Sci-fi or fantasy, or a combination thereof, is usually not my first choice in fiction when I select books for pleasure reading. Not that I have anything against it, and I recently enjoyed Ender’s Game for the first time. It’s just with all the stories screaming for my attention, I gravitate toward realistic contemporary.
However, I’ve had the pleasure of being in a critique group with a number of fine writers of spec fiction (sic-fi/fantasy), and three of them have had their short stories published in an anthology titled No Revolution Is Too Big.
I’ve brought these three authors here today because EVEN IF YOU NORMALLY DON’T READ SCIENCE FICTION, their short stories are some of the most creative I’ve read–in any genre. If you’ve ever wanted to test the waters of sci-fi, get your feet wet with their amazing fiction.
Allow me to introduce T. J. Akers, Gretchen E. K. Engel, and Lisa Godrees. They can tell you more!
What is the No Revolution is Too Big anthology about, and does it have a purpose in addition to entertainment?
Tim: I always write to entertain first, that’s why people read fiction. If people aren’t entertained, they won’t read. That’s not to say that my writing doesn’t have other purposes. These other purposes are commonly known as a “slant theme.” A slant theme would fall along the lines of a moral, thought the best slant themes are not a “thou shall not” type of theme and are secondary to the protagonists personal journey.
Gretchen: It’s about Stelfson a shape-shifting time-traveler, so he can really be anyone. He’s sort of a mercenary sent to start revolutions. The publisher is faith-based, but I’d say the Stelfson stories have that world view but the stories are really pretty much just fun.
Lisa: No Revolution is Too Big is a series of stories, each written by a different author, but all centered around a snarky shape-shifting alien named Stelfson. My installment was written purely for the reader’s entertainment but also served as good practice for me. Short stories provide a medium to experiment with voice and point of view (POV) while practicing the art of storying (writing something with a beginning, middle, and end). They are a useful tool for a writer.
Which is your story, and what sets it apart from the others?
Tim: I quote Francis Bacon in my story, A Necessary Evil. No one else does in their stories. My story takes place in cyber space, not literal space. Mine is very much a super hero origin story.
Gretchen: Mine is Neatly Arranged. It’s quite different from the others in that it’s less “science-fictiony.” I describe it as Downton Abbey meets King of Torts with a shape-shifting time traveler. It is about Arianne, a corporate lawyer whose family arranges a marriage with a fellow nobleman. Arianne wants a career and to provide justice for corporations wrongly accused of negligence. There’s a little romance too.
Lisa: My story is the last in the series and it’s titled A Sirius Revolution. This story centers on Stelfson before he became a “rescue broker.” It’s unique in that it tells Stelfson’s back-story–how he became the snarky alien we’ve all grown to love. 😉
How is your version of the Stelfson character portrayed?
Tim: My preference is to have the reader read all the stories and answer that for themselves. All our versions of Stelfson were created in a vacuum. We didn’t confer with one another on what Stelfson is supposed to be. My version makes Stelfson morally ambiguous, but not evil.
Gretchen: He’s a handsome, probably 40-50 year old corporate lawyer who is unmarried and perhaps a bit of a playboy. His girlfriend breaks up with him because his lady-form is prettier than she is. (Interviewer’s note: HA!) Stelfson also morphs into another character highlighting his ability to shape-shift. He’s a bit morally ambiguous (that’s a common thread). In mine, it’s the question “Ethical and doing the right thing aren’t always the same.” He bends ethics to help others.
Lisa: In coming up with a premise for the story, I spoke with Stelfson’s creator, Mike Lynch. He liked my concept and said that he’d always seen Stelfson like Rick from the film Casablanca. When you read my story, you can find a few Casablanca references thrown in for fun. Also, the setting of Sirius, the Dog Star, (coincidentally, the name of the street I grew up on), played into my characterization of Stelfson as a canine-human shape-shifter.
Why do you write speculative/sci-fi/fantasy fiction?
Tim: I write spec fiction because there are no boundaries, no lines. Anything is fair game. As a kid, I never colored between the lines, ever. I didn’t have the patience (ADD). That’s not to say I don’t have morals or my stories aren’t moral, it’s just that life isn’t always so clear cut, the Grace of God has no boundaries and can find anyone in the worst places or best places.
Gretchen: I hated the genre growing up but fell in love with it as an adult. It started with my reading Harry Potter then the Chronicles of Narnia. My goal is to make others who wouldn’t normally read spec fiction give it a try. I focus on character and on details like social media and fashion that make a futuristic foreign planet not seem so different from a big city in the modern U.S. I love spec fiction because it allows for made-up worlds. It’s easier to ask fantastical “what-if” questions, throw in social commentary without getting political, and introduce faith elements more subtly.
Lisa: The simplest answer is that I write it because it’s what I enjoy reading. For a long time, I couldn’t find many sci-fi/fantasy books written from a Christian worldview. Now I realize there are quite a few if you know where to look. I want to write fiction for young adults that will compete with mainstream fiction, currently paranormal romances, dystopian fiction, and zombies. (I will NOT be writing zombie fiction!) 😀 I want to give the next generation something they will enjoy reading that will inspire them as well as entertain them.
And this final thought from Lisa about what makes reading or writing a short story for an anthology different from a novel:
Reading a novel is like watching a movie, while our short story anthology is more like a season of your favorite TV show.
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?