Today’s treat, dear readers, is a little insight from the multi-talented, multi-genre author of Bypass Gemini and the Book of Deacon novels among others, Joseph Lallo. I asked him to visit my blog because I’ve been very impressed with his ability to juggle different genres and be quite successful in all, and he graciously agreed. Thanks, Jo, for sharing your time and inspirations with us!
Not long ago, Tammy was nice enough to post a (very flattering) review of my first science fiction book, Bypass Gemini. Afterward she asked me if I would mind talking a little bit about what got me started in sci-fi. The simple answer is actually rather boring.
Back in late 2010 I’d finished writing Jade, a book in my fantasy series The Book of Deacon. At the time the fantasy books weren’t terribly successful, so I asked my friends what they thought I should write next. My buddy Sean suggested I write some sci-fi. I have since discovered he was trying to trick me into writing a time travel story. It didn’t work… yet. At any rate, I didn’t have any better ideas, so I shrugged and got to work. Six months later Bypass Gemini was finished. Like I said, not a fascinating anecdote. I want to make sure that Tammy gets her money’s worth out of this post (author’s note: O/), though, so let’s probe a little deeper.
I’d say a big reason that I agreed to write some sci-fi is that most of my education is in science. I’ve got a Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering after all. Ostensibly this means I know an awful lot about technology. What it actually means is that I know enough of the fundamentals to convince people that I know an awful lot about technology. Higher education has more in common with a Jedi mind trick than most people would care to admit. (: waves hand: “I know what Nyquist Frequency means…”). While my day job and some hobby projects have allowed me to put my education to use in the past, writing sci-fi would finally allow me to flex my techno-bluffing skills. I’m drawn to any career that allows/requires me to dream up farfetched ideas and figure out how to make them work.
Another reason I took the plunge with a sci-fi novel was that, while I might not have had a plot in mind for one, I had no shortage of ideas. I don’t know if this is how it works for everybody, in my case most of my stories start as a pile of scenes and ideas that have formed in my head or during conversation when I should have been doing more important things. Whenever anyone makes a comment that gets me thinking, I file it away for future reference. If one file of ideas starts to overflow, I start twisting and turning them until they form into a plot. Having exclusively written fantasy prior to Bypass Gemini, I had a long list of jotted-down musings that wouldn’t really work in a fantasy setting. Pop culture references, for instance (though careful readers might notice some vague Monty Python references in the fantasy). I had also always considered fantasy to be rather solemn and serious in tone—prior to discovering Terry Pratchett, that is—so I looked at sci-fi as a good chance to try out some humor.
That takes us to the inspirations behind some of the characters. Trevor “Lex” Alexander, as is the case with all of my central characters, sprouted from the story itself out of necessity. “Let’s see. I need someone with an exciting skill, a job that takes him across the galaxy, and enough bad luck to be desperate for cash.” Enter the down-on-his-luck racer-turned-courier. Once I had that scaffold to build upon, I started sticking on little details and foibles, most of which I just stole from my own life. (Yes, I have been known to use corn chips instead of a spoon when eating chili.) Karter the inventor is even more me, which in retrospect is a little disturbing since he’s insane. Everything from his exclusive diet of beans and rice to his attitude regarding acceptable nicknames are based on claims/rants I’ve made over the last few years. He’s basically Jo + Unlimited Resources – Fear of consequences. Ma, his AI, started out as a sarcastic doorbell gag that evolved as I realized what a fun concept it was to have a passive aggressive computer around. Finally there’s Solby. One day I said, “Hey… a fox is smelly. And a skunk is smelly. If you combined them they would be a funk, and it would smell bad, so it would have a funk (author’s note: according to Jo, the collecitve noun for funks is a parliament. True fact). It works on so many levels!” Three years later…
Solby the Funk by Bubble-Rhapsody
Merchandise based on an off-the-cuff pun. We live in an interesting time. And I guess it all comes down to that. We do live in an interesting time, and trying to figure out where all of it will lead is a tremendous amount of fun. The science fiction stories I write are a combination of things I think will happen, things I hope will happen, and thing’s I’m afraid will happen. The rest is just a thread to string it all together.
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