“I Don’t Have A Hole In My Head To Alleviate The Pressure:” A TDQ Q&A With Table Tennis Coach And Writer Larry Hodges, Part 2

Hodges-Centric Universe Model

The Hodges-Centric universe model is gaining support.

TDQ: Besides writing about table tennis, you also write science fiction. Who was your favorite writer growing up?

Hodges: Either table tennis historian Tim Boggan, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, or the guy who first wrote the four greatest words in the English language, “Rocky Road Ice Cream.” By the time I was in high school I had read the complete science fiction works of Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Frederik Pohl, and most of the other classic SF writers.

TDQ: Who was your favorite table tennis player growing up?

Hodges: That’s a toughie. Sentimentally I should say Kjell Johansson of Sweden, who died a few days ago, because I copied his forehand. But I’ll go with Stellan Bengtsson, 1971 world champion, also from Sweden, because when I went to his training camp all he had to do was smile slightly in my general direction and I was good for three more hours of training.

TDQ: Quick: Victor Barna or Richard Bergmann?

Hodges: That’s another toughie, but I’ll go with Bergmann, one of the greatest defensive players of all time. I simply cannot vote for a guy like Barna who constantly steps around his forehand to hit backhands. It makes me feel all dirty.

TDQ: What made you want to be writer?

Hodges: Like everyone else, words accumulate in my brain, and if I don’t write them, my head will explode. Unlike others, I don’t have a hole in my head to alleviate the pressure.

Way back around eighth grade, I had an English teacher named Mrs. Isaacson, who taught creative writing. I still remember writing a barrage of stories and how much seemed to like them. (“Seemed” is the key word here.) I still remember my very first “science fiction” story, which was about a weatherman issuing a snowflake warning. The protagonist spent the whole story complaining that it should be a snow warning – until the end, when a giant snowflake fell out of the sky and smashed his house.

TDQ: Who are your influences?

Hodges: That’s another toughie, because I’m tough to influence. When I hear or read something, I don’t accept it until I’ve checked the facts, thought it through, and decided whether I agree with it. It’s called critical thinking. Most people don’t really think to reach conclusions, they have conclusions and then think of ways to rationalize them. And they get these conclusions from those who influence them, except they forget the part about critical thinking. So I’m sort of resistant to the idea of people who influence me. (Or is this just a conclusion I’m trying to rationalize?)

However, I have been inspired by certain people, such as Isaac Asimov, Stellan Bengtsson, Tim Boggan, my longtime fellow coaches at MDTTC (Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang), Mrs. Isaacson (she got me into creative writing), and others.

TDQ: What project are you working on right now?

Hodges: I look back with nostalgia to the days when I’d have a project I’d be working on, singular. These days I always have way too many. Currently, I’m writing on my fourth book on table tennis, “Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker’s Guide”; helping plan the upcoming expansion of the Maryland Table Tennis Center; doing my daily table tennis blog and weekly table tennis tip while maintaining and expanding TableTennisCoaching.com; coaching whoever will put up with me and, by the way, pay me $60/hour; and writing science fiction and fantasy stories on the side, which, along with two novels, I keep submitting to publishers in the hopes that I will find one I can blackmail, since I can’t afford bribery. (Here’s my science fiction & fantasy page.) I’m in the middle of writing a SF story entitled “As a Matter of Fact the Universe Does Revolve Around Me.” The big question is whether there should be a comma after “Fact” in the title. These are the questions that keep me awake at night.

TDQ: What book are you reading right now?

Hodges: “Odd Thomas” by Dean Koontz. I just finished “A Dance with Dragons” by George R.R. Martin, which is about 246,000 pages long, and “Beggars in Spain” by Nancy Kress. I also recently reread “With Winning in Mind” by Lanny Bassham, a great book on sports psychology. Though I mostly read science fiction, I generally have a history book I’m also working through for when I’m in a more history-reading mood, so I’m also reading “Vietnam: A History” by Stanley Karnow. Of course the best thing to read right now by far is my daily table tennis blog at TableTennisCoaching.com.

TDQ: What’s the best book you’ve read in the past five years?

Hodges: Why would I read a book when I could read a series of books? The best books I’ve read over the past five years would be a tie between the “WWW” trilogy by Robert J. Sawyer and the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin, though each of the five books (so far) in the latter averages about 200,000 pages long. Of course, nothing compares to the utter brilliance of “Table Tennis Tales & Techniques,” “Table Tennis: Steps to Success,” and “Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges.”

TDQ: Isn’t your career really all downhill from here after this interview runs?

Hodges: Since I began writing the answers to these questions, four students have fired me, my books have been trashed by The Daily Show, and I’ve been asked to run for president by the Republicans. How much lower can I go? I need someRocky Road.

TDQ: Are you on Twitter? If yes, why aren’t you following @dailyquarterly?

Hodges: I think I signed up for Twitter once, and have a bunch of followers. They are loyal to me since I never say anything controversial since I’ve never tweeted anything. I am active on Facebook, where I write about both my table tennis coaching and writing, and my science fiction & fantasy writing.

TDQ:  Better source of news using social media? The Daily Quarterly fan page on Facebook or @dailyquarterly on Twitter?

Hodges: I’d say smoke signals would be best, but that would pollute the air, and soon we’d have an atmosphere like Venus, and we wouldn’t want an Equally Dirty Earth. (Yes, that’s an anagram for “The Daily Quarterly.” I’m still in an anagramical mood.)

TDQ: You’re welcome for our time

Hodges: You’re welcome as well! Okay, now that I’ve joked around with my answers above, make sure to use the one with my serious answers, not this one, okay?

Read Part 1 of our TDQ Q&A with Larry here. And be sure and check out Larry’s blog and science fiction page.

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