Adam-Troy Castro has made a name for himself as a science fiction writer, writing a multitude of short stories in the horror, fantasy, and science fiction genres. He has been nominated for many awards, including the Stoker and the Hugo, among others. His latest work is an unauthorized look at The Amazing Race, called “My Ox Is Broken!”: Detours, Roadblocks, Fast Forwards and Other Great Moments from TV’s The Amazing Race.
The book is an expansive, season-by-season look at The Amazing Race, complete with inside information, exclusive Racer interviews, and entertaining and insightful commentary. We recently sat down with Castro for an interview, where we discussed his book and last season’s Amazing Race.
How did you first become a fan of The Amazing Race?
When my then-future wife refused to talk to me on the phone during the show. I started watching so we could share running commentary, from different households. The moment that hooked me for good, for what it’s worth, was the Clowns enthusiastically crying, “Manuuuuure!”
When did the idea of writing a book come about?
When Glenn Yeffeth of BenBella Books, for whom I’d written essays on ALIAS, HITCHIKER’s GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, and KING KONG, offered me my choice of book-length projects.
How much research did you do?
I had to watch every episode several times, as well as solicit and conduct interviews, and read much of the available information on the show.
Who was your favorite ex-Racer you talked to? Least favorite?
Ohhhh, I don’t think I’ll even touch “Favorite” or “Least Favorite.” I will say that of those interviewed for the book, some seem well on their way to becoming lasting friends, a happy development I will do my best to encourage.
How big a discrepancy did you find between Racers portrayals on the show versus how they were in real life?
I say several times in the book that watching people on a reality show, at what happens to be one of the most frenetic times of their lives, is not the best way to determine what they’re like as human beings. Although I never met her personally, I devote a full chapter to defending Race 3’s Flo, who from all evidence available on screen appears to have been a tremendous pain in the ass to race with, but who has endeared herself to fans with the person she is when she’s not hungry, stressed, and sleep-deprived. Similarly, I have nothing but good things to say about my exchanges with Race 6’s much-reviled Jonathan Baker, who was downright repugnant on-screen, but who offered me his full cooperation and was never less than friendly despite advance knowledge that I was going to be less than kind.
What was the general feeling of ex-Racers regarding their portrayal? Who was most upset?
Jonathan remains the unhappiest of those I spoke to, though Race 5’s Colin is reportedly also very upset about the editing he blames for his villainous image on-screen. Race 1’s Guidos and Race 5’s Marshall, both of whom came off less than heroic, and both of whom I interviewed, were both more philosophical about it. Marshall even admitted, “We got a good edit.” Race 6’s Don and Mary Jean, whose interview was omitted due to a ruined recording, both say they fought bitterly during the race, a fact not borne out by the show (where they were edited as sweethearts). If you’re talking about their portrayal in the book, I was surprised and gratified by happy comments from members of two teams I gave the most insulting nicknames: “Team Doomed” and “The Bottom Feeders.”
Who was the most unfairly portrayed Racer?
I wouldn’t say “unfairly,” as that’s always been a matter for intense debate, but I can say that Race 2’s Will and Race 6’s Adam (better known as Hellboy), both came off as endearingly ridiculous.
Actually: I like all these people. Of all the teams that ever appeared on the show, there are only three that so completely annoyed me, either with their actions on-screen, or their subsequent behavior, that I wouldn’t want to sit down with them over coffee. Never mind who they are.
How long did this book take you to write?
Four months for the bulk of the writing, though I continued to work on it in order to accommodate Race 9.
Did you run into any opposition from CBS?
What are your general feelings about this past season?
In terms of tasks, and locations, this was one of the toughest races ever, with a number of the most likable teams.
Who were you rooting for?
At first, I was hoping Bilal and Sa’eed would hang around for a while. No such luck. Then I was hoping Vipul and Arti would hang around for a while. No such luck. Following that I wanted Peter and Sarah (well, mostly Sarah) to make it across the finish line, but, again, no such luck. After that, it was David and Mary, the Cho Brothers, and Dustin and Kandice: no such luck, three times in a row. By the time they left, I was genuinely charmed by the Beauty Queens, and I was saddened when that navigation error left them with a half-hour penalty they were unable to overcome. In past seasons I have rooted, from the beginning, for teams that eventually made it all the way and won the million, but this race, at least, having me in the cheering section was the kiss of death.
The All-Star edition is coming up next. What would your ultimate line-up be?
My dream lineup would include several teams that got wiped out early on, like the New York Jews in Iceland and Lena and Kristy of those damnable Hay Bales. I find the absence of the Clowns, in any All-Star race, danged impossible to fathom. I understand why Colin and Christie are not coming back, as she’s pregnant. I would dearly love to see the Gaghan parents come back. Several remaining possibilities are effectively impossible, as the teams were romantic couples that are no longer together (and are no longer capable of spending a month together, even as platonic friends — you can see a couple of them break up on the show itself). Beyond that, advance word on All-Stars seems close to spot on.
Do you have any inside info about who has been cast?
No inside info, but I have kept an ear close to the rumor mill, and we should expect Rob and Amber, Uchenna and Joyce, Charla and Mirna, Dustin and Kandice, David and Mary, and the Guidos. We have further reports, less than fully confirmed, of Kevin and Drew, Jon Vito and Jill, Ian and Teri, Kris and Jon, and (most intriguingly) one team that is actually members of two separate teams, who hooked up romantically after their race was completed.
Applications are now open for The Amazing Race 12. Do you have any advice for people who want to get on the show?
Be energetic, interesting, and unique. One piece of advice from a former racer: feel free to break the rules of the audition tape, including its maximum length, if you feel that will make you stand out.
Only that I hope the show continues to enjoy success indefinitely, as I continue to thrill to its twists and turns.