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.
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MATT MITROVICH is a writer, an attorney, a blogger and creator of the Alternate History Weekly Update blog. He also has this crazy dream of being an author. When not traveling the Multiverse in search of his home timeline, Matt practices law in downtown Chicago. He awaits the Zombie Apocalypse—whichever and wherever it may happen—with his lovely wife, Alana.
Fran Friel for Amazing Stories Magazine: Welcome, Matt! Thank you so much for joining us. Let’s begin with how you became interested in blogging for Amazing Stories Magazine.
MM: I knew about Amazing Stories the magazine (and the TV show, although I believe they are separate works), but never read an issue. I had only been blogging for little more than a year when I saw Steve’s Facebook announcement about blogging for the revitalized Amazing Stories. I honestly didn’t think I had a chance, but fortune favors the bold, so I requested more information and sent in my application. Turns out I got lucky, because only a few people had signed up for SF literature, my chosen category.
ASM: We love bold at ASM. Well done, Matt. As you know, Amazing has a huge variety of blogging categories. In what category can we find your blogs at ASM? And what is your special interest in that topic?
MM: I blog in the SF Literature category. I love to read. I try to read every day and when I can’t, you’ve got yourself a cranky Mitro. Although I dabble in almost every genre, SF is my drug of choice, as it was the genre that got me interested in reading in the first place. I got made fun of a lot at school because I would actually look for SF books in the library to read. For me blogging about books once a week is a piece of cake.
ASM: Bold AND passionate. All the better for the ASM readers. Now, Matt, tell us about your previous work in the publishing or genre industry?
I have just started trying to get my stuff published and I have a lot of rejection letters in my collection. Still you can get a good list of what I am working on or what I have published at my writing blog.
I am most proud about the two publications I had last year. The first is, “A Perfect Hell on Earth,” which is an excerpt from a diary of a Child Development Trooper in an alternate World War I, published in Jake’s Monthly Anthology. The second is, “Revenants in Warfare,” another excerpt from the introduction of a faux history book detailing the use of the reanimated dead as weapons. You can find it at The Were-Traveler. As you can probably guess, I don’t like to write dialogue, I am just not good at it yet. However, my first professional sale is full of dialogue, but more on it later.
I haven’t edited much in my short career in the industry. I call myself the “editor” on my blog, Alternate History Weekly Update. It is a group blog covering news, reviews, essays and interviews regarding alternate history, steampunk, dieselpunk, time travel, parallel universes, historical fantasy or any type of work where an appreciation of history is necessary to truly enjoy it.
I tend to get two to three submissions a week from writers and it is usually up to me to edit them, although I have help from my buddy, Jake Schenberg. I also edited two stories in Alt Hist 4 as a volunteer editor. I have this crazy idea of one day taking the best posts on The Update and collecting them in a “Best of” anthology, so hopefully the editing skills I gain in the meantime will help make it publishable.
Finally, podcasting is my next love after writing. I probably consume as many audio works as I consume books. I could list them all, but it would take too long for me to track down all the links. I did appear on an episode of Dissecting Worlds over at the Geek Syndicate where we discussed American Civil War alternate histories. I would love to produce my own, but the time commitment necessary to do it right is just one resource I currently lack.
In the meantime, I live my podcasting life vicariously through my friends. Jake has resurrected the AH.com podcast, my buddy Ken co-hosts the horror fan podcast Super Evil Vampire Robot Podcast of Doom (an awesome name), and my friend from the Great White North, Jordan Harbour, hosts my #1 podcast, Twilight Histories. If you enjoy old radio theater with a time travel/alternate history twist, you need to listen to Twilight Histories.
ASM: Super Evil Vampire Robot Podcast of Doom IS an awesome name. Your answer to the next question is pretty obvious, but Amazing Stories Magazine focuses on the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. What’s your favorite genre, and why?
MM: Science fiction, for sure. As a kid, I found it difficult to get into reading because all of the books they give kids are boring. I think my love of Star Wars finally pushed me into SF when I picked up an Expanded Universe novel. Yeah I know, there are a lot of fans out there who don’t consider Star Wars to be real SF, but the big franchises (like Star Trek) have acted as gateways into the larger universe of SF literature, films and television, so show them some respect.
Eventually I tracked down other SF themed books marketed to kids, like Animorphs. God, I devoured those books. My mom would buy the next book as soon as it came out and I would finish before going to bed. As I got older, I branched out and eventually discovered alternate history, which combined my love of history with my love of SF.
ASM: Feeding the reading frenzy—now, that’s one good mom! So, SF it is. Who are your favorite authors? What keeps you coming back to their work? Any recommendations for us?
MM: The master of alternate history himself, Harry Turtledove. He gets a lot of credit for my immersion into SF literature. Long ago I was looking for a new Star Wars book. Instead I came upon a book featuring Hitler and Churchill standing behind what looked like an alien weapon. To see those two enemies standing beside each other, along with something so unearthly, set my young mind ablaze.
Turns out it was Turtledove’s Worldwar: In the Balance and although I didn’t pick it up at first (I really wanted that Star Wars book, but for the life of me I can’t remember the title now), the next time I needed a book I went straight to the bookstore and bought it. Since then, he is the one author who I have yet to give up on, and also the one celebrity I still get star struck by.
I’m serious, once I went to a book signing/Q&A at a Borders in this Chicago suburb. I got there early because I was excited about meeting him. To pass the time I browsed the shelves. At some point I noticed someone out of the corner of my eye and there he was, Turtledove, beard and all, perusing the shelves just like me.
I should have said something, introduced myself, anything! Instead I just quickly moved to the other side of the shelf. Granted, I got enough courage during the Q&A to ask a question and I assured myself the next time I met Turtledove I would speak to him like a man. I got my chance to prove myself at last year’s Chicon. I was in the dealer’s room looking around this one booth when I turned around and found myself facing Turtledove again. He was talking to the cashier, which was great for me because he didn’t notice me scurry away quickly.
Hopefully one of these days I will grow a spine and tell him how much of an inspiration he has been to me.
ASM: Sounds like Fate keeps giving you another chance, Matt. I’m sure when the next chance comes, Mr. Turtledove will greet you graciously, just as you will do for your fans one day.
Now, from fandom to gaming. What is your favorite video game and what do you love about it? And what is your gaming platform of choice?
MM: At the advanced age of twenty-seven, I don’t play as many video games as I did in my ill-spent youth (although I have enjoyed Minecraft and Portal 1 and 2; and I hope to have time to play X-Com soon). My favorite console from those golden years is the N64. Goldeneye, Ocarina of Time, Super Smash Brothers, Star Fox 64, Gauntlet Legends, Mario Kart 64, Harvest Moon…I burned away a good chunk of my life on those titles.
I had four controllers, so of course my friends gathered in my basement to play multiplayer. If we had more than four players, the person who lost each match would sit out and let the other guy play (which was usually me, I was never that good). I miss those days of in-person gaming. Modern multiplayer lacks the camaraderie and if someone did cuss at you or insult you, you could always punch them really hard!
You’ve shared with us that you’re a voracious reader, Matt. What are you reading now?
MM: Haha. Well it depends on when this goes out, because I could be reading something else. Speed-reading is one of my few talents, but to answer your question: Edward Gibbon’s, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
ASM: Are you a genre movie fan, Matt? What are your favorite titles? And have you seen any lately that you would recommend for us, or suggest we avoid?
MM: Of course, but how the hell do I name a favorite? Well I’ve mentioned Star Wars more than once, so you can probably assume I would recommend those (the original trilogy, mind you). Night of the Living Dead is up there as well for awakening my love of zombies, as is Indiana Jones (only the first three…damn you, Lucas). MST3K: The Movie counts right?
ASM: Where on the planet (or off the planet) are you from originally, Matt? Where are you now? Where would you like to be?
MM: I like to think that I am a refugee from a timeline destroyed by anti-matter, with my memories changed to avoid reliving the horror and tragedy of my reality’s demise, but still having enough residual memories to explain my obsession with alternate histories.
Of course, I’ve heard people on this timeline are put off by such beliefs, so I will answer by saying I am from Chicago, IL, USA. I have lived and worked here my entire life. I love it here and though I love to travel, I will always come back.
ASM: Dang, those pesky people in your current timeline. Timeline refugees are so misunderstood. Anyway, Matt, what’s your day job…in this timeline? How is your blogging influenced by your work, or is it a respite from your day job?
MM: When not trolling the Multiverse, I work as an attorney at a law firm in downtown Chicago. I just got the job last December. Before that I did contract work for various firms and companies in the Chicago area. It was boring and lacked job security, but the pay and hours were good. In fact as long as I got the work done, I could come and go as I wanted.
This was great when I first started my blog, Alternate History Weekly Update, but my new job is a little more demanding and frowns on me not staying on schedule. This has made blogging difficult, especially with my new job here at Amazing and trying to pursue my own fiction writing career, and the monthly page view count over this year reflects that fact. Still I am trying to do my best to balance work, writing and the rest of my life.
MM: Since the summer of 2011. I have always wanted to be an author, but I could never just sit down and do it. At the time the economy was still recovering and I was stuck doing work as a contract attorney. Discouraged by my lot in life, I tried to take some control over my life by forcing myself to write, even if it was not fiction.
Instead of just keeping a private journal or something, I decided to blog because I wanted honest feedback on my work. Deciding what to write about was easy. I always loved alternate history, the sub-genre of SF dedicated to answering the question “what if.” Cursory research showed me there were already a few alternate history blogs, but I differentiated mine by focusing on news, commentary, reviews and interviews instead of original fiction. Thus, Alternate History Weekly Update was born.
At first I just posted once a week. For a span of two months in 2012, I actually kept a good pace at ten a week. Such a pace was unsustainable, but now I write about two to four posts for The Update a week, not counting the guest posts I receive. In fact, I get so many submissions I know what The Update will be publishing weeks, if not months, in advance. The whole experience put me in contact with a lot of great writers, both professional and amateur.
If there is any advice I can give, however, it is this: just write. Don’t wait to be inspired, just write. Write about something you love or something you hate, it doesn’t matter. Start off small (maybe 500-2000 words a week) and build from there. Write, write, write and write some more. Once you break the laziness barrier, you won’t be able to stop.
ASM: Excellent advice, Matt. Shifting gears here. Please tell us something about yourself most folks might not know.
MM: Hmm…maybe I should tell them I am not a nerd? Haha, at least not in the traditional sense.
I love to run in 5Ks, hike, ride my bike and go camping. I enjoy watching the Bears play in the Fall, skiing in the winter, driving my car with the windows down in the spring and swimming in the summer.
I’m an Eagle Scout, a past president of my fraternity and I love using power tools to build sets for a play or musical. Arguing with my wife about religion and politics is probably the most satisfying thing I do all day. And judging by their pictures alone, I am possibly the youngest blogger on staff at Amazing Stories.
It’s not what you like, but how you like it, that makes you a nerd. Nerds aren’t anti-social weirdoes obsessed with some cult film, book or TV show. They are the people who love to dissect, discuss and share their loves with anyone and everyone, regardless of what it is they love. In a way everyone is a nerd.
The world is changing. People are starting to realize you can enjoys things regardless of whether it conforms to some cultural, religious or gender standard. Hit TV shows are bringing in ratings that would have gotten them cancelled a decade ago; A-list stars are whoring themselves at ComicCon; and the rich and powerful are being brought down by just one person posting something negative about them on the Internet. The emperors and empresses of “quality entertainment” have been overthrown. There is so much new and unique content out there, it doesn’t matter if only a few people are consuming it, because everything is a niche market now.
Meanwhile, technology has allowed us to bring these great stories that could only be expressed in our imagination to the small and big screens. Superhero team stopping an alien invasion of New York City? No problem. An epic fantasy book series featuring little to no magic, intrigue and lots of sex and gore? Sounds perfect for television. You don’t even need the big producers or publishers anymore. Things have become so easy for indie writers, filmmakers, creators, etc. you might actually land a successful career in the entertainment industry. Hell, even fan fiction can turn you into a best-seller, aka. Shades of Grey.
So on second thought, maybe I am a nerd, or at least nerd v.2.0. The type more likely to throw a punch at the bullies who still haven’t figured out it’s not their world anymore.
MM: My first professional sale actually came out in March. It is my short story “The Enchanted Bean,” and it is a steampunk retelling of the folk classic, Jack and the Beanstalk. Witness a daring British adventurer bite off more than he can chew when he goes after treasure guarded by giants. He faces off against servile imps, simple-minded ogres, vicious giants, a cross-dressing noblewoman, a foul-mouthed inventor and devious Russians. No, the stakes aren’t high, he only needs to prevent the fall of human civilization…
I have another short story coming out, likely in July, in the anthology, Forbidden Future.
ASM: Congratulations on your first professional sale, Matt. You never forget your first.
Please tell your new fans, which of your blog titles you would recommend to give them a taste of your work?
MM: Well from The Update people seem to enjoy my review of “Spike’s Alternate History,” where I dissect the issues I had with Spike’s attempt to produce a documentary-style show on alternate history scenarios. I have also always liked my article on potential “Kings of the United States of America.”
From Amazing, I recommend, “Dissecting Our Present: How SF Can Highlight Our Historical Bias.” It’s probably my favorite article I produced for Amazing so far.
ASM: Where else can our readers find you on the Web?
MM: My writing blog is Matt Mitrovich, Author. Sorry for not keeping it updated, but I hope to change that in the future. I also don’t have a Facebook Page, don’t see the point when you can subscribe to my personal Facebook account. I hate to brag, but I think my status updates are pretty entertaining. You can also follow me on Twitter.
My blog on alternate history news, reviews, commentary and interviews is called Alternate History Weekly Update. Whatever way you like to warp history, The Update is the place for you. Follow us on our Facebook Page, Subreddit, and our Twitter profile.
MM: I’m Batman.
ASM: I suspected.
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!