Interview with Brian Oliu, author of Level End

Recently, we hung out with Brian Oliu near the Origami Zoo’s paper polar bear habitat. We laughed as the paper polar bear dived into the water, but then became sad as he unfolded, fell open and apart. We fished him out but he was too soggy to fold back into a bear, so Brian, never without a pair of scissors, solemnly cut the bear into paper snowflakes and hung them from the ceiling. Then, Brian told us a bit about his upcoming collection of video game boss battle-inspired lyric essays, Level End, as we watched the snowflakes spin and growl above us.

Origami Zoo Press: Tell us a little bit about Level End. Why video games? And, more specifically, why boss battles? How’d you go about writing these lyric essays?

Brian Oliu: Level End is a collection of lyric essays inspired by videogames–most specifically the boss battle. In games when you reach the end of a level/dungeon, there is usually a much larger and scarier enemy that you must defeat to move on to the next stage. Typically, these battles fall under certain videogame tropes: there’s always a battle against some sort of dragon, another against a robot, a version of the hero, etc. I have a larger collection of videogame pieces that deal with specific 8-bit Nintendo games: Metroid, Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and I wanted to include more winks to those who enjoy videogames throughout the large collection–I started thinking about other elements of videogames and the first thing that came to mind were save points and boss battles.

OZP: Is there anybody else writing video game-inspired stuff that you’re digging right now? Will anyone ever make a good film adaptation of a video game

BO: I’m really enjoying Mike Meginnis‘ Exits Are project–he did a collaboration with various authors over GChat where he pretended to be an old-school text adventure game. Really fun stuff. I participated in one of them as well & it should be up there soon. I’ve always considered putting together an anthology of videogame writing: wouldn’t that be fun? As far as a good film adaptation of a video game, I sincerely doubt it. I mean, maybe Zelda? You could pull that off as a nice adventure film. Of course I’d love to see a Bioshock movie but I’d be absolutely terrified that they’d screw it up incredibly.

OZP: Do you have a favorite gaming experience? Something that stands out in your mind as a pivotal moment for you as a gamer?

BO: I remember having an incredible amount of joy when I finally beat Super Metroid–I had rented the game, had to return it, and actually just turned around & rented it again so I could finish it. Still one of the best games of all time in my opinion. My favorite game of all time is Earthbound–one of the best endings ever, as with its sequel, Mother 3, which were huge inspirations for ‘Level End’. I’ve also had a lot of great sports video game moments: playing against friends and snatching undeserved victories.

OZP: You seem to be pretty consistently working on new writing. What other projects are in the works right now?

BO: Let’s see! I’m in the process of translating some work from Catalan into English: first my aunt’s book of poetry which was originally published in the ’70s. That’s a pretty straight-forward translation. I’m also translating my grandfather’s book, which was about the essence of running. That is a little less literal and is more of a book project/a biography/a lyric essay. Other than that I’m writing some lyric essays based off of pop/dance music, which has been a lot of fun.

OZP: Tiny Hardcore Press is our Press Crush of the Month. What’s working with them been like?

BO: So great! Roxane Gay is the hardest working woman in show business & it is an honor to be associated with her. The books are great and were a perfect fit for ‘So You Know It’s Me‘–the care she took with the book and making sure it wound up in the right hands is something that I will always cherish and appreciate. She is one of the great champions of indie literature and I absolutely adore and respect her and the work that she has done for me and other writers.

OZP: If you were a boss, what would the game be like and how would we defeat you?

BO: What’s the Jay-Z line in ‘Monster’?  ’Everybody wants to know what my Achilles’ Heel is?Loooooooooove.’ I could probably be easily defeated with a hug. The game, I imagine, would be a game that involved a lot of leveling up, climbing, and buying cool stuff ala River City Ransom.


You can pre-order the regular or gold edition of Level End here.

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