Thomas Fleming Interviews Ched Rayson

TJF:  Mr. Rayson, in the interests of full disclosure, I am asking you if we have ever sat down and talked before this occasion.

CPR:  No, never.  In fact we have not spoken on the telephone.  The only exchange of information has been in reference to this interview, which, I must say, I have been looking forward to.

TJF: Several readers have asked me why you have suspended serial publication of Born Out of Due Time.  Have you abandoned the project?

CPR:  Absolutely not.  I have been working several hours a day on it.  I'd like to stop, but I cannot.

TJF:  Then why have you posted no further chapters?

CPR: Two reasons.  It’s partly that I realized I had to fix up some of the earlier parts to bring them into synch with later developments.  What happens to many writers of fiction, including epic poets, is that the characters take over story and run with it.

TJF:  Without giving away the plot, can you cite an instance?

CPR:  When the character of Eric Dyson first popped up, I viewed him as an unscrupulous intelligence agent, a complete villain.  Dyson didn’t think of himself at all in those terms and took his part of the story away from me.  I M not saying I don't regard him as a villain, but he does not agree with me at all.

TJF: What was the other reason?

CPR: I began to wonder if this website was a good place to launch the book.  It is not the small circulation that disturbed me, but the apparent lack of interest.  When I asked for the metrics on my chapters in comparison with other stuff, what you gave me showed a huge gap between pieces authored by you and those that had been written by others.  I began to wonder if this site was not simply, you know, some kind of ego trip for an editor who had been bounced from his job.  The idea of you getting more attention than me was pretty demoralizing, as you of all people should understand.

TJF:  I don't know why you would be demoralized.  Vanity  was certainly not my primary reason for creating this website.  I wanted to have a vehicle for continuing what I had been doing, which includes searching out writers of talent.  I believe I found that in you and urge you to continue.  When you finish the book and do a final edit, we can do an ebook and perhaps print.

CPR:  Thanks.  It’s something to think about.

TJF:  Is this your first attempt at writing fiction?

CPR:  I like that word “attempt,” as if there is some doubt about the possibility of succeeding.  No, it’s not really the first “attempt,” but it is the first large-scale work of narrative fiction I have committed myself to.

TJF:  Can you tell us how you came to develop the character of Anterus Smith?  Don’t give any of the plot away. 

CPR:  Basically, I wanted to work out what sort of reaction a civilized person would have, if he had the misfortune to find himself in our world.  I’m not interested in Sci Fi or time travel, so Smith began to develop—without my having much to do with the process—as someone with a mind formed by previous ages.  That's why he has to be a bit of a pedant, which is why I agreed to put him on this website.  He's more at home here than I could ever be.

TJF:  I want to ask you something personal.  It is about your name.  I know people named Chad, but I’ve never met a Ched.  How did you come by it?

CPR:  Dishonestly.  I misappropriated it—borrowed it, if you like, from someone I met on the Iron Range.  His full first name was Chedomir.

TJF: So, Ched is not your real name.  What about Rayson.  I’ve never run across that one, either.  Is that also borrowed?

CPR:  Not exactly, I made it up and then discovered it actually existed.  If you dig around, you’ll find the name has several levels of resonance.  Part of it is connected with the ethnicity of the first name.  You'll have to figure it out yourself.  I’m not going to give it away.

TJF:  Some of my friends think that I invented you—that I am actually Ched Rayson.

CPR:  Not in your wildest dreams.  You’d never have had the guts to do half the things I’ve done.  You invent me?  What a laugh.  

TJF:  Well then who are you?

CPR:  It’s not who I am, but who you are--that's the real question.

TJF:  That’s not what I am asking.

CPR:  I know what you’re asking--or think you are asking.  If you really want to know who I am, look in the mirror and you’ll see a pale reflection of me.

TJF:  What are you saying—that I am a figment of your imagination?  Why would you invent me?

CPR:  Exactly, a fig newton of my imagination.  Look, I’m a pretty well read guy, but I’ve also knocked around the world almost as much as Anterus Smith.  I’ve lived in bars and played music for drinks, got into fights and barely come out alive, pulled stunts that landed me in jail.  But, when Smith entered my mind, I realized I needed a lot more of what a guy like you would call “erudition.”  Sure, I had a couple years of Latin and some French.  Hanging out in Genova and some other rough parts of Italy, I picked up some street Italian, but that was nowhere near enough to be able to write Smith’s part correctly.  So, I created you—a boring, self-important polymath who thinks he is saving civilization.  Gene Genovese—he was a hell of a man, by the way, even if he was a communist—told me someone like you cared more about turning a phrase and writing a good essay than he cared about building a coalition to fight the revolution.  You’ve been useful to me, but don’t let it go to your head.

TJF:  How useful?

CPR:  I've already told you that characters go their own way.  You've taken it to the limit by inventing an entire backstory-- an education, a career, family.  Like Dyson, you think you're real, and to the extent that thinking makes it so, you are.  You've read all those damn books and even written some.  When I need some fancy stuff for Smith, I just take it from you.  You are, after all, my invention, so everything you have really belongs to me.

TJF:  One of us is clearly delusional.

CPR:  You should know.  

TJF:  If I am the product of your imagination, what happens when you go to sleep?

CPR:  You go to sleep too.  You’re an old guy or at least you have been constructed to believe that.  By now you must have realized you have some strange dreams that don’t really belong to you.  Fights and chases, mob violence.  Your mind may be Booth Tarkington, but some of your dreams are strictly Mickey Spillane.

TJF:  Are you saying that your dreams invade my dreams?

CPR:  No, I’m saying my reality—the things I have really done—invade your dreams.

TJF: Supposing there were—note the subjunctive, if you know what that means—a particle of truth in your nonsense, what happens to me when you die.

CPR:  I think you know the answer to that one.  You’d better hope I stay healthy.

TJF:  Good luck, and put away those cigarettes!

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

4 Responses

  1. Ben says:

    Incredible! The dream trip continues, thank God.

  2. Allen Wilson says:

    I’ve been enjoying Born Out of Due Time and was suspecting the author may not be a real person. Regardless of who is real, and who is a mere figment, anyone who hasn’t been keeping up with the story won’t get how funny this interview really is. Too bad for them!

  3. Robert Reavis says:

    I liked the pieces but never commented because I didn’t believe it was fiction but spot on story telling about current realities

  4. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Ched Rayson has agreed to start posting, first, the revised five chapters, and then the rest of part one. He complains that he is being victimized, not only by the characters of the story but also by the editor he created as a kind of golem. Like the golem of Prague, created by a vengeful rabbi, his pedantic creation has run amok and insists on inserting the fragments of Stesichorus into what might have been “a bald and otherwise unconvincing narratative.”