Gabe Hudson is the author of Gork, the Teenage Dragon, a novel about a sensitive young dragon in training whose experiences happens to have plenty in common with Hudson’s own teenage years. We spoke with Hudson about his book and the trials of adolescence at San Diego Comic Con 2017.
Unbound Worlds: What do dragons do in their adolescence?
Gabe Hudson: In many ways, they are dealing with similar issues that humans are. For instance, my dragon, Gork, goes to a military academy where tyrannical behavior is encouraged, but he’s got very small two-inch horns and a gigantic heart. He enjoys poetry. He’s very sensitive, and trying to find a way to fit into this society, find friendship, and also his first love. His issues of self esteem are not dissimilar to the human experience.
UW: Adolescence is hard for most of us. Did you have any Gorkish experiences, yourself?
GH: Yes. I grew up in Texas, and I’m a big person: I’m 6’4” and 225 pounds. There was kind of a macho masculinity that was prevalent, and because I was big, people assumed that I had that in me, or expected it of me, in particular. I was pretty sensitive and loved to read. To some extent, Gork’s experiences mirror my own.
UW: This would be even more of a problem for a dragon. Are there any expectations for Gork after the academy?
GH: The day that the book primarily takes place is called “crown day”. It’s like prom for humans, but much more intense. The male dragon must present his crown to a female dragon. If she accepts it, then they’ll get on a spaceship and go to a new planet, where they’ll conquer it and start a new colony. If the crown is rejected, then Gork will have to become a slave to the rest of his species. The stakes are high. In this book, Gork has his sights on the most beautiful, most powerful dragonette in his senior class.
UW: Do you remember being a kid and feeling like if you didn’t get a date it would be the end of the world?
GH: Sure, I remember that feeling, and also feeling the expectations of society and culture that pushed me to feel that way.
UW: This is an interesting world. There are dragons, but also space travel and things like that. You really opened up the toy box for this one. How did you go about choosing what you’d use?
GH: I love that term: opening the toy box. I hadn’t thought of it like that, but it’s perfect. I felt that the industry expected me to write a different kind of novel — a Gulf War novel, because I had written one before — and I didn’t want to. I became frustrated, and hit rock bottom. When I did so, I told myself that I would write about all of the things that I love and use every aspect and trope I can from various forms of storytelling; that I would enjoy writing it, and that what happened after that was beyond my control.
UW: You were a professor for some time. You’ve probably dealt with a few “Gorks” in your time in education. Do you have advice of someone going through something like Gork?
GH: It took me a long time to learn this, and it’s going to sound like a simple platitude, but whatever it is that people are giving you a hard time about and suggestion you need to change, it’s possible that aspect of yourself is your greatest asset. Today, people think I’m a very funny person, but the truth is that for much of my early life, people would naturally laugh. People would hurt my feelings, and I didn’t understand it. At a point, I realized I could use it to my advantage: that I could make people laugh and make friends that way.