Question: Once again, you’ve used paintings by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein as visuals.
Rich Shapero: My relationship with EVB has quite a few dimensions. His paintings have been an inspiration for my writing, and his dedication has instructed my life. Our first published “collaboration” was Too Far, but my initial interest in EVB was actually stirred by the strange congruence of his images with my visualization of Arms.
I began working on Arms in 1980. Eugene died in 1983, so he was alive at the time. Arms made it through many drafts and the passage of twenty years before I saw his paintings. Among them, there were two that looked like they had been done specifically for Arms. A couple of years later, I visited his estate and saw hundreds of paintings, and I found more of the same. We were dialed into a very similar idea.
He started doing tentacles in 1955 and 1956. He made rigid forms—needles and spikes—but very quickly they became flexing, undulating forms, and then armed creatures. Some were red, quite a few were blue. They looked so much like the Polyp, I was stunned. Likewise with the marine worlds he painted. It was as if the Polyp had given Eugene a commission to do portraits of his creatures. I was pretty excited about that. In my early drafts, the creatures in Arms were variations on terrestrial marine invertebrates. After seeing the paintings, I decided to create a new biology for heaven, using Eugene as a collaborator.
Q: The painting at the end of the reading layer of the Arms app seems as if it was done expressly for the project.
RS: It’s amazing. This blue-armed monster is descending on a city. In other paintings, you see giant waves overcoming buildings. He depicts the wild power of his armed attackers, along with the wild power of water, as if the power to overcome mankind was a good thing.