Interview: Scott Rhine, Author of the Military SF Novel Void Contract

Folks, please give a warm welcome to author Scott Rhine. We chat about what authors we’d want by our sides in difficult times or in a classroom, first book, and plenty more. Enjoy!

1) If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?

The Lost Room. My character would give out the items to people who ask me for handouts on the street.

2) If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?

Jaime in Game of Thrones. I would have had him realize that Brienne could rock his world.

3) What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Carrying a beeper for software customer support and having workers in India page me when they had any questions at all. It gave me an ulcer. Writing may have ups and downs, but creating relieves stress.

4) You are stuck in space in dire straights. Which science fiction authors would you want with you?

Allen Steele, hard sci-fi expert who has written a lot on space.
Carl Sagan, because he knows a little about everything science and math.
Robert Heinlein because I think he actually worked with radar in WWII.

5) If 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?

NF
Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style”
Stephen King’s “On Writing”
Campbell’s “The Power of Myth”

SHORTS/HISTORY
Arthur C Clarke’s “Tales from the White Hart”
Asimov’s “I Robot”
Card “Ender’s Game” the short story.
Gibson “Burning Chrome”

FIC
Zelazny’s “Lord of Light” for incorporating myth.
Kress’s “Beggars in Spain” for taking a simple idea to the furthest extent.
Vinge’s “A Fire on the Deep”
Niven/Pournelle “Mote in God’s Eye”
Haldeman “There is No Darkness”
Williams “Voice of the Whirlwind”
Stephenson “Snow Crash”

mention:
Heinlein “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”
Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse 5”
Simmon’s “Endymion”
Brinn “Startide Rising”
Vance “Languages of Pao”

6) 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?

I correspond about once a year with LE Modesitt. I’m a huge fan. When I told him that I modeled the Batman feel of my latest novel “Quantum Zero Sentinel” after his “Flash/Archform” world, he asked me to send him a copy of the paperback.

It’s an awesome world.

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

The best strategy for getting experience points in Pokemon Go. My kids both backed me against my wife, who values each monster she has nurtured and doesn’t want to trade any.

8a) Side characters can make or break a story. What side characters have you enjoyed in other works?

Guildenstern and Rosencrantz
The dagger in Brust’s Jhereg series

8b) What side characters in your own work have caught more attention than you expected?

In “Foundation for the Lost”, Eoin goes on a front-lawn Santa hunt with a baseball bat and a pack of Guinness. I end up reading that scene when I visit the local library for events. Elves who hate Santa strike people as funny.

In “Empress of Dreams”, one of mothers of a contestant is the ultimate dirty-tricks mistress. You just have to love Lady Evershade because she is so committed and scares the tar out of the heroes. Though she is a pure product of her culture, and the ideal aristocrat’s wife.

9) What is the first book you remember reading on your own?

The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

10) You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)?

Ang from Last Airbender. If I could make it funny, he’d help me win.

About Author Scott Rhine:

Scott Rhine wanted to find a job that combined his love of reading with math problem solving, so he studied both short stories and computer languages. As a techno-gypsy, he worked on optimizing some of the fastest and largest supercomputers in the world. A couple of degrees, patents, and children later, at forty-eight, he still didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. When his third publication, “Doors to Eternity,” hit #16 on the Amazon epic fantasy list, he decided to become a full-time author. Since then, each book of his “Jezebel’s Ladder” series hit the high-tech science fiction top 100. His new medical thriller, “the K2 Virus,” is his highest rated novel with the first 12 reviews ranking it five stars.

Humor is a part of every story he writes because people are funny, even when they don’t think so. In the real world, something always goes wrong and people have flaws. If you can’t laugh at yourself, someone is probably doing it for you. Strong female characters also play a major role in his stories because he’s married to a beautiful PhD who can edit, break boards, and use a chainsaw.

Website | Facebook

Synopsis of Void Contract:

Max Culp escaped his low-tech home world by serving in the marines as a medic. Unable to adapt to civilian life as a medical intern, he joined Special Forces to track down the Phib war criminals who caused his recurring nightmares. By the time the final Phib is captured, Max has become an urban legend among the aliens. He isn’t sure how to apply those skills to a new life until someone kidnaps his last surviving friend.

Audible ~ Amazon

Interview: Henry Herz, Editor of Beyond the Pale

HerzBeyondThePaleFolks, please welcome author and editor Henry Herz to the blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed his works (Nimpentoad & Beyond the Pale) and just knew Henry would be a lot of fun to interview. Want to know how Seth MacFarlane and Leonardo da Vinci are similar? Curious about Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes? Keep reading and enjoy!

What drew you to organizing an anthology that focused on the sub-genre of paranormal Young Adult/New Adult?

I love the phrase “beyond the pale”, and everything sprang from that. Beyond the Pale is an anthology of fantasy, urban fantasy and paranormal stories that skirt the border between our world and others. Was that my imagination, or did I hear something under my bed? What was that blurred movement in my darkened closet? There is but a thin Veil separating the real and the fantastic, and therein dwell the inhabitants of these stories.

The noun “pale” refers to a stake (as in impaling vampires) or pointed piece of wood (as in a paling fence). “Pale” came to refer to an area enclosed by a paling fence. Later, it acquired the figurative meaning of an enclosed and therefore safe domain. Conversely, “beyond the pale” means foreign, strange, or threatening.

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?

Long ago, fantasy literature (although not labelled as such) directly influenced culture. There was no scientific method – people were scared of the unknown (falling off the edge of a flat earth, comets, dragon hunts, witch burnings, etc.). Today fantasy literature only affects pop culture. Few people seriously believe “Winter is Coming”, but it’s still fun to say at cocktail parties to establish geeky credentials. 🙂

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

I’d have to say The Lord of the Rings. I read it in elementary school. Reading it again for the first time as an adult would be a very different experience.

Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of promoting a book and what are some of the least favorite parts of promotion?

For me, book promotion is the hardest part of indie publishing. There is always more to do, and if you’re not careful, it can drown out the time for writing. My favorite part is attending events where I can meet the authors and the readers who appreciate their work. I moderated a fantasy/science fiction panel at San Diego Comic-Con featuring award winning and NY Times bestselling authors David Brin, Jason Hough, Jonathan Maberry, Rachel Caine, Jim Butcher, and Marie Lu. That was also the initial public unveiling of Beyond the Pale. What’s not to like?

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?

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. In that classic fantasy, he writes about allomancers – wizards who gain power by ingesting small amounts of powdered metals. A game about how such wizards would fight each other could be cool. Maybe there is such a game, and I simply haven’t seen it. Another good choice would be the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne.

Who are your non-writer influences?

Great question. Certainly some illustrators have had a strong influence, like Maurice Sendak (yes, he wrote too), David Peterson (Mouse Guard), Aaron Becker (Journey). I’m also awestruck by people who are gifted in multiple disciplines, like Leonardo da Vinci or Seth MacFarlane (I never expected to put those two in the same sentence).

HerzHowRhinoGotHisSkinFrom your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay? Have your kids, and co-writers, done any cosplay?

It would be fun to cosplay Nimpentoad, the protagonist of my fantasy early chapter book of the same name. But that would be quite an elaborate costume. My co-author kids and I enjoy attending conventions, and while we’ve occasionally worn armor and hefted fake weapons, I wouldn’t call it cosplay. We lack the dedication and time to create the truly inspired costumes that would qualify us for cosplay.

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

I’m a big fan of retellings. I had the idea of retelling Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes from a fantasy perspective, swapping creatures for the human characters. When I researched the concept, I found a couple of books out there, but they didn’t work for me. The gauntlet was tossed. Our version, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes, will be published by Pelican in 2015.

Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories are justifiably acclaimed. But, having been written so long ago, the language is outdated and too complex for today’s younger readers. So, my sons and I indie-published a picture book version, How the Rhino Got His Skin. See www.birchtreepub.com.

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?

It is always a pleasure to meet someone who was touched by my writing. That’s why authors write. Similarly, I’ve had my share of gushy fanboy moments meeting such inspiring authors as Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, David Brin, Orson Scott Card, Vernor Vinge, and Brandon Sanderson.

Lastly, please tell us a bit about the cover art for Beyond the Pale. Does it represent an overall concept for the book, or does it draw more on a single story contained in the anthology?

The cover art for Beyond the Pale represents an overall concept for the book. It’s entitled Snow White, and was done by Abigail Larson. She illustrated our picture book Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes. Love, love, love her dark style! If you agree it would look great on your bookshelf, please consider getting a copy via Amazon, Kindle, or www.birchtreepub.com.

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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