiment on my head, and I’d walk out a different person. Once, I had to sleep on my face for a month because I had copper wires sticking out my head.
So what’s your Montreal connection?
I lived in Montreal for 8 years, in the Plateau, while attending Concordia film school. I spent every single morning at a coffee shop that’s now called Laika, at the corner of Duluth and Saint Laurent.
So you’re on a sort of hiatus from L.A., spending the summer in Canada?
Canada really energizes me because my family is all in Montreal. They’re French-Canadian, all from Quebec City, where I spent all my summers growing up. There’s something really soothing about being here. Poutine. St. Hubert chicken (that sauce!). And speaking French. Or maybe it’s as simple as not being in America, being somewhere different and people thinking differently. I love L.A., it inspires me and it’s my muse, but its a little bit beige sometimes. Whereas here, everybody is just exploding with passion, from every angle. Everybodys cute. Even the things you can buy to put on the table are cute. Everything is good-looking here, and I love it. Maybe it’s the hard winter, creating a completely different point of view. I can breathe in a different way when I’m in Canada. My vie quotidienne is American and Los Angeles, but I’m so glad that I can get Canadian humour. I get the joke.