Quick Queries

Quick Queries with Mike Resnick

For the average fanboy, nothing excites to a greater degree than speaking to their childhood idols. Granted, a fan of any type is easily amused or entertained, much like dangling keys in front of a ferret. Everything within their vein is new and amazing. Quadruple that and you have my experience made manifest.

At the beginning of August, I posted an unassuming Myspace blog about the event that triggered the writer/reader in me; seeing an expletive in print. The book in question – Tales of the Galactic Midway: The Wild Alien Tamer by Mike Resnick – turned me into a reader, where before I was an illiterate simpleton. Future works by that same author made a writer out of me.

When I started this site, I carried over that particular post. It was called Painting the Dark Lady. I had not taken into account that the walls had ears. One Saturday night, while subsisting through a night shift – cream-cheesed bagel in one hand, tea in the other – I received a comment from Mike Resnick.

It read:

“Others have told me I inspired them to write, but I have to say you are the first to be so inspired by a 4-letter word.

Good luck.”

And just like that I was an inspired 6th grader again.

After picking his big genre-bending brain via e-mail, I finally type-stuttered the request for a ten-question interview for this very site. He agreed to participate, and this – fine folks – is the random result. Enjoy, but do keep in mind I’m no hard-hitting journalist. At all.

LL: At what point did you decide upon being a writer? Was it an epic epiphany, or something triggered by the magnificently mundane? (Like a lemur flinging poo?)

MR: “When I realized that as a writer I could work at home, sleep ‘til two in the afternoon, dress like a bum, and tell anyone I didn’t want to work with to go to hell, it became irresistible.”

LL: You and my cousin Jason have a fascination with Teddy Roosevelt? What’s your excuse for this…well…other than the fact that he was awesome?

MR: “Like most Americans, I thought he was a militaristic jingoist who yelled ‘Charge!’ when running up the stairs. Then, about 33 or 34 years ago, I saw The Wind and the Lion and was fascinated by the character…so I picked up a number of his books (he wrote 22), eventually read them all, then read some Pulitzer Prize-winning bios of him, and decided he’d make a fine character for a series of alternate history stories. Consider: as a teen he was considered one of the leading ornithologists and taxidermists in the country. After being a sickly child, he strengthened his body enough to make the Harvard boxing team. At 24 he became the youngest Minority Leader ever in the New York State Assembly. He wrote a number of books while in his 20s, including some bestsellers and the definitive treatise on naval warfare. He was a lawman in the Dakota badlands and brought in three armed killers during what was known as ‘the Winter of the Blue Snow’. He was the most efficient police commissioner the city of New York ever had. Then he got busy: governor, Rough Rider/soldier, Vice President, one of our greatest Presidents. For a guy who was thought to be a warmonger, he kept us out of war and became the first President to win a Nobel Peace Prize. He busted the trusts and created the national park system, then went on the first major African safari for a year, and later explored and mapped the River of Doubt (now the Rio Teodoro) for the Brazilian government. I suppose he slept every now and then, but I honestly don’t know when he had time to.

LL: In all your books that take place in your BIRTHRIGHT universe, the two alien races that appear most often in the background are Lodinites and Canphorites. However, I have yet to see a description for either of them. Care to enlighten?

MR: “Without running to the bookcase, I’m pretty sure I described the Lodinites once (maybe in The Soul Eater?). Why bother to describe the Canphorites? I’ve never had a story take place on either of the Canphor Twins (Canphor VI or VII), and I’ve never had an individual Canphorite play a major part in any story.”

LL: A necrophiliac mistress to the Messiah? A Bogart-like detective teaming up with a nymphomaniac elf? A con artist/priest? I’m surprised some of these characters made it to PRINT, let alone in major sci-fi publications. Do you have the Midas touch when it comes to The Pitch Session?

MR: “I have never had an editor suggest that I tone down a scene or lose (or change) a character. I think the world at least the world of publishing – has changed since I was a kid and you could learn everything about homo sapiens from science fiction except that we come equipped with genitals and an urge to use them.”

LL: You’ve written scores of novels that are African allegories. When did your fascination with the continent begin, and did you know it would inspire so many stories?

MR: “It began in the early 1950s, when I was 10 or 11 years old, and discovered the works of Alexander Lake (Killers in Africa and Hunter’s Choice, both of which I am proud to have brought back into print in the Resnick Library of African Adventure from Alexander Books.) It was Lake, and not Edgar Rice Burroughs or H. Rider Haggard, that hooked me on Africa…and no, when I was a pre-teen I had no idea it would inspire so many stories – or so many safaris either.”

LL: You write stories that so perfectly capture the air and feel of a futuristic bar scene, yet you don’t drink. How do you explain this dichotomy?

MR: “Maybe I can capture the ambience precisely because I always have a clear head.”

LL: Of your galactic gunslinger characters, which is your favorite? Oh, and who would win in a Mexican standoff? (My money’s on Billybuck Dancer.)

MR: “My favorite is the original Widowmaker, Jefferson Nighthawk (as opposed to his clones). I think he might win a Mexican standoff against Jericho (from Walpurgis III), but it would be close. If he’s the best, it’s not due to physical gifts, but because he’s a little smarter and a little more creative than the rest.”

LL: One stylistic choice I noticed you use is establishing an almost cinematic tone. You set the scene with exposition then let the characters do the rest. Do you do this on purpose?

MR: “Yes. I probably use dialogue more than any other writer; I’m more comfortable with it. I’m also very comfortable with first person narrators, which leads to less formal exposition. I can’t get away with it very often in books, but I’d say at least half my short stories (and all my award winners and most of my nominees) have been told in the first person.”

LL: Coffee or tea? Elaborate as to why?

MR: “Coffee all night long, seven to ten cups while I’m working. Iced coffee in restaurants with my meals. Tea never, not even in Chinese restaurants. (I mention restaurants a lot. When you work at home, it’s your one excuse to get out of the house.) As to why: I’ve never liked coffee, but when we bought a huge boarding and grooming kennel back in 1976, it was the coldest winter on record in Cincinnati (where the kennel was), and I kept warm by loading up on hot chocolate all winter. And when I gained a quick 20 points, I realized I’d better find some other hot drink to like…so I began trying coffee again, and soon became addicted.”

LL: I saw an interview with the late Jack L. Chalker once – an old compatriot of yours – and he mentioned never getting up before noon since he started writing full-time. Do you adhere to this philosophy?

MR: “Absolutely. I learned 35 or 40 years ago that almost no one phones or knocks on the door after 10:00 PM, so my typical workday is from 10:00 PM to about 5:00 or 6:00 AM. Most the writers I know keep vampire hours; if they don’t write late at night, they get up early and write before sunrise, like Bob Silverberg and Barry Malzberg…but they all try to do their work when no one’s around to disturb them.”

For more information on Mike Resnick and his works, visit his OFFICIAL SITE.

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Monday, December 8th, 2008 Quick Queries 993 Comments

I work for tea money.

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