Interview with Tippy from The Imaginary Corpse

Tyler Hayes

Tyler is a science fiction and fantasy writer from Northern California, and a Social Justice Bard specializing in the College of Comfort. He writes stories he hopes will show people that not only are they not alone in this terrifying world, but we might just make things better. His fiction has appeared online in AnotherealmNossa Morte, and The Edge of Propinquity, and in print in anthologies from Alliteration Ink, Graveside Tales, and Aetherwatch. Tyler’s debut novel, The Imaginary Corpse, is coming from Angry Robot Books on September 10th, 2019.

Welcome to the Asylum, Tippy! I’m so happy you are here! Come, take a seat by the fire, have a beverage of your choice and tell us something about yourself!

Thanks for the warm welcome. Also the root beer.

The name’s Tippy, formally Detective Tippy of the Stuffed Animal Detective Agency. I am, as you can see, a sunflower-yellow stuffed triceratops. I’m the best detective in Playtime Town and among the best in the Stillreal, and I used to be a pretty darn good imaginary friend before my creator decided to part ways with me. (It’s a long story.)

Aw, I’m sorry to hear that. But I’m sure you brought the best out of that sad situation. 

Thanks for the sympathy, I mean it. I try to make the best of it. Some days are easier than others, and for the others I have a support network. Well, now, I wasn’t always good about that…

Don’t we all need a support network? A safe place, so to speak. And since we are at it… Say, you can live in the fantasy house/lair of your dreams. What would it look like?

Wow, you know, I’ve never thought about this before…gimme a second.

A house, definitely. Two stories, with plenty of spare bedrooms so friends can come and stay when they need a place to be, every bed with its own bath. All accessible, of course.

A big, wide-open kitchen just like I remember, with big steel fixtures, a state-of-the-art kettle for Spiderhand, a good ice-cream maker in case Mr. Float wants to come over, and a well-stocked fridge with a big wide drawer just for soda. Maybe two fridges. Be safe and call it three fridges, one upstairs and one down and one in the basement, make sure whoever needs to get to one can get to one. And of course all of them have a couple different flavors of root beer.

I’d have a proper office in the basement, with a big oak desk that’d make an executive blush, and my own mini-fridge, and a sofa bed in case I ever need to burn the midnight oil on a case. It’d also be soundproofed so I could work on nights when the weather gets distracting.

Oh, and there’d be whatever the most state-of-the-art washer and dryer money can buy is, and it’d be right there in the basement-office. I’d love to have the sound of everyone’s laundry to keep me company.

This sounds fantastic! I can imagine all the tea parties Spiderhand could held in that house! You know, I think to make it absolutely perfect, it also needs a library. Do you like to read? Do you even have libraries in the Stillreal?

I’m not much of a reader. I love books, some of my best friends are from books, but I’m happiest when I’m talking with friends or working a case; sitting down with a book isn’t going to relax me. I do read sometimes, but it’s mostly…I mean, ‘nonfiction’ is kind of stretching the definition given that I’m literally fictional. Research is the word, I guess. Building up my knowledge base for future cases, trying to fill in the gaps my detective stuff has thanks to how young Sandra was when I left. So yeah, I’d absolutely include a library, but it’d mostly be reference material and whatever Spidey decides to put in there.

To the second question: We have libraries, for sure. Playtime Town has a library that takes up two city blocks, though it’s pretty much all picture books. There’s one in Avatar City that I swear is the Platonic ideal of libraries: rolling ladders, dim lamps, card catalog, the works. You come out of it smelling like old books for a week. We also have places I’d call libraries, but only for lack of a better term. There’s a castle made out of microfiche slides, and this one Friend who’s trying to catalog the stomach contents of a book-eating sandworm…it gets complicated out there.

Book-eating sandworm? Whoa. You guys really have EVERYTHING there. Speaking of which, what/who is your favorite idea?

What: Playtime Town, the former children’s-book city where I live. It’s home in a way that only one place was ever home before, and it’s got a pretty impressive diversity of Friends living there without all the danger of Avatar City or the Hex Dimension. Also it does sometimes make my cases easier when the building right next door to mine is sentient; you’d be surprised what you learn from a contact multiple stories tall.

Who? Spiderhand. He’s my best friend and one of the best roommates a ceratopsian could ask for.

Having read your latest adventures in The Imaginary Corpse, I can agree that he seems like a really good roommate/friend to have around. After going through a trauma like that, it must feel really good to find friends who support you, no matter what.

It does. Like I started to say earlier, I haven’t always been the best about letting myself have friends like that. It’s the noir detective in me, I think, you know, trench-coated loner dwelling in the shadows. I’m lucky to have friends like Spidey and Miss Mighty who stick out the bad times.

What was the most interesting case you worked on as a detective? What did you learn from it?

The case with Spindleman and the screaming corn is an obvious choice, but I know you’ve already heard that one, so I have to go with my very first case after I got to the Stillreal. 

I got asked to look into this ‘small’ problem with houses disappearing from an Idea called Small-Town America. Like, whole houses, just vanishing in the night, poof. The weirdest part was, Friends weren’t getting hurt — the occupants would just wake up sitting in a vacant lot that used to be their home. The victims started showing up at the Freedom Motel for lack of anywhere else to go, just like we all did when our creators first showed us the big tear-stained door. They heard there was a new detective staying at the motel, and once more unto the breach I went.

It turned out to be this rich guy who had lived in the city next door to Small-Town America; he ended up in the Stillreal with the townsfolk when the Idea made its final voyage out of the Imagination, and he was not coping well at all. He’d found this group of cartoon ants, literal actual carpenter ants with hard hats and tools and everything, and convinced them that the only place to get lumber in the Stillreal was by ‘recycling’ houses. The whole thing was a real estate scam: he’d pay the ants with a percentage of the lumber to build new houses with the rest of it, then sell those houses to the homeless Small-Townies for a small fortune. Like house flipping but way more direct. When I confronted him he broke down, said he was just trying to find a way to feel in control again. I think I convinced him lashing out at people who had homes instead of finding one of his own was the wrong call, but either way he stopped with the criminal activity after he got out of jail. The ants helped rebuild the town, too.

It was a weird case, and weirder still for having to get used to the way Friends in the Stillreal think as compared to the way Sandra liked to orchestrate our cases. It also taught me a lot. I was a mess when me and Sandra separated, showed up in the Stillreal six kinds of sobbing and seven kinds of shaking. But while I was working that case, I wasn’t as upset, because I was out there doing my detecting thing. Detecting is my number one self-care, and that case showed me that.

Also, thanks to that case, I know that whenever I’m confronted with a crime too bizarre for me to understand, looking at the powerful people connected to it and asking how they benefit will almost always solve it.

I think self-care is very important, especially when you go through a hard period of time. I’m glad you found something to keep you going. Things might never be the same again, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find your happy place, even if your circumstances changed.

Thank you. I really appreciate that.

And really, that’s kinda the journey everyone here has to go through: building a new happy place for ourselves, or for each other. It’s a lot of pressure, and some of us break under it, but not all of us.

Yeah, I can imagine. What would your advice be for those who would like to become an awesome detective like you?

Learn to listen to people — what they’re saying, and what they aren’t saying. Learn to every step of the case on its own terms, as its own little universe — try to see it within the logic it operates on, not the logic you operate on. And always try being kind to suspects and witnesses, unless you’re in danger or they prove they aren’t worth the energy; it tends to work better in the long run.

I can see why you are among the best detectives. Those are really sound advices. Talking about kindness. Asylums are kind of infamous about how patients were treated in them. Running one myself, I’m a bit fascinated with places like this. Have you ever had to visit an asylum during your career?

More times than I really want to think about. They feature in a lot of humans’ ideas of what psychiatric facilities look like, and when you factor in how likely neurodivergent people are to get smacked with the kinds of things that like to drop Ideas in the Stillreal…the place is lousy with Bedlam Houses and abandoned asylums and stuff like that. Friends have tried to retrofit a lot of them into places for actual recovery instead of straitjacket-based abuse, but there are a few that are still haunted, both literally and figuratively. I try to avoid them, but guess how well that goes?

Uh oh, I can imagine that… So, you mentioned you had to part with Sandra and I know that it must have been hard. What would your message be to kids who had to part with their imaginary friends as well?

That it’s going to be okay, but it’s fine for it to not be okay right now. Take the time you need to hurt and grieve and whatever else you need to do. That whatever happened wasn’t your fault. 

Also, your imaginary friends are still here. We’re still hoping for the best for you, and still trying to carry on the lessons you taught us, and we’d be proud to see you out there doing your best in the wake of whatever happened.

Is there a place you’d like to visit inside or outside the Stillreal?

Inside, not really — I enjoy exploring new Ideas, but the fact new Ideas keep showing up isn’t exactly uplifting.

Outside…wherever Sandra is. I don’t need to stick with her forever, I get that ship has sailed. I just want to know if she’s doing okay. See what her world looks like now.

I’m getting choked up, so I’ll blatantly change the subject and say that visiting a Realworld laundromat one more time would be fantastic, too.

Aw, it’s okay. Can I give you another root beer? Something else? We can take a little break, if you’d like.

Yes, please to the root beer. Break’s not necessary, I just need a second to put my stuffing back in the right order.

Okay, but let me know if you need anything. I really enjoyed The Imaginary Corpse. What do you think, can we read more about your adventures in the future?

I’m hoping so. The guy who helped me write down the Spindleman case has been asking after a couple other cases I’ve had to work over the years. The one he’s been most interested in involves the Sadness Penguins…but he said I wasn’t supposed to get into it here. Honestly, I’m just glad to get to talk over them again. It helps remind me why I get up in the morning.

I certainly would be interested reading about any of your cases, and the Sadness Penguins. I confess, they really intrigued me. But I understand that you can’t talk about this, so let’s change topic. I have a couple of friends who’d like to give you a hug and also ask a question or two, if you don’t mind.

Sure. I’m kinda shocked how huggy you humans actually are…

Yeah, sorry, we just really like you…

Eriophora: Hi Tippy! What do you keep in your detective coat?

Hi, Eriophora, pleased to meet you.

Gosh, it never occurred to me to think of it as my detective coat…thanks for the name, I’ll hold onto that. 

As far as what I keep in it, mostly I stash clues for active cases, but I do like to keep a flask of root beer on hand if I know I’m going to be away from Playtime Town for too long. Lately I’ve taken to storing needle and thread in it, for obvious reasons. I’m a really hard yellow to find a match for, it turns out.

Kristen: Hello Tippy! What is the most fulfilling thing about being the best triceratops detective in the Stillreal?

Hi Kristen. It’s nice to meet you.

Knowing I’m helping people who need it. Living in the Stillreal, justice can be a little hard to come by at times, and I’m grateful to be able to use my Sandra-given talents to teach the other Friends that it does get better. Occasionally I even remind myself of that.

It was a pleasure to have you here as a guest! I hope you will visit me sometimes. Can I give you a goodbye hug?

Thank you for having me; I’d love to come back by whenever I get another breather between cases. And thank you for asking, I’d love a hug and I really appreciate the respect for my boundaries. Take care of yourself.

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If you’d like to get in contact with Tyler Hayes (and Tippy), you can find him on social media:

Website | Instagram | Twitter

If you want to read about Tippy’s adventres, Tyler Hayes‘ debut fantasy novel, The Imaginary Corpse will be released on September 10th 2019, but can be preordered now, by clicking on the cover.

The Imaginary Corpse