Author Interview—Andrew Gudgel

Today I’m happy to welcome another fellow author who contributed a story to the Hides the Dark Tower anthology. It’s Andrew Gudgel, science fiction author, Chinese poetry translator, and a past winner of the Writers of the Future contest.

Andy GudgelHere’s the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

Andrew Gudgel: I got interested in writing in high school–essays, poetry, stories. You name it, I tried writing it. I wrote a lot, all the way up through college. Then I went and joined the Army. For ten-plus years I did other things. Fortunately, writing was still waiting for me when I came back.

P.S.: Who are some of your influences? What are a few of your favorite books?

A.G.: I’m not sure I could nail it down to just a couple of authors because I feel a writer should be influenced by all the things he or she reads. But just to pick an example at random: Jorge Luis Borges’ “Ficciones.” He wrote such interesting stories, not only in terms of theme, but in style. Reviews of books that don’t exist. Descriptions of infinite libraries. Fictional worlds that become real and begin invading ours. Borges made me aware of possibilities in fiction that I’d never imagined existed.

I also think a writer–any writer–should read broadly in categories outside his or her preferred genre of writing, and for pleasure as much as for writerly education. For example, I read as much poetry and as many essays as I can, simply because I enjoy both.

P.S.: You recently completed a graduate degree at St. John’s College in their Great Books program. How has that affected your fiction writing?

A.G.: One of the best things about St. John’s is that you read the Classics in philosophy, religion, science, literature, politics, society and history. You learn that there are questions and themes that are eternal in literature and in life. (Plus it gives you plenty of neat ideas and material to snitch for use in your own stories.) It affected my fiction writing by making me more focused on character and what happens inside each and every one of us as we move through life. SF has the advantage that you can create situations and characters that don’t (or don’t yet) exist, which allows you to explore your characters and the human condition in ways other genres simply can’t.

P.S.: Your primary genre is SF, correct? How did you become interested in writing in that genre?

A.G.: I do primarily write SF, but will follow a story wherever it leads me, be that SF, fantasy or literary. I fell in love with SF early on–my father used to read Ray Bradbury stories to me and my brother on summer nights when we were little. And when I read H. Beam Piper’s “Space Viking,” it made enough of an impression that I still remember it, forty-odd years later. Plus I’ve always been fascinated by science, technology, and gadgets.

P.S.: What other authors influenced your writing?

A.G.: In terms of science fiction, Ray Bradbury, William Gibson, Charlie Stross, and Robert Heinlein. As for prose style, Seneca and Sir Francis Bacon. Both were writers of the short, pithy sentences I aspire to.

P.S.: In what way is your fiction different from that of other SF authors?

A.G.: I’m very interested in the human/character side of SF: how we interact with technology, how we’ll be different/the same in the future. I hear about these cool–but true–uses of technology that are completely unexpected, and that gets me excited and fired up to write. For example, in India, a tech company is using hand-woven silk strips for their diabetic test kits because it’s cheaper than imported plastic. That’s a low-tech/high-tech solution. Low tech in that it’s local weavers and hand-made fabric. High tech in that it’s a creative human solution to a pressing problem. When I write, I try to concentrate as much people on and how they solve their problems as on the technology itself.

P.S.: In Hides the Dark TowerPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001], your story is “The Long Road Home,” an exciting story involving an immense alien tower. Can you tell us about the protagonist?

A.G.: Wang Haimei is a “Tower Diver,” a person who uses parachutes and hydrogen balloons to explore the inside of a hollow building that’s ten-thousand stories tall. There’s nothing left of the aliens who inhabited the tower, except for the very rare artifact which makes the finder instantly (and incredibly) wealthy. Haimei has just the right combination of meticulous attention to detail, love of adventure, and desire to get rich that all true tower-divers have. But she lost her fiancé, Moustafa, in a tower-diving accident a year ago, and this trip is her first one back since then. When a jealous competitor sabotages her gear, Haimei decides to try and walk back up to the exit at the top of the tower, even though she knows she’ll die long before she gets there. She discovers a kind of quiet courage that keeps her from giving up. As she walks, she discovers she’s being followed—perhaps by an alien that’s remained behind, perhaps by the shade of one long gone. She comes to appreciate the company, though, and uses the time spent walking to come to terms with death–both Moustafa’s and hers.

P.S.: In addition to writing fiction, you translate Chinese poetry. Have you found that your translation work improves your writing of stories in English, or is there no connection between these pursuits?

A.G.: I’ve found that translating, and translating poetry, has had a big influence on my writing. Knowing another language lets you see the world in different ways and makes you aware of connections you might never have thought of. For example, in Chinese nouns have measure words. (They’re roughly equivalent to the word “cup” in “one cup of coffee.”) But every noun has a measure word in Chinese, and they’re often reused. Which groups nouns into “categories.” Snakes and rivers use the same measure word; clouds and flower blossoms share one, too; so there’s a linguistic relation between certain nouns in Chinese that doesn’t exist in English. Being able to see—and make—new connections has made my writing richer. And poetry is a compact, image-rich art form that requires you to pack a lot into a small space. Perfect for learning both imagery and economy of words.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

A.G.: I’ve got a couple of irons in the fire right now—revisions, that sort of thing. The one I’m currently working on is an alien invasion novel/novella, which focuses on different peoples’ experiences of the event, and in which the aliens are only ever glimpsed at. I was inspired by the fact that you never see the whole shark until near the end of “Jaws.” So the glimpses the characters get throughout the story—are they the aliens or just alien technology? I was also very interested on the effect of such as big disaster would have on people—both as individuals and in groups—and not making the aliens central to the story allows me to focus more on that aspect.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Andrew Gudgel: I’m a big fan of aphorisms and mottoes, so I’ll keep it short:

  1. Nulla dies sine linea — Pliny (“No day without a line” i.e. write something every day.)
  2. Read as broadly as possible.
  3. If you try, you might fail. But if you never try, you’ve failed already.
  4. As long as it fits the guidelines, don’t self-reject a piece by not submitting it.
  5. Write, submit, repeat as necessary.

These are all the old saws, but there’s a reason they’re still around: they work.

 

Thanks, Andrew! All my readers will want to surf over to your website to learn more about you.

Poseidon’s Scribe

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January 24, 2016Permalink

Vote for Your Favorite Story of 2015

Happy New Year! It’s time again for the Critters Writers Workshop to conduct their Preditors & Editors Readers Poll (their 18th) to see which newly published e-book readers prefer.

critters_headerYou can vote for your favorite book in a wide variety of categories. It’s not really a scientific poll, but winning it (or landing in the top ten) gives each author some bragging rights.

RippersRing72dpiPageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]AvastYeAirships

One of my stories, “Ripper’s Ring,” is in the Horror Short Story category, and is currently second of ten in votes. In the Anthologies category, two books contain other short stories I wrote. The two anthologies are Hides the Dark Tower and Avast, Ye Airships! The links in this paragraph and the book cover images take you straight to the correct poll category to vote.

To vote, click the button beside your favorite story’s (or anthology’s) title, then enter your name and e-mail address, then scroll to the bottom where you’ll see the image of a book’s cover (not mine). Type the author’s name of that book in the box to prove you’re not a spam robot. You’ll receive an e-mail to confirm your vote; just click the link in the e-mail and you’re done. Please vote before January 14, when they close the polling.

Whether you’ve read “Ripper’s Ring” or the anthologies, or not, this is a great way to start 2016. If you haven’t read my stories, you might feel prompted to buy them and read them. If you have, then it’s a great way to show your appreciation to—

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Author Interview—Robert E. Waters

Another fellow author from the Hides the Dark Tower anthology has consented to an interview. It’s interesting how that anthology gathered so many incredible writers together. Today, please welcome Robert E. Waters.

Robert E WatersRobert E. Waters is a science fiction and fantasy writer. Since 1994, he has worked in the computer and board gaming industry as technical writer, editor, designer, and producer. His first professional fiction publication came in 2003 with the story “The Assassin’s Retirement Party,” Weird Tales, Issue #332. Since then he has sold stories to Nth Degree, Nth Zine, Black Library Publishing (Games Workshop), Dark Quest Books, Padwolf Publishing, Mundania Press, and Rogue Blades Entertainment. Between the years of 1998 – 2006, he also served as an assistant editor to Weird Tales, and is still a frequent contributor to Tangent Online, a short fiction review site. Robert currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife Beth, their son Jason, and their cat Buzz.

And now, the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

Robert E. Waters: At a very early age, I was interested in story. My grandfather used to tell me stories he made up on the fly. One of my favorites were his “Quirrel the Squirrel” stories, and I’ve considered putting them down on paper and getting an artist to draw them. Perhaps someday I will. I was also into horror movies when I was a kid, and even though I’d have terrible nightmares after seeing the movies, I kept coming back to them. So I’ve always had this thing about story, about strange, fantastic stories in particular. And that early interest eventually led to me to writing my own stories by the time I was twelve.

P.S.: Who are some of your influences? What are a few of your favorite books?

R.E.W.: My early influences were Robert Sheckley, Clifford Simak, and Robert Silverberg, just to name a few. Specifically, science fiction authors (or those authors more commonly associated with SF) have had the biggest influence on my writing, although I must say that the first time I read JRR Tolkien, I was paralyzed with awe. The years, unfortunately, have not been as kind to me when it comes to Tolkien’s staying power. Don’t get me wrong: He’s a terrific author, but his writing style, his manner of dialog, his pacing, etc. have not had the long-term effect on my own work that other writers have had. And some of my favorite books are not SF/Fantasy at all. My favorite novel ever is TC Boyle’s Water Music. It’s in my opinion, a tour de force of stylistic prose genius. It literally took me six months to read anything else afterwards because everything I read thereafter just could not compare. Other novels in the SF/Fantasy genre that I have always considered my favorites include Orson Scott Cards Ender’s Game, Sheckley’s Dimensions of Miracles, Walter John Williams’ Metropolitan, and of course George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Oh, and let’s throw in Glen Cook’s Black Company series for good measure. His and Martin’s fantasy are the kind I like the most; grittier and more realistic.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

R.E.W.: The easiest part for me is getting into the emotions and personal interactions of the characters. Once I have a good idea of who a character is, how he/she needs to react, their background, their personal relationships with other characters, etc. I can put them into pretty compelling situations. The hardest for me is keeping my prose tight. I have a tendency to meander into backstory. I seize on a nugget of a character’s backstory that I particularly like and want to share it with the audience, even though it has no relevance whatsoever with the story at hand. So I have to be mindful of how much superfluous flummery I am putting into a story.

P.S.: How would you describe the genre or style of the stories you write? Any common themes?

R.E.W.: Well, my genre is almost always science fiction and/or fantasy. It’s funny, but I find that I can write fantasy better than SF, even though I prefer SF when it comes to reading. And no, I really don’t have many common themes, although I do love the character who prevails in the face of insurmountable odds. I like a flawed character, not one who has the right answer for every situation, says the right things every time. I like characters that have to fight to achieve their glory, and I don’t mind a character stumbling into victory, so long as it’s an honest stumble.

P.S.: What sets your stories apart from those of other authors who write in your genre(s)?

R.E.W.: This is a tough question and one that I’ve never given much thought to. But I like to think that my stories bring some real humanity to my characters. I try to create believable characters for my stories, people that the reader can relate to in some way or another. A lot of authors do this, certainly, but oftentimes characters in SF are defined more by the gadgets they carry and not the content of their hearts. George RR Martin is often fond of quoting William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize speech: The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself. There’s a lot of truth to that in writing fiction.

P.S.: You spent several years as an assistant editor of the renowned magazine Weird Tales. How did that editorial experience affect your writing?

R.E.W.: My experience at Weird Tales was a huge factor in my writing. One of my jobs there was reading the slush pile. Stacks of stories would be put in front of me and I’d have to read them all and decide if they were good enough to be pushed up the editorial line, or should they be rejected. Doing this over and over helps in a couple important ways: First, you see errors in the stories that you are doing in your own writing, and second, it humbly reminds you that you are one in hundreds of people trying to get published. I came out of that experience ten times a better writer then when I went in, and I highly recommend to anyone who gets the opportunity to read slush to do it, even if you don’t get paid.

P.S.: You wrote “The People’s Avenger” for Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]Hides the Dark Tower. Can you tell us the backstory for this tale?

R.E.W.: The main character in “The People’s Avenger” is Nalo Thoran, a hired assassin who works the streets of Korsham City. A thief by the name of Falco Creed has come to Korsham to find and steal back an ancient artifact that holds cultural significance to his people. The artifact had become a spoil of war taken by the Korsham army in battle against the Brenian’s of the south. The story revolves around their cat-and-mouse chase through the dark, dank streets of Korsham, as Nalo tries to kill the thief, and Falco tries to stay alive.

P.S.: That’s not your only story featuring the character Nalo Thoran. You’ve written several others. Please describe him. Do you intend to combine those stories in a series?

R.E.W.: Nalo Thoran was once a simple urban boy living in the streets of Korsham City. During one of Korsham’s wars against the southern kingdom of Brenia, he was pressed into the army and forced to serve as an assistant to a quartermaster. On a quiet, foggy morning in the midst of this war, he was lured to a waterfall by a beautiful singing voice. There he met Tish, the Mistress of Kalloshin, The Seething Dark Eternalness, the Paton Saint of Assassins, who bathed with him and stole his soul. Nalo was immediately transported to the assassin’s guild in Korsham, where he has served and killed for Kalloshin for decades. But he’s not a happy warrior in this secret war. He serves his master’s purposes, but he hates every minute of it, dreaming of a time when he can be free to live his own life, or to die. Either end game is acceptable to him.

To date, I have published five Nalo Thoran stories. I have a couple more scheduled for publication in the next year, and someday I hope to combine them all in a series, or as a collection.

Wayward EightP.S.: You’ve just had your first novel published, The Wayward Eight: A Contract to Die For. Can you tell us about it briefly? Do you think you’ll write more novels, or go back to short stories?

R.E.W.: The Wayward Eight is a weird wild west novel set in the miniatures game universe Wild West Exodus. The story revolves around a mercenary unit known as the Wayward Eight, led by ex-Confederate officer Captain Markus Wayward. He and his gang of killers have been hired by the Union to find and assassinate the known mad scientist Doctor Carpathian, who has come to America from Europe to create and lead an undead army to crush the Union and all others that may stand in his way. But there are other mercenaries on the hunt for Carpathian as well, and Markus Wayward and his crew find the way fraught with difficulty.

And yes, I do plan to write other novels. There are plans for at least one more novel set in the Wild West Exodus universe, and two other novels which I cannot provide many details about as of yet. But I also plan to work on short stories as well as the opportunities arise. I get invites to anthologies from time to time and I am a frequent contributor to Eric Flint’s online magazine, The Grantville Gazette, which publishes stories set in his 1632/Ring of Fire alternate history series. I’m keeping busy.

P.S.: What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

R.E.W.: I recently finished a short story set in my Devil Dancers military SF series. The Devil Dancers are Apache fighter pilots engaged in an alien war with the Gulo, a wolverine-like race that threatens to conquer all of human space. I have published three stories so far in the series, with three more pending publication. In these stories I explore Native American culture and spiritualism, and try to address issues of both peace and war, and what is the price to preserve and wage both. My latest story is “The First Peace,” which is a title inspired by a bit of philosophy from Black Elk: “The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.”

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Robert E. Waters: Robert A Heinlein’s advice is still relevant today. To be a professional writer you must: Write, you must finish what you write, and you must put on the market your finished stories. Good advice then, good advice today. Another thing I’d recommend is to study history and science. It’s amazing how many ideas you can come up with by reading accounts of historical events. I recently wrote a story called “Mungo Snead’s Last Stand” which is another weird wild west story that will be in the Weird Wild West Anthology from e-Spec Books later this year, and the events in that story were inspired by my reading of the Rorke’s Drift battle of the Zulu Wars. The inspiration behind my Devil Dancers stories is my love of Native American culture and years of study in that field. I find it incredibly hard to just sit down and write. I need an idea solidly in my head before I type the first sentence. So, read history, read science, read about other cultures, and then imagine twists to apply to those events that will give you story ideas.

 

Thanks, Robert! My readers can find out even more about author Robert E. Waters at his website.

Poseidon’s Scribe

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December 5, 2015Permalink

Author Interview—N.O.A. Rawle

The fun continues today as I interview another author with a story appearing in the anthology Hides the Dark Tower. To obtain this interview, I had to travel all the way to Greece…well, virtually.

NaomiRawleN.A.O. Rawle is a British writer, teacher and translator living and working in mythical Thessalian Plain in Greece. She graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy. After many years of procrastinating, she took the plunge and has started publishing short sci-fi/horror/fantasy stories. She’s had over a dozen short stories and poems published. She’s been published in the anthology Once Bitten, and The Girl at the End of the World, Book II  and the anthology Denizens of Steam.

Here’s the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: How did you get started writing? What prompted you?

N.A.O. Rawle: First, thank you for having me on your blog, it’s great to talk to you. I grew up with books as my dad was a librarian. He had a study stuffed floor to ceiling with books, mostly about fly fishing and theology, but that’s where I got the bug. The actual writing started with fan fiction when I was in Secondary school and progressed into photocopied comic books in my late teens. Published work came a lot later.

P.S.: What other authors influenced your writing? What are a few of your favorite books?

N.R.: Harder to answer than I imagined. I can’t say who has influenced my writing style as I don’t think I’ve really found my own. (At the moment I’m going through a phase of stories in rhyming prose and that comes straight from Dr Seuss and ‘The Night Before Christmas’!) Once I had finished James Herbert’s The Magic Cottage, I remember thinking “I should like to do that.” I love Clive Barker, Anne Rice, Iain M. Banks, George Orwell, John Steinbeck, Bret Easton Ellis, Harlan Ellison and Bruce Sterling…

P.S.: In your blog, you’ve mentioned having thirty writing projects going at once, in various stages. Have you accepted that as a normal state of affairs for you, or would you prefer to be more focused?

N.R.: That’s normal. I live by flitting from one thing to the other and half finished projects everywhere, and I don’t mean just writing. I can focus and do occasionally, to the point of obsessive! That’s when work gets done fast.

P.S.: What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

N.R.: Being asked to do edits is the hardest. Not because I’m too proud and don’t want to change what I’ve written but because I find incorporating another’s perspective bewildering. Will it look right to the reader? Have I clarified and tidied up the waffle? The easiest is writing. I can sit and type for hours and hours.

P.S.: Your bio mentions your British nationality, your current work location in Greece, your teaching and translation work, and your education in creative writing and philosophy. In ‘Core Craving’ and ‘Those Who Can, Do,’ you touch on two of those aspects. In what other ways do your varied background and education inspire your stories?

N.R.: I’ve done (counts on fingers and gives up) many jobs since the age of fifteen so there’s always a bit of those experiences in my writing but it’s not necessarily what I know about them. In ‘Those Who Can, Do’ I was more interested in the fact that so many teachers appear to have forgotten the purpose of their jobs and get into some sort of power place ‘us’ and ‘them’. I also had some hideous teachers at school who really didn’t understand that the colour of my shirt was not a factor in the learning process. Greece crops up in my work frequently, I’ve spent almost half my life here now and it would be weird for it not to feature. A character might come from someone I’ve met or the atmosphere of a place might inspire a scene, I’m always trying to paint a picture so that my reader can see what I do.

P.S.: It appears you’re participating in NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month) for the first time this year. How is that going?

N.R.: It’s going…I did it in the hope that I could complete one of those projects I’ve been composting for about a decade as there is outside interest in it after a short story grew from some of the remnants that I had cut from the original work. (‘Synchronysi’ due to be published in the New Year). If I can get the plot down then I know I’ll get it sorted.

P.S.: Lately, you’ve been writing some steampunk stories. Why does that genre appeal to you?

N.R.: It’s what Goths do when they discover brown, or so a friend of mine tells me. No, I like that I can mix up fancy frocks with feminism and mechanical monsters! Oh and rhyming prose, ‘A Walk in the Park’ is the first story I’ve self-published that is Steampunk in Denizens of Steam, an anthology that I helped ‘curate’ to promote the Scribbler’s Den writing forum on the Steampunk Empire.

P.S.: You’ve guest-blogged for Rie Sheridan Rose about your story ‘Core Craving’ in Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]Hides the Dark Tower and mentioned the research you did on the castle. Had that story idea been kicking around in your mind before the anthology’s call for submissions, or did it all click together afterward?

N.R.: The story was fully formed but had not found a home. Vonnie and Kelly [editors Vonnie Winslow Crist and Kelly A. Harmon] made it welcome in Hides the Dark Tower, an anthology, which is a real treat to read and an honour to be included in! ‘Core Craving’ is such a small story but one that took a long time to build and the first one published which is set in my home town (I have several others) so I’m pleased it’s found its niche amongst so many respected authors.

P.S.: Among your many current Works in Progress (or, as you have quipped, Works in Procrastination), would you mind telling us a little about one of them?

N.R.: I have a story called ‘Touched’ which has been simmering for a long time (read years). It’s a fantasy/horror mishmash involving fae folk who live in the beautiful Greek mountain forests. (I am told, in all seriousness, that fairies do reside there.) I have so much written but on an ancient word processor whose disks I have been unable to print up anywhere since the WP died on me. I’ve been trying to remember the story but there are big gaps in the plot and I am so sad. I’m patching it up but it’s beginning to resemble Frankenstein’s monster not the glorious creation I envisaged. In my heart I know I can make it good but I need determination.

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

N.O.A. Rawle: Jim Morrison wrote “Words dissemble, words be quick, words resemble walking sticks, plant them and they will grow…”

Sow the seeds of stories and see what becomes of them. Some will become roses and others prickly thistles that you’ll need to weed out. Like plants, some tales are therapeutic and others poisonous. Some will charm you with their beauty and there will be down-right ugly ones; they will all teach you something about writing but only if you keep tending them.

 

Thanks, Naomi! I know readers of my blog will want to find out more about you, and, luckily, I have that information handy. You have a blog and you’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. You also appear on Google+, Pinterest, and Amazon as N.O.A. Rawle, and on Steampunk Empire as Lady Naomi.

Poseidon’s Scribe

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November 15, 2015Permalink

Author Interview—Anatoly Belilovsky

You’ll enjoy reading my interview of Anatoly Belilovsky, another author whose story appears in the anthology Hides the Dark Tower.

Anatoly BelilovskyAnatoly Belilovsky is a Russian-American author and translator of speculative fiction. His work has appeared in the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology, Ideomancer, Nature Futures, Stupefying Stories, Immersion Book of Steampunk, Daily SF, Kasma, Kazka, and has been podcast by Cast of Wonders, Tales of Old, and Toasted Cake. He blogs about writing here, pediatrics here, and his medical practice web site is here. He was born in what is now Ukraine, learned English from Star Trek reruns, worked his way through a US college by teaching Russian while majoring in chemistry, and has, for the past 25 years, been a paediatrician in New York, in a practice where English is the fourth most commonly spoken language.

Here’s the interview:

Poseidon’s Scribe: When and why did you begin writing fiction?

Anatoly Belilovsky: I vaguely remember writing fanfic as a child, at least in my mind: a prequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a sequel to the original Lost World of Arthur Conan Doyle, apocrypha of Strugatsky’s Inhabited Island. Nothing I’d ever want to show anyone.

I did publish a couple of stories in my college’s annual magazine, one of them acquired by Gordon van Gelder [editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction] back when he himself was an undergraduate. Nothing I’d want to show anyone these days, either.

P.S.:    What genres have you written in?

A.B.: Alternate history is probably my favorite. When I write SF and fantasy, they tend to skirt very close to mainstream/literary. In humor, I prefer character-driven comedy to situational comedy — a mathematician who can only think of mathematics in terms of Russian swear words seems to have had the greatest impact so far, though an epidemic of otaku based on Russian cartoon characters, and Wagner leading a musical invasion of France in 1870, both got a few chuckles here and there.

P.S.:    In what way is your fiction different from that of other authors in your genre?

A.B.: I doubt I am the only one who acknowledges a debt to Gogol, Chekhov, Nabokov, and Poe as their major influences. It isn’t as common as Delany and Le Guin, but certainly not unique. There are several excellent bilingual writers, several physician writers I am proud to call twice-colleagues, several of anything I can ever be labeled as. I guess this is a question best asked of my fans. Shouldn’t take too long to interview both of them.

P.S.:    What are the easiest, and the most difficult, aspects of writing for you?

A.B.: Characterization is easiest: I seem to have a good handle on subtext which is what characterization is all about.

Plotting is the hardest. If I do my characterization right, the characters will pick proper fights with each other, the Universe, and the absurdity of existence. If not, they go through the motions, listlessly.

P.S.:    You’ve had many short stories published. Have you written any novels or do you intend to?

A.B.: I have not so far been chosen by a novel to be the instrument of its creation. Also, plotting: novels seem to depend on it more than short stories do.

P.S.:    In describing yourself, you cite your Russian childhood, Star Trek, chemistry, and pediatrics. How do you weave each of those threads of your life into your stories?

A.B.: Well, I learned English from Star Trek, so that’s huge. The chemical principles of self-assembly and tertiary structure — if you think about it, that’s how the best stories work, the characters and their worlds interacting organically, friendships and conflicts never feeling forced or synthetic. Pediatrics — after 30 years, subtext is second nature, you get to read whatever is left unsaid, tease out the meaning behind the exact phraseology used. And growing up speaking a highly inflected language I think gave me a heightened understanding of structure and mechanics of English.

Also, seriously, when everything you say can be used by Big Brother against you, subtext becomes a way of life. I was beta reading a story once that had this exchange:

A: “We hunt dragons.”

B: “There are no dragons.”

A: “That’s because we killed them all!”

My suggestion was to change it to:

A: “We hunt dragons.”

B: “Dragons are extinct.”

A: “You are welcome!”

Same idea, but I think communicating it through subtext made the speaker more matter-of-fact and therefore more believable.

P.S.:    Your stories often contain literary references, some perhaps unfamiliar to American readers. Are your tales intended to be enjoyed on several levels by the casual reader, the well-read bibliophile, and the researching puzzle-solver?

A.B.: Yes. In fact, this is exactly what several reviewers and a number of beta readers said. “Because of your story I googled [X] and wow [X] is now my new favorite thing and likely the name of my firstborn and my next band” — this is what writers live for!

Examples: I wrote a story about Night Witches, a women’s night bomber unit in the Soviet Army in WWII. Got an email from a reader who happily discovered the unit actually existed! Another reader now peppers conversations with Russian swear words. Mea maxima culpa! And Chrestomathy, the patchwork alternate literature story, got a whole bunch of conversations going about Pushkin and Gogol and the nature of ethics.

P.S.:    Your Twitter stream abounds in puns. What is it about that form of humor that intrigues you?

A.B.: I immigrated to US with my parents in 1976, and by end of high school and start of college in ’78 my English was fully functional, but no more. It was on a winter day in 1979 that I felt an almost audible *click* as English became *my* language, and the first manifestation of that was that I started making puns. I scribbled in the margins of my notebooks, Q and A jokes, knock knock jokes, shaggy dog stories ending in a terrible pun —

Also, I always liked math. And math teaches us that the shortest distance between two puns is a straight line.

One of my multilingual idols, Vladimir Nabokov, excelled at puns. Pale Fire has to be one of my favorite books of all time.

P.S.:    Your story in Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00001]Hides the Dark Tower is “Deep Into That Darkness Peering.” Can you tell us what inspired that homage to Poe (with a nod to Chekhov)?

A.B.: Well, Poe is… Poe! I mean, who else can write such purple prose and get away with it? “Deep Into That Darkness Peering” is actually one of three Poe’s purple prose pastiches I perpetrated, the other two published in Stupefying Stories Showcase. Melodrama, bathos, run-on sentences from hell (in my son’s estimation) — and I’m getting paid for it! MWAHAHA! [clears throat] Umm, where was I?

I also admire Poe for what has to be the biggest Deus Ex ending ever. Remember how “The Pit and the Pendulum” ends? The French enter the city and save the protagonist! Agency? Who needs agency when you have the French army! Now I don’t have to feel guilty for how I ended “Deep Into That Darkness Peering.”

Chekhov, by the way, is the author of the best bit of subtext ever written. In “The Lady with the Dog,” a man approaches the lady and the dog. The dog bristles. Quote follows:

“He does not bite,” she said and blushed.

Think about it.

P.S.:    What is your current work in progress? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

A.B.: An alternate history in which Tsar Nicholas II caught the bullet meant for Prime Minister Stolypin in 1911. No WWI, no Revolution. Murder mystery involving several characters born before the point of departure and famous in our timeline for — blimey, I better go and write this, what?

Poseidon’s Scribe: What advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Anatoly Belilovsky: Don’t only take writing advice from writers who wrote stuff you wish you’d written. Even people whose writing you don’t find appealing can help you develop your own voice. And if then you develop taste for their work — well, growth happens.

 

Readers aching to find out more about Anatoly Belilovsky (you know you’re one of them) can visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

Poseidon’s Scribe

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November 4, 2015Permalink

Remembrances of Hallowread 2015

Several authors whose stories appear in Hides the Dark Tower, participated in Hallowread this year.

Here’s yours truly, Hallowread 1Poseidon’s Scribe himself, signing a book for an adoring fan. Either that, or I’m defacing somebody’s copy of the book.

 

 

 

 

Fellow author Hallowread 4M. J. Ritchie spooks the attendees with a section of her story “Soul for Sale.”

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Hallowread 3Gudgel reads from his story “The Long Road Home,” with Poe’s raven gauging the audience’s reaction.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s beret-topped JHallowread 5eremy M. Gottwig reading his tale “Who Abandon Themselves.”

 

 

 

 

 

Co-editor VHallowread 2onnie Winslow Crist, behind a row of some of her books, entices the audience with a short blurb about every story in Hides the Dark Tower. I don’t have a pic of co-editor Kelly A. Harmon, since she wielded the camera.

 

 

 

 

In the end, it turned out everyone really came for tHallowread 6his:

 

 

 

 

 

“It’s the tastiest book I ever ate,” proclaimed—

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November 1, 2015Permalink