Reality Skimming

Reality Skimming

Reality Skimming promotes optimistic SF -- stories that inspire us to fight the good fight for another day. Committment to larger projects, the writer's sense of mission, joy of reading, the creative campfire of the SF community and the love of deserving protagonists are celebrated. We believe in heroes and striving to be what we believe in. It is also a news hub for content related to the Okal Rel Saga written by Lynda Williams.

29Apr/13Off

ORU Artifact #38 Yukari’s Amel

The Okal Rel Universe has inspired many beautiful, curious, fun and touching moments, objects and re-mixes or interpretations over the years. This page celebrates them one by one. Found one that should be here? Tell us about it for the finder's reward of the month. Send your discovery to [email protected]

Back in Lynda's hey day at UNBC, in 2005, Yukari Yamamoto did a pencil sketch of Amel which become one of the best beloved portrayals of him. Lynda continues to love the sketch for its invitation to the viewer to fill in the details and subtract any flaws. Yukari followed up with a colored, Anime style version just months later. And the Okal Rel Universe was thrilled to received a life-like version in March 2013.

See artist:

Yukari Yamamoto on Facebook

Yukari Yamamoto did cover art for some of the first editions of Okal Rel Legacies titles, and continues to remain a friend of the enterprise.

Filed under: Artifacts No Comments
26Apr/13Off

Meet The Relatives – Post 11

Meet the relatives  #11

Challenge

Meet The Relatives by Lynda Williams, is the touching story of very Demish Dela's adventures in Red Reach. Illustrations are by Richard Bartrop.

Fital’s dirty secret gets out.

<< Start at Beginning >>


Fital looked Vras up and down, ignoring Frog.  "You've grown since I last saw you," she drawled, invoking a murmur from the listeners at her choice of a masculine pronoun.  "In fact, you're old enough, I'd say, that we ought to be working on curing you of your poor taste." Her glance flicked towards Dela and her supporters took up the suggestion, pointing, as she folded her well muscled arms.  “Liege Vrel will thank me more for that, I'm sure, than sending you home dead."

"Answer the question, Fital," Vras Vrel asked again, denying male-female address.  "And we will see about the rest after, if you've done nothing dishonorable."

"Vras," Fital sneered.  "You're not going to be tediously righteous are you?"

"Tell me what deal you made!" Vras exclaimed, excited.

Someone broke ranks among Fital's vassals.  "She's selling children!" he shouted.  "Highborn orphans!  For drugs!"

Vras said, simply, "Challenge."

Fital's sword cleared.  The whistle-blower among her followers went white as he tried to back away from her onto the challenge floor.  She sprang.  He stumbled.  A woman screamed.  Blood sprang from the betrayer's arm as he went down.  But the next instant Sert was there, blocking Fital's killing stroke.  People shuffled, taking sides or blocking exits.

And then it was silent.

Vras said, simply, "Challenge."

Sert stood her ground.

No one moved.

Fital glared at the traitor on the floor, but the odds would be against her if the twins and Harn teamed up.  And the highborn with her had failed to join her on the challenge floor.  Fital looked hatred at the representatives of Red Hearth, and cast a look of disgust at her own, shirking kinsman who had failed to back her up.

Then Fital abandoned revenge, forgot Sert, and stepped out onto the challenge floor, sword drawn.

Demish champions had seconds who checked for dishonorable body armor beneath an opponent's clothes.  The Vrellish fought, instead, with skin exposed.

Vras shed his red vest.  Fital shrugged out of a long, decorative vest studded in braid and small devices.

Someone whispered beside Dela, in a child's voice, "See those trophy icons?  They're for the highborns she's killed, before, in duels."

Dela's could not look down.  Her eyes were riveted on Vras and Fital.

This was going too fast!

Meet the relatives  #11

Challenge

24Apr/13Off

Interview with Derek Newman-Stille

Derek Newman-Stille has a Masters Degree in Anthropology from Trent University. His Masters Degree involved an analysis of ancient Minoan and Mycenaean Art and his interest in the archaeology of ancient societies has had a great deal of impact on his own artistic trends. Many of Derek’s paintings are heavily influenced by the artistic trends of the ancient world and one can see in his art imagery revolving around Palaeolithic goddesses or cave paintings from the past. As a classicist, Derek is particularly influenced by the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, deriving a lot of the themes of his artistic works from classical myth. His interest in anthropology and archaeology has influenced his work, showing an overall love of the rich depth of diversity in the human experience and the wide range of methods people have used to express themselves over the course of human history.

From an early age Derek was interested in the artistic styles of the Group of Seven, fascinated by both the creative style and the philosophical ideologies behind the works of Lauren Harris in particular. Harris’ concept of trying to capture something beyond the physical appearance of nature, its soul, influenced Derek to move away from realism to try to capture the feelings evoked by the experience of observing nature, its internal perspective. This interest in the imaginative led Derek to move more and more toward expressive forms of art and the need to create dreamscapes of form and image to express his own emotional experience. Like the Group of Seven, Derek desires to paint what lies beyond the surface image of his subjects: the emotional and spiritual dimension. With his art, Derek tries to capture what is beyond, behind, through his subjects.

Derek's art shows a distinctly Canadian flavour both from the influence of the Group of Seven, but also through the distinctly Canadian interest in diversity. As a culture the prides itself on the idea of the 'cultural mosaic', Canadian culture has influenced Derek's desire to pain from a diversity of styles and influences, creating a patchwork quilt of international and intranational artistic accents. His work is intranational because he recognises that even before European settlement, Canada was made of a vast network of diverse and distinct peoples and through the process of European settlement, a diversity of cultural influences have been added to our landscape. His work therefore borrows from the fluidity and sculpted shape that was characteristic of the Group of Seven's painting style, but also highlights the spiritualism in nature characteristic of the works of Anishnabee, Haida, and Metis peoples. His work also incorporates elements of art nouveau, art deco, Celtic, Minoan, and Norse styles of expression. Derek's art shows the natural Canadian receptivity toward inclusivity and his work shows an unorthodox blend of styles, varying in artistic technique depending on the feeling or idea he wishes to express or the emotional dimension he wants to evoke from the viewer. He feels that limiting oneself to one dominant style has a negative impact on expression and prevents the artist from exploring the depth and complexity of his subject.

In his youth, Derek was told that he had a fine motor learning disability and that this would prevent him from developing fine motor skills and thus not allow him to do fine art or any form of highly skilled artistic work. Derek’s love of art, need to express, and belief in the importance of art pushed him to continue to develop his style and engage with various creative fora.

Interviewed by Sarah Trick


1. Thank you for agreeing to talk to Reality Skimming! Please tell us a bit about yourself and your project, Speculating Canada.

Thank you for this opportunity to do an interview with you. Speculating Canada (http://speculatingcanada.wordpress.com/) grew out of my current research for my PhD in Canadian Studies at Trent University. My research is focussed on exploring the representation of disability in Canadian speculative fiction, and, in particular looks at the way monstrous protagonists in Canadian urban dark fantasy are often written in a way that suggests the experience of people with disabilities in Canada. For example, monstrous protagonists, like people with disabilities, are often described in urban dark fantasy as experiencing barriers to employment, the need to pass as normative bodied, differences in senses, dealing with bodily difference, the medicalised body, etc.

Speculating Canada is sort of a combination of a number of different things that were important to me like making Canadian speculative fiction (SF) more known, showing my love of the genre, discussing Canadian speculative fiction as a tool for learning and opening up new questions and ideas, and making scholarly work accessible to the public. Often academic work is written in a way that excludes the public and makes it inaccessible. So, on Speculating Canada, I try to combine reviews of Canadian SF with a little bit of literary analysis. I do this to recognise the intelligence and depth that readers of SF have, and to allow them to critically think about the work they are reading and experiencing.

I also try to show the ability of SF to question things, to open different social norms up to speculation. SF has an incredible ability to push boundaries, help people move out of their comfort zone, and challenge pre-conceptions that our society doesn’t often challenge. SF has an incredible ability to link up with higher education in its ability to open everything to discussion and constantly ask the question “why?”.

I do regular author interviews on Speculating Canada, and I think I do something a little different with my interviews. I see a lot of websites that ask authors questions about writing: Why did you get into writing? What is it like to be an author? etc. So, I thought I would do something a little different and ask authors about what kinds of questions they are hoping to raise with their literature and give them a forum for discussing the big issues of today and how they manifest themselves in literature. Authors are often really keenly aware people who have an incredible grasp of social situations and issues around them and SF authors, focussed on the future, on the darker side of things, or on other worlds of possibility, often are looking into things that the majority of our society ignores or leaves unquestioned. I like to allow authors to really express these insights and show the ability of SF to question “the normal” (an invented category, itself).

2. What inspired you to start Speculating Canada? Do you believe Canadian speculative fiction is ignored or unnoticed compared to mainstream CanLit? You say in your introduction to the website that speculative fiction is seen by the mainstream establishment as 'a literature not of here;' that is, it is foreign and not essentially Canadian. You say, though, that speculative fiction gives us the opportunity to engage with questions of our own identity. How do you see it doing so, and what role do you see for Speculating Canada in the process?

Speculating Canada came out of many of the interests I mentioned above, but it also came from an unusual personal circumstance. I have been experiencing health issues for the past year that have, among other things, affected my memory. I began taking more extensive notes on the Canadian SF that I was reading (for me, there is no such thing as JUST reading for fun – reading for fun and reading for research happen together and I always have a bit of a critical analytical perspective when I read). It occurred to me that I could take those notes and share them with people to try to encourage people to read more Canadian SF and to make people aware that they can be doing critical analyses of Canadian SF on their own. So, my recent memory disability was inspiration for the creation of Speculating Canada.

I definitely agree that Canadian SF tends to be ignored or unnoticed in comparison to mainstream CanLit. For some reason, many Canadians think of “realist” fiction when they think of Canadian literature. My own personal awareness of Canadian literature throughout most of my childhood was that it was about rocks, trees, lakes, survival, and depressing family situations. When I read Science Fiction as a child, it was generally from abroad (American, British, or Australian) and I often felt a sense of displacement – I couldn’t find myself in Science Fiction from abroad. So, when I finally discovered Canadian SF while in University, I developed a love of it and discovered a medium that really spoke to me.

I definitely see speculative fiction as a medium that can bring attention to social issues around us, and possibly give voice to people and ideas that are often under-represented. SF is often referred to as the “literature of change”, and it has a lot of potential to become this, but a lot of people who are writing SF are still recycling current stereotypes and treating them as though they are inherently natural rather than socially created. One can see this in the stereotypical treatment of people of colour, people with disabilities, and in the treatment of gender and sexuality. A lot of things still remain unchallenged and I see SF as playing a huge role in opening up some new ideas and challenging some things that have been unchallenged for too long. Canadian SF is already starting to bring attention to social issues and social questions and I hope to see more of those questions being asked as time goes on.

Several fantastic Canadian authors are bringing attention to and challenging social issues like Claude Lalumiere, Michael Rowe, Gemma Files, Karl Schroeder, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia (a small sampling of the numerous authors who are using SF as a medium of change). When interviewing authors for Speculating Canada, I have really seen how keenly aware and interested they are in social issues and in promoting ideas of diversity, social and environmental justice, and challenging ideas that limit us as a society. SF can really become a medium of change and help society to ask itself the tough questions that will lead to deeper awareness and hopefully help us promote a more diverse, inclusive, society.

3. What do you see as common attributes of Canadian speculative fiction? Is there anything specific about the genre that makes it unique? Where do you see the field going in the next few years? How has it evolved thus far?

I have had a lot of difficulty with the question of what defines Canadian SF. I have been struggling with this for a while, and I think the best thing that I can say is that there is an indefinable quality to Canadian SF, something that one can feel rather than pin down with a specific line of text. I do know that one of the things that really has jumped out to me about Canadian SF is its ability to question taken-for-granted notions and its ability to take things into new and unusual places that are the point of genesis for new ideas. Canadian SF seems to have an interest in that place where the surreal meets the real, that point of possibility that suggests to us that anything can be possible and that we are limiting ourselves by not considering new possibilities. I think our history as a nation that has had some challenges in defining itself, a nation that often asks the questions “Who are we?” and “What makes us distinct?” has given us a unique interest in questions of identity and a comfort with ambiguities, an ability to be okay with not having all the answers. We are able to “live in the question”, be okay with not having a tidy situation that wraps everything up into a nice, cohesive box. Canadian SF is more about asking questions than providing answers, and I think this is an incredible place for us to really make serious social changes and provoke serious thought. We are okay with morally grey characters, we tend to like ambiguous endings where there are still some questions left unanswered, and we like characters that question things and aren’t totally set in their ways or one-sided.

I think one of the biggest challenges to Canadian SF involves the challenge of market pressures. A great deal of publishers impose their own ideas about what the market is like on authors. We can already see it in terms of the misconception that Americans won’t read Canadian literature because they are only interested in things happening in the US. This is unrealistic and insulting, particularly to the SF readership who are interested in reading about far-off places and getting away from the comfort of home. Yet, it has influenced a lot of authors to either set their stories in American cities or to try to creatively avoid naming the location for their stories to suggest a general North-Americanness that ignores the idea of “place” entirely. I think the biggest challenge to authors is to really push against market research to write about what inspires them rather than what they are told will sell. The thing that is often ignored when market research is brought in as part of the creative process is that readers will often like things that are well written by an inspired and excited author who loves what they are doing and when authors begin to write for the market, they often lose that passion and their audience can feel that. SF readers are generally really bright and know when an author has lost their passion for the craft and are writing what they are told to write instead of what speaks to them personally.

4. One difference that I see is that Canada has many small presses that publish SFF. (Not that the States doesn't, of course, but it seems to me that SFF in Canada specifically is very much supported by the small press culture, and vice versa.) This is, of course, a very personal connection for the Okal Rel Universe, as the Saga is published by EDGE and Virginia O'Dine [ed. note: formerly] of Bundoran Press is a longtime Friend of the ORU. Do you think that small presses and speculative fiction in Canada have shaped each other, and if so, how?

I think that small presses have a really essential role in creating really good Canadian SF. Small presses often give the opportunity of authors who are marginalised to have a chance to get their work out into the world and read by people. They seem to be more willing to take chances on authors than the big presses and that allows us to see a lot more diversity in the authors. Personally, most of the books that I tend to enjoy most come from smaller presses, so I am a bit biased in favour of small presses (the books reviewed on Speculating Canada probably reveal this love of small presses).

I think that small presses provide a great place for questions. They often allow authors who challenge things, authors who are generally considered a bit to risky for mainstream publishers to get their work out. So, I think small presses have been influential in the ability of Canadian SF to develop as a genre that questions things, that pushes boundaries, and that challenges the status quo.

One of the things that I think we should be doing as a reading audience is showing more support for small presses by visiting their websites more often to see what books are available (since often books from small presses don’t come up in our recommended lists on Chapters, Amazon, and other booksellers), and also writing reviews of the books by small presses that we read. Reviews can be a really great way of bringing attention to the works of authors who generally publish with small presses and the more attention we bring to them, the more books that they are able to publish.

5. Your academic research is on "Canadian Urban Dark Fantasy and the use of the symbol of the monster for exploring the representation of disability issues." Could you tell us a little about that? Do you treat these two topics separately or together? Do you think the Canadian representation of disability is different from that offered by other cultures? Do you think the monster can ever be a positive symbol?

I think the monster is often a positive symbol. The monster comes to represent the things that we repress and suppress, the hidden, secret things, and the fringes and it has an incredible value in showing us what we fear and questioning the nature of those fears. Monsters have traditionally been given all of the undesireable characteristics of society, anything that deviates from “the norm” and so they come to represent things that are attributed to the outsiders of society, those pushed to the fringes, under-represented, and oppressed. By exploring the monsters we create, we can come to see what (and who) our society is ignoring. Most works of Canadian urban ‘dark’ fantasy question notions of the monstrous, complicating black and white notions that we, as a society, create to make ourselves feel like we are right, normal, and good. Authors of Canadian urban ‘dark’ fantasy often question the barrier that separates the normal from the ‘Other’ and show us that these “us versus them” categories don’t work and often ignore social complexities.

In terms of my research on disability, the monstrous protagonist (the monster hero) often faces issues that people with disabilities face: having to deal with a society that rejects them, having to deal with spaces made for “normal” bodies that don’t include them, being treated as social outcasts, facing barriers to employment, and being feared. As a disabled person myself, I have often found myself identifying with the monster in books because historically they have been portrayed with similar issues and experiences to those that I encounter. I recognise that able-bodied society both intentionally and unintentionally portrays people with disabilities in monstrous ways, and so I like the figure of the monster because it has become an empowering symbol for me of the socially oppressed group finally having a voice. The monster becomes the manifestation of the challenge that is offered by marginalised people: that voice in the dark that is largely ignored and villainised that won’t be silent and that haunts a society that tries to impose ideas of “the normal” in ways that exclude people.

So far, by researching the monstrous, I have been able to bring attention to disability issues and the ability for SF to challenge ideas of the “normal body” at various conferences that I have presented at. I have given papers on Canadian author Sparkle Hayter’s Naked Brunch and its ability to question the medical treatment of people with disabilities. She presents the figure of a werewolf who is treated as though lycanthropy (werewolfism) is a disease and disability that can be treated and is forced to undergo damaging “treatment” in order to become “normal” and in the process risks losing the special abilities granted by being a werewolf in addition to risking severe pain, drug addiction (to the treatment drugs), and possible psychiatric issues in order to force her body to seem human. People with disabilities are often treated as medical oddities and are often subjected to “treatments” that are more focussed on normalising their bodies than on allowing them to lead a healthy, happy life. I have also presented on Tanya Huff’s Blood Books which situate detective Vicki Nelson, who is going blind due to retinitis pigmentosa and is excused from the police force, alongside Henry Fitzroy, a vampire who is constrained by his inability to go out in the sun. Both of them try to “pass” as “normal-bodied”, making themselves appear to fit in to social ideas of what is felt to be “normal” behaviours. The issues in these papers are a bit too complex to cover in this interview, so please excuse the brevity. So, the monstrous has an ability to challenge concepts of normalcy, and my hope with my research is to explore the ways that Canadian urban ‘dark’ fantasy authors ascribe characteristics onto their monsters that are often experienced by people with disabilities and others that are socially excluded.

19Apr/13Off

Meet The Relatives – Post 10

Frog accuses Fital

Frog accuses Fital

Meet The Relatives by Lynda Williams, is the touching story of very Demish Dela's adventures in Red Reach. Illustrations are by Richard Bartrop.

Frog accuses highborn Fital of reneging on a deal between them.

<< Start at Beginning >>


Behind Dela, Sert whispered a name in bitter anger, "Fital." But at least she let Dela go and moved aside a little.

"What's the rub between you and Fital, Frog?" Vras asked the Chief Stationer, exercising shocking informality from Dela's point of view.  "Liege Vrel heard you denied her dock."

The grotesque commoner rocked back and forth, nodding and grinning like a fool.  "Liege Vrel does us great honor to take an interest in such small affairs.  Great honor, but alas, for no cause.  Highborn Fital and I had a difference of opinion about what she owed me in exchange for extra rations."

"Extra rations?" Vras barked a short laugh, hands on his hips.  "Do you mean from your hoarded food stores?" He shook his head.  "Frog, Frog."

A murmur of unrest rippled through the poorest present, if Dela was correct to judge their status by their clothes.  Eyes darted here and there: asking questions, confirming alliances, working up courage. But what for?

Vras turned to address all the witnesses, trusting his entourage to watch his back. He threw out his hands an expansive gesture of appeal.  "I am here to judge Frog's revolt against highborn Fital.  He said she owed him goods for food.  Was it your food he bartered?"

Turmoil broke out.  People spoke to neighbors.  Here and there a fight brought out.

Eyes darted here and there: asking questions, confirming alliances, working up courage. But what for?

Sert darted into a mob of inferiors to even up a nearby squabble, leaving Dela entirely alone.

"Ask Fital what she sold!" a shout came from the crowd.  Another shouted, "Okal'a'ni!" The word sent a chill down Dela's spine.  It was a word that implied atrocity. A threat to souls or habitat.

"Enough!" Vras cried, and was ignored.

Sert cleared her sword.

At that signal, Vras and Harn did likewise, followed swiftly by their own six nobleborns and a smattering of locals showing support.

 

The effect was theatrical.

Silence took hold.

Vras advanced on Frog.  "Chief Stationer of Two Stop on Tiger Line," Vras said, naming the station Dela supposed.  "Your own kind cry against you.  You make deals with highborn Fital using their food.  And then you lock her out.  Explain both."

People had begun to shift, expressing support through their positions.

"It was her," Frog declared, stabbing a thin arm at Fital, who stood listening with disdain on her mannish features.  "She threatened me!  We made a deal to share spoils.  But she broke her word." He spat in his foaming anger.  "So I locked her out!  Yes!  And took hostages that will die if she kills me, I swear it!"

Frog accuses Fital

Frog accuses Fital

12Apr/13Off

Meet the Relatives – Post 9

Vras & Dela

Meet The Relatives by Lynda Williams, is the touching story of very Demish Dela's adventures in Red Reach. Illustrations are by Richard Bartrop.

Vras confronts Frog and his followers.

<< Start at Beginning >>


Dela started forward, and was held back by that iron hand, again, on her elbow.

"Distract him," Sert whispered, "and I'll kill you."

Dela was cowed by the other woman's man-like powers. She was no match for Sert in a physical confrontation!

She wished she could reverse their situations. She'd like to see how good Sert was with interior design or planning royal Demish receptions!

Sert, whose own breasts were small and firm, studied the white lace cresting Dela's cleavage with a disapproving scowl. Dela knew the Vrellish had a problem with Vras liking voluptuous women. As if was a sort of mild perversion.

In a flush of stubbornness, she promised Vras, in her heart, that she'd work it out. Even if he did keep kissing other women. Even if he did embarrass her. She'd find a way around it all. If only he would call her mekan'st! She had to have that much commitment! He had to be the most committed Vrellish got!

Vras stopped in front of Frog, three nobleborns and the grim faced Harn, at his back.

"Distract him," Sert whispered, "and I'll kill you."

There was a lot more variability in the build of commoners than Sevolites of any sort, but Frog was misshapen even by those standards. There were scars on his arms and chest and one eye looked as if it suffered from chronic, mild infection.

A clump of men with clubs loomed behind his back, reinforced by unarmed men and women. Mothers with young children watched tensely from further back, forming the blunt end of a human wedge of voiceless support.

To Dela it seemed as if the good guys were badly outnumbered. And the commoners did not look appropriately awed. Just as wary as if facing a live bomb.

She searched the crowd for sympathetic faces. They were mostly nobleborn or commoner, with a sprinkling of highborns whose ageless faces stood out in the sea of those marked by violence, disease or in the case of nobleborns hard flying better left to their regenerative superiors. Dela estimated there were twelve to fifteen completely new, unfamiliar Vrellish highborns clumped in threes and twos at the heart of their inferior followers.

Vras took a particularly long look at one such group, led by a big boned woman.

Vras & Dela by Richard Bartrop

Vras & Dela

10Apr/13Off

Interview with Darrin Grimwood

My name is Darrin Grimwood. I am a technical writing student and I have a degree in history (with an emphasis in English). I love to read and write and I will discuss my appreciation for reading and writing below.

Interviewed by Anthony Stark

Describe your life path that led you into writing professionally.

I’ve always dreamed of being a writer, ever since I can remember. My first experience of writing was when I used to make home-made Super 8 movies with my brother Nick when I was about 12. I discovered an old manual typewriter in the loft and used to bash out these short film scripts. I found one of these scripts the other day actually, they were pretty meticulous given there was no sound or dialogue. I couldn’t afford an editing splicer, so all the shots had to be filmed in sequence. But writing these scripts gave me as much pleasure as actually filming them. I left school with no qualifications and tried to continue writing, but nothing of worth came out of it - I guess I didn’t have enough life experience to have anything to write about. I drifted into care work which I did for fifteen years, ending up doing night-shifts in a care-in-the-community hell hole in Whitechapel. The experience was so horrible and surreal I felt like I was starring in my own one-man play. So I decided to write it up as a play, a black comedy called Black Aspirins. It got picked up and was produced for the London stage in 2004. It got pretty good reviews and gave me the confidence to continue writing.

What is your favorite genre to a) write, b) to read? Could you tell us a bit about your reasons.

The genres I most enjoy writing in is horror and sci-fi. I love the idea that anything is possible in both of these genres. I was thinking about this the other day actually - I love reading all sorts of stuff, classics, contemporary fiction, plays, but when it comes down to writing it’s always horror and sci-fi (and occasionally fantasy and adventure.) It’s probably because I get a kick out of trying to create characters and situations that I can pretty much guarantee have never been dreamed up before. It’s a wonderful feeling sitting at my desk on a rainy Monday morning in London and really allowing my imagination to soar.

What were your chief inspirations in creating Destroy all Robots?

Destroy All Robots is a love letter to all the great 50’s sci-fi movies they used to show on the BBC2 late night double-bills. I got the idea for the book a few years ago when I was living in Southeast Asia. There's a toyshop in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo that I used to walk past every day. It always caught my eye as the shop logo was a giant 1950's toy robot.. One day something clicked in my mind and I realized I wanted to write a story that married my love of all things robotic with this exotic country.

What do you feel is the greatest benefit of science fiction to society?

You’re hitting me with the hard ones now! I guess great sci-fi allows us to dream. Our horizons expand revealing any number of possible futures. From this elevated position we can glimpse the potential for humanity, the greatness we are capable of. With the drudgery of everyday life it’s easy to lose sight of that.

How do you feel the internet changes science fiction as a genre?

The internet brought us together as a species and to great extent made us more susceptible to social engineering. The very name World Wide Web implies entrapment and control. So I think dystopian fiction such as 1984 became easier to envisage. Don’t get me started on Facebook!

What differs about your creative process between scriptwriting and your science fiction work, if anything, and what are the relative draws to each.

Screenwriting is all about structure, it’s like carpentry, making a solid table without any wobbly legs. You start with a title and logline, then expand it to a one page outline detailing what happens in Acts 1, 2 and 3. Then you expand it to a detailed synopsis, maybe twenty pages, all the time you’re checking that the story beats are happening in the right places. It’s only when you’ve nailed the structure that you write the screenplay. With novel writing it’s a more organic process. There are rules but you’re allowed to be more flexible. Although I must confess, screenwriting is so hardwired into my psyche that I write all my novels as screenplays first, then adapt them into novels!

With which character in Destroy All Robots do you most identify, and why?

I guess I most identify with Toby. He’s a well-meaning guy, but so obsessively driven that he veers into dangerous waters. I can identify with that.

What drew you to the Okal Rel Universe and its related websites?

I’m a fan of the Clarion blog, there’s a wealth of interesting information there. I love reading about the nuts-and-bolts of how writers go about creating fiction. I often dip into that when I should be writing!

   
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