Unexpected Questions with Vincent H. O’Neil

Vincent H. O’Neil is the Malice Award-winning author of the Exile mystery series from St. Martin’s Press and the military science fiction Sim War series (written as Henry V. O’Neil) from HarperCollins. He holds a master’s degree in international relations from The Fletcher School, and a bachelor’s degree from West Point. In the Army, he served as an Infantry officer both stateside and in Panama, and graduated from the Airborne, Ranger, and Jumpmaster courses. His website is www.vincenthoneil.com.

If you were to write a book about a group of superheroes with completely useless powers, what would their powers be?

This one’s easy for me, because I’ve got all sorts of talents that have little practical value. I can quote lines from movies and TV shows all day long, so one of the supes in this book would probably be doing that. Another one would be able to dream up the greatest comeback to any insult, but only after the intended recipient of the barb was long gone. One of them would have the ability to imagine wildly divergent story lines for any book, movie, play, or TV show—I suppose that one’s superhero name would be Brainstorm. A different supe would be able to walk very long distances, but at a normal pace so whatever was happening at the destination would probably be resolved before the supe’s arrival. Finally, here’s one of my talents that isn’t completely useless: One supe would be able to make friends with just about any dog anywhere. It has value because dogs are really neat.

If you had to choose between being a time traveler or a space explorer, which would you pick and why?

I’m really into history, so this one’s a no-brainer. I’d love to time travel, even with all the risks we’ve been warned about everywhere from The Time Machine to one of The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episodes. Hopefully there would also be someone around like Thursday Next’s father, the time traveler in the Jasper Fforde series who hops back and forth repairing the damage that would no doubt be done by people like me.

Space explorer would be a great job, except there’s too much scary and dangerous stuff out there for me. Although I spent my younger years as an Army paratrooper and have done some risky things, the chances you take in space are a whole different level and require a personality different from mine.

If you had to choose between having the ability to speak with animals or plants, which would you choose and why?

Definitely plants, but only because I talk to animals all the time. Yes, I know the question means I could actually converse with them the way Harry Potter (and Voldemort) speak to snakes, but I already say things to passing dogs, cats in windows, and even one local bunny that seems to understand I’m not a threat. It would be fascinating to find out what plants would want to talk about, as long as it wasn’t a drawn-out report on the pH levels in the soil or complaints about humans touching them.

If you had to survive on a deserted planet with only three items from your own house, what would they be and how would you use them to survive?

This one’s a case of life imitating art. In the first novel of my mil sci-fi Sim Wars series, which I wrote as Henry V. O’Neil, the four main characters are marooned on an unidentified planet. They have no water, food, or working electronics. Their only weapon is a survival knife carried by one of them, a member of the elite Spartacan Scouts. The Spartacans are the gold standard in foot reconnaissance, and their training is simply brutal. Because the other three are a brand-new Lieutenant, a shipboard psychologist, and a pacifist mapmaker, the scout is the one with the most survival experience. He immediately starts turning parts taken from their life pod into containers for water if they find it, and a tool to fend off whatever might live in that water.

After several years in the Army, I accumulated two of the items the scout ends up carrying. So with a little rummaging around in a closet, I’d have a survival knife and a collapsible five-quart canteen. The third item would be a toss-up between a good set of walking boots or a rucksack. Assuming I’d be wearing the boots, a bag that goes on your back gives you a place to carry other survival items without having to hand-carry them.

If you could have dinner with any fictional character from any sci-fi book or movie, who would it be, what would you talk about, and where what restaurant would you choose.

Zaphod Beeblebrox from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Yes, he’s a cad and a liar and a narcissist, but I’ve known a lot of people like that. Once you learn to say no to anything suggested by people with those characteristics, they can be quite entertaining. For example:

When Zaphod emerged unscathed from the Total Perspective Vortex booth (which should have rendered him insane by showing how puny he is in relation to the rest of the cosmos) it never occurs to him that the device wasn’t working properly. When the custodian of the Vortex, utterly baffled, asks what happened in there, Zaphod answers, “It just told me what I knew all the time. I’m a really terrific and great guy. Didn’t I tell you, baby, I’m Zaphod Beeblebrox!”

Who wouldn’t want to have dinner with someone like that?

And the eatery? You already know it. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

If you had to live on a spaceship with one fictional character for the rest of your life, who would it be and why?

That would be Dave Lister from the brilliant TV sci-fi comedy series Red Dwarf. And that’s because he’s a cool guy, he’s used to being (somewhat) alone on a giant spaceship, and he likes cats. When things get boring we can take turns insulting the holographic personality of his former supervisor Arnold Rimmer with names like “Goalpost Head” (because of the H on his forehead that indicates he’s a hologram) or the old stand-by put-down of smeg-head. If you ever spent any time with the real Rimmer, or someone just like him as I have, you’ll understand.

How have you used the phrase “I’m a writer” to avoid an unpleasant situation? What was it?

I’ve never used it to escape an unpleasant situation, but I have found that if you meet an editor or agent by chance and utter the words “I’m a writer”, they disappear faster than the starship Enterprise when Scotty finally fixes the warp drive.

Latest book

His most recent work is A Pause in the Perpetual Rotation, a futuristic fiction novel about a world where robots do all the work, AIs make most of the decisions, and everyone has everything they need—except a purpose. While many people are content under this system, an underground philosophy called The Unused Path has sprung up. The Path promotes self-reliance and personal growth, and a suspicious government ministry has assigned a jaded police inspector to trace the ideology to its origin.

Barnes & Noble book link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-pause-in-the-perpetual-rotation-vincent-h-oneil/1140074391

Amazon book link: https://www.amazon.com/Pause-Perpetual-Rotation-Unused-Path-ebook/dp/B09DF5CM3P

Website and social media

Website: www.vincenthoneil.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vincenthoneil

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vincenthoneil/

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