Posts Tagged With: Sojourn

Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction – Author Interview Series

Tom McNeil is the author of “Top of the Heap,” and the next victim author in my interview series.

Where did you get the idea for your story?
I started writing “Top of the Heap” around 2002.  At the time, I had read several articles on the Internet by futurists claiming that, because of the rate of advancement of medical technology, immortality might be just around the corner. I wanted to write a story based around an idea, in the classic Sci-Fi sense, and I latched onto the idea of immortality. Similarly, articles about climate change were also hard to avoid. It seemed natural to set a story about an immortal at some time in the future, and a future in which some type of climate change even had happened only seemed logical.

Thinking more about immortality, I asked myself what an immortal life might be like. What would a person do once they had earned enough money to never have to work again?  Wouldn’t they get bored?  Not to give too much of the story away, but thinking of answers to that question was the spark that led me to write the story. During the writing process, I fleshed out more of the characters, gave them a history and incorporated that into the “Top of the Heap” giving the main character, Dale Medici, more of a motivation than just boredom.

Do you plan to write more stories in that setting or with those characters?
I am toying with the idea of writing a novel about Dale Medici.  There were a few ideas that I had for “Top of the Heap” that I liked but just couldn’t fit in.  After I finished it, I realized that a third idea that had been bouncing around in my head (a civilization with no fossil fuels) would fit perfectly in the future world described in the short story, and once I made that connection, I was flooded with new themes, ideas, bits, scenes, characters, and an overall conflict.  I even came up with a title – “The Lost Art of Making Fire.” I’ve never even attempted to write anything that long, but I feel motivated to at least give it a try.

What was the appeal of Sojourn for you?
The Fear The Boot Community. Dan, Ryan, and Laura were all incredibly supportive and helpful. For me, they took a lot of the fear and guess work out of the process. I think all writers fear rejection, but the way this project came about lessened that fear quite a bit for me.  Also, being a collection by lots of different writers with varying styles and subjects reduced the pressure quite a bit.  I realized that if I made “Top of the Heap” the best story I could, some readers would like it and others would not —and that’s fine.  In fact, that’s a good thing.  Fiction should be written with an intended audience in mind.

What was your favorite part about writing for the Sojourn anthology?
The editing and, in my case, re-writing process was fun, once I got to it.  It was great to get honest feedback from someone that was not a best friend or family member.  Honest feedback is essential.  Laura was especially helpful in getting my story finished.

Did you learn anything while writing your story, if so, what?
The story is more important than your ego.  I’m 49.  So, sometimes I have to fight off the feeling that I am older and wiser than everyone else—because it usually isn’t true. When I first brought “Top of the Heap” to a writer’s group meeting/online review session and read it out loud (and I’m sorry, I do not remember who was there), the almost universal feedback I got was, to paraphrase, “we love the idea, but the way you told the story stinks.” Faced with that, I felt my ego well up, and I almost withdrew thinking that maybe I was not a good fit for this.  But, in a rare moment of maturity, I decided to take a step back and try it “their” way—which basically meant re-writing the whole thing.  I had a lot of roadblocks and false starts, but once I got the first re-write done, I realized they were right.  It not only became a much better story, but it allowed me to add more material than the original version had.

Is there any trivia or behind-the-scenes information about your story you would like to share?
It takes place on an island in the Saint Lawrence river.  I used to go to that area on vacation with my family as a kid, so I described it as a combination of how I remember it and how it might be different in the future. Also, there is a pun, sort of, in the narrative pretty early on, but no one has ever pointed it out to me.  It might be too subtle.  I keep waiting for someone to send me a “I saw what you did there” comment, but so far—nothing.

What was the biggest influence on your story?
I am a fan of classic science fiction, particularly Isaac Asimov and Fred Pohl.  Their stories were always based around a fantastic idea or concept and how people would react to it.  They wrote stories that challenged you to think, and I wanted that feeling in “Top of the Heap.”  Hopefully, that came through to at least some of the readers. I think my dream job as a writer would be to write episodes for an anthology series like “The Twilight Zone” or “The Outer Limits.”

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
I just want to thank Dan, Ryan, and Laura for everything they did on this project.It was great working with them, and I look forward to working with them again on Sojourn Volume 2.

Categories: Interviews, Publishing, Sojourn | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction – Author Interview Series

Some time last year, someone at Fear the Boot had the idea to publish an anthology of short fiction written by members of the Fear the Boot Writer’s Guild and other genre authors (by invitation). I wrote up a pitch, and my story Forgotten Dreams was accepted and published this month in Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction.

This is not news, as I have spoken about it before. A few days ago, I decided to do a series of interviews with the authors and editors of this anthology to give more insight into the creative process and the anthology itself. So, every Friday from now until it is done, I will publish new interview with the authors and editors of Sojourn – An Anthology of Speculative Fiction.

First up, since this is my blog and I don’t have to wait for him or her to e-mail me answers, is ME! Hans Cummings, author of “Forgotten Dreams.”

Where did you get the idea for your story?
After coming off two fairly hard sci-fi novels (the Zack Jackson novels), I wanted to do something more space opera-y, something with more ships zipping around, pew-pew-pew, space magic, and everything running on Rule of Cool. The words “Seven Galaxies” popped into my head at some point and I thought “Well, what if the universe these characters inhabit is just these seven galaxies?” The void in between the galaxies would be their version of Hell, a vast realm of absolutely nothing where all the unknowable, unfathomable…things…lurk, but the galaxies themselves would be teeming with life. The galaxies are connected by conduits, call them warp gates, star gates, whatever. I’d often thought about a sci-fi universe where humans were not dominant, and I played with that a little bit with the Zack Jackson series in which the humans are relative newcomers to the greater galactic community; but in my Seven Galaxies stories, I decided they would be a completely subjugated slave race, considered little more than vermin by the dominant species. Once I had that and decided to have a human viewpoint character, well, the number of stories I could tell increased tremendously.

Do you plan to write more stories in that setting or with those characters?
In short: yes. I invented the Seven Galaxies setting for a novel. Writing short stories in that setting allows me to explore various parts of the setting and try out certain concepts before I start writing the novels.

What was the appeal of Sojourn for you?
I’ve been a member (albeit a relatively silent member) of the Fear the Boot community for a few years now, and Laura Anderson edited a few of my novels for me, so when this opportunity came along, I thought it would be a good way to work on a few short stories. Most of the time, I feel that if I’m working on a short story, it’s time I’m NOT working on a novel. However, if I’m working on a short story for a publisher, my brain is fooled into thinking it’s OK. Which, of course, it is, but sometimes you have to do mental gymnastics to justify things you want to do.

What was your favorite part about writing for the Sojourn anthology?
Being able to combine fantasy and sci-fi and not having to worry about scientific accuracy was great fun. Even though my story was much darker than anything I’d written up to that point, I had a lot of fun being creative with the aliens and their descriptions.

Did you learn anything while writing your story, if so, what?
I’m not sure I learned anything new, per se, but writing “Forgotten Dreams” honed skills I was already working on. I don’t have a lot of experience with short stories, and it was challenging to include a character arc and a start-to-finish plot in such a small number of words.

Is there any trivia or behind-the-scenes information about your story you would like to share?
I was going to have Jahni’s big crisis be whether or not seeking her freedom was worth becoming an assassin. I had a cool gun described and everything (I think I have a picture of it somewhere). Her target was going to be the Aelfar friend with whom she started out. In the end, I didn’t believe in that story and couldn’t make it work in the short amount of space I had. I decided the best thing I could do for the story was not to have an action-packed shoot ’em up climax. It was harder to write, and ultimately, more rewarding.

What was the biggest influence on your story?
Spelljammer. Magic, and sailing ships in space? Yeah! Although, I don’t have sailing ships in space…yet. The only ship we see is more of a big crystal, but I was definitely influenced by my love of Spelljammer as I developed the Seven Galaxies setting. It will probably be more obvious in the novels than in the short stories.

Is there anything else you would like to talk about?
The next Seven Galaxies story I’m writing features the Pleasure Pools of Persiphia, a location to which I alluded in “Forgotten Dreams.” There will be all new characters, but I promise you haven’t seen the last of Jahni and Rana. I have plans for the series and for those characters. I promised myself I would write another World of Calliome fantasy novel before I do a Seven Galaxies novel, though, so I’m building up to it.

Categories: Interviews, Publishing, Sojourn | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction is now available!

Last year, I submitted a short story to an anthology being published by Fear the Boot, LLC. The anthology is now available! My story is “Forgotten Dreams,” the first, I hope, of many tales set in the Seven Galaxies. Think of it as dark space fantasy. Kind of like high-tech Spelljammer, if you remember that TSR property from the late 80s-early 90s, but a little bleaker. It’s not as dark as Warhammer 40K, or even Game of Thrones. It’s definitely space opera compared to my Zack Jackson novels, though (and definitely NOT for children). I’m working on another Seven Galaxies story in case there is a second volume of short stories.

“Forgotten Dreams” tells the story of Jahni, a former slave in a universe where all of humanity is enslaved and seen as barely a step about animals. She looks for a way to aid in the struggle to free her people and is forced to ask herself how far would she go to fight humanities’ oppressors.

You can purchase Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction at these places:

Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Sojourn-An-Anthol … ref=sr_1_1

Apple iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/sojour … 0967?mt=11

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sojourn … 0991487707

DriveThru PDF: http://www.drivethrufiction.com/product/126517

DriveThru ePub: http://www.drivethrufiction.com/product/126582

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/ … ve-fiction

More are being added as the anthology works its way through the distribution network.

Categories: Seven Galaxies | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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