Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

I wrote this piece for Death Ray #16, back in 2008. The War of the Worlds is the best science fiction album of all time (er, not that it’s a massive field), so it was a great interview to do.


It’s the 30th Anniversary of one of the most successful music albums ever: Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. Wayne himself opens telephonic communications and humbles us with sound.

We see more stories told with pictures and words in these pages, but there are other ways of conveying a tale. SF stretches its oily tendrils into all arenas of popular culture, including music.

Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds is one of the most popular records of all time. It has spent 260 weeks in the UK top ten. It has sold 13 million copies worldwide. It’s right up there with Michael Jackson and Abba, an astounding achievement for a musical retelling of a story now over a century old.  96 minutes long, a collision of disco electronica, stentorian narration, symphonic orchestration, song and bleeping sound effects, The War of the Worlds is an unlikely candidate for one of the world’s best-loved musical works, but somehow it is thoroughly brilliant. (more…)

This is the second of two interviews I’ve done with Raymond E. Feist, conducted in late spring 2008 for Death Ray #12. He’s a somewhat bombastic, very talkative man, yet unlike some of the “white male writers with beards” contingent I’ve spoken to, his self-confidence (and he is supremely self-confident) never tips over into offensive arrogance. Further points in his favour are his candour, and his professionalism (as far as one can judge it from outside).

I loved his books as an adolescent, but got bored after five or so of them. Although this is standard for me with most writers, in this case it was part of a wider process of disenchantment with epic fantasy. I abandoned the genre in the late 1980s, not returning to it until I began working on SFX in 1997, and then only under sufferance. A combination of my own developing tastes and my urge to experience new worlds and new writers, I suppose. More frankly, I kept reading book after book that was just awful. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy fantasy, and read more of it now than I did. But unlike science fiction, it’s harder to find fantasy’s gems amid the dreck. For a long while I became exhausted looking for them.

You could point at Feist, with his umpteen books, as the bannerman for the franchisation of the genre and its domination by an industry standard of tediously predictable frolics, but so what? More power to him. He writes stories people enjoy, and is rewarded for it. That’s the way it should be. And he is, let it be said, among the better multi-book fantasy saga writers.

Speaking to Feist is a bit like being hit by a very large wave. Overwhelming but fun. When all’s said and done, he’s very hard not to like.

He’s one of the top-selling fantasy authors on the planet, a powerhouse of prose whose 24-book (and growing) Riftwar cycle dwarfs those of even the most prolific author. A real magician of words, He’s Raymond E. Feist, and he likes to talk.

At twenty-four books long, the Riftwar saga is one of the most extensive of all the grand fantasy epics. Written by Californian Raymond E. Feist over a period of more than 30 years, Riftwar began with the smash hit Magician, first published in 1982. Magician is typical of the genre, a huge fat wedge of a book. Beginning with the story of an orphaned boy, Pug, before opening up to cover a decade of interplanetary war. Feist’s books are not art with a capital “A” (his own words), they’re derived from a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting he and his friends created while they were at university in San Diego, and contain the full Tolkien menagerie of Elves, Dwarves and so forth. So far, so familiar.

Where they are not typical is in their expert artifice. Feist is a master of fast-paced epic storytelling, his characters are heroic but mortal, struggling through massive wars with enemies both human and monstrous who gain access to his the world of Midkemia via magical “rifts” (we’re talking a wizardly stargate here). Magician is a masterclass in storytelling, a sweeping epic which sees Midkemia plunged into chaos as men from the world of Kelewan invade without warning. Caught up in the decade-long conflict are the boy Pug and his adopted brother Tomas both of whom, by different paths, become powerful men. Feist’s books are set against an intricate backdrop which, though initially it appears to have been drawn from the usual catalogue of fantasylands, is a superior example of the type. On the cover of his latest Wrath of a Mad God, a quote describes his work as “A guilty pleasure”. That this grudging praise comes from The Guardian newspaper says it all – this guy is good at what he does. (more…)

This piece comes from Death Ray 17, published originally in 2009. Seeing as Ender’s Game is out at the pictures now, I figured I’d put this up. I think this is one of my favourite interviews, too; Card is so deliciously outspoken.

I’ve a number of these  long interviews with major science fiction and fantasy authors, but they take time to format, time when I should be writing.  So enjoy this one, the next may be a while in coming…

Capped words all Card’s own.

Outspoken, passionate, committed to his beliefs and prolific in his writings, politically Card is one of the more interesting writers in the genre working today.

There are books we all love, the ones we’ve all read, whose stories we know and treasure. The Dunes, The Lord of the Rings and Illustrated Mans of the world. The books that form the backbone of the SF commonality (is it right to call it a community any more? It just seems too diverse). These are the books we long for, and dread, will be made into movies, the interpretations of which we argue over. (more…)

I’ve a few spare moments, and so am spending a day or so putting up as much of my journalism archive material as I can. I’m two thirds of the way through Death Ray’s run now, after that I’ve a bunch of other articles and reviews to place here. But Death Ray represents the largest part of that body. I’m glad I can see the end coming, to be honest, but even so, at this rate it’ll be 2017 before I’m all done… Anyhow, here’s a short piece with prolific megastar, Mike Resnick.

Mike Resnick

This interview comes from Death Ray 17, out in early 2009. It originally fronted a reprint of Resnick’s story “Robots Don’t Cry” (that’s why it refers to it).

Welcome to Death Ray’s very first piece of short fiction, though we’re sure it won’t be the last. This month, we’re proud to present a 2004 Hugo nominated short from Mike Resnick, the most highly awarded writer of SF short fiction ever to grace the face of our fair planet Earth. Typical of this writer, ‘Robots Don’t Cry’ might be a story with a mechanical protagonist, but it has a big human heart.

Fact File

Born: 5 March 1942

Where is he to be found? The United States.

What does he do? According to Locus, whose stock in trade it is to keep track of such things, Mike has won more awards for his short fiction than any writer living or dead, and is fourth on their list of all-time award winners. His haul includes five Hugos. He writes mostly short form fiction, though novels, spin-off fiction and more are all grist to the mill for this immensely industrious SF and fantasy writer. Unlike the work of some SF authors, Resnick’s tales are people-oriented, a bit like Ray Bradbury, you could say. He’s also possessed of a ready sense of humour, which he often employs even in the most serious of his works.

Mike Resnick is one of the most prolific writers  working in the genre today. “Most writers hate writing and love having written. Me, I love writing,” he tells us. The list of his short stories alone stretches into the hundreds. He sold his first story in 1959 while he was still a teenager, and his first book in 1962.  This led into a first career as a writer of adult novels where he learnt his craft, before he began to create serious amounts of SF in the 1980s. He’s also a prolific writer of articles, has edited numerous anthologies, seven newspapers and two men’s magazines. Today, he is co-editor on Jim Baen’s Science Fiction Universe, one of the many SF e-zines in the US that cater for the short story market.

Besides his many and varied short stories, Resnick is the creator of the Birthright universe, his take on the rise and fall of mankind’s stellar empire to come, which now comprises dozens of shorts and novels. He dabbles in the magical on occasion, his second John Justin Mallory novel, Stalking the Vampire, having just been released by Pyr in the US. This urban fantasy series shows Resnick at his most playful – Mallory is a down at heel private eye with a heart of gold in a parallel New York where elves and unicorns rub shoulders with ordinary folks. Though there have been many blendings of gumshoe fiction and fantasy, the Mallory stories are among the most successful. But not all Resnick’s tales are light-hearted, and he has won some renown for his SF stories based in or on Africa and the after-effects of its colonisation.

As well as in writing, Resnick has enjoyed great success as a breeder of dogs, and for 17 years owned and ran the second largest boarding kennels in the states with his wife Carol. Carol is also an author and often collaborates with her husband. Ink, not blood runs in the family veins, it seems – their daughter Laura is a writer too.

Resnick is a powerhouse, turning out up to 20 pages of finished work a day, and he shows no signs of stopping. “I realize that I’m a lot closer to the end than the beginning,” he says “and I still have hundreds of stories to tell.”

Death Ray: Why did you choose to give us ‘Robots Don’t Cry’?

Mike Resnick: I have a number of reasons. First, I think it’s pretty typical of my work: I do a lot of first person stories, they don’t have much science in them, and you’ll never find a robot programmed with the Three Laws or anything like them in any of my stories. Second, it’s a pretty decent story or it wouldn’t have received a nomination. Third, it seems to appeal to a broad range of people interested in something other than the printed page: it has been a 40 minute live-action movie, it has been a 35-minute computer animation movie, and I just sold audio translation rights to a Polish radio station.

DR: You started writing novels when short fiction was in vogue, and now write short fiction when massive novels seem to be the standard! What do you like about short fiction?

MR: I wrote something like eight short stories from 1975 to 1985. Then, sometime in the mid-1980s, I discovered I much preferred writing short fiction. I still have to write from two to four novels a year to pay my bills, but it’s the short stories that I truly love. As I said, I’ve got a lot of stories to tell, and they get told a lot quicker at short story length.

DR: As co-editor on Jim Baen’s Universe with Eric Flint, what do you think the “state of the nation” is now in short fiction?

MR: I think electronic publication is the future and the salvation of the short story. I can’t tell you which e-publications will live and which won’t, but I can tell you that the three or four of the highest-paying short fiction markets today are all e-zines, and that as quickly as one folds you can look for three or four to take its place.

DR: You have a deep love and, it seems, understanding of Africa.

MR: There’s not as much to like about it today as when I was going there years ago, thanks to Robert Mugabe and like-minded tyrants. But it’s a fascinating continent, with societies as alien to our own as you’re likely to encounter on this Earth. Also, I believe that if we can reach the stars there is no doubt that we’re going to colonise them – and Africa offers 51 separate and distinct examples of the deleterious effects of colonisation not only on the colonised but on the colonisers as well. And you know what they say about those who can’t learn from history.

DR: You love dogs. How do you fit your  breeding and showing around your writing?

MR: We bred and exhibited collies from 1968 through 1982, and had 23 champions during that time. We named ‘em all after science fiction stories and characters. Some of our biggest winners were Gully Foyle, The Gray Lensman, Nightwings, Something Wicked, and Silverlock. I suppose my interest in collies stemmed from the stories of Albert Payson Terhune, though I outgrew him by the time I was ten and was attending dog shows and reading books on collie genetics before I was in high school. The collies took an inordinate amount of time, and so did the writing, and I finally had to choose between them.

DR: How does it feel to be the most awarded SF short story writer in the history of the genre?

MR: Endlessly surprising and endlessly humbling. I went to my first Worldcon in 1963, at the age of 21. There were giants at the Hugo ceremony. Isaac Asimov was handing them out, and people like Phil Dick and Jack Vance were winning them, and I thought if I led a good life and wrote at the peak of my abilities maybe in 30 or 40 years someone might let me touch one, just for a few seconds. I have been living a dream for 45 years, and I spend an inordinate amount of time helping newcomers as means of paying forward and thanking the field for all it has done for me.

Good day. On the site today are a number of Death Ray 17 pieces from early 2009, including:

An interview with Neal Asher, an author whose books I enjoy immensely, and whose career I helped, apparently, by publishing a very positive review of his small-press book The Engineer way back in my earliest of early SFX days. The interview, originally published in Death Ray alongside one of his short stories, has been digified and linkificated, so you can find you way to reviews of three of his books on this site too.

One of those reviews is freshly wordpressed today, The Gabble, a collection of short stories.

And finally, a short review of a DVD of Jeff Wayne’s superlative The War of the Worlds.

I’ve a few things to share today, so I’m going to link up, and you may click if you wish.

ENGAGING LINK-A-TRONIC (there are far fewer big buttons connected to crackling devices than I expected in the future. This is in some ways a shame, but then I don’t need an underground base full of minions to post this blog, which I would have had the sixties vision of now come to pass. I’d be wearing a jumpsuit too. I’m not, by the way. Really not).

I appear magically on two blogs at the same time today, like some kind of cyber-wizard, banging the drum for Crash, my latest original SF novel. Behold! Words on the eminent Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds, and on the very lovely SF Signal. I tried to make each one sufficiently different from each other so that, should you choose to read the pair, you won’t get bored (guarantees not guaranteed). There’s stuff about writing there in fair amount if that’s your thing, as well as the lowdown on the book —  in brief: spaceships, colonies, crashes and weird alien ecosystems ahoy.

The pieces are there because Crash is out next week. But, just hang on a minute, what’s this? Skarsnik is out today? [Rushes off to check] My lord, so it is. 90% of the time, I have no idea what’s going on. I’m confusticated by the labours of fatherhood. Seriously, small children steal your power. It’s how they go from tiny to big. I willingly give up the last shreds of my youth to feed the growth of my boy, though.

No matter how much you love your offspring, you need the old batteries recharging from time to time. I’m getting a break from my highly energetic son this weekend, as I’m off to Dublin for The Black Library Live. My travels begin this very eve. I hope to see some of you there to talk about big tanks, and goblins, and other Warhammer-y things.

And oh yes, there will be Guinness…