As you shuffle off this mortal coil, many things will go through your mind. Will you be remembered well? Did you live the best life you could? Did you leave the iron on? And most importantly, did you remember to delete your browser history recently? But the big question that will finally hit you full on, is there something after all of this? And if so, will it suck? If only Yelp! had a category for the afterlife.
Here is a collection of humorous tales of the afterlife that covers the I.T. woes of Heaven, the dangers involved in using out-of-date occult tools, the perils of not saving appropriately for the hereafter, the shock of finding out that not every good deed will get you through the pearly gates and the cold hard fact that paradise just isn’t for everyone.
So go to the light at your own peril.
It could be life everlasting, or it could be an oncoming train.
An interview with Giovanni Valentino
Black Heart: What’s One Star Reviews of the Afterlife all about, and what inspired this title?
Giovanni Valentino: One Star Reviews is a collection of humorous stories that poke fun at the possibilities of the hereafter. The title came from a crazy comment I made during a dinner party. For some reason, one of my guests felt the need to cross that line of discussing “money, politics or religion” in mixed company. Said guest made the mistake of taking a strong stance against organized religion to defend their choice of being an atheist and it was really bringing the party down. I tried to steer the conversation back to something lighter, but they wanted to dig in. After a minute-long diatribe about people betting so much on an afterlife they had no proof of, I said, “Too bad they don’t have an app for that. Like Yelp! For the hereafter! That would be the best selling app ever.” Everyone laughed and the discussion turned to just what kinds of afterlives might get a one-star review. From there, a theme was born. FYI, about almost all of the ideas from the party were submitted by someone during the reading period.
BH: Who are your top five authors or influences, and why?
GV: Douglas Adams, for my humorous side. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy changed my life. Not in a good way, according to my parents. I was in high school when it came out and they were sure I was weird enough already.
J.R.R. Tolkien, when it came to world building. He was the first author to create the fully immersive fantasy realm. Middle Earth was a place you wanted to visit, if it were only real.
Larry Niven, for his ability to slip science and logic into a story and really make it work. Not just the science part of the plot but the whole story.
George R.R. Martin, because he is willing to shake things up. Nobody is safe and anything can happen.
Joss Whedon. I know he is a TV/movie writer but I love his dialogue. Especially the wacky way Buffy and her friends spoke, or the western/Chinese fusion they spoke on Firefly.
BH: What type of writing fuel do you prefer, and what — if anything — do you feel this contributes to your creative process?
GV: Since a lot of my writing is humorous, it is literally fueled by the world around me. The news, the internet, social media, friends, family, just going to the mall. Anywhere people can show their true selves. I sit back and watch the mayhem stream by and from all the weirdness, the ideas flow.
BH: Pirates or ninjas, and why?
GV: Ninjas! Without a doubt, ninjas. And it is not just about fighting skills, it is about the element of surprise. Ninjas are stealthy and they can get within striking range without you realizing it.
Pirates are not stealthy and after months at sea without adequate showering facilities, it is impossible for them to sneak up on anyone.
BH: Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, editing, relationships, or life in general.
GV: Before you go into work and tell your boss off and quit, make sure you have all six numbers AND the supplementary number on your lottery ticket. Six numbers is still a winner but it’s not the jackpot and rarely enough money to lead to financial independence. And few bosses are forgiving enough to take you back after you tell them how you really feel about them.
BH: If you were a cocktail, what would you be called — and what’s the recipe?
GV: Something non-alcoholic because I don’t drink. And definitely something chocolate.
BH: If you were to pan a screenplay for the next summer blockbuster, what would your movie be about — and who would you cast in the starring role(s)?
GV: That’s a lot of pressure for a single interview question. I guess I’d like to pen a fan-loved and critically-acclaimed action film, if such a thing were possible. And I’d like to play the lead role.
BH: If you were to write an open letter to a famous author (living or dead), who would it be, and what would it say?
GV: I would like George R.R. Martin to know that if he should pass on to the next life before he finishes the Game of Thrones series that I would be sad at his loss but I wouldn’t be mad at him for not finishing it. I think the internet haters for George need to calm down. The negative energy isn’t helping him write any faster, you know.
BH: Where can we find you on a typical Friday night, and what kind of trouble are you getting into there?
GV: On a typical Friday night, I’m home “Netflix and Chillin'” with my wife, which in my case actually involves watching TV. This phrase seems to mean something completely different to the kids of today, but as much as I try to convince the wife of that, she’s not going for it.
BH: What are you currently working on, and why does it kick ass?
GV: I’m currently working on a humorous science fiction epic. It’s a far future political farce where I poke fun at elections, politics, government corruption and the strangeness of technology taking over our lives. I think it kicks ass, but the present presidential race is making the book look more like a documentary. I just finished the second draft and I’m going to put it aside to write the first draft of the sequel of my YA Fantasy novel during Camp Nanowrimo in April. Maybe in May, the presidential race will go back to being the serious event it’s supposed to be, and I can finish the novel without an impending sense of doom.
BH: Do you have any talismans, good luck charms, superstitions or music that help inspire you to write (or edit), and what’s the story behind them?
GV: I guess the only thing close to that is I always have the TV on in the background while I work. I do this because I live in an old house and there are just a lot of creaks and thumps going on. It’s not like I think they are ghosts or poltergeists, but if I can hear the noises, I am sure someone is sneaking in to try to kill me, like ninjas (but not pirates because you can smell them coming). The Background noise just lulls me into a false sense of security so I can work and peace.
I usually pick something I like but have seen before. I’ve binge watched older shows like Star Trek or Firefly. Sometime, I watch films from epic series like The Matrix or The Lord of the Rings or The Marvel Cinematic Universe and I take breaks during the major fight scenes.
BH: In the afterlife, who’s the lineup in God’s (or Satan’s) house band?
GV: Music has always been one of my weak spots. I like music but I’m not avid about any one type. I love “Weird Al” Yankovic, but he is still alive. I just can’t think of any of the late greats and figure out who would play well together, or even who would wind up where.
About the Editor
Giovanni Francesco Valentino has struggled at the art of writing for four decades against many demons like self-doubt, chronic depression, OCD and severe dyslexia. He has written a few memoir pieces about his struggles going undiagnosed for more than half his life as well as almost a dozen humorous speculative fiction short stories. His long-term goal is to become such a famous science fiction and fantasy author that other people want to write fan fiction in his worlds.
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