Archive for April, 2016

Apr 11 2016

Interview with Andrew J Lucas

Published by under Interview

Andrew J Lucas

Part three of a series of interviews with the writers for the upcoming speculative fiction anthology, Clash of the Titles. the anthology is the brain child of Glen Bavel, who conceived of an endearing conceit: he would provide a list of titles and the members of his Facebook workshop, Writing the Short (SF) Story, would use the it as a starting point for a short speculative fiction story.

Andrew J. Lucas’s story, “The End of the Line” takes place in the far, distant future where industrial smelters orbit black holes using the peculiarities of Quantum Mechanics to create indestructible construction supplies. Something goes wrong and the lives of two men are ripped apart on a physical, emotional and atomic level. Then the story really gets going…

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Andrew about his writing career and, in particular, his participation in the upcoming anthology, Clash of the Titles.

First, how did you get into writing? How did you get started?

I guess I’ve been writing since 1980. My first serious publication was when I won the Okanagan College poetry contest in 1986. While I’ve always loved poetry, especially Al Purdy’s, my real heart’s passion is roleplaying games and science fiction. I’ve written 10 solo books for various RPG publishers and contributed to dozens of other books. I’ve also written many short fiction stories, as well as comic scripts. I am most proud of my first RPG book Northwest Passage, and the short story I had published recently in the anthology A Bleak New World.

What draws you to the Sceince Fiction/Role Playing genre?

I grew up watching Star Trek, Doctor Who and Thunderbirds like most British-Canadian kids of my era. I was entranced by visions of the future and subscribed to magazines like Starlog and Future. I even paid for them myself with my paper route money, which only endeared them all the more to me. Those magazines promised a bright, shiny, attractive future, and even though my fiction leans towards the dystopic, I do love ‘what ifs.’

So, who’s your favorite writer, your role model?

That’s a tough question. There are so many good writers out there. Among the old masters I’d have to say that Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov are my favorites. There are also a couple of contemporary authors whose work really strikes a chord with me. I can’t get enough of Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi, for instance.

How did you find out about the anthology, Clash of the Titles?

I think a notification came across my Facebook feed, possibly in an open call group for science fiction, fantasy and pulp markets. One of those closed groups that only published author can join, while it certainly boosted my self-esteem, I’ve also found some nice markets there.

What made you want to submit to it? Would you do it again?

The whole concept of the anthology was appealing. It reminded me of an anthology by John Scalzi called Rip-Off which featured well known authors using famous opening lines from fiction. It’s very interesting to see how an author takes a concept in very different directions than you might otherwise expect.

How did you come up with your story? What made you choose that title?

My story; “The End of the Line” was inspired by a non-fiction science article I was writing about quantum computing for a Chinese science magazine. The whole concept of quantum mechanics is very intriguing and a little bit scary.

How is your story for the anthology the same and/or different from your other works?

It’s hard to tell from the writer’s perspective if anything I write is different or unusual. Much of my work is very different from other pieces I’ve written this is no exception. I did take a lot of direction from Gil, the editor, and I think the story evolved and became much stronger from his influence.

A lot has been said about the workshop process wherein the editor takes a video meeting with the writers to help offer instant feedback and share the editing process along the way. How did you find this process; what are your feelings about it?

I’ve always preferred to use email and such to discuss edits and story direction, its slower and gives you time to put revisions into place. That said the workshop process was rewarding and reminded me a bit of my Canadian lit classes in College.

What do you think is the most important thing that readers know about Clash of the Titles?

Expect a lot of creativity. The titles were pretty arbitrary, but, man, were there a lot to choose from and all the writers went to town on them.

It’s said that the editor will make an anthology every year. Even if the “I pick the titles, you write the story” conceit isn’t used again, would you work with the editor again? Why or why not?

I learnt a lot from the editor’s feedback, and I am always up to participate in a project that is interesting. I’d be thrilled to be included in a second anthology no matter the topic, but the competition is pretty tough and you can never rest on your laurels. If my next story is good enough it might make the cut, but I’d expect to be up against some fierce competition.

What do you think is the most important thing for booksellers, libraries and other outlets to know about Clash of the Titles that they don’t know?

Quality and creativity. You give your writers a pure creative challenge and you will get some wondrous results.

Would you recommend the process to other writers; how did you find working with this editor to be compared to others?

Absolutely, but you need to check your assumptions at the door, and have a thick skin. Your story may be your baby, but that won’t stop it from being ruthlessly savaged when the editorial hounds are loosed.

What excites you most about the process, and the anthology in general?

At first the open ended concept of no theme other than a list of titles to choose from, was very intriguing. But, that soon paled once the initial ToC was released, which including authors Alex Shvartsman, David Gerald and Mike Resnick. I’ve submitted stories to Alex’s UFO anthologies in the past, David Gerald needs no introduction and Mike Resnick wrote a story that actually brought me to tears. Being published in such illustrious company was a real draw.

Did your story grow in ways you didn’t expect due to the workshop nature of the process? How?

Well first off the story nearly doubled in size. If you look at the story you’ll see a pretty open-ended ending in part one. That’s how I ended the story initially, but the editor and a couple of my first readers wanted more. I end a lot of my stories with an ambiguous open-ended finish, where the reader knows the story has ended but there is a bit more insinuated, allowing the reader’s imagination takes over. For the most part this is a result of my writing for RPG character and scenario descriptions, where the intent is to let the reader flesh out their games with a few gentle hints and prods. Not everyone likes that style. Many want to know what’s on the other side of the door, what happens in the black hole and how the hunters get that bounty to Mars. It was interesting watching the story morph and grow.

Please describe your favorite experience in working with Clash of the Titles.

I especially enjoyed helping the editor draw upon some of my RPG connections to build and promote the anthology. The cover artist is someone whose work I’ve always loved and I was very happy to get John and Gil together and set up such a wonderful cover.

What other projects are you working on, besides Clash of the Titles.

I usually have 12-20 projects on the go, and in various stages of completion at any one time. I’m especially fond of the books I’ve been writing, or line developing for Rebel Minis, we have 4 new RPG books coming out this year. There is a new comic studio ramping up out of Florida called Cornerstone Creative Studios which has a great number of very creative people involved as well as 8 of my scripts! There is one project I’m contracted for in 2017 which is very exciting, but also very, very intimidating – my first novel, and for Ed Greenwood’s new publishing imprint no less.

For other titles by Andrew J. Lucas check out Amazon, or follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

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Apr 04 2016

Interview with Allan Dyen-Shapiro

Published by under Interview

allan and dov2

Allan Dyen Shapiro and this writer at the former’s wedding

 

Allan Dyen-Shapiro and I go way back. We’ve known each other since we began writing, and I mean writing our ABC’s. We grew up together and even shared a dorm during a year of our undergraduate studies, not to mention I went on a cross country motorcycle trip to attend his wedding. I am honored and privileged to be part of the same anthology with Allan.

Allan’s contribution to the Clash of the Titles anthology is a story called, “The Bimani Hilton,” is a cyberpunk masterpiece (so says the editor). Kamya, representing the revolutionaries, is negotiating with the plutocrats at the Bimani Hilton in cyberspace, but something goes terribly wrong, when the plutocrats try wipe her mind.

Having left the world of science (Allan was an accomplished biochemist), with a lot left to say, Allan decided to do so through writing speculative fiction. As Allan puts it, Science Fiction allows him to explore ideas that are too dangerous for purely realistic fiction. The SF community accepts social criticism as a norm, and Allan’s visions of the next forty years are often disturbing. Allan subscribes to Ray Bradbury’s philosophy that one writes SF not to predict the future, but to prevent it.

Before “The Bimani Hilton,” Allan has sold seven stories beginning in 2014. He’s also working on his debut novel, To Hear Even Your Cry. His favorite author is Neal Stephenson, with Paolo Bacigalupi, William Gibson and Harlan Ellison all coming in a close second.

I asked Allan about his writing and his participation in the upcoming anthology, Clash of the Titles.

How did you find out about the anthology, Clash of the Titles ,and what made you decide to submit to it?

A solicitation hit came up in a Facebook group to which I subscribed.

Gil (the editor of the project) promised interaction with an editor. So, at minimum, I was getting free editing in exchange for writing a short story. And I owned the short story (albeit with a need to change the title) if he didn’t buy it. It sounded like a no-lose proposition to me.

How did you come up with your story? What made you choose that title?

Well, I perused Gil’s list of titles and picked out a few that looked at least remotely possible and copied them into a MS Word file. I then free-associated with them, one at a time. The first couple turned out to be dead ends. However, “The Bimani Hilton” worked for me.

After a quick search on Google to figure out what Bimani was, the closest I came was a few sites for ‘Bimini,’ in the Bahamas. So I wonder what Gil intended, if anything, by changing one letter. It must really not be Bimini, but something like it. Could it be virtual reality?

So then I started asking myself questions: Who would be in a virtual reality simulation of a hotel in the Caribbean? Maybe it was a meeting; hotels are sites for meetings. Well, who would be meeting? Maybe it was peace negotiations—revolutionaries negotiating with the oppressors. Okay, who would represent the revolutionaries, what would their background be, and what would their ideology be?

My protagonist, Kamya, began talking to me, and she didn’t stop until I’d scrawled out three pages of notes. The meeting went terribly wrong; her mind was being wiped by the plutocrats. That meant the story had to be told in reverse linear narrative, as it was going to be mostly in her head. How would she resist? And things just flowed from there.

How is your story for the anthology the same and/or different from your other works?

Well, in the instructions to authors, Gil specified he wanted “dark” and he liked twist endings. So, this is probably the darkest thing I’ve ever written, although I’ve certainly gone dark before. I like experimenting with non-traditional narrative in my short stories; however, this is the first time I’ve tried reverse linear narrative. And, while I’ve done twist endings before, it’s not my usual pattern. So, there are many elements of this story I’ve dealt with before: environmental degradation; dystopic economic/political arrangements; romantic subplots that support the main plot, but Kamya is my first anarcha-feminist protagonist (she told me that’s who she was).


A lot has been said about the workshop process wherein the editor takes a video meeting with the writers to help offer instant feedback and share the editing process along the way. How did you find this process; what are your feelings about it?

Gil is very easy to work with. He drills in on the central issues, identifying exactly what he doesn’t like. My ending was my third attempt. He nailed exactly what was wrong with the first and second tries. His request for a final, extra twist sparked my thinking about what eventually became a much better ending.

What do you think is the most important thing that readers know about Clash of the Titles?

It will be filled with great stories.

It’s said that the editor will make an anthology every year. Even if the “I pick the titles, you write the story” conceit isn’t used again, would you work with the editor again? Why or why not?

Yes. He’s easy to work with. And I liked the conceit.

What do you think is the most important thing for booksellers, libraries and other outlets to know about Clash of the Titles that they don’t know?

The author list. This is a very good group of people.

Would you recommend the process to other writers; how did you find working with this editor to be compared to others?

I already did recommend this: You (D. Avraham, the interviewer) found out about the anthology from me. I’ve only worked directly back and forth with an editor on one other story, and that was a positive experience too.

What excites you most about the process, and the anthology in general?

This is my first professional scale sale. It’s a level of credibility I did not previously have. Especially with the quality of the co-authors.

Did your story grow in ways you didn’t expect due to the workshop nature of the process? How?

Yes, the ending. It (and some minor modifications earlier in the story to foreshadow it) built on a character Gil saw in the story. He said it reminded him quite a bit of Phillip K. Dick. I hadn’t seen that aspect of the story, although it was there, and with the ending, I ran with that sort of plotting and built on it.


Please describe your favorite experience in working with Clash of the Titles.

How is the acceptance not the favorite part on every story for every author?

What other projects are you working on, besides Clash of the Titles.

I am pushing to finish up a novel I’m working on. I am hoping to have it in shape by late summer, 2016. The working title is To Hear Even Your Cry. If you envision a world run by the Chinese but in which an overly militarized United States thinks it’s running the world, you have our present. Add RNA-based pharmaceuticals that act on learning/memory and advanced computational modeling of the world economy and you have the world of my novel. US Department of Defense Program Officer Stephen Holmes thinks his research portfolio supports US efforts against the internal Resistance, the Christian Republic (the Southern US, post-Second Civil War) and African terrorists. He doesn’t know he answers to a Chinese bureaucrat. She has provided him with a last resort weapon. Neither the bureaucrat and her computer hacker subordinate nor the Resistance and their allies know Holmes is going insane and plans to commit mass murder.

For Allan’s other endeavors, check out his website and blog or join him on Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.

 

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Apr 01 2016

Resourcing Humans on AntipodeanSF!

Published by under short story

I am happy to announce that my story, “Resourcing Humans” is now out on AntpodeanSF.  Please go check it out!

http://www.antisf.com.au/the-stories/resourcing-humans.

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