Interviewer: ‘Fun’ and ‘hatred’ seem to be on opposite ends of the emotion spectrum, but you utilized them so well in “The Factory” – a supernatural carnival ride aimed at hurting those you hate epitomizes the dual pairing vividly. How did you come up with the idea of “The Factory” ride as a place where the two emotions join?
Michael Gardner: I really struggled to come up with a story that combined hate and fun. The Factory was my third attempt. By then I’d already discarded a bunch of ideas, as well as two entirely different, partially written stories.
The problem I had was that hatred kept coming to the fore. It’s a dark and powerful emotion, a consuming emotion. But too much is exhausting. And the original stories I started writing made me feel awful. They were too dark, with little hope. I wasn’t enjoying writing them, so I couldn’t imagine people wanting to read them.
It was a visit to my parents that changed my approach.
My parents still live in the small country town I grew up in. And as is often the case, returning to my home town and visiting relatives and old friends brought back memories. One vivid memory that came to me during my trip was the local town show and how, when I was a teenager, I used to walk around sideshow alley with a friend, talking, going on the rides, and eating junk food. It’s a memory I associated with fun, so I latched onto it.
Which is when I realised my mistake with the other stories I’d half written—I’d been focusing on the hate before the fun. So I flipped it around and started with the fun. I used the town show as the setting, and started working on my protagonist, Jez, trying to learn why he might hate someone, who that might be, what he would do. That was when the story started flowing.
In the end, I enjoyed writing this piece. It was tough, but ultimately satisfying to get the story out.
Interviewer: Do you think that your protagonist’s hatred for Brad and his father would have been any different if he hadn’t felt that hurting his enemies was fun?
Michael Gardner: I don’t think so.
For me, Jez’s hatred had brewed for a long time. It was about his lack of control, a hopelessness driven by his knowledge that Brad and his father were awful, and there was nothing he could do to change how they treated him.
Until The Factory came along, that is. It handed him power. An ability to trade places. And unlike Tommy, he realised he wasn’t very forgiving. He was happy to take the power and abuse it, as Brad had done to him.
I believe Jez was someone craving more control over his own life, and I think Sticks had him pegged pretty early on in that regard.
Interviewer: After finishing your story, what was the single most valuable take-away from the experience?
Michael Gardner: As I mentioned earlier, I tried hard to force a story focused on hatred. It was only when I found a setting that I liked, an idea that I thought was fun, and a character and voice that interested me that I was able to put something down on paper that I liked.
It’s kind of obvious, but this experience was a great reminder that I need to write for me first.
Interviewer: Given that this is a “score” anthology, what representative piece of music would you connect to “The Factory”?
Michael Gardner: The industrial sounds and the feel of the ride is best summed up by the song “Wish” by Nine Inch Nails. In fact, I mentioned Nine Inch Nails in the story, and it’s definitely the band I kept hearing when Jez, Sticks, and Tommy were in The Factory.
Buy the Score anthology, which includes Michael Gardner’s story “The Factory”, focused on Fun and Hatred.