Wednesday, October 18, 2000

All About Evil: Stefan Schimpf

by Broteus Mitchell (Oct. 18, 2000)
(Originally published at compleatbellairs.com)

Dr. Mitchell: 
Greetings all and welcome to the first installment of All About Evil. I'm Broteus Mitchell and I'll be your host and facilitator for this section. What is All About Evil? Well, it's all about evil, naturally. Every installment will feature an evil Bellairsian guest who we will get to know by asking hard-hitting questions and stopping at nothing to get at the very heart of darkness that beats within them. We will find out what it is to be evil and what makes them evil. Topics covering the grotesque, the freakish, the absurd, and the shocking will not be spared in our journey. So if you have a weak heart or fragile constitution, this section may not be for you. Without further ado let's move on to the first installment of All About Evil. Our first guest will be Stefan Schimpf, the mad cobbler of Mainz, more commonly known as the author of the dreaded Krankenhammer alluded to in Bellairs's The Face in the Frost. We speak to him tonight through a magic mirror, courtesy of Prospero.

Stefan, welcome and thanks for talking to us.

Schimpf:
Anything for an evil cause. And please, just call me mad cobbler.

Dr. Mitchell:
I guess, seeing how this is our first program, I'll get us started with a rousing question. Please, Mr. Cobbler, tell us one of your all-time favorite villains in the works of Bellairs and or Strickland and why this is so?

Schimpf:
Ha, ha, other than myself of course, well let's see... 

Dr. Mitchell:
Actually - sorry for interrupting - but I don't consider you in the running. I mean your book, the Krankenhammer is mentioned but twice in The Face in the Frost and nowhere else in the works of Bellairs, or any other literary work that I can tell. And there is absolutely no reference to you as a character at all. Just the fact that you are a shoemaker, does very little for striking fear in my heart. I mean, how sinister can a shoemaker be?

Schimpf:
Yes, but my masterpiece is known as the dreaded Krankenhammer. If it is dreaded, it must be chockfull of evilness.

Dr. Mitchell:
Couldn't it be dreaded because it's terribly written or terribly boring and not evil at all?

Schimpf:
What are you driving at?

Dr. Mitchell:
...o-kay. Allow me to rephrase the question -- besides yourself, who is one of your all-time favorite evil characters in the works of Bellairs and or Strickland, and please tell us why? 

Schimpf:
Why didn't you say so. Okay, let's see. Well, one name that quickly comes to mind is Hugo Philpotts, the evil banker and nephew of Alpheus T. Winterborn from the wonderful book The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn. First of all, he manages to come across as extremely contemptible and menacing without ever using sorcery. What other Bellairsian villain can say that? Now, I'm not discounting sorcery. It has its time and place, but you have to hand it to good ol' Hugo. In one beautiful scene alone he gets away with insulting Anthony by calling him a "filthy little wretch" right in front of his parents and then turns around and calls Mr. Monday a "disgusting, beer-guzzling clod" right to his face. How glorious! Granted, if the rest of the Monday clan hadn't gathered around Mr. Monday he would have no doubt made mincemeat out of Hugo. Still, the man shows gall and a gifted tongue. And the poor man is unduly maligned. He wins a mirror at an auction fare and square, but that busybody Miss Eells and Monday kid are in cahoots with the auctioneer and end up getting the mirror for a lower price than what Hugo was willing to pay. Heck, I'd be ticked off too. And on top of that, he looses his job at the bank and is basically run out of town. But it's like I always say, "once evil, twice evil." I'm sure he's no doubt working in some other bank in some other city making customer's lives a living hell. 

Dr. Mitchell:
Perhaps now we should open the floor to questions.

Schimpf:
With pleasure.

Question from the audience #1:
Is it true that you were named after Steve Urkel's cool character "Stefan" on the TV show Family Matters?

Schimpf:
Steve who? Huh? Is he evil? Unless this Steven Gurgle fellow was born centuries ago, I would have to doubt it. The name "Stefan" has been in our family for centuries, being passed down from generation to generation. My grandfather had it last and now I carry on this most proud name. Urkel indeed.

Question from the audience #2:
My daddy says you're really not mad at all, but just some frustrated old coot too lazy to make an honest living, like the Professor or Emerson Eells, and instead choose to spend your time picking on and hurting others. He also says you make a lousy role model for today's youth.

Schimpf: 
Thanks for sharing that. Is there a question in there somewhere? I don't find it. But let me just say this. I didn't start off life as evil. It took years and years of dedication and practice. I never wanted to be some goody-two-shoes or a Mr. know-it-all professor. No, no, far from it. At an early age I realized I wanted to wreak havoc on people, to make their lives miserable. And I found that in doing so, I became a happier person. Ask your father about that. He seems like the type who could relate to this. And while you're at it, tell him to go take a long walk off a short pier, complements of the lazy cobbler. 

Question from the audience #3:
Hello, I've often wondered why none of the bad guys in John Bellairs' books ever win in the end. You'd think that after a while they would start to get the message and stop trying. Maybe then they would give up and start trying to make better people of themselves.

Schimpf:
Well, that's a dilemma that has vexed me and countless other villains for centuries now, and if I had the solution to it, I probably wouldn't be answering idiotic questions through a mirror from the likes of you. But just let me say this. Being evil is a quite difficult undertaking. There are setbacks upon setbacks that can be utterly devastating to all but the most stalwart evildoer. The goals of the maniacal, the deranged, and the megalomaniac are often unrealistic, misguided, and for the most part virtually impossible to achieve, but once in a long while one of them succeeds. And this alone makes all the other setbacks and failures worthwhile. In the end, it only takes one. Boy, just once I'd like to see one of these books end with a couple of evil people sitting in a dark cave sipping on Bishop's Disgust and singing "Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall" while the professor's over in the corner transformed into a goat (obviously his natural state) and eating chocolate candies with caramel fillings. Johnny is there as well, only he's not eating because he is experiencing the advance stages of tetanus. He can't move either, because he's up to his neck in swarming spiders and snakes.

Dr. Mitchell:
You truly are evil, aren't you?

Schimpf:
Thank you very much.

Question from the audience #4:
Oh my gosh! I can't believe I'm actually getting to talk to the mad cobbler of Mainz. I happen to think The Face in the Frost is one of the greatest fantasies ever written. There is so much evil in that one book alone with Melichus and his evil henchmen, and, and, that nasty troll and all the black magic and evil spirits that are conjured up. Just the brief mention of the title of your book is enough to fill me with dread. At times when I am able to summon up enough courage, I like to ponder what forbidden knowledge lies between its covers... oh, and it just sends shivers up my spine!

Schimpf:
You're too kind.

Question from the audience #4:
Perhaps I shouldn't ask this, but I was wondering if you wouldn't mind translating the title of that most horrible book into English for us?

Schimpf:
Well, let's see here. I believe the closest I could come in translating the Krankenhammer would be 'Sick Hammer.'

Dr. Mitchell:
Any chance we will be able to get at an English translation of this anytime soon? 

Schimpf:
Not likely. Although in Germany the Idiot's Guide to The Krankenhammer has just been published. You know, if your evil audience would like, I wouldn't mind giving a brief lecture on the book's contents.

Dr. Mitchell:
Actually Stefan, I mean Mr. Cobbler, we are about out of time. We could probably get in one last question.

Schimpf:
You're running the show.

Question from the audience #5:
When is the next Goosebumps book due out?

Schimpf:
Goose...? That does it. I've had it! I'll live with 7 years bad luck. I'm breaking this stupid mirror!

Dr. Mitchell:
Well, that about raps it up for episode one of All About Evil. We hope you enjoyed this installment. Stay tuned for next time when our special guest will be the aforementioned Hugo C. Philpotts and we'll find out what Bellairs' character he would most like to go 5 rounds in the boxing ring with. And remember, believe only half of what you read!

[Post-script: This was our first published interview. Stefan was most generous to come in and chat with us and I got the impression he felt genuinely pleased at not just being our first guest but being so beloved by our audience. After all, as I pointed out at the time, he’s really nothing more than a causal reference that authored a book that gets name-checked in The Face in the Frost. He’s no Moriarty or Hyde – or even an Izard, for that matter. Couldn’t help but notice the jab at Goosebumps...it was always a hoot reading fans at the Compleat Bellairs interactive boards lob their low balls at Ben Stein. Enjoy!  BM (June 13, 2009)]

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