01-19-13 UPDATE:Podcast Update: Time to Read Episode 81: Jojo Moyes, 'Me Before You'
Click image for audio link.
Here's the eighty-first episode of my series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. Hitting the one-year mark, I'm going to make an effort to get ahead, so that podcast listeners can get the same sort of "sneak preview" effect that radio listeners get each Friday morning.
"...I was writing characters who did not understand the world that they came from..."
Ken Scholes brings a lot of diverse but pertinent experience to his writing. Between a degree in history and a stint as a Baptist preacher, he's got all the background experience one could hope for in a science fiction .... er, fantasy .... what does he write, anyway?
To my mind, it's clear that with his Psalms of Isaak series, he's doing pretty much straightforward science fiction. The backdrop is clearly science fiction, and you get a mechanical man in the midst of the work. But there is without doubt a very strong feel of fantasy in his storytelling.
As I sat down to talk to him at SF in SF, he'd already done his reading, so I had just heard his speaking voice reading his written voice. Without doubt, you can hear the influence of his work as a preacher when you hear his reading. But when we spoke, he's so crystal clear on what he's about and why that it almost felt like I was interviewing the author of a non-fiction work.
Scholes and I talked about the science-fantasy nature of his writing, and he talked about plans to write a more straightforward fantasy in the future, as well as his plans to return to the world he has created in his Psalms of Isaak series, LastHome. That's an evocative name, to be certain, and it suggests a lot about where his series starts, in the distant antiquity long before the first book begins.
This, to me, is the measure of a truly talented author. Hearing Scholes read and speaking with him made me think not just about what was in the book, but, in my own mind, I began playing out what had happened before the book, and thinking about what might happen after.
I really enjoyed this short conversation with Ken Scholes, enough so that I intend to catch up with his series and try to get back to him for a more in-depth interview. His work offers layers of wonderfully invented world-building and, he observes in the interview, he's clearly aware that in his creation, he's writing about what's happening around us now, at this moment.
"I kind of rejoice when I wake up from a dream..."
— Laird Barron
In hindsight, all is perfectly clear. But in general, to a degree, I favor being both intensely over-prepared and completely uninformed. These may seem mutually exclusive, but really, in my world at least, they are not. I must admit that by remaining completely uninformed about 'The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All,' I was unprepared for just how great Laird Barron's work was.
But having read the book, and taken extensive notes, once I started talking to him, I still felt unprepared for Laird Barron himself, even though it was a phone interview. Actually, perhaps this is why I prefer in-person interviews, since I trust that had we been sitting in the same room, I would have had a better sense of the man and perhaps not been surprised by his stories about his stories.
Barron's work is in itself amazing, so it should not have been quite so surprising to hear his life story and how he came to his stories. It clear that both by nature and nurture, Laird Barron was cunningly designed to craft the kind of disturbing, uncanny fiction that we find in 'The Croning' and 'The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All.'
Barron and I talked about his childhood and upbringing, which prove to be pertinent with regards to the fiction he is writing. As you might expect, there is a lot going on in the short stories and novel that he has written; not just within the stories, but crosstalk between the stories.
For all the Barron is tagged as a writer of horror fiction — because the overwhelming and understandable response to his work is a feeling of unease — his roots seem to be simultaneously both in hard-boiled mystery / men's adventure and science fiction. He and I discussed the role of science and the elements of the mystery genre that are so striking in his stories.
05-04-13: Commentary : Reasons Not to Leave the House, Reality Check : The Truth Hurts Edition: 'Down the Up Escalator' by Barbara Garson, 'The Wolf and the Watchman' by Scott C. Johnson,'The Book of Woe' by Gary Greenberg, 'Confessions of a Sociopath' by M. E. Thomas