That was the early form of the Internet?
AV: Sure, I mean those were
linked to computers, obviously. But it wasn't what's popularly
known as the Internet. You ask somebody in 1986 about the
Internet and you're just going to get blank looks. But I wrote
about it then. And the reaction from the book reviewing community
was, "Oh, my god! How can you make this stuff up?" That's
been the pattern with all of my books. And I promise you people
are going to read about the type of movies that I described
in detail in this book and they are going to say, "How could
you make this up?" And within a year or two, you know, journalism
will smack them in the face with it and they'll get the message.
DE: So, like I was saying
it's to make people aware. I mean how hard is it to make people
aware and to entertain them at the same time?
AV: The only answer that
I could give you is that the books have had a purpose since
day one. If the weren't entertaining, they wouldn't have anywhere
near the readership that they have. Somewhere I seemed to
have stumbled across the formula for doing that, but I couldn't
be constructive and tell you how. I write non-fiction, too.
My first book was actually a textbook, and it reached a tiny
slice of the number of people that the novels reach.
DE: What do you consider
them: Entertainment, or something more? Obviously, most of
the people that buy it, buy it more for entertainment.
AV: I think that is right.
However, what I do is, you know how you have a really good
piece of steak and you have to put some fat in that steak,
marble it in for taste? If it was an absolutely fat-free piece
of steak, it would taste like crap. So, I see this as a kind
of marbling. In other words, the information is marbling,
the entertainment is steak, but if you eat the steak, you're
going to get the marbling, you see. There is no way to read
these books - I don't care what your intent is and I don't
care why you came to the books in the first place - there
is no way to read them without getting the information that
I want you to have.
DE: I was reading that society seems to disagree with
you, that you think there is no cure for the predatory pedophile.
AV: I don't know that society
disagrees with it anymore. I think society originally disagreed
with me. This whole sick-versus-evil conundrum. But I think
more and more, as the evidence comes in, we're changing their
minds, and I don't know. Me, personally, I mean all of those
engaged in the same war, changing the minds of people around
the world so that they understand the truth, which is that
you can't actually cure people who are not sick and you certainly
can't engage people in therapy who don't believe themselves
to be sick.
DE: You just established
a center in Oregon recently.
AV: I'm working on a particular
project here and I'm going to be doing that for a while, but
it has nothing to do with establishing a center. We did engage
in specific efforts, such as the effort of eliminate the incest
exception, which is also one of the banners on the site. I
do, of course, direct services to my own clients. What we're
working on in Oregon is design plans, architectural and staffing
for a maximum-security prison for violent youth.
DE: As your popularity has
grown, I have read that you have been attacked a couple of
times. I was wondering if anything like that still happens.
I don't think I've been attacked because of popularity, my
work requires me to go places where those kind of things happen.
Like ... penal institutions. There's a big shock that there
was violence there. I was a caseworker for NYC Department
of Welfare, and on the ground during that genocidal war in
Biafra thirty years ago. It's kind of impossible to live that
sort of life without coming across violence. I never attributed
threats we receive to books, but to the work we do. We get
a lot of threats. And the web site, if you try and send a
letter, I'm sure you're familiar with how the Internet works,
ours goes to a secure server because of the number of freaks
who feel the need to send me threats. But can I tell you,
because I get an anonymous letter threatening violence and
then six months later something happens, that those are connected,
DE: I read that at first
you were reluctant to start your website but it seems that
obviously you're really into it now.
AV: I wasn't reluctant to
start it. It was started, I didn't know it existed. It began
as a fan site. In fact, if you go to the front page below
the banner box where it says about the zero, you click that
and you'll get everything you want to know page. If you click
history, it will tell you exactly how this site started. I
didn't know it existed until I would get letters from fans
saying it was a cool site. Originally, a student did this
and the University of Hawaii, it just got out of control,
he couldn't handle the volume and a whole consortium of people
run this thing. I certainly don't deserve any credit for the
design. The dragon lady is our web master and she is the one
that handles all the navigation with a staff of a couple of
dozen people that work all the time on this site. We get something
like 1.3 million visitors a year on this site. Not hits but
DE: That's amazing.
AV: It is amazing. If this
was a typical author's site, there would be nothing. Click
the resources button on the site and you'll understand why
people from all over the world see this as kind of a one-stop
shop on these issues.
DE: What made you first want
to get into helping children? Was it just that you saw a problem
that needed to be solved?
AV: First of all I don't have that kind of ego where
I could solve a problem of child abuse. But when I was a federal
investigator, I ran across cases of child abuse that were
so horrific that they filled me with rage. That is really
my motivation. I'm angry all the time. I've sort of been in
hot pursuit of the enemy ever since. And it's just continued.
It's never abated.
DE: Is the problem worse
with the Internet, or is it just a little bit more out there
in the public?
AV: What I've said, and it's
been quoted, is that the Internet is a piece of technology.
It's absolutely neutral. It's like a scalpel, a surgeon can
use it for surgery and a serial killer can use it to take
someone's life. The idea that we should be attributing child
abuse to the Internet is bizarre. It's simple another form.
The Polaroid camera was probably a bigger boost in kiddy porn
than the Internet ever was. The Internet's potential for incitement,
and I'm not talking about kids looking for pictures, I'm talking
about direct access to children, is significant. The child
molester who hung around the playground a number of years
ago is trolling the Internet now, and we need to be aware
of it. That doesn't mean we need to blame the technology.
It means we need to utilize it.
DE: I first discovered your
work with your work in comic books years ago, and I was wondering
if you've thought about doing anymore.
AV: Yeah, we have a new one
coming out in a couple of weeks called Hard Looks.
DE: Oh, OK.
AV: In fact, there is a banner
advertising that on the site. Click that and you'll see exactly
what I'm talking about. It's got all new material done by
DE: Oh, really?
AV: I guess you know him
from The Matrix. He also did the cover.
DE: I know him from many
AV: Geoff has been a prime
contributor to this.
DE: Burke's been optioned
dozens of times over the years, I'm sure, and I was wondering
if there was a chance anything will ever happen with that?
I don't know. I've been paid a fortune for it from studio
after studio. And they hire directors and they form production
companies and they commission screenplays. They've done all
of that; no movie has yet resulted. We already have offers
for Only Child. I'll take one and hope I pick a winner
this time. More than that, I can't tell you.
DE: There are a number of
shows that deal a little bit with some of the work that you
do, like Law and Order SVU.
AV: Yeah, that's a sitcom.
DE: I was just wondering if you've ever done any consulting
or if anyone asked you to do any writing on the show.
AV: No. Occasionally, people
in Hollywood have sent me scripts and asked me to take a look
at it. And I sent it back and said, "This is so unrealistic,
I can't deal with it." So no, I've certainly been asked to
look at property, and I've looked at the property and I didn't
feel like there was anything I could do with it.
DE: Thank you so much.
you consider Law and Order SVU a sitcom? Talk about
it in our forums!
Robert Epstein lives on the Upper West Side of
Manhattan in New York City. He is a contributor to such websites
as Gadflyonline.com, SlushFactory.com, 3ammagazine.com, Hybridmagazine.com,
Ifanboy.com and DavidFincher.net, and naturally, UGO.com.
He is also a former producer for MetroTV, where he worked
on such shows as The Daily Beat, Studio Y and New York Eats,
and has worked on such feature films as Tromeo & Juliet
by the Troma studios and Dinner and Driving. He loves referring
to himself in the third person.