Who is Scott Cannon, author of our two-part feature story, “Lucid Dreamer”?
Scott Cannon has been a warehouseman, printer, brick mason’s helper, art store proprietor and, for the last 30 years, an attorney. This is his first published work of fiction. Hard for us to believe, because his story is a terrific, imaginative read.
We decided to interview Scott, to find out more about the man. Read Part I of “Lucid Dreamer — and watch for Part II, which will be available in a day or two via our Home page and Features/Stories pages.
1.) How did you come up with the idea behind “Lucid Dreamer”?
It was a gift. I actually had the lucid dream described in the story the same way the character did, after reading about it on the internet. I thought there must be a story to make of it, and just wrote out the dream sequence at the beginning from the notes I wrote from the dream, not knowing where it would go from there. I’d also had the nightmare in the story. And like everyone, I hope, I’ve had sex dreams, and mine always turned out like Taylor’s before he met Ashlee, unconsummated. I thought it would be interesting to try to stitch together these dream motifs. So the guy had to pursue lucid dreaming to some end. I thought it would be boring if it ended happily, and that’s why it turned out as it did.
2.) How plausible is the story?
Not very. Lucid dreaming is a real phenomenon and is studied as is dreaming in general. Metaphysics is a legitimate study. How do we know what we think we know is a question we should ask about everything, including the sciences. And surely there must be more to everything than just what we know. So maybe something like meeting dreams are possible. They’re studying that too. But I don’t think you can invade or control the dreams of others against their will. Doing that for nefarious purposes takes the story into the fantastical. And the idea that a guru might try to scam you is preposterous, of course. Just ask Frank Zappa.
3.) Did you become frightened by the direction of the narrative when writing it?
No. Funny, but I never thought of the story as spooky at all. Someone told me the nightmare man did something to them. Maybe that or something like it is a common in in nightmares, like sleep paralysis, which has been so widespread for so long that someone did a documentary of it. Which scared me silly, by the way; the nightmare figure in the film looked just like the one in my dream! I saw it right after I’d written the first draft of the story, which included an episode of sleep paralysis that I liked but had to cut out. Anyway, the story took the direction it did probably because I lacked the imagination to take it anywhere else. Something had to happen. One suggestion was that the dreamer loves dreaming so much he ends up wanting to do nothing else. That sounds more plausible than what happens in this, but then I would have had to write a story about a guy who sleeps and dreams all the time. I didn’t see how I could make that interesting. A friend who read it asked if the whole thing was a dream, which hadn’t occurred to me but did make me go back and plant some extra details toward the end for any other “is Paul [McCartney, for the younger peeps] dead” readers out there. I was a little sorry for the way it ended, but tried to add a little redemption with the last paragraph. Which I love. Thanks, H. P. Lovecraft.
4.) Who are some of your favorite writers?
I was afraid you’d ask me that. I want to sound erudite, but I have a J.D., not an MFA, so I should take the fifth and just say Twain, Hemingway, Faulkner, Vonnegut, et. al.
I wish I could cite to some contemporary writers working today but the truth is I’ve read very few novels written in this century. Everyone likes T. C. Boyle, and I enjoyed his latest, “The Harder They Come.” Last year I read a wonderfully original dystopian book, “Nod,” by Adrian Barnes. And, to take a break from the great but lengthy and rather dense old book I’m reading now, Stephen King’s latest short story collection. To get an idea of what sells these days, I tried reading “50 Shades” but stopped after two chapters because, as John Colapinto said when you interviewed him, I found the writing “execrable.”
For the past couple of years I’ve been reading out of copyright stuff I get off Project Gutenberg. Conrad was definitely some kind of bridge between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Seemed like if he’s on the best of list of every author from Hemingway to Hunter Thompson, he should be on mine too. Now he is. Because of “Apocalypse Now,” I started by reading “Heart of Darkness” again, but it was “Nostromo” (which I may have read because of “Alien”) that really knocked me out, surprising me again and again with laugh-out-loud passages in a great sprawling tale that isn’t funny at all. I thought I should read some Dickens, whose work I miraculously bypassed in school. Instead of David Copperfield or Oliver Twist, I started with “Bleak House,” at the recommendation of my brother-in-law. I was astounded to find myself plunged into the dirty London fog, floating present tense through Londontown with an omniscient narrator’s caustic observations and wry sense of humor – not what I expected at all. That’s the one I’m reading now, and it’s another that time and again makes me laugh, or go back to re-read a paragraph or two.
I must add that the short story is my first love. Ray Bradbury made me want to be a writer when I was a kid. I know his stories are still a part of me today when the Presidential race this year makes me think of “A Sound of Thunder.” I could name favorite stories more easily than favorite writers: some of the famous ones we read in school, “The Lottery,” “Good Country People,” “The Other Side of the Hedge,” and I can’t leave out “Barn Burning” and “Pantaloon in Black.” My American Lit professor was a Faulkner freak. He also had us read “Night Sea Journey,” by John Barth. I’ll never forget how that made me feel. Of all the stories I’ve read in Best American, the one I’ve read the most times and pressed on the most people is “A Stand of Fables,” by William Lychak. All this will mean nothing to most, but what I’m trying to say is my favorite authors are the ones who wrote my favorite stories, and those are the ones that make it seem the world is a little different for a while after you’ve read them, the ones you remember. You can quote lines or whole passages of them years later, and think you’ve still got it word-for-word.
I could go on, but I’d better not, except to say there’s one guy still living whose work I really miss. In 1993, Thom Jones came out of nowhere with three collections of stories; all of them I liked, and many I loved. I don’t know why. I don’t know why he doesn’t write stories anymore, either. I read he had tried working with Hollywood. That would explain everything.
5.) What do you think of New Pop Lit’s place in today’s literary scene?
You published my story, so what do you think? I love you guys! I don’t know anything about today’s literary scene. I read Best American Stories of the year. Usually I like about a third of them, am indifferent to another third, and dislike the rest. It seems they all come from Granta, Ploughshares and other such lofty publications. But the scene today comprises hundreds if not thousands of literary journals publishing stories online and in print. So many of them tell you in their guidelines that they don’t want a regular story, they want something that will bring them to orgasm. How can you know what will do it for someone who would say that? What I liked about your guidelines is that you say what people have been saying since the beginning of the spoken word: Tell me a story. I’m glad mine found a home here.