Welcome to the Amazing Stories BLOG HORDE INTERVIEWS!
The ASM Blog Horde is a diverse and wonderful species. I have the privilege of talking with all of them, and I get to share those chats with you. In this long-running series, you will have the opportunity to peek inside the minds of the ASM bloggers to to see just what makes them tick.
I hope you enjoy the series as much as I have enjoyed preparing it for you. Please feel free to ask questions, or just let the Horde know you’ve stopped by for a visit.
Bloggers love comments, so let them know you’re out there!
Tonight’s Featured ASM Blogger:
ALEX KANE is an author, blogger, and critic whose work has appeared in Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction, Digital Science Fiction, and Foundation, among other places. He lives in the small college town of Monmouth, Illinois, where he earned a B.A. in English, and was recently named a finalist in the international Writers of the Future contest.
Fran Friel for Amazing Stories: Thank you so much for joining me, Alex. Please tell our readers how you became interested in blogging for Amazing Stories Magazine.
Alex Kane: I applied for the gig after stumbling upon Steve Davidson’s new Amazing blog by pure chance, via Google. Having been impressed by the caliber of its staff, content, and the overall energy here, I knew it would be a perfect outlet for my fannish essays and ramblings; and apparently Steve was impressed with my nonfiction portfolio, so he invited me in for milk and cookies.
You wouldn’t believe the sheer volume of cookies he feeds his Amazing blogger team. Only problem is, they’re digital—the kind your browser stores up in excess but you can’t eat. Bummer, huh?
ASM: The cookies lured me, too, Alex, but those digital chocolate chips just don’t satisfy my sweet tooth. However, what we lack in tasty cookies, we have in Amazing Stories blogging categories—and lots of them. In what categories will we find your blogs at ASM? And what is your special interest in those topics?
My work for Amazing Stories typically falls into the “Film” category, because I’m a big-time cinephile, although I plan to occasionally offer up pieces on comics, science fiction books, or video gaming. For example, my fiancée recently bought me a Nintendo 3DS XL, so I begged and pleaded, and Steve said he’d let me write up a little review of the system. By the time this interview goes live, you should be able to read it.
ASM: Alex, could you tell us a little bit about your previous work in the publishing industry?
AK: I consider myself an author, blogger, and critic—that’s where my professional interests are. I’ve published about a dozen short stories in various journals and anthologies, including “Prospect of a World I Dream,” which appears in Futuredaze , edited by Hannah Strom-Martin and Amazing’s own Erin Underwood. It seems to be receiving a lot of attention in places like John Scalzi’s Whatever blog and Tangent Online. My work tends to fall under the greater umbrella of “science fiction”: post-cyberpunk, mundane SF, space opera . . . stuff like that. Although I have written a bit of horror, weird fantasy, and slipstream, as well.
My story “Nootropic Software Blues,” which hasn’t been published anywhere just yet, was recently named a finalist in the international Writers of the Future contest, and my critical essay “Individualism, Atheism, and the Search for God in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road” appeared in issue 111 of Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction last year.
Also, I believe this marks my final year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best New Writer—I made my first professional fiction sale in 2011, to Michael Wills, for the fourth volume of his Digital Science Fiction anthology series. That story, “In the Arms of Lachiga,” can be found reprinted electronically in M. David Blake’s 2013 Campbellian Pre-Reading Anthology, or online at my website.
Blake’s anthology is free to download in either .mobi or .epub format. And while it’s an honor to be considered, there are a number of far more deserving candidates out there: Martin L. Shoemaker, Grayson Bray Morris, Michael Hodges, Marina J. Lotstetter, Van Aaron Hughes, Amy Sundberg, and probably a ton of others I’m forgetting. There are some talented folks breaking into the field these days, and I’m humbled to find myself in their company. I’ve been very, very lucky so far.
ASM: Luck and hard work, no doubt. As you know, Alex, Amazing Stories Magazine focuses on the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. Do you have a particular favorite?
AK: I don’t really believe in the notion of genre as a strict set of boundaries anymore. I think we’re headed for what Chuck Wendig calls a “post-genre future,” in which the only reason categorization really matters is when it comes to the issue of placing a book on its proper shelf in the bookstore. In the digital realm, this kind of labeling can be done with various tags—meaning that if brick-and-mortar shops continue to fall by the wayside, which may very well happen, a book will no longer be confined to a single genre.
That said, I’m a big fan of science fiction.
There’s nothing quite so fun as stumbling into a book or story that very much resembles humanity’s inevitable, doom-laden future. Sometimes that’s a scary thing, as with the book I’m reading right now, Ken MacLeod’s The Execution Channel. Or there are the stories you find in the anthology, Rewired: The Postcyberpunk Anthology, edited by John Kessel; and James Patrick Kelly and John Joseph Adams’s Brave New Worlds, or Wastelands.
I think Paolo Bacigalupi has probably got it mostly right, which is too bad. But having a grim lens to look through can be useful, I suppose; it lets us see what’s coming, so that we might avoid it.
Or you’ll occasionally glimpse a future you’d love to be a part of—something like Tobias Buckell’s Arctic Rising, James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes, or Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation. Some books manage to take great ideas, these mind-blowing what-if concepts, and then make them really, really fun. I’d love to write a book like that someday, when I actually know what the hell I’m doing.
Meantime, I’ll probably stick to working in the short form, with the exception of the dark fantasy thing I’ve been working on here and there—this little semi-autobiographical novel called Doomster, which I’m calling “slipstream rural noir,” even though I just said I don’t really believe in genre. It may never be published, but it’s one of those pet projects I just have to get down on paper.
ASM: “Slipstream rural noir”—that’s a new one for me, but I really like the sound of it. You’ve mentioned some great anthologies and editors—who are your favorite authors and what keeps you coming back to their work?
AK: My favorite novel of all time is one I discovered a couple winters ago: Horns, by Joe Hill. What a heartbreaking, masterful book. He’s got a new one coming out this Spring, called NOS4A2. His first novel was Heart-Shaped Box; it’s equally great.
He’s also written a comic series titled Locke & Key, which is sort of a modern Lovecraftian dark fantasy, and he also put out a superb short story collection called 20th Century Ghosts. The dude can write, no question—his stuff feels a little like Neil Gaiman: haunted, literate, and beautifully understated. And he just happens to be Stephen King’s son. So there’s that.
But since I said previously that my favorite genre is science fiction, let me also recommend Tobias S. Buckell. I’ve been following his work for a few years, after discovering his author blog. I also had the opportunity to interview him a while back when he was crowdfunding his novel The Apocalypse Ocean, which I later reviewed for Bookgasm.
I already mentioned his last Tor release, Arctic Rising, which was brilliant. He’s probably best known for his Xenowealth universe, which so far is a series of four books and a number of short stories, but my favorite of his works, which I return to again and again as a way to study my short-fiction craft, is “A Jar of Goodwill.” Go and read it; I’ll still be here when you get back.
ASM: Great recommendations, Alex. Both Hill and Buckell have inspired me, as well. Are there any new authors you would like to bring to our attention?
AK: I mentioned Michael Hodges, Amy Sundberg, and Martin Shoemaker already. Two more who are definitely worth your time are Ben Godby, whose stories “Skins” and “Manhunt” can be read online at AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and Annie Bellet, who’s been published in Daily SF a handful of times. Her stuff is a lot of fun, and well written.
ASM: I understand you’re a gamer, Alex. What’s your favorite game and gaming platform?
AK: I mentioned the Nintendo 3DS XL earlier, and it’s quickly becoming my new favorite toy, although I’ve long been an Xbox/Xbox 360 devotee, due to the undeniable awesomeness of the military SF franchise Halo, which seems to be getting better and better.
My favorite game of all time, however, will always be The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which was first released on the Nintendo 64, almost fifteen years ago. It was the reason I wanted a 3DS in the first place, because they put out a 3-D remastered edition of the game for Nintendo’s new handheld. It actually manages to outdo the original, in terms of improved visuals and the game’s timeless soundtrack.
ASM: What are you reading now? How is it so far?
AK: Rewired: The Postcyberpunk Anthology, edited by John Kessel and James Patrick Kelly. It’s one of those books that makes you glad you’re a writer, but also intimidates you a little bit, because all the stories are so unbelievably inventive, and the various near-future worlds are so richly developed. I love it so far!
ASM: Sounds like my kind of anthology, Alex. I’m adding it to my TBR list for sure. Thanks!
Have you seen any good movies that you would recommend for us…or suggest we avoid?
AK: I enjoyed Looper, Source Code, Tron: Legacy, and The Adjustment Bureau. I’m a sucker for anything with a good balance of action and that good ol’-fashioned sense of wonder that we SF writers are always talking about. I think Inception was pretty good, as was Duncan Jones’s acclaimed, Moon. My favorite science fiction films, however, are Minority Report, Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Dick and Clarke are two of my biggest “classic” influences, and I think their works translate nicely to film.
ASM: You’re alright by me, Alex. Those are some of my absolute favorites, as well. Great minds and all that. Now, tell us where on the planet (or off the planet) are you from originally?
I’m stuck in the gravitational pull of Nowheresville, Illinois. There’s a better nickname for these here parts of rural ’Murica, but it may be too vulgar for this audience.
On a more serious note: I work in the small college town of Monmouth, Illinois, where I got my B.A. in English, and recently moved to the nearby city of Galesburg.
ASM: Our readership is a hardy lot–they can take it, Alex, but we’ll keep it clean for the sake of Big Brother.
Now, for the the really tough question, what’s your day job? How is your blogging influenced by your work, or is it a respite from your day job?
AK: I work in the small-town banking industry, as a “universal banker,” which I guess is a retail/sales position. I’m a teller, a personal banker, and occasional supervisor—a lot of responsibility for decent pay. Kind of stressful, but better than that college business I was doing this time last year. It pays the bills, but it’s hardly conducive to my creative work. I have to struggle to carve out time at the end of the day for blogging, fiction writing, et cetera.
ASM: I think you’re in good company with the writing v. day job situation. How about the blogging? How long have you been at it, and what advice would you give to writers interested in starting a blog?
AK: I’ve been blogging since I began writing fiction, which was in . . . (checks archives) . . . February 2010. Three years ago. Wow. Time flies when you’re having fun.
It’s a good way to meet people, organize your thoughts, and track your progress in a somewhat public setting. I can’t recommend it enough, although I imagine a certain personality type may not enjoy blogging. However, most editors seem to think an author of any success level should have some form of online presence, though, so suck it up and get a WordPress blog going sooner rather than later. You’ll have a blast.
ASM: Alex, please tell us something about yourself that most folks might not know.
AK: I used to play guitar in a rock band. That’s not to say that I’m a guitarist, or a musician; just that I once stood on stage and played for an audience, wrote five or ten songs with a group of my friends, and fantasized about the rock star life.
These days, I try to make as little noise as possible.
ASM: Once a rocker always a rocker, at least in the heart. Like writing, it leaves little indelible remnants.
So, tell us, what’s your “secret” pleasure or obsession? Bubble baths? Chocolate in your Chili? Roller Derby? Flying Japanese kites?
AK: I collect and read comics, sure. Who doesn’t? Oh, adults, you say?
Well, that’s no fun.
ASM: I think a lot of adults would agree with you, Alex. Do you have some personal projects in the works that you would like to share with us?
AK: A super-secret short story project, which I intend to submit to the Writers of the Future contest next month; that novel I mentioned, Doomster, is coming along slowly but surely; and there are a handful of other ideas that I’ve been toying with. I’m trying to slow down a bit and take my time with these things, rather than just pounding them out one after the other and then watching them sink. Some ideas take a little extra time, and that has certainly been true of the space opera/postcyberpunk story I’m writing now.
ASM: Yes, a little time and patience can do a project a world of good, and of course, our mentors are happy to remind of that fact. Do you have a mentor or teacher in the business who has helped you find your way?
AK: I’ve taken classes from horror authors Jack Ketchum and Jeremy C. Shipp, who definitely taught me a lot about my strengths and weaknesses craft-wise. And there are a number of up-and-comers, like frequent Analog contributor and Hugo nominee, Brad R. Torgersen, who have been enormously supportive of my writing over the past few years. I can’t overstate the importance of having mentors who comment on your work and offer advice along the way.
ASM: I completely agree, Alex. The feedback of a good mentor is invaluable.
Since we’re here interviewing as ASM bloggers, which of your blog titles would you recommend to our readers to give them a taste of your work?
AK: The first two I did, “All Your Rebel Base Are Belong to Us: In Defense of J. J. Abrams” and “The Lost Vamps: Bloodthirsty Flicks that Actually Don’t Suck” are pretty good examples of my style and range. I’m a movie guy. Expect me to geek out quite a bit ’round these parts, and try not to talk too much smack about Star Wars in my presence. Yes, there are better films out there. And yet: well, no. There aren’t.
ASM: I love your passion for your passions, Alex. And Star Wars is a worthy obsession. I’m old enough to have seen it in the theater in its first week. It left me breathless.
You’ve got our attention now, and we’ll be hunting down your blog posts. Where else can we find you on the Web?
AK: You can publicly stalk me over at Facebook or listen to my every thought on Twitter For more news about my writing, or thoughts on science fiction and the publishing industry in general, visit my website at alexkanefiction.com
ASM: Alex, I want to thank you for your generous sharing and for spending this time to help our Amazing readers get to know you better.
AK: Thanks so much, Fran. It’s been a genuine pleasure.
Dear Amazing Readers, thank you for being with us. I hope you’ve enjoyed tonight’s interview. Please come back next week for another featured blogger in the Amazing Stories Blog Horde Series.
We’ll keep the light on for you!
Alex – You must be my little brother from another mother. I had the same reactions to the movies you've listed; and your taste in reading is spot on, as well.
I also had a childhood epiphany. When my father took me to see 2001: A Space Odyssey everything changed for me. Not only did it affect my thinking concerning the future forever, I became hungry (ravenous) for SF, and the music set me on a course that landed me in the life of a classical musician. The score to that movie along with the visuals is still a magical sensory dance that brings me to tears. Kubrick… *sigh*
I didn't see 2001 the film until I was maybe 22 or 23, but it still affected me in ways few movies ever manage–HAL's dying words are some of the best in film history, I'd say–and Clarke's novel blew my mind when I read it at 18, a couple semesters into my college career. That book showed me that there were SF books out there besides DUNE and STAR WARS EU novels, etc., and for that I'll always be grateful to Clarke.
The movie would be nothing without that jaw-dropping score. . . . But did you ever hear the rumor that Pink Floyd was asked to score the movie, turned Kubrick down, and later wrote their epic mostly-instrumental "Echoes," as a soundtrack to the film's end? (Hard to believe any Floyd-related pop culture story, but it's a compelling one. There's a great YouTube video that all but proves it.)
Ah, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rn7MmS3vazU
Great to see you, Diane! I hope Paris is finally warming up around the edges. 🙂
Great interview! Nice to meet you Alex – I look forward to your posts. And I'll be stalking you.
I'm a Star Wars fan too. But I have to say, while the movies on Dick stories were enjoyable as such, I found Dick's internal logic completely messed up by them, which at the time really rankled.
Thanks, Diane! Same to you.
Star Wars made me the person I am today, for better or worse. I walked into The Empire Strikes Back (Special Edition) with my dad in 1997, at the Rivoli Theatre just blocks from my house, and emerged someone else–someone fascinated with technology, horrified of the full spectrum encompassed by human nature, and eager for more experiences like that one. They're rare, but when they happen? Great storytelling is my favorite kind of magic.
As for the Dick adaptations, they certainly vary in quality–and even though Minority Report is my favorite SF film, it's far from the most "Dickian" of the bunch; A Scanner Darkly and The Adjustment Bureau are far better examples of his fragile sense of reality/metaphysics.
The worst I've seen from a storytelling perspective may be the new Total Recall, which is too bad because it's pretty beautiful-looking. Someone just told me that SCREAMERS is the best Dick film of all, and I've never seen that one, so I suppose now I'm a man on a mission to find it.
Word is, they're working on a Man in the High Castle miniseries right now, as well. 😀