Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Interview with "Occupy Space" Author, Grady Hendrix

I met Grady a few years ago when I stumbled across a short story he did on the site Strange Horizons called "The Bright and Shining Parasites of Guiyu". I don't NORMALLY* write to authors to tell them I liked a story they did, but I sent a quick email to Grady letting him know how much I enjoyed the story. Anyway, it was two years ago, I don't remember everything about the experience, except that Grady wrote back and then when his book came out, Satan Loves You, he let me know. The premise of that book is fantastic.

I started reading it, but I'd just BARELY had my son. He was maybe a month old at the time and I was hypersensitive to everything. So in the first few pages of Satan Loves You, where the story is being set up, a bunch of people are in an airport and a baby gets killed. So I stopped reading, because that scene literally wrenched my guts out. Literally. They were everywhere. No, OK, I should have used virtually instead of literally.

In any case, maybe someday when I'm feeling tougher in my guts, I'll be able to finish the book. It's just one of those things. Sometimes a person is just too sensitive. Having a kid does that to you. It's true.

So then Grady's next book came out, Occupy Space (oh, and I should mention I've kept up with his short stories too). He let me know and I got it and read it. No dying babies in this one, I'm happy to say. Nope. None. Just a lot of great and memorable characters. The book is only about a hundred pages, and it reads rather quickly because the writing is sharp and concise. Grady's the kind of writer who doesn't tolerate a lot of fat in his work. He trims it down nicely to the most succinct wording while managing to still have gripping prose.

Occupy Space is the story of a failed, drunken astronaut shedding his self-loathing and failures long enough to bring an economically challenged town together in order to build a rocket. But why build a rocket? Um, to rescue a former member of the town (who has been a successful astronaut) from a now defunct space station. Duh. Anyway, it's a fantastic read. I loved it.

I could truly go on and on about how great it is. But that would be all me, wouldn't it? So what I did, is, I got Grady to do an interview for my blog. I've never done a single interview for my blog, except for those ultra boring me-interviews, and no one even likes them.

You will absolutely adore this interview with Grady. And if you read Occupy Space (you should. Right now. Go buy it. Read it) and then read this interview, I'm sure you'll really want to meet him. You'll have to add Grady Hendrix to your list of people-I-want-to-have-lunch-with-because-they're-so-damn-interesting.

Right then, enough about me. Here's a bit of Grady for your reading pleasure:

Me: I read in another interview that you wanted to write about building something, because America used to be a place where we built things. Why did you pick a rocket as the thing to build, aside from it being hugely daunting?

Grady: We need a space program, and if the government isn’t going to give us one, then we need to build one for ourselves. The space program was the closest thing we ever had to a national religion. It was born in sin (read: Nazi rocket scientists), but it let us dream about a future where the service industry wasn’t our only destination. It was the biggest ambition our country ever had (once we gave up on conquering the world back in the 19th century), and we need something to aspire to that isn’t just about making money. But there’s also a more practical reason. The tools we have shape how we approach the world. For example, if all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. One of the biggest tools America has is its military-industrial complex. We can’t wish it away because it’s too big and too lucrative, but we also can’t wage wars all the time. So why not apply it to the one peacetime program it has always excelled at: space? It’s a way to use it to its full potential, but keep it off the streets and out of trouble.

Me: There are some excellent examples of the "hive mind" in the story. My husband frequents Reddit and talks about how the "hive mind" can solve anything. In your opinion, after writing about it and presumably doing loads of research, would it be possible for a group of laypeople to build a viable rocket using the resources Walter's team uses?

Grady: Not only is it possible, it’s happening. Check out Copenhagen Suborbitals (Walter refers to them in Occupy Space as “EU-worshipping, socialized-medicine-loving homosexuals in leather pants building a manned rocket in their spare time” and you can see them in all their beardy glory here: I sped up the timeline, and I think the ability to get enough liquid nitrogen to get into low earth orbit, as well as the legal obstacles, will keep it from actually happening, but this is something people can do. And a big shout-out to Reddit. There are some smart people out there who don’t have the jobs they deserve and their big old brains are burning holes in their pockets. I found a lot of them on r/space.

Me: I believe I read somewhere that you're from South Carolina, but I can't find the source. Why did you pick Melville, South Carolina?

Grady: I was born and raised in Charleston, SC. My parents are both from SC, their parents are from SC, their parents are from SC, and I think my original ancestors floated over to South Carolina on a barrel of potatoes two hundred years ago. And I hate it. I mean, who really loves the place where they grew up? I left when I was 18 and never went back, but over the years I’ve become fascinated by it and I go back a lot now. I get SC in a way that I don’t “get” New York. I can wrap my head around it and it’s so fabulously corrupt (even our governor’s private chef just got fired for ripping off the state), so incredibly strange, and so much fun that I’m probably going to be writing about it forever. What other state do you know of that has a black separatist Yoruba nation located inside its borders?

Me: Tell me about glomping? I'd never heard of it till I read your story. The glomping moment was one of the funniest parts of Occupy Space.

Grady: A friend of mine was describing it to me. According to him, if you go to anime conventions it is very likely that it will happen to you. And weaponizing an overly-enthusiastic hug sounds awesome.

Me: Speaking of writing humor, do you find it difficult to do or does it come naturally? And do you have any tips for writing humor for aspiring writers?

Grady: I have tried and tried to write serious, but I just can’t manage it. My hard drive is full of very dark, very intense stories I spent years writing and they are all loathed by everyone who reads them. In college I even wrote a very, very serious play about AIDS that won an award. The play was performed once and the (small) audience spent the entire three hours peeing themselves with laughter. Afterwards, people came up and told me how funny they thought it was. I wanted to make a bold statement. Instead I made people laugh. I came to realize that that wasn’t entirely a bad thing. In terms of tips, I’ve only got one and it’s not even mine. John Waters once said “Good taste is the enemy of art.” Replace “art” with “comedy” and you’ve got the formula that works for me.

Me: Continuing the glomping thing, Volor is into LARPing. Have you done it yourself and if you haven't, tell us how you decided to use it.

Grady: I haven’t, but I love LARPers and cosplay and gamers and anyone who has decided that mundane, everyday reality isn’t enough for them and that they’re going to hack it. I’ve been to Comic Con in New York and San Diego a few times and at first I found it really overwhelming and very threatening and extremely easy to mock. But then, a fter a few hours I realized that all of these people were there because they genuinely and passionately loved something. Some of them loved it so much that they wanted to proclaim their love out loud even at the risk of looking silly. And that’s an amazing and rare thing. Enthusiasm is so un-cool these days, passion is so “over” that when you find it you need to put it up on a pedestal and protect it.

Me: There are loads of modern concepts floating around in Occupy Space--the "hive mind" that the Internet makes possible, the shrinking of the U.S. space program, and the whole occupy movement, just to name a few. Did you set out to merge these things into one story or did it sort of just happen?

Grady: I started writing Occupy Space while the Occupy movement was going on in Zuccotti Park down near Wall Street. The economy was tanking, people were out in the street demanding a referendum on what kind of future we were going to have, and I wanted to engage with it on some level. I think this country lost its way and mortgaged its soul for cash when it gave up on the space program. I know I sound obsessive, but I think that the only way we’ll ever return to national sanity is to start sitting highly trained individuals on stacks of explosives and shooting them to the stars again.

Me: Walter is this kind of pathetic, washed up old man (I loved the way SAC John Richter describes him the first time he sees Walter--an elderly man) whose career was a flop. What made you decide to use a failed astronaut and not one who retired after a successful stint as an astronaut?

Grady: Pop culture celebrates winning, success, the celebrity 1%, the special magical child born once every thousand years who will save us all, but for every winning team, there’s a losing team. For every first place champion there’s someone who came in last. And the fact is, most of us are going to spend our lives failing, not winning. I know that for me personally, I’m far more acquainted with failure than success. When someone wins, they jump up and down and yell, “We’re number one! We’re number one!” and everyone loves them. I’m far more interested in the person who watches their dreams die on Saturday night and then has to drag themselves in to work on Monday morning. An Olympic athlete who wins is just doing what’s expected of them. An Olympic athlete who loses has something to say about life.

Me: As I was finishing Occupy Space, I thought it would make an excellent film. I'm sure you've thought about it. Do you feel like it would transition well into a film? What actor do you see playing Walter?

Grady: I hadn’t actually thought about that - right now I just want people to read it! But I love that crop of older male actors like Ed Harris and Fred Ward. One of the biggest things I’ve noticed about movies is that they used to be about grown-ups. Watch any action movie from the 60’s, 70’s, or even the 80’s and you’re seeing middle-aged guys kicking ass. Now everyone is 23 years old with washboard abs. Remember when Walter Matthau was an action star in movies like The Taking of Pelham One Two Three… and Charley Varrick? Walter is all about that kind of rumpled masculinity. I’ll take a 45 year-old with a grizzled mug in my movies over a Botoxed gym rat any day.


More from Grady:

Grady's Website

Satan Loves You

Occupy Space

Messengers from the Stars Will Come to Help Us Overcome the Obstacles That Hold Us Back From Achieving Our True Potential

*And, well, that depends on how you define "normally." I can count on one hand the writers I've written to. Two. No three. Two poets--Alberto Rios and Eleanor Lerman. And then Grady. What can I say? I'm just that way.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Ronan" by Taylor Swift

Someone posted this video on Facebook and I obviously watched it because I'm a masochist, who likes to cry all the time. Evidently. I went in knowing I'd probably sob.

Ever since I had my own son, the slightest thing can set me off. I can't just watch movies where people get killed or anything, because now I know that every man is some woman's son. I'm sure it's the same with daughters, but I don't have one of my own, yet. And we like to fool ourselves about what men are, these days, anyway. Deep down, they're all just little boys who have big hearts and hide their vulnerability with bravado. And they all love their mothers. Right?

Anyway, the little boy in the song was beautiful and I feel for his mom. And of course Taylor Swift does something with her lyrics. My little boy is sleeping in the next room, and I hear his feet going "pitter-patter down the hallway" too, all the time, and it kills me, and I would do anything for him.

Yeah, he sometimes keeps me up all night, crying because he wants to get up and play, but really, small sacrifice to experience the most amazing love I've ever known. It's scary, though, because I feel so vulnerable now. I thought romantic love was, you know, dangerous, because you put your heart on the line. But it's totally different when you have a child. Well, I have no idea how to explain it. So I'll stop trying.

A link to the story on KSL and the song:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award is given by bloggers to up and coming bloggers as a way to spread the word about smaller blogs who deserve a bigger audience. This award is an honor, but once nominated you must earn it:

  • You must list 11 things about yourself
  • Answer 11 questions put to you by the person who nominated you
  • Choose up to 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers to nominate and post 11 questions for them to answer
  • Visit your nominee's pages to inform them of their award 

So wait, is Liebster a play on LIE? The LIE award? I still don't see how it's an award. I mean, what kind of award do you have to earn AFTER you've been given it?

Just wondering.

Anyway. To not be a spoilsport, I'm going along with it. Here you go:

Questions from Andrea (who nominated me)

    1.    Why do you blog? I have a lot to say! Right? Before I blogged I wrote in my journal religiously. I was young and saw my life as extremely important. I mean, come on, it was fascinating, like a film. Right? Ha. That's what I thought then. I know now that the reality is more like what Thoreau said about us, that "we live lives of quiet desperation." Although for a ton of us, it's hardly quiet. And, I'm pretty loud and I'm teeming with opinions. I've tempered loads of them since I started my blog back in 2005, though that's most likely not obvious to the casual observer. I don't write as often as I could or should because I have less time. Anyway, my life isn't like a film at all and there is no soundtrack and if there was, it would probably be banjo music.

    2.    If you had a million (tax free) dollars to spend what would you use it for? I'd pay off student loans and some other debt I have. Debt is hell. And college is a racket. My advice, don't buy into it, or at least, if you're going to, don't go into debt for college. What a load of crap! And I LOVED college. Maybe I'd go back to college with the money. Ha! Anyway, after paying off debt, I'm sure I'd figure out a brilliant way to invest it. Maybe in gold bars. Or a really fast race horse. Or maybe a Bentley. Cars are an investment, aren't they?

    3.    If you were to go on any reality TV show which would it be? and why? I hate reality TV for the most part, but if I had a brilliant way to make money, I'd go on Shark Tank because I think that one is somewhat educational rather than puerile and contrived. I'm also into survival shows like Dual Survival, but I don't think I could just go on that. I wish I could. If only I were a star, because I think I could really win that new one, Stars Win Stripes. Ha ha. For reals.

    4.    If you could have dinner with any one person alive or dead who would it be? and why? Shiz. There are too many people I need to chat with. Please don't make me choose. It's sincerely imperative that I meet C.S. Lewis at some point, as well as Wallace Stegner (these guys are dead so they count as ghosts, which makes them a personage rather than a person, so I still get to pick a living person). The ghosts will clearly give me excellent advice about the afterlife and they even knew a lot when they were living. I love their bodies of work. Heh. So, that's why I must meet them. And as for the living, maybe David Tennant because he's great. I mean, honestly, I doubt any living person has any advice for me that's going to assist me in any real way. So I just need to chill with David Tennant because he's the best iteration of Dr. Who. He's got a wife and a kid, so they can come too because it's imperative that we hang out, at the lake or something.

    5.    If you could live anywhere in the world where would you live? Right here, in Utah. I lived in Phoenix and Nashville and discovered that most cities are the same when you get right down to it. If I could have multiple residencies, then I'd have them everywhere because the world is my oyster, right? ;) So maybe coastal cities are cool and foreign cities are exotic. But they're all cities. And I want to live everywhere, but mainly right here in this perfect desert climate, near the mountains and my family. Whoa. What was that? A mind-twister? I think so.

    6.    If you had a super power what would it be? and what would you use it for? I would be omnipotent and omnipresent and all-knowing. Sort of like God. My super power would allow me to pretty much rule the world and/or have every other super power because I'd have the knowledge to harness the secrets of the universe. Or is that cheating? I mean, if that's cheating then I'll just take the ability to fly while being invisible. I don't need the recognition, just the ability.

    7.    What is your favorite movie? I don't get into favorites as much these days because I've grown to realize that I change my mind a lot. But for the time being, I really enjoy British TV more than anything else. Dr. Who is big for me, and I know it's not a movie, but movies kind of suck lately. If you held me at gunpoint and demanded to know which movie I love otherwise I'll be chewing lead, I'd say Casablanca, just because it's pretty great and the classics never get dull.

    8.    Where is your favorite vacation spot? Vacation? What's that? Ha ha. Kidding. For the past six or seven years, the only vacations I took were back here, to Utah. So by default, I have to say Utah. Most of my life the best place on earth was my grandma's house, in central Utah. I'd love to say somewhere cool like Antigua. I'd love even more to say I go there all the time and I have summer residences in Portugal, France, Greece, and Turkey. But I'm a country yokel, I suppose, and the greatest spot on earth is still my grandma's house, even though she died two years ago.

    9.    What is your favorite book? Too many to choose just one. Rating pretty high are Crossing to Saftey, The Great Divorce, Ender's Game, We, and damn, just so many others. Books are some of my most important friends. I've lived a thousand lives because of books and I hope to live a thousand more.

  10.    If you could tell your 15-year-old self one thing what would it be? Don't change. Keep living and loving the way you do. Gregory Peck told me that. It was when I was a stupid fifteen-year-old, actually, and I wrote to him and told him how much I loved him as Atticus Finch and Father O'Flaherty in the Scarlet and the Black and he was sweet enough to send me a signed picture. It said, "Dear Nicole, don't change." I bet that's the advice he'd give his own fifteen-year-old self. He's right. I've made loads of stupid mistakes, but I couldn't have the lessons without them. So, anyway. I mean, I'm pretty sure it was truly Greg who signed the picture. I mean, he was what, eighty at the time? I bet it was great to get fanmail at that point. And then, guess what? Later that year, I freaking got a Christmas card from him and his wife, Veronique. That's a damn highlight, if you ask me.

  11.    What is your favorite band/artist? Right now it's Future Islands, Metric, and the Jezabels, but that's subject to change, and also, there are several others that I absolutely adore at the moment. I'm not good at being in love with just one thing, except of course Stoker. 

OK, I actually hate this kind of stuff, but I did it because I like Andrea. The thing is that I just can't answer simply. It's beyond my skill-set. And I suck at dealing with obligation. I still need to finish my interview questions for writer, Grady Hendrix, who has kindly agreed to do an interview for my blog. So, expect that as my next blog post. And Andrea, please know that you are wonderful, it's merely the fact that I suck at answering questionnaires that I hate them. But it's great that you'd nominate ME to participate. 

Oh shiz. I still haven't done the freaking list.

Damn. OK.

1. I love peanut butter. It's a sickness, actually. There needs to be a term to describe it as such.

2. My opinions exhaust me. Sometimes I get tired of hanging out with myself. Maybe I should split my personality so I can have a break. Ha! Psycho jokes are the best.

3. Sometimes I miss my old life. It was fun being carefree. But then, I wouldn't have Stoker or Corbet. So I think the trade off is worth it.

4. I don't have boatloads of friends and I like it that way because the friends I have get the most of me, which is very little these days. But when I make a friend, I try to do it for life. That makes the investment matter to me.

5. I like to know what makes people tick. I really do. I like to figure them out. But not in the Sylar from Heroes kind of way. Man that guy was a total freak-job. I hated him. But he was good as Spock. Too good. Creepily good. Brrrr. Did it just get cold in here?

6. I want to give the people I love the best of me, but often I feel like they get the worst. Poor things. I'll work harder at it.

7. I like making lists, mainly to-do lists, but these blogger/chain-letter kind of lists bug me.

8. Good books, songs, and movies make me want to die. In a good way.

9. I didn't see the Sound of Music all the way through until I was thirty or so. It made me want to die. I'm a total sap. So sue me.

10. I can't figure out why Stoker loves me. I was a total nut-job when we were dating. I love him. Maybe that's why?

11. One time I fell on someone's lawn and wouldn't move because he was going to California for a few days and I was going to miss him. I have no idea whose lawn it was. It was winter, dusk, and for some reason, he asked me to marry him when he came back from California even though I'd been aloof while he was gone. Guess he likes drama queens!

That's done. Now I guess I pick some people to do the same thing. I consider it torture to do these tasks, and mostly I seem to follow/read blogs that somehow have over two hundred followers (including Andrea and Aubry). I guess I like being part of big crowds. But there are three people I adore who don't blog enough, in my opinion. So I nominate them. I really question whether they'll do this, and that's fine. I still love their guts and I totally understand if they don't want to or have time. Here they are:

She is completely hilarious. I long for the time when she blogged lots.

The Number Five
Em, who I have the good fortune of hanging out with in RL so it's cool that she doesn't blog enough because I get to be with her anyway.

She's actually my heterosexual eternal companion, or at least, was, I'm not sure what our relationship status is these days. I guess we need to have a DTR or something.

These ladies don't blog much these days and that's understandable. If they want to do this thing, cool. If not, no biggie. Here are their questions from me:

1. Who was your first kiss? Providing you've kissed someone that's not related to you or something? And, I mean, how was it?
2. Is there something really quirky about yourself that you're willing to share?
3. What's the last film you saw and what the hell did you think about it?
4. How do you feel about Twilight, the book or the movie? Please be honest.
5. Do you believe there's life on other planets? If yes, are they monstrous or pretty nice?
6. Continuing the sci-fi theme, would you live on a space station, like a big one, i.e. Star Trek Deep Space Nine? (p.s. I wouldn't, FYI)
7. Back to the basics, what's your favorite color and why isn't it pink? Oh wait, it is pink?
8. Who's your favorite celebrity these days and why?
9. Do you know who David Tennant is?
10. Why isn't he your favorite celebrity?
11. Why have you been such a negligent blogger? ;) Do you foresee a time where you'll blog more?

P.S. I love you.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Details, Considerations on Death, and the Tenth Doctor

I'm almost ready to release World in Shadow. So, yeah. Give a little cheer. And then read the book when it comes out.

And I want to buy this and hang it above my writing desk . . . for inspiration. It's the best fan art I've seen of the Tenth (and best) Doctor. It's for sale at Society Six.

Curse you, David Tennant, for ever leaving Dr. Who! Curse you!

And here's a little note for Blogger. I hate the new interface. It's exactly like the shitty new Gmail interface, which sucks. I loathe, absolutely loathe having to hit a bunch of hard returns so that my face isn't aimed at the bottom of my computer screen when I've filled a page with text. Who's with me? Everyone? Right. I knew it.

Yes, it's extremely annoying. I'm this close [] to switching my entire online life away from anything related to Google. I get it, I get it. Minimalism is in. It's so blinking awesome to strip everything down to the smallest, cleanest unit. Right. Yeah. Sure.

But sometimes minimalism doesn't work.

That's how I feel about it.

Wait a minute, let me look at the Tenth Doctor again and I'll feel better. Have to scroll my stupid window up, first. Ah. There we go. All better.

I'll be putting an excerpt from World in Shadow up soon. Have to decide on which excerpt. I'll make sure to try and pick a very tantalizing bit so everyone can see that they really need/want to read it.

Anyway, I know I've been MIA a lot lately, but things have been going on. My dad's in the hospital and he could go any day now. I mean, well, he's been close to going for quite a while. Which actually makes it harder to determine when he really might go. But somehow, even though I haven't been spending every waking minute at his bedside, just the knowledge that I SHOULD be there stresses me out and squeezes every last drop of life energy from me.

Also, there's that addiction I have to card games* on my iPhone. A very unholy, unwise habit. It renders me useless if I let it. I need to find a support group or something. My husband's trying not to pass judgment every time he catches me playing or soliciting someone's phone as a verifiable device, so I can have multiple accounts going, for all the free cards and referral cards and whatnot.

I make myself sick. Sick.

But using my family's phones to register? That was his idea. So, it's kind of his fault, if you think about it. Heh.

So yeah. My dying father. Et cetera. Makes me wonder how many people get a bad prognosis, and are knocking on heaven's door, and decide, even though there are crazy procedures that might prolong their life, choose to just go with end of life care and die. Not to be Debbie downer, here, but my dad has been in a bad way for quite some time. It's rough to see him like that. And when given the choice, he picks some procedure that might give him a little more time, despite being bed-ridden, unable to move, and generally miserable most of the time.

He even has a living will that at one time, evidently, said "do not intubate" and "do not rescusitate" and still, when he's in the emergency room, I guess the doctors ask him if he wants to be intubated and he says yes.

And maybe the difference from person to person is the difference between a life full of regret and a life full of happiness. Aside from the general, run of the mill fear of death. You know? What's beyond this mortal existence? Is there life after death? Or will I just cease to exist?

Right now I'm pretty convinced there's life after death. Who knows how I'll feel when I'm staring death in the face?

But that's why I've decided, once I reach a certain age, to just start living crazy. I'll be jumping out of planes at seventy. Climbing dangerous cliffs, ooh, and cliff-diving, and boating up the Amazon or Congo, and all that. Fairly certain that I'll take up para-sailing at some point. And I'll go out in small-engine planes any chance I get. There will most likely be general space flight at that point, so count me in, even though I've always said no way. No way will I go out in space.

When I'm ready to die, I'll do it.

*Incidentally, I'm nearing the end of my rope because Rage of Bahamut has "temporarily" suspended trading and in-game gifting, which renders the game pointless, boring, and dull. They're supposedly going to make an "announcement at the end of the week. But that sounds grim, doesn't it? I have no hope that things will ever be back to normal.