DeFlip Side #140: Path of the Punk



Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

Aspiring writers are always told that success is derived from hard work and honing your craft. And that’s true. But as any published author will tell you, sometimes it just boils down to timing and luck.

Case in point: my short story “The Punk Meets the Godfather,” which is appearing in the new issue of Space and Time Magazine—thanks mainly to timing and luck. Let me start at the beginning.

“The Punk Meets the Godfather” tells the story of Jimmy, who lives in a near-future America where civil liberties are in short supply. When he’s nabbed for breaking a minor law, Jimmy is shot full of nanobots and transformed into the Punk, squaring off against an opponent named the Godfather in an impromptu battle to the death—as the masses cheer them on.

If this premise sounds dark and nihilistic, that’s because I wrote Punk at the height of the Bush years, raging against the near constant assault on science, reason and our constitutional rights. But apparently my indignation wasn’t a rallying call, because every publisher rejected the story.

Fast forward to 2012. Bush is long gone, my rage has ebbed, and the Punk is collecting dust with the other unpublished stories on my hard drive. And this is when opportunity chooses to rear its fickle head. While combing writing sites on the net, I stumble upon the Garden State Horror Writers website, which is soliciting entries for its 18th annual writing contest and Graversen Award. The theme: The Terrors of Technology. I immediately shot them a copy of the Punk, and this time the timing must have been right, because by some stoke of luck I won.

Maybe New Jersey has something to do with it as well, because it was at a Quantum Leap convention in Jersey that I met Quantum Leap book series editor Ginjer Buchanan, which led to the publication of my novel Foreknowledge.

So let’s review, aspiring writers: success boils down to hard work, craft, timing, luck, and New Jersey. Oh, and The Who.

This song is called The Punk and the Godfather, which is on Quadrophenia, The Who’s second rock opera and yes, this is where I stole my title from—so calm down you indignant Who fans.  I give the band its due. How I cribbed the title is a story in itself.

Shortly after writing my Quantum Leap novel, I wrote a novella called The Seeker, which is the name of another Who song. It was going through my head the entire time I was writing, and I thought wouldn’t it be funny if all my short stories were named after Who songs?

That’s when Punk started taking shape in my head, inspired especially by this line:

“I’m the guy, in the sky, flying high, flashing eyes, no surprise, I told lies. I’m the punk in the gutter….”

It probably also didn’t hurt that I was listening to Quadrophenia almost the entire time I was writing my Quantum Leap book. So the idea had long been percolating, whether I knew it or not. Suffice it so say it’s not for nothing that I dedicate the story to Roger, Pete, John and Keith.

Artwork by Alan F. Beck

“The Punk Meets the Godfather”
Artwork by Alan F. Beck

And the rest of the thanks goes to the judges at the Garden State Horror Writers—since renamed the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers—for choosing my story, and Space and Time Magazine editor Hildy Silverman who cast the deciding vote. The Graversen Award hangs proudly in my library.

If you want to see what happens when “The Punk Meets the Godfather,” you can buy a copy of Space and Time through a link on the sidebar. Just click on the Space and Time Magazine cover with the illustration of a tiger on it. And also check out the awesome illustration by artist Alan F. Beck that accompanies the story. If I have my way, the original artwork will soon be hanging in my library as well.

If you decide to read “The Punk Meets the Godfather” I hope you enjoy it. Even if you don’t, I encourage you to leave thoughts in the comments section below. I’m curious to see how this story resonates so far removed from the climate that inspired it.

And if my luck and timing hold, maybe I’ll soon be telling you about another new story. How about Magic Bus? Or Pinball Wizard? Who am I kidding? It’s gonna be Bellboy. Happy reading!