Author Chuck Palahniuk is out promoting his new novel, only this tour is a bit different. The acclaimed novelist is making the rounds on behalf of “Fight Club 2,” a sequel to his 1996 breakout hit being that’s being released as a graphic novel — a new kind of project for the man behind Project Mayhem.
Palahniuk’s debut book was immortalized on screen by director David Fincher and actors Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, which is why he has worked extra hard to take the sequel in another direction and distinguish itself from its revered predecessor.
Although the first rule of Fight Club is to not talk about Fight Club, the sequel — the first issue of which comes out on Wednesday — picks up the story several years later, its narrator now married (to Marla) with children in the suburbs.
Tyler Durden, the antihero at the heart of “Fight Club,” returns as well in a new short story that appears in “Make Something Up,” Palahniuk’s new book of short stories that’s hitting shelves on Tuesday.
With two new releases whipping Palahniuk fans into a frenzy, the incendiary novelist took the time to speak to TheWrap about changing mediums, discovering the power of comic books and what’s new with David Fincher’s planned “Fight Club” stage musical.
Why is now the right time for a sequel, nearly 20 years later?
Well, I knew that if I followed it up too soon, my whole career would be writing progressively less interesting sequels to “Fight Club.” Also, it took years to build interest, because the book didn’t do well and the movie didn’t do well in theatrical release.
Why did you decide to go the comic book route, and how did it come about?
(Author) Chelsea Cain threw a dinner party and invited a bunch of Portland comics people, including (writers) Brian Michael Bendis and Matt Fraction. They spent the night hammering me as to why I didn’t write a “Fight Club” sequel. I had recently sold a story collection … so I had a year to work on something different and I saw it as a chance to work on comics.
I knew the “Fight Club” sequel would have an audience, but if it was written as a novel or a film, it’d be compared to previous versions. Comics were a good third medium that would give it standalone authority. I was also curious about exploring the mythology. I’ve never done that the way H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King do. I wanted to broaden it, so it wasn’t just an aberrant story of one man’s life. I wanted to make it a larger, more epic thing.
Do you fear readers will expect the comic to be like the “Fight Club” movie, which was, of course, very different from the book?
It will be different than the movie, and that was always the goal. I want it to be its own thing, not just an extension. Every medium has its strengths and weaknesses. With film, [something can] be appalling and heartbreaking, but certain things work in comics because there’s a slight aspect of unreality.
What kind of input did you have on the art and illustrations?
I knew every panel would have to carry a certain amount of information. Cameron [Stewart] was so appealing and he had a certain cartoon-y quality that would allow me to get away with certain things and images without alienating the reader. David Mack is much better at doing illustrations of the subconscious, so having him on the cover acts like [David] Fincher’s journey through the human brain in the “Fight Club” movie, before we emerge into the real world.
What can you say about the “Fight Club” musical that David Fincher and Trent Reznor have been developing?
David has been talking to me about it for years. We met last summer. He said he was optioning the stage rights to “Fight Club” and was going to give Trent a year to write most of the score for a rock opera. [Our generation] had “Tommy,” but millennials haven’t really had one. He said he also talked to Julie Taymor because he wanted that huge visual spectacle and was making plans to stage this in multiple cities simultaneously.
You recently remixed “Invisible Monsters.” Were you unhappy with the original novel or does today’s culture just encourage remixing media?
Neil Gaiman is the only other writer I’m aware of to do an Author’s Edition that changed what was originally published. There had been demand for years, as well as a petition, to create a hardcover, and my publisher asked me to write an introduction. I counter-proposed changing the structure.
Is there another book you’d consider doing that for?
There aren’t necessarily other books I’d do that for. James Franco is doing a movie based on “Rant” and I’d like to do a sequel to that as a graphic novel.
I read all of your early books, but have struggled to get through recent ones like “Pygmy,” which is written in broken syntax that seems like it’s meant to terrorize its readers. Is it important to you to experiment with form like that?
I’ve definitely backed away from pure minimalism. I’m tired of writing in the first person and all those minimalist rules. I’ve become much more experimental. Some of the stories in the new collection are way off the rails, but that’s the only way to grow — to try doing things differently.
Which of your books would you like to see adapted next if you could only choose one?
Well, “Haunted” got its financing years ago. I’d still like to see that come through. (Producer) Koen Mortier (“Ex Drummer”) had such great ideas.
What happened to the “Snuff” movie?
Fabien Martorell had the rights and he leaked all this casting news, and there was lots of turmoil over whether he had actually attached these people. He optioned the rights twice, but I think he has lost them at this point. He seemed like a great guy, but it kind of died in development hell.
Why did you decide to co-write the “Lullaby” script with Andy Mingo, and why option the rights to two relatively unknown filmmakers?
My screen agents make the assessment if people have the resources, and I wait for them to say “yes.” But Andy did such a nice job with the short film “Romance.” I’d had a friendship with him and he demonstrated that he has the resources and the people to make it happen. He’s giving me a rough draft of the screenplay and I’m going to do a polish and maybe another draft.
I wouldn’t be so bold as to ask who is the next Chuck Palahniuk, but are there any up-and-coming authors with something unique to say whose work strikes you as dangerous?
One author I’m in love with is Nami Mun, and another is Monica Drake, whose “Clown Girl” was optioned by Kristen Wiig. I’ll also be supporting Lidia Yuknavitch a lot this summer.
Does anything shock you or make you squeamish anymore?
I saw a headline about animal abuse recently — Man Runs Over Ducklings With Lawnmower. That kind of stuff.
Any final thoughts?
We made 10,000 scratch-and-sniff bookmarks for the first five issues of “Fight Club 2,” and 10,000 for the next five. We’re going to run a contest to see who can identify all 10 scents that are keyed to the 10 issues. I love low-class things like that. John Waters did it for “Polyester.” Penthouse did it too. It’s a lost marketing device.