Today we welcome sf author Tom King. Tom had three careers in his life: as a print journalist/editor, a federal archaeologist and a science fiction writer. Been married three times. Tom says: “Have three grown kids who are more ‘normal’ in society than I am. Have a couple of college degrees. And I love to spend time smiling at folks I don’t know just to see their surprised smile.”
One would say that apart only two college degrees, Tom has a knack for the number three… So, ladies and gentlemen, welcome Tom King!
<Tom walks on stage and scifi groupies screams. The show starts with the right mood>
Tom, please, have a seat.
<we wait for the theatre to become quiet again :)> As a way of introduction, share with everyone how you and I connected.
<Tom nods and smiles at the public>
Well, I argued with Massimo over a subatomic squiggly thingie that I use in my science fiction novels and he, being the gentleman he is, allowed me to confess to multiple American felonies rather than admit the specifics of what I got wrong. Anyway, he lives close to Geneva where I used to live in the 60s with my parents and sister. It is beautiful countryside. And it has this Giant Subatomic Thingie that spins stuff in a circle at lightspeed, so writing for Massi is like pretending to be riding on a proton beam!
<cheers, whistling and screams from everyone>
Ah ah, Tom, you’re right. Having been at the edge of particle physics research for a good part of my life it is my pleasure to have your words circling these pages at the speed of light You’re having a great success recently, it seems readers are finding your work more and more every day. Huge congratulations for gifting your readers with riveting scifi stories. But you just had a new release, mind telling us something about it?
Anarchate Vigilante’s main theme is about a cyborg guy, Matt, who fights against the galactic institution of cloneslavery, which is supported by the Anarchate culture that is run by Aliens. The Anarchate is a culture of no law, no justice and little freedom, where a planet has to hire a Vigilante like Matt in order to fight off attacks by multi-stellar corporations that “own” people. Or sell clones of people who are stolen by Cloneslavers. Matt, with the help of his lifemate Eliana and the smart A.I. Mata Hari, in earlier books declared war on the Anarchate through a series of Hit-and-Run attacks. This book brings in new people to help Matt, Eliana and Mata Hari. The big surprise for Matt is the discovery that his Mom and his sister both survived their kidnapping by cloneslavery pirates who raided their home planet. While Matt and his fleet battle an Anarchate fleet led by a hippo-like Alien commander, they work to rescue the last survivors of his family before the Anarchate rulers can capture them. While there is a lot of space and land combat in this novel, it is more than a military sci-fi tale. It’s a story of people in a far future where Hope, Freedom and Justice have to be fought for.
Always good value to fight for. Being a series, I imagine you’re working on something else, already?
Indeed. My next sci-fi novel is The Memory Singer, which my small press publisher Fantastic Books will release May 23 at the Balticon sci-fi convention in Maryland. Later this year I will write and release Book 5 in the Vigilante series.
How many books have you written, and which one is your absolute favorite?
I’ve written about 15 novels, of which 11 have been published by New York majors, small presses and a majority by myself as an Indy author/publisher.
How do you come up with the titles of your novels?
The Muse hands them to me, usually in a dream or just after I’ve written the first sentence of the first chapter!
Efficient Muse the one of yours Because of the subgenre of your scifi, how many people have you done away with over the course of your writing career?
Lots of baddies. In truth, the bad characters that I vaporize are Stand-Ins for the vast number of nose-in-the-air Authority Figures who continuously lied to me, to other people, started wars, killed people, polluted drinking water, clear-cut beautiful forests, and called it Right. The best lesson I learned from reading has been that Authority of any source always lies. They think it’s easier than the truth. Real people know better.
For sure, that’s a theme that resonate with your readers, but what when it doesn’t? How do you react to a bad review of one of your books?
With high anxiety, self-doubt, frustration and the thought “can’t this idiot read!?” That’s after being a pro published writer for 25 years. While Humans will have greed in common with Aliens, I think Self-Doubt is genetically endemic among Humans!
Now that you’re saying that, also the Aliens in my Daimones Trilogy, show no sign of self-doubt. Interesting, isn’t it? How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?
A lot. I’ve always had a near photographic memory from when I was young. So I remember all the bullies, idiots, great looking girls, friendly cats and dogs, the two decent teachers in 12 years, and the fact that one can never stop growing up. Loved Peter Pan. Wished I could be like him and never grow up. Life and reading taught me it was not possible. I’ve substituted continuous life exploration and learning. But if I had a choice of any wish, I would wish for wings, so I could fly above mountain tops and blue creeks. Flying for real would be so much better than my childhood dreams of doing it.
I’d like better without wings, the way Clark Kent does But since we’re talking about never growing up, What do you want to be when you grow up?
A storyteller whose memory is so good that I can tell a full novel, from memory, over a month of nights in the forest highlands.
Well, from what you said before, Tom, it seems to me this is a dream that came true. Why do you think what you do matters?
I write because I have to and because when I was very young, libraries and books were the one refuge where I could relax, read a book and feel safe. My parents were good to me and my sister. I just found ‘the world’ too strange to understand the way other people understand it. So I read, became mouthy to authority and studied the archaeology of ancient cultures since mysteries have always fascinated me. And the mystery of why cultures rise, succeed and fall will never cease to intrigue me!
The past is most intriguing and one cannot argue that the future usually succeeds in justifying the past ;) Do you have any favorite books or authors?
Among my favorite authors I include Rudyard Kipling, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Franz Kafka, O. Henry, Charles Dickens, Bret Harte, Edgar Allen Poe, H.G. Wells, Anton Chekhov, Andre Norton, James Blish, Ursula Le Guin, A. E. Van Vogt, Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens, Larry Niven, James White and Ernest Hemingway. One of my favorite novels is Childhood’s End by Clarke.
We share many favorite authors, Tom. Speaking of which, a reviewer of Daimones didn’t like it because it reminded him the aliens of Childhood’s End. Any great author and any great novel have its lot of detractors. I know people who can’t stand Asimov! What’s your drive for writing?
To give folks who work ‘on the clock’ an entertaining escape from the deadly dullness of routine work. And to reward people who still choose to read, versus being brainwashed by the global media.
That’s a good drive and people thank you, right folks?
<We’re submerged by an avalanche of applause, shouts, screams, yelling and whistling>
What are books for?
For awakening the imagination, for exploring the world and the universe, and for learning how conventional wisdom given by authorities is a pile of manure.
Smelly vision. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Be persistent. Be stubborn. Keep reading. Never give up. People with only modest talent can become very successful if they follow these rules, including success in writing fine stories and novels.
And that is the definition of a successful writer: the one who keeps writing despite all rejections. It’s a tunnel, but there’s an exit for most of us if we persist. Thank you, Tom. This concludes the first part of the interview and we are now for a pause from our sponsors…
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<Applauses, we wave the audience. We relax a bit, chit chat with the first rows, and wait for the green light>
Tom, are you ready? It is now time to Get Personal!
<Cheerful audience, Tom shifts weigh on his chair>
An easy one to raise your confidence and self-esteem. Do you ever write naked?
<Tom gives me the look>
Nope. Fingers don’t work to type when you get the cold shivers. And I never write seated above a hot air vent.
What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
Keep writing, never fall behind, and –know- that the voices in your head –are- friendly!
They are quite talkative, right? I know something… ) If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?
If I ever figured out how to commit a “perfect murder” I would charge money for the solution. Why give away perfection? Anyway, “perfect anything” is a delusion, IMO. Reality itself, including people, is always flawed and less than perfect. But still beautiful.
Maybe that’s the reason it is beautiful. Perfection can be boring, but I agree with you. The perfect solution for a murder might raise lots of money from bidders. Are you fun to go on vacation with?
Yep! I love exploring the unusual places in any foreign city or culture, and saying “Hi!” to people in whatever language they prefer. Then I rely on my honest smile to earn me a beer, a meal and some hang-time with great people.
Ah, that’s a perfect recipe for a great traveling time. With your archaeologic background and the scifi writing you might propose your readers a journey through time of past civilization and what possible future they might have created instead. Do you laugh at your own jokes?
Nope. Can’t tell a joke with the right timing. But I laugh real good at other people’s jokes!
That’s the trait of a good company fellow :) What are you ashamed of?
That I’ve been married three times, one of which gave me three wonderful children, and yet I have been divorced three times. Guess I am weirder than ‘normal weird’.
Have you ever found true love?
Yeah, each time I was married.
We have no doubt. What’s the loveliest thing you have ever seen?
The deep woods with its yellow-green ferns amidst yellow pine and red ponderosa pine trees, all quiet, all beautiful, with only the wind whispering through the boughs.
I received the vision of another planet. Have you ever been in trouble with the police?
Yup. During college in Knoxville, Tennessee, I got arrested twice by local cops for being a campus anti-war activist and generic rebel. Taught me useful data about the inside of cells and police stations. And regular folks who just got unlucky.
Do you have cell scenes in your novels? J/k. So when were you last involved in a real-life punch-up?
In sixth grade. I won. The class didn’t believe I beat up their class pretty boy. After that, I never bothered fist-fighting again.
Beating up someone always works in avoiding future fights. When are you going to write your autobiography?
Never. Anyway, a writer’s novels always include large helpings of who and what a writer IS.
It is unavoidable, right? And a writer needs to write naked to reach the readers ;) Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
Plenty. Poverty. Insanity. Delusion. Drunkeness. The allure of really smooth Columbian grass. The temptation of “I’ll do it tomorrow, or later”. The wonder of those character voices in your mind who conduct a stage play in your head, and keep repeating their scenes, until you write it down as a novel. Or short story if you are lucky. I’m cursed. All my mind people insist on full scale novels.
We suffer from the same syndrome, Tom. Last question and then you’re off the hook. Do you believe in a deity?
I believe in an afterlife that includes reincarnation and existence in a universe ocean of love.
And that gives us the picture of a hopeful future for everyone. Ladies and gentlemen, Tom King!
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