Unexpected Questions with Noah Chinn

Noah Chinn was born in Oshawa, Ontario, and has never really forgiven it for that. After high school, he fled his hometown in favour of the freezing winters of Ottawa. Three years later, it dawned on him that higher education and frostbite did not have to go hand in hand, and finished his degree in Toronto.

Shortly after university, he moved to Vancouver, where he met his future wife, Gillian. He then spent the summer bicycling across Canada, which she thankfully didn’t misinterpret as him trying to get as far away from her as possible. They moved to Japan for three years, where he taught English yet managed not to learn a word of Japanese (an oversight he’s now trying to correct).

It was during this time that he had a successful cartoon series called Fuzzy Knights, which centred on the exploits of toy animals playing Dungeons & Dragons, and the evil hamster trying to destroy them. Some have called this a cry for help.

They then moved to England, where he dreamed of making it big as a writer—because with a BA in English Lit it was either that or serving fries at a Burger Shack. 

Unfortunately, in the way aspiring actors move to Hollywood and end up as busboys, the closest he came to literary success in England was working at several bookstores—each of which mysteriously closed down after his stay.

After moving back to Canada, he found some success in the North American market… until his publisher closed down.

But a little thing like that isn’t going to stop him.

His work has been published in Amazing Stories, Knights of the Dinner Table, The Globe and Mail, and others.

He, his wife, and their ferret now live in Vancouver.

He tends to wear a hat.

If you were transported into one of your books as a character, what kind of character would you be and what kind of adventures would you have?
This one’s almost too easy because it’s the whole reason I wrote the books. I’d be a space trader in my books Lost Souls and Lost Cargo.
I think every writer who wants to take themselves seriously worries about creating a character as a proxy or wish fulfillment and with damn good reason. There’s nothing quite as cringeworthy as an obvious author insert—especially when it falls into the Mary Sue/Marty Stu category.
So I tried my best not to do that in most of my early novels. But when it came to science fiction, there was a particular archetype I was always drawn to—the independent trader.  Han Solo and Malcolm Reynolds are two obvious examples of the trope.
Star Wars had a huge impact on me as a kid. Heck, it’s the first movie I remember seeing (at a drive-in theatre, no less).  But when I was eleven or so, a game came out for the Commodore 64 called Elite, and for a time it was my life.
The premise was simple, you were given a ship, 100 credits, dropped into the middle of a universe and the rest was up to you. You could trade between worlds, buying low and selling high. You could be a miner, drilling asteroids to get rare gems or minerals. You could be a smuggler, looking for a big score trading in illicit goods. You could be a pirate, hunting down cargo ships and taking their stuff. You could be a bounty hunter, looking for wanted pirates.  You might get intercepted by hostile aliens and have to fight for your life. It was the original open-world space sim game.
But the game was only part of it. What really captured the imagination was what was in the box. It didn’t just have the game, it had a novella by Robert Holdstock called The Dark Wheel. It had a ship identification poster.  But most importantly, it had a 64-page Space Trader’s Flight Training Manual.
This did so much more than just tell you how to play the game—it immersed you into the universe as well. The different types of planetary governments you might encounter, alien races, even tantalizing you with things in the universe that you thought MAYBE you might find if you just played long enough.
By the time I actually got around to playing the game, I saw my computer room as a cockpit. When I played the game, I would take the events of the game and expand them into an ongoing narrative giving context to those events.
The most recent version, Elite Dangerous, was something special. For a while, the development team at Frontier went all-in on building the lore and licensing novels set in the universe. So I decided to write a novel for it, which got accepted by the publisher, only for Frontier to then decide they’d published enough books and dropped that side of things.  Sigh…
Eventually, I would co-write a Science Fiction romance with Lauren Smith called Across The Stars, and spent a LOT of time filling out the bible for that setting.  I realized it wouldn’t be too hard to modify my Elite novel to work in that setting.  And so Lost Souls was born.
So essentially, Lost Souls and Lost Cargo are born from my love of a particular type of space adventure, and those are the kind of adventures I’d want to have if I ever got to be in that setting.
TLDR answer: Me like spaceships. Go zoom. Pew Pew Pew!
If you were to write a fantasy-themed cookbook, what kind of recipes would you include?
Stuff that requires 5 ingredients or less. See, there’s a Jamie Oliver cookbook called 5 Ingredients, and it’s just frickin brilliant. Because it shows how you can make aesthetically pleasing, fancy-looking food that tastes great but are dirt simple to prepare.  It’s also easy to see how you can substitute one thing for another, making it even more useful.
Look, if you’re going to be in a fantasy setting unless you work in the king’s kitchen, you probably have limited choices as to what’s on the menu at any given time.  You don’t have time (or the resources) to make super elaborate dishes. But that doesn’t mean you need to be basic, either. Complexity is not the same thing as creativity. That’s the lesson 5 Ingredients taught me, and that’s what I’d want to bring to a fantasy cookbook… or any cookbook, really.
If you could have any fictional pet as a companion, what would it be and why?
Hmmm… I’d want it to be an intelligent animal, like a pseudo-dragon.  The one thing I always feel I miss out on with pets is being able to communicate.  I want to know if they’re having a good day, if they’re feeling well, what they feel like doing.  I always get so worried when I’m not sure if my ferret is feeling ill, or just sleepy.
I mean, granted intelligence comes with its own set of problems.  I mean, just how intelligent are we talking here?  If they are intelligent enough to talk, are they really a pet anymore or are they equals?  How does all that work? Maybe what I really want is to be empathic, so that I can intuit those things from my pet without language.
If you had to choose between being a time traveler or a space explorer, which would you pick and why?
Hmmm… you’d think with my earlier answer this would be obvious, but it depends.  Are we talking realistically or in a story kind of way?  Because, realistically, if you can time travel, you’re probably going to end up dying of some disease you have no immunity for. And if you’re a space explorer, you’re probably going to find nothing but rocks or unlivable atmospheres everywhere you go.
Realistically, I’d take my chances with ancient flus and go with time travel.  I mean, traveling to a different time might as well be going to a different planet in terms of exploration and wonder.
However, assuming standard story conventions are in play. I’d have to go with Space Explorer.  I’ve covered why in detail earlier.
Which trope of science fiction (phasers, transporters, time machines, much more) would you like to see put into our own reality? And how would you use it in a mundane way?
Replicators. I mean, that right there changes everything and creates a world where people shouldn’t want for anything.  Food, clothing, shelter. Done, dusted. People no longer have to work to get these things and can instead focus their lives on doing what they want to do instead of slaving away at a job they hate just to live.  This is, of course, assuming we also have the power we need to run said replicators.
What would I use it for?  Elaborate miniatures and terrain sets for my game nights.
But then, I have a 3D printer, so I kind of already have my wish (printing off some terrain as we speak!)
Noah Chinn’s next novel, LOST CARGO will be available November 1st, 2023.
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