Interview: Gabi Stevens, Author of The Wish List

StevensTheWishListEveryone, please welcome Gabi Stevens to the blog today. She is the author of the Time of Transition series. She also writes under the name Gabi Anderson (Destiny Coin series) and G. S. Anderson (Preternatural). Today we discuss Harry Potter and Cinderella, Star Wars I and backstory, game shows, reboots versus retellings, and plenty more!

Who are your non-writer influences?

Dare I be cliché and say my family? Okay, now that that’s behind us . . . I have to thank the teachers in my life who taught me how to think and dream, especially in high school. I went to boarding school and not only did those teachers see us in the classroom, but they also lived with us on campus. We ate meals with them, I babysat their children, etc. They introduced me to Sci Fi and Fantasy novels.

StevensAsYouWishWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Ooo, confession time. I haven’t read Dickens. I know. Shocking. But I will, one day. I’ve really never read Hemmingway, but I know the plots, and I just don’t want to. Okay, I have read The Old Man and the Sea, but none of the others. Steinbeck is another author I’ve never read. I tried to read The Red Pony once, but, well, no. I only kick myself for the Dickens. I haven’t read all of The Canterbury Tales or any of Beowulf, but I can claim to have read part of The Aeneid in Latin, as well as some Livy, Tacitus, and Palutus’s Menaechmi. And I can claim Faust, parts one and two in German. (Too much bragging?)

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

If you subscribe to the Joseph Campbell school of thought, there is only one story, so essentially every story is a reboot. That said, I loved Harry Potter (books more than movies, although I loved the movies too), which is essentially Cinderella. I myself have written a couple of Beauty and the Beast stories (one of my favorites). If you can’t tell, I love fairy tales (must be my German Lit background). I enjoy most of the new retellings of them–although no one has ever tackled my favorite, King Thrushbeard (or Grislybeard, as some have translated it, although the point of Thrushbeard is that the king’s beard looks like the beak of a bird).

StevensWishfulThinkingI’m not as fond of reboots. If it was good before, why remake it? Psycho? Really? And not enough time has passed to reboot some of the series (Could be that I’m just old). Dare I confess I haven’t seen the new Spiderman reboots? Planet of the Apes? Mad Max, ignoring the modern incarnation of Mel Gibson, is pretty awesome already. So what if it’s dated. That’s part of its charm. And clearly, the new one is not out yet, but did we really need a new one? There are so many untouched stories out there, why remake something that’s already been done and done well? But of course there are exceptions. I can’t wait for a good Hulk movie. And (I know this is controversial) I do like the reboot of Star Trek (but I loved the old series). But if they have to reboot, why not pick the really old stuff, like the Thin Man series. But my favorite is the reboot of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s Sherlock (huge fan of this reboot).

There is this rumor that you have been on a few game shows – an experience worth repeating? What would your favorite characters from your own writing be like on a game show?

I have indeed. I was on the Family Feud with the women in my family when Richard Dawson was the host. We won twice then lost the third time, but only won the “Big Money” once. So many tales to tell from that experience, especially since two of our members had heavy Hungarian accents.

Then I appeared on Sale of the Century, and lost it in a tiebreaker because they said tiebreakers would be hard questions– it was easy, and by the time I thought, “But that’s easy,” the other guy had answered.

AndersonTemptation'sWarriorBut my favorite was on Jeopardy, where I came in third, but won the best set of pots and pans ever. No, seriously, they will be handed down to my children, the quality is that good. And I was doing great until Final Jeopardy. To myself I was chanting, “Don’t be US presidents, don’t be US Presidents”, and up pops the category: US Presidents. Man, the day before (because you watch several tapings while you wait) no one got the Final Jeopardy question right (What does Alice cross in “Through the Looking Glass?), and I was sitting in the audience screaming to myself because I knew it. My question: The last surviving president to have signed the US Constitution. Really?

So if my characters would be on game shows my characters, Tennyson Ritter, hero of THE WISH LIST, would do awesome on something like Jeopardy, but horrible on something like Family Feud. He’s got brains, but he just doesn’t have the exposure to the real world to answer questions about how other people would answer. Jonathan Bastion, hero of AS YOU WISH, is too savvy a businessman not to know how people respond to things, so Family Feud would be his game. And Hyacinth, one of the Fairy Godmothers who appear in the entire trilogy, couldn’t be bothered to do something like a game show. She would probably watch them and mock the contestants that appeared on them.

What is your favorite fictional holiday (from books, movies, or tv)?

Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th) is my favorite, closely followed by May the Fourth (Star Wars day!).

AndersonFalconAndWolfHow did you celebrate that first time experience of having a piece accepted for publication?

That was fun. I bought my daughters little tokens—one got a Pocket Dragon (porcelain figurine) reading a book, one got items for her Josefina doll, and I just can’t remember what I got the youngest. I bought my husband a ping pong table, which has since gone the way of the dinosaur. For myself, I bought a tiny Swarovski crystal inkwell with gold quill. When I got the call my husband was in the air, flying to Britain, so I had to leave a message at his hotel to call me as soon as he arrived with the words, “Good news” so he wouldn’t panic upon arrival. My two oldest daughters jumped up and down, and my youngest just looked up at me and said, “Chocolate milk.” Way to bring me down to reality quickly, but she was only four.

If you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

Mark Twain, Isaac Asimov, Edgar Allan Poe, L. Frank Baum, and Agatha Christie. But I would order for them–tacos, enchiladas, burritos, chips and salsa, margaritas, green chile, and sopapillas. They need to be exposed to the food from where I’m from. Especially the margaritas. Can you imagine the conversation we could have after a couple?

AndersonEverYoursIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

How about for your 8th grade students?

I already did give my eighth graders SFF literature. Not only did we read a bunch of short stories—Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder,” “There Will Come Soft Rains”; Asimov’s Nightfall; Stephen Vincent Benet’s By the Waters of Babylon; but we also read the entire I, Robot by Isaac Asimov.

As for college, here is my list of must reads: Stranger in a Strange Land, The Stars My Destination, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Martian Chronicles, The Foundation Series, The Lord of the Rings, Doomsday Book, Lord Foul’s Bane,…I know I’ve forgotten a ton.

Care to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

When isn’t such a moment awkward? When I’m the one doing the gushing, I figure I’m bothering the author. I had a chance to meet Brent Weeks last year and his wife and their little girl and all I could talk about was child rearing. And when someone gushes to me, I always wonder why? I’m not that good (did you know that most writers are terribly insecure).

AndersonPreternaturalWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

When my husband and I watched Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, we spent two hours discussing the movie at the end. We are both huge Star Wars fans (the original series, and Han shot first) and we didn’t like it. What it boiled down to for me was it was all backstory. As a writer you’re taught not to dump backstory on the reader. Yes, you give hints to what happened in the past, but unless it’s relevant, you don’t need backstory. SW I, II, and III are all backstory. I didn’t need to know why Anakin turned bad. I already knew he had and that he was redeemed. Funny, considering I usually like spoilers, but the difference between spoilers and backstory is huge.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I am currently working on shopping around my first pure fantasy novel. I’ll keep you posted. In addition, I’ve got a story collection, Preternatural, on Kindle and Nook under the name GS Anderson, which is receiving some great reviews (Phew). Look for me and news about me at my web site: www.GabiStevens.com. You can also find me at Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Places to Stalk Gabi Stevens

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Interview & Giveaway: Drew Avera, Author of 2103, Act I

AveraReichHello Dabbers, please welcome Drew Avera to the blog today. I have been enjoying his audiobooks and it is time that others have the opportunity to do so as well. Drew is offering a giveaway of his audiobooks 2103 Act I and Reich. Just scroll to the bottom for details on how to enter. Otherwise, please enjoy the interview where we chat about villains, Falling Skies, dragons versus snakes, comics, and more.

Have you utilized your Navy experience in building your characters and worlds? If so, in what ways?

It’s hard not to take from life experiences and put them into your writing. Typically I will see personality traits from people I’ve met and use some of them in the characters I write. Honestly, some of the biggest a-holes I’ve met have been in the Navy and it helps draw inspiration for antagonists.

If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

That’s a tough one because I don’t usually watch anything more than twice. I’m tempted to say Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, but now I’m second guessing myself. On TV Breaking Bad was awesome, but then again I really like shows like Continuum and Falling Skies. I’m also an avid comic book fan and shows like Arrow are fun. Maybe I should pick a book…sorry I can’t pick just one, but I will say that What Savage Beast written by Peter David was the first novel I read that made me love reading. It’s a book featuring The Incredible Hulk. Maybe reliving that experience would be nice.

Avera2103ActIGiven the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

The answer to both is a dragon. After seeing How to Train Your Dragon I would be tempted to try and ride one, but I’m also very afraid of snakes (we have a lot of poisonous snakes where I grew up in Mississippi) and a dragon is like a big snake.

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?

What I think would be cool is a mix between an audiobook and film. It would be hard to pull off for long novels, but I have some science fiction short stories that are being professionally narrated that I plan to create a video for. It would last about 20-30 minutes and have images of characters or maybe even video footage of the character. I could even score music for it and make it as close to a “movie” as possible. Unfortunately I haven’t found the time to put it all together yet to test my theory, but I think it would be fun to watch.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I am horrible at video games and I’m not really into things like Magic: The Gathering so I’m not really sure. I would say live action role playing The Hunger Games would be kind of fun though…unless you’re the first one to die.

AveraDeadPlanetexodusIn my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?

Everything I write is founded on a fear. I don’t think it is paranoia, but that’s probably what every paranoid person would say. Anyways, if you look at the story Reich, it is about a German society that lives in a utopian state. They live under the pretense that Hitler won the war and he is now a god-like figure. That’s not reality, but what if people drank the Kool-Aid and believed in that Aryan superiority? I also have a non-existent relationship with my mother which finds its way into creating the character Jenna. I tried to justify her actions with my abandonment issues with my own mother. It wasn’t intentional, but I can see it now that the book is done.

Other books like Dead Planet: Exodus, 2103: The Fall of America, and a new one I’m working on called The Banished are all dystopian books about government corruption. Everyone is potentially a villain in most of my books. There’s that string of paranoia again, but I bet no one thought Rome would fall did they? Seriously though, I’m not a conspiracy theorist or anything like that. I just fall prey to answering the “what if” question. And like I said, the foundation is always based on fear.

In writing your bad guys, do you want the reader to enjoy hating on him/her, or do you want the reader to be waiting for that magical moment when they redeem themselves?

I think a good villain has to believe they are the hero. They are fighting for something worthwhile, but maybe the other people are just too ignorant to see it his/her way. I use that method for development most of the time, but sometimes I write crazy serial killers with no legitimate rhyme or reason to their methods. Those people scare me J.

AveraMr.GrimmIf you could sit down and have tea (or a beer) with 5 fictional characters, who would you invite to the table?

Batman, Wolverine,  Pope (from Falling Skies),  Captain Weaver (Falling Skies), and Jesse (from Breaking Bad) because everyone needs someone to poke fun at lol.

Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works? What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

Jesse from Breaking Bad was great. He could lighten any serious moment with just one word…”B****!” hahaha.  As far as my characters go I use them just to support the main character in some way. Sometimes they are almost an extension of the main character’s development. It’s kind of hard to explain, but essentially I want all of my characters to grow and I want them to influence each other like real people influence each other. It’s not just experience, but also relationships that shape a personality. I try to keep that in mind when my characters react.

Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I am always working on the next book. I’m moving into different genres now with a set of books that will be more crime thriller based. I’m working on the first Nathan Fox novel called Born to Die and I will follow it up with another called Dead Eye. All of my books are short, action packed, and fast paced. I jokingly say that my books are written for people with ADHD. You can finish my book before something shiny grabs your attention! Growing up with ADHD I struggled with sitting down to read. That’s why comic books were a big part of my life until I discovered books about the very things I was passionate about. Now as an adult I can focus more, but I understand not wanting to be tied down to a five hundred page book.

If anyone is interested in checking out my work you can find my books at www.amazon.com/author/drewavera  and on facebook at www.facebook.com/authordrewavera  I’m active on twitter at www.twitter.com/drewavera and I have a blog where I feature other authors at www.drewavera.wordpress.com  I have many authors on there so there’s a little something for everyone.

Also I have a few free stories here: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/drewavera if anyone is interested.

Thank you for having me on your blog! I really appreciate it.

Giveaway!!!

Drew is giving away 1 audiobook copy of Reich and 1 audiobook copy of 2103 Act I. You must be able to download via Audible.com. To enter the giveaway, comment below with 1) a way to contact you should you win (email, twitter handle, etc.), 2) Are you able to download Audible.com audiobooks? Yes or no, and 3) Answer this question: What little facet from history would you like to see projected into a future utopian/dystopian story?

The giveaway will run through October 8th, 2014. Good luck everyone!

Places to Stalk Drew Avera

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Origins of a D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer

BernheimerOriginsD-ListSupervillainWhy I Read It: Really enjoyed other works by the author.

Where I Got It: Review copy via the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: Anyone like superhero stories? Want to know how to become a lesser Supervillain? Check this book out!

Narrators: Jeffrey Kafer

Publisher: Jim Bernheimer (2014)

Length: 7 hours 1 minute

Series: Book 1 D-List Supervillain

Author’s Page

Having enjoyed several other Jim Bernheimer books, I had to give this one a go. I was not disappointed at all. Even though it is written after Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, it is actually set directly before it in story timeline. Our hero (or villain) of the story was once an engineer working for Ultraweapon. However, when a boss basically steals his design for a bigger, badder force blaster, he quits seeking glory and decent pay through self-employment. But Ultrweapon’s parent company, the Promethia Corporation, hound him with lawyers. Hence, he needed a place to hide; he needed a supervillain’s lair. Why not shack up with his buddy in an underground mechanic’s workshop? Sounds perfect. Except for the lack of plumbing.

As Cal (AKA MechniCal) works his way into supervillainy, he becomes aware of the need for cash to buy the supplies needed to build his mechwarrior suit. Hence, the bank robbing. He has a specially programmed getaway car, operated by a blow up doll in a suit and hat. But eventually, Cal gets caught. And no, it is not a long, hard chase, taking out numerous buildings, etc. He’s caught by the Superhero known as The Bugler. Yep. Cal was bugled into submission. Granted, the Bugler employs this sonic device that can melt your eardrums, but a pair of mufflers would have come in pretty handy. Cal was kicking his own butt over that one for a long, long time.

As with Confessions, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In fact, it only took two sessions of listening for me to devour this book. Cal’s dry sense of humor, the occasional self-deprecating naughty joke, the kicking of the little guy while he is down – all of that had me bonding with Cal and hoping he would rise to infamy and world domination. Then there are the other Supervillains that always let Cal know how little he is in the pond filled with very big fish. They make demands on him, because, quite frankly, he’s good at building mechanical gizmos and weapons.

While this book has more female characters than Confessions, they play lesser roles. That’s my only criticism. I would love to see Cal go eye to eye with some lady mechanic who grew up working in a Hispanic car garage, bench pressing transmissions, using engine grease for permanent tattoos, and is impervious to head trauma due to repeatedly knocking the guys out with head butts. But that could just be me. Cal might be a bit intimidated by such a woman.

Both Confessions and Origins can be read as stand-alones, though I think newcomers would find a little more enjoyment reading Origins first then Confessions. I eagerly await the next installment in Cal’s story.

The Narration: Jeffrey Kafer once again kicked ass. His narration is so full of energy and he does a great job making the characters distinct. There is this one female character that tends to talk at super fast speeds, and Kafer pulled that off. Very impressive performance!

What I Liked: Cal is so easy to identify with; cool tech; funny superpowers (like the sonic bugling); Cal is permanently in a tight spot.

What I Disliked: Few women in the story.

What Others Think:

Grigory Lukin

Treasure of the Silver Star by Michael Angel

AngelTreasureOfTheSilverStarWhy I Read It: Space opera that combines treasure hunting, archaeology, and space chase – can’t miss that!

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: For light space opera junkies.

Narrator: Lee Strayer

Publisher: Banty Hen Publishing (2013)

Length: 5 hours 34 minutes

Author’s Page

Set in a far flung galaxy, we have a disgraced starship captain (Drake) and an independent archaeologist (Tally) who must join forces to save the galaxy and perhaps earn a little money. Drake’s command crew made me think of Star Trek (Sebastien, Kincaide, Ferra, etc.) and the space battle scenes were reminiscent of Star Wars battles. Definitely a mix mash of pulp fiction and space opera.Drake struggles through the book to regain his former polish and glory after wrongly being placed in the Losers box with a bunch of Loser rejects on a Loser ship.

Then we have the treasure hunter/archaeology aspect thrown in. Tally made me think of a female Indiana Jones; she was very focused on her goal and not afraid of the physical effort it would take to get it. She had some of the most interesting scenes because they had to do with history, and therefore, had the most detail.

The plot was pretty straight forward and the characters, once established, didn’t change much. The bad guys were stereotypical and our heroes are 100% good guys. Normally, I enjoy a bit more variation in all of that, but for a fast paced, short space opera, it was decent. If you have some task where you need your hands and a bit of concentration, then this would be good braincandy for the background.

We had more men than women and I would have enjoyed seeing that a bit more balanced. But the few females we had in the storyline added to the plot and weren’t just scenery. The one sex scene came off as a bit awkward and didn’t engage my libido. I like my sex scenes and if one (or more) are going to be thrown in, they should count.

Narration: Lee Strayer did a good job of keeping the characters distinct. There were a few passages where the sentences were repeated, so not the cleanest on final editing. Still, the actual narration was well done with clear feminine and masculine voices, different accents, and proper emotions.

What I Liked: Fast-paced; fun; archaeology, hurray!; space battles!; treasure hunting; the ending.

What I Disliked: Only a few female characters; awkward sex scene; no character growth.

Reich by Drew Avera

AveraReichWhy I Read It: Odd as it sounds, I have never contemplated a world where Hitler and/or the Reich lived on, so this book intrigued me.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the author (thanks!).

Who I Recommend This To: If you enjoy your speculative fiction doused with a political or mildly moral bent, then check this out.

Narrator: Kieth L. O’Brien

Publisher: Drew Alexander Avera (2013)

Length: 1 hour 52 minutes

Author’s Page

Set roughly ~150 years after Hitler’s death, the citizens of Germany still live under the Reich, the Aryan Nation reigning supreme within her borders. Life is orderly, a little too orderly, and plenty of people stomp around in big boots and ill-designed uniforms. The average citizen of Germany lives in a tyrannical hell, and those that keep the order abuse it. Without giving away a huge plot twist, this book is more than the back cover description gives it credit for.

We open with a boy who runs afoul of authority. I have to say that the first three jumps, or was it four?, in point of view through me in a creeped-out-by-the-viciousness-of-authority-gone-astray kind of way. Folks die in this book people, hence some of the shifting POVs. Yet, everyone is a hero in their own heads. I definitely enjoy a tale where everyone believes that they aren’t really all that bad. So it was good to show that through the shifting POVs.

At under 2 hours, the plot has to move along pretty quickly. So we start with the view of the average citizen born and raised this in this new Germany, then learn the BIG SECRET, which is followed by a rebellion of the citizens. A young mother ends up leading this rebellion and we end up following her for most of the book. While I found her character a bit lacking in military leadership skills (she is chaperoned around everywhere by chivalrous men), I can see her as a very efficient administrator of a country.

There wasn’t much in the way of character development once the character was established, but then, this isn’t a very long piece. I was more fascinated with the plot and the idea of a world where Hitler and/or the Reich are worshiped and carried on in some way. Other than that very questionable movie about Nazis setting up a long-term camp on the moon (oh and it was short story from the 1950s too, I think), I have never really contemplated this. Toss in Avera’s twist (which has something to do with misplaced authority on a very large scale) and you have an ever deeper level of contemplation.

All in all, Drew Avera is an author to keep an eye on, specifically his writing pen, to see what he turns out next.

Narration: O’Brien did a good job narrating this story. His German accent and little bit of German was well done (to my ears which have only had 2 years of school German). His little kid and female voices were believable and each character was distinct.

What I Liked: Interesting story premise; very interesting plot twist; enjoyed the shifting POVs at the beginning; everyone is a hero in their own heads.

What I Disliked: Could use more women.

What Others Think:

Christoph Fischer (review & interview)

Mich’s Book Reviews

Bubonicon 2014: Saturday

ABQ Steampunk Society & Cherie Priest

ABQ Steampunk Society & Cherie Priest

The Saturday of Bubonicon is where the most stuff happens – lots of panels, plenty of readings by individual authors, the mass autographing session, and the costume contest. For this post, I decided to talk about the panels and in another post I will share my crappy photos of the costume contest and talk about all the cool art I saw in the art show room.

First, let me say the Con Suite was awesome. This is my first time partaking of it and I was impressed. The hotel house rules put the Con Suite up on the 16th floor and they have to cover the expensive items (i.e. the TV) and the floor with plastic – which kind of makes you feel like you are walking right into a kill room, except there is all this food and nerdy people having merry geeky conversations. There were simple breakfast burritos that you could dress up with salsa or cheese, plenty of fruit, bagels, various beverages, and all sorts of appropriate con food (minion cheese nips!). And donuts! It’s been months since I had a donut and I was just dreaming about them last week.

Connie Willis on the Ten SF Worlds You Need to Visit panel, Bubonicon 2014

Connie Willis on the Ten SF Worlds You Need to Visit panel, Bubonicon 2014

Then off to my first panel of the day, Secret History versus Alternate History: Splitting Hairs. Since Ian Tregillis couldn’t make it this year (sniffle), Walter Jon Williams filled in as moderator. He was joined by Cherie Priest, John Hemry (AKA Jack Campbell), S. M. Stirling, & John Maddox Roberts. Williams quickly defined the terms ‘secret history’ and the grammatically correct ‘alternative history’ to the panel’s agreement. This panel was part history lesson and part discovery of other great authors of the genre that I need to hunt down and devour. Priest talked about how boiling water, two ladies (Clara Barton & Sally Thompkins), and their insistence to remain in charge birthed the organization we know today as the American Red Cross. There was also plenty of talk about dirigibles (real and fictional), submarines, and the what if photography came around a bit earlier (since all the tech was there but no one had put it together). Stirling highly recommended checking out the memoirs of Anne Lister, a mountaineer & traveler who died in the 1840s. Fredric Brown was also recommended, along with Anno Dracula by Kim Newman.

The ABQ Steampunk Society hosted a tea and chat with Cherie Priest that everyone was welcome to attend. The ladies of the ABQSS were all decked out in their outfits, complete with gadgets and personas. The tea was hot, the room chilly, the conversation excellent. Leah R, the ABQSS Event Organizer, was dressed as Briar Wilkes from Boneshaker (hooray!). Various steampunk touchstones in modern culture were discussed such as the tv series Jack of All Trades (which I need to Netflix!) and the robot Boilerplate (who has a tidy little faux history and website). Beyond Victoriana is a blog that focuses on steampunk, and especially on steampunk beyond the boundaries of England and English culture. I had quite a bit of fun browsing around on this site. Of course, Priest gave us a little history lesson (which is tied to one of her books) concerning Maria Boyd, a spy for the Confederacy in the Civil War. I forget exactly how Maria came up in conversation, but she had a fascinating life starting in her teens with plenty of marriages, internment camps, spying, affairs, etc.

Ernest Cline on the Pop! Culture Influences panel, Bubonicon 2014

Ernest Cline on the Pop! Culture Influences panel, Bubonicon 2014

Alas, the tea was drunk the hour was over and we all had to shove over for the next item on the schedule. I was off to Pop! Culture: Influences of Today’s Life, a panel moderated by Cherie Priest and which included Ernest Cline, Scott Phillips, Gabi Stevens, and Lauren Teffeau. Some of this panel I got, some I didn’t. I am a produce of the 1980s, but it was heavily influenced by country music and nothing but country music (unless I heard it in a movie). Don’t fret; I rectified this somewhat when I escaped to college and discovered all sorts of emo and alternative music. But there are still gaps in my 1980s cultural references as there were plenty of movies/music/tv that I wasn’t allowed to experience. Other parts of the panel, i totally got, like I can completely understand why someone (Cline) would want a DeLorean or two, and why they would trick them out with paraphernalia from Ghostbusters, Star wars, and KITT. There was plenty of talk about Star Trek, MST3K, and Atari to go along with it. Also, I learned an important Star Wars trivia – the gold dice hanging from the Millennium Falcon in the first movie were later stolen from the set and didn’t make a reappearance in the subsequent films.

Daniel Abraham moderating the Sidekicks & Minions panel, Bubonicon 2014

Daniel Abraham moderating the Sidekicks & Minions panel, Bubonicon 2014

The fun continued with Sidekick and Minion Cliches & Comic Relief, moderated by Daniel Abraham (who is half of the awesome writing team James S. A. Corey, the other half being Ty Franck). He was joined by John Hemry, Claire Eddy, S. M. Stirling, & Connie Willis. This panel started off with a rousing discussion of the definitions of sidekick, minion, and foil and then friendly banter about the differences, followed by examples – Pinky & the Brain, Harry, Ron & Hermione, Sherlock & Watson, Batman & Robin, Don Quixote & Sancho Panza. Who’s a foil (someone there to constantly screw up and create opportunities for our hero to look good)? Who is a minion (someone forced into assisting our evil empire builder)? Who is a sidekick (and there was tons of discussion on exactly what role the sidekick plays)? And here is another new-to-me author to add to my TBR pile – Sean Stewart. Then someone mentioned a podcast done in the style of old-time radio theater, The Thrilling Adventure Hour.  A few movies/tv shows, such as The Venture Bros. and Grabbers, were also mentioned.

Ten SF Worlds You Need to Visit Before You Die was moderated by Connie Willis, who was joined by Yvonne Coats, T. Jackson King, John Maddox Roberts, and Courtney Willis (Connie’s husband). If you think I blathered on before, well, there was tons of good stuff discussed on this panel, and I could go on and on – but this is already a really long post. So let me say the following books/authors were recommended by the panel: The Wood Wife, H. Beam Piper, Samuel R. Delany, Discworld, Barsoom, Andre Norton, Redshift Rendezvous, Robert Forward, Riverworld, Karen Anderson, Richard K. Morgan, James White, Earthsea, And Flatland. There, if that doesn’t keep you in reading for 6 months, I don’t know what will.

David Lee Summers at Bubonicon 2014

David Lee Summers at Bubonicon 2014

The last panel of the day was What Scares You Now? Horror Today which was moderated by Craig A. Butler. He was joined by Cherie Priest, Scott Phillips, David Lee Summers, & Joan Saberhagen. First, let me say that I was NOT stalking Cherie Priest on Saturday. It just so happens that she was in nearly all the panels I had an interest in. No, the stalking came the next day – just kidding. But we did get to share an elevator (and some morbid humor) with several other ladies. Second, half the panel started off introducing themselves and their fear of centipedes. Hence, there was a fair number of centipede jokes throughout the hour. There was plenty of discussion about vampires and zombies; Priest said an interesting thing that I will attempt to clearly paraphrase: the two are opposite sides to the same coin. One makes you unique, powerful, desirable, and autonomous while the other strips everything unique from you, makes you undesirable, and leaves you no longer in control of yourself. I am sure there is a senior psych paper in that somewhere. Saberhagen was difficult to scare, as she fears none of the made up monsters. She did have bits and pieces to add to psychological terrors, such as when your senses say something is in front of you or happening that your mind says can not be. And of course there were lots of recommendations of what is good in horror now: Salem’s Lot, Manhattan, The Day After, Kate Kerrigan, The Ape’s Wife & Other Stories, The Slenderman.

And there we have most of Saturday. It really is a small convention, but that lets me ride the elevator with book celebrities and ask pesky questions at every panel (if I wanted to). And I get to know some of the regular con goers too. Plus several of the local authors bring their spouses and kids, so that is always cute to see.

Interview: David Lee Summers, Author of Lightning Wolves

SummersLightningWolvesFolks, please welcome David Lee Summers to the blog once again. He’s previously gifted me with a bit of his time in this other interview. Today we chat about fairy tales, Star Wars, Cherie Priest’s works, awkward fan moments, and question over the correct use of the term ‘parsec’. I had quite a bit of fun in reading through David’s answers and I expect you’ll be as entertained as I am.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

One of my favorite poetry collections is Jean Hull Herman‘s Jerry Springer as Bulfinch or Mythology Modernized. Throughout her collection, Ms. Herman recounts stories of Greek myth and recounts similar episodes from the Jerry Springer Show. It all goes to show that we not only project our hopes and aspirations into our myths, we also reflect who we are as human beings on our myths and sometimes we don’t always come off in the best light.

No matter what genre a writer tackles, they’re going to react to those things around them. Now a science fiction writer might either add some wish fulfillment and create the world she hopes will come about, or she might create the world she fears. The same is true for fantasy. We’ll raise up our better selves in the form of heroes and noble creatures while also dashing ourselves through villains and monsters. In answer to your question, I think modern fantasy fiction simply gives us a lens by which to view the modern world and attempt to make the best choices as human beings. A century from now, people will look at our fantasy in much the same way as we look at Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as a window into past times.

HowellSummersKeplersDozenGiven the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

The fantastical beasts of fiction I would most like to encounter would be any Maurice Sendak‘s wild things of Where the Wild Things Are. They look vicious, but really, all they want to do is play and I could be their king by simply being fierce at them.

Although I love dragons and gryphons and would love to see one from a safe distance, I’d probably also want to avoid them at all costs because I’m not sure there would be a safe distance.

What book should be made into a game (card, PC, board, etc.) and why? Is there a specific character who you would want to play in this game?

I would love to see a PC game based on Cherie Priest‘s Clockwork Century novels. It would be fun to see a lot of the different locations and situations visualized. It could be done as a quest game with different objectives. I’d love to campaign through her alternate Seattle underground, or aboard the speeding train of Dreadnaught, or through the streets and swamps of her steampunked New Orleans from Ganymede. For my part, I would like to play the part of airship pirate captain Andan Cly, but there are plenty of great characters that a player could choose to be in this world.

SummersOwlDanceWhat nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

One of the go-to books in my personal library is The Atlas of Past Times. It was a book I found on remainder on a shelf outside a bookstore, but I find it a great quick reference when I’m checking where boundaries were at a given point in history or who was in charge of what, which can then point me to other historical reference materials. This is very useful if I’m working on a historical story, alternate or otherwise. It also reminds me about how fast boundaries have changed in human history.

In general, I think the most useful books for building cultures are collections of folk tales. I’ve used Grimm’s Fairy Tales, American Indian Myths and Legends by Erdoes and Ortiz, and Vampire in Europe by Montague Summers. There are also a lot of good projects where people have collected folktales on the web. These tell you a lot about people’s hopes and fears, their morality, and their taboos. Reading folk tales along with books from other times and places can open your mind and help you consider what future or fantastic cultures might be like.

NASA has many great online resources not only for their discoveries, but the spacecraft and vehicles that made them. This can be helpful when you’re thinking about how vehicles work in space. Plus, they often give you references for places to look for more information.

The way I approach any story at the beginning is to think about what building blocks I need for the story. Will I need to know about a certain region of the world? Do I want to build a culture that’s analogous to a culture that has existed? Sometimes I have books that will help answer those questions in my library. If not, I’ll go to the online card catalog for the local library and see what kinds of books they have on those subjects.

SummersTheSlayersWhich ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?

Paradise Lost by John Milton is one I’ve always wanted to sit down and work my way through because it inspired so much of the modern lore about angels and demons—things people think are Biblical but aren’t. I’d also love to read the Iliad and the Odyssey all the way through. I’ve read large chunks of the latter, but it’s been a long time. On a somewhat lighter note, I’ve been looking for a good translation of Jules Verne‘s ‘Round the Moon, the sequel to From the Earth to the Moon. Verne ends the first book on a cliffhanger, with his crew going to the moon, but we don’t find out what happens until the second book and I haven’t tracked down a copy yet!

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay? Have others dressed up as characters from your books?

In fact the outfit I often wear to steampunk events is inspired by the clothes I describe for the inventor, Professor Maravilla in Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves. It’s a cravat, brightly colored waistcoat, and tailcoat. The bounty hunter, Larissa Crimson, was created by my daughter as her steampunk persona for events. As it turns out, she appears as Larissa on the cover of Lightning Wolves.

So far, I haven’t encountered anyone outside my family dressed up as a character from my books, but I’d be absolutely delighted if they did. They’d get a free book and I’d have to take a picture with them!

SummersSolarSeaIf you could sit down and have dinner with 5 dead authors, who would you invite to the table? What would they order?

I would start with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. After all, she pretty much invented both modern science fiction and horror with Frankenstein. Next would be Arthur Conan Doyle. It would be great to meet the man behind Sherlock Holmes and see if I could get him to recount stories of some of his famous hoaxes. Another British author of the period who would be fun to have at this table would be D.H. Lawrence, to discuss both poetry and his perspective on northern New Mexico at the time my grandparents were doing their best to make a life there. Leigh Brackett would have to be on the list for both her role in early pulp science fiction, but for a Hollywood writing career that ranged from working with Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep, to John Wayne in Rio Bravo, and finishing with the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back. With Leigh Brackett there, I would have to invite Ray Bradbury. Even though I got to meet him before he died, there are so many more things we could talk about and discuss now than when I met him in the early days of my career.

Who knows what they would order if left to their own devices, but with three people from England and two of them from the late Victorian period, I’d be inclined to invite them over to a sumptuous holiday meal of turkey and all the trimmings. If I were preparing it, it would be a smoked turkey with mole sauce on the side. I’d make sure there was plenty of wine and beer available. The one time I was with Ray Bradbury that he ordered something, it was a Heineken.

SummersDragon'sFallIf you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required reading? As passing discussion?

The hard part of this question is that a college semester is only going to have limited time and you can’t read all the greatest, best, or the most influential works. My inclination would be to use Frankenstein to discuss science fiction’s beginning as cautionary, morality tale. I would move on to Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon to discuss the rise of science fiction as an optimistic genre. Starship Troopers would probably serve as classic military, hero-driven science fiction and as a jumping off point for the role of politics in science fiction. Dune would probably come next to show a continuation of the heroic saga, but subverted by the sensitivity of ecology and drug culture at the time it was produced. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester would probably come in there, too, to show how heroic science fiction could be completely subverted, allowing for the rise of cyberpunk and other genres. A novel like Paolo Bacigalupi‘s The Windup Girl would serve to show the return to science fiction as cautionary tale, the introduction of steampunk and a jumping off place for a discussion of the future.

Lots of other books would certainly be mentioned, if not substituted for these. Certainly Ray Bradbury’s novels and stories would be discussed. Lois McMaster Bujold and the Miles Vorsagian novels would be good examples of character and plot almost becoming primary to any particular science fictional element. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy could come in as part of a discussion on the role of humor in science fiction. So many books so little time!

SummersRevolutionOfAirAndRustCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were gushing over another author’s work?

It was more cool than awkward, but last year at Phoenix Comicon, a fellow bought a copy of Revolution of Air and Rust. He was nice enough, but said he’d read it over and let me know what he thought. The next day, he came back to the table with one of his friends and he immediately bought Owl Dance and told his friend, he absolutely had to buy Revolution of Air and Rust. “That’s one of the best things I’ve read.” That just made my day.

As for awkward fanboy moments on my part, I went to see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan on the day of release with friends of mine from across town. We were all in high school at the time. They introduced me to their friend Jan Bixby. We were having a great time in line talking Star Trek, science fiction, and generally geeking out when an older man built like a bantam rooster with hair that looked like it put combs in their place walked up and had a few words with Jan. One of my friends pulled him aside and introduced me to him. “This is Jan’s dad, Jerome.” I shook his hand, then said something like “Pleased to meet you, sir”, then he went on his way. A beat or two later, I put it together. Jan Bixby’s dad was Jerome Bixby, the author of such original Star Trek episodes as “Mirror, Mirror” and “Requiem for Methuselah” plus the great, great horror story “It’s a Good Life” which was made into a Twilight Zone episode starring Billy Mumy. I think I was speechless and muttering incoherent syllables for a while afterward. One of my friends had to point out in typical high school fashion, “Yeah, but he’s just Jan’s dad.”

SummersSpaceHorrorsWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

One argument that seems to crop up from time to time is whether or not soft science fiction has any value influencing scientists. For example, someone might point to the infamous line from Star Wars where Han Solo says the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.” In the context of the movie, it’s clear he’s referring to parsecs as a unit of time, when in fact, they’re a distance that was initially based on the size of an arcsecond of angle on the sky. The claim is often made that not only is this bad science, it’s going to lead kids away from the sciences and we’re going to raise a generation of idiots. Therefore, this kind of terrible science needs to be eliminated from science fiction at all costs.

However, most astronomers I’ve known have gone into science precisely because soft science fiction got them thinking about the adventure of space at an early age. Carl Sagan famously fell in love with Mars because of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who got almost everything wrong about Mars. I’ve known generations of scientists who got interested in science because of both Star Wars and Star Trek. In my case, I remember hearing Han Solo’s line from Star Wars and wondering what a parsec was. Was it anything real? When I looked it up, I found out they got it wrong. So what? I still loved the adventure of Star Wars, but I have to admit, I felt a little bit superior to the writers of Episode IV. A whole new world opened up to me and I started looking up even more stuff.

So my side of the argument usually runs something like this: Science fiction influences scientists not because it’s right but because it’s fun. Sure as writers, we should do our best to get it right, but it’s the fun that makes people care. I’ve yet to meet anyone who stopped having an interest in science because George Lucas didn’t know what a parsec was.

Places to Find David Lee Summers

Hadrosaur Productions

Tales of the Talisman

David Lee Summers: Wrong Turn on the Information Superhighway

David Lee Summers’ Web Journal

Goodreads

Amazon

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