Everyone, please welcome Martin Berman-Gorvine. He’s here to entertain us with a chat on Gulliver’s Travels, Awesomecon 2015, geeky arguments, Martin’s upcoming works, and much more! Martin has also generously offered up a giveaway, open internationally, so don’t miss that at the bottom of this post.
More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm?
It’s increasingly the case that books, movies, graphic novels, etc. are viewed as comprising a single profit-obsessed beast called “the entertainment industry.” The word industry for me conjures smoke-belching factories, and the convergence of every form of storytelling is regrettable in many ways because it erases healthy distinctions between different forms of high art and pop art—this at the same time that new, absurdly specific “genres” are constantly being invented out of whole cloth by crazed marketers (middle-grade paranormal suburban steampunk, anyone?)
But it would be hypocritical of me as a speculative fiction writer not to acknowledge that I benefit from not being shoved into the ghetto of low-brow, disreputable and dangerous art that science fiction resided in back in the 1950’s, along with comic books, or to pretend that I wouldn’t welcome a phone call from some sunglass-wearing, poolside-drinks-sipping Hollywood producer eager to put my eminently filmable fiction on the screen. It wouldn’t even cost that much thanks to digital graphics to depict the psychedelic biplanes zipping around a Quetzelcoatlus-descended dragon in my latest novel, Heroes of Earth.
I was a lonely, picked-on, self-pitying nerd (a term that had no positive connotations when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s). When I was in eighth grade I wrote a satirical sociology of the junior high school I was attending, dividing my classmates into five castes: Averages, Toughs, Pseudo-Toughs, Brainy Averages, and Brainy Weirdos. The last of these groups was the one I saw myself belonging to: “These have even higher I.Q.s than Brainy Averages. They are usually wimps. They do not conform to any usual style of dress (unless they are Pseudo-Toughs) and are likely to become nuclear physicists, cellular biologists, or something like that. They are not usually dangerous except when you trip over them.” (See my blog athttp://martianperspective.blogspot.com/2013/03/guest-post-1980s-time-capsule.html for the whole thing). Arnold in Heroes of Earth is like that. There’s a lot of the young Martin in him, to be honest.
As you can probably guess, when I wrote about the “Brainy Weirdos” I already saw myself as a writer, and had done so for several years by that point, producing reams of poetry (especially haiku), short stories and essays. I was hooked on expressing myself that way from the moment in elementary school when I read aloud in class an Inspector Clouseau ripoff I had composed for an assignment and basked in the laughter of my classmates—and for once, they weren’t laughing at me.
I’m a great believer in classics, and I would start with Gulliver’s Travels because for me the presentation of very different kinds of people and creatures, fantastical technologies such as the “project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers” at the grand academy of Lagado, and of course the underlying satire of human venality and violence are the very same things that draw so many of us to reading and writing science fiction. H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds established two of the major themes in science fiction and have never been exceeded in storytelling excitement. Alternate history classics such as Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee and Philip K. Dick’s flawed but brilliant The Man in the High Castle helped create an important subgenre and pave the way for Harry Turtledove’s novels and my own work, such as the British America in my novels Save the Dragons and Heroes of Earth. The works of the great women writers who overlapped with “Second Wave” feminism in the larger American culture, such as Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, and James Tiptree Jr.’s Houston, Houston, Do You Read? provided vital new perspectives. I would want to include the work of Robert Charles Wilson, who writes three-dimensional characters and ponders deep religious questions amid world-shaking events, notably in The Spin. Really I’d have a lot of trouble limiting the reading list, or fighting the temptation to assign my own work.
Oh gosh. At Awesomecon 2015 I got the chance to meet Amber Benson, the actress, filmmaker and urban fantasy author. I wanted to give her a copy of my book Heroes of Earth that I had with me, but I worried that would make me seem like some kind of freakily obsessed fan, or maybe an author nobody wanted to read, especially because there were staff hovering around to prevent the truly obsessed from bothering the “celebrities.” So I settled for giving her a bookmark with my books listed on it. If by some bizarre chance she ends up reading this, I still have the book I meant to give her, autographed and everything!
What do you do when you are not writing?
Reading, mostly history or speculative fiction. Cleaning up excretia from our five cats and one dog. Disregarding Petula Clark’s advice and falling asleep on the subway. Working at my day job as a newsletter reporter and editor.
I have these every day with my sixteen-year-old son Daniel. He asks me what I would do if I could travel in time—“and you’re not allowed to kill Hitler, Dad.” “Kill Hitler,” I say. His follow-up question is, “What superpower would you have, if you could have any?” I haven’t figured out the answer to that one, so I shift us over to a little light ontological debate. Sometimes he offers me some useful advice for my next novel—for example, when I told him about the philosophical problem posed by the existence of parallel worlds in Larry Niven’s short story “All the Myriad Ways,” where the main character decides to kill himself because free will is meaningless in a multiverse where all possible decisions have been made somewhere, he suggested a counterargument that made it into Heroes of Earth. When we finish talking he’ll go back to playing Skyrim and I’ll go back to such fun pursuits as reading about the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.
Side characters can assume outsize importance in the hands of a skilled author. For example, I recently finished reading Erica O’Rourke’s Dissonance, one of the most intriguing and complex approaches I’ve ever encountered on a parallel world theme. The main character, Delancey, is something of a standard-issue young adult heroine in being a rebel and a misfit, though she’s no less appealing for that. Her older sister Addison is her foil for much of the novel, a goody-two-shoes and seemingly an untroubled snitch who starts to develop unexpected depths and nuances toward the end of the novel. I’m looking forward to seeing both girls’ characters develop in the sequel.
In my own work, Jo Purnell, who first appeared as the annoying kid sister of one of the two teenage main characters in my 2013 novel Save the Dragons, returns in a more central role in Heroes of Earth, and I can feel she is definitely demanding her own novel. She’s going to get what she wants, too, because I’m a little intimidated by a girl who can telepathically talk to dragons, out-think Albert Einstein and Roger Penrose in mathematical physics, effortlessly picture higher dimensions in her mind, is musically talented, and outspoken and willing to fight for what she believes in. The challenges she faces will have to be considerable to be worthy of her. But she may live to regret getting what she wants, because I’ve recently signed a deal for a four-book horror novel series with Silver Leaf Books—the first one, All Souls Day, is due out in February 2016.
Places to find Martin Berman-Gorvine
Giveaway: open internationally!
One autographed copy of Heroes of Earth! Enter the Rafflecopter below or you can do the following in the comments below: 1) leave a way to contact you; and 2) answer this question: What is a recurring or memorable geeky debate you have taken part in?
Giveaway ends in 2 weeks, Midnight August 9th, 2015.