Friday, November 1, 2013
Interview with Mike Resnick.
Michael D. Resnick
To be honest, I always thought that your name sounded like a pen-name. Is that your actual name? Because it’s a pretty cool sounding name. Wait a second, I looked you up on Google and it says that your middle name is “Diamond”. Is that true?
Yeah, my middle name is Diamond. I loathe it and never use it, not even to the government.
Do you have a nickname or what do your friends call you?
Mike. It’s the only name I’ve used for the past 40 years, the one I write under, the only one I answer to.
Favorite city and why?
Paris. It’s the most beautiful and interesting.
Birthday / Age:
March 5, 1942. Age 71 as I write this.
How would you describe yourself physically?
Never even tried. Thinning hair, stocky, six feet tall.
How would someone else describe you physically?
Pretty much the same.
The first thing people notice about you is…
You’d have to ask them; I have no idea.
Hair Color / Eye Color / Race?
Brown (what’s left of it), gray on the sides. Eyes: Gray. Race: Caucasian.
Religion, if any?
Are you superstitious at all?
Any phobias? No, and no.
Do you smoke/drink? If so, what? Any bad habits?
Was a 3-pack a day smoker; quit cold on May 15, 1994, have never had another. Non-drinker; not a moral stance, just don’t like the taste. You’d have to ask my wife and my friends about bad habits; I’m not aware of any until they point them out.
Current occupation / Dream job:
Freelance writer – and it is my dream job.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
My passions are writing, Africa (we’ve been there a number of times), musical theatre, collies (we bred and exhibited 23 champions), and horse-racing (I never bet, but I wrote a weekly column on the sport for 15 years.)
What is your zombie outbreak survival plan?
I plan to continue not believing in them, sorry.
No apologies necessary. Zombies aren’t for everyone.
Weapon of choice:
I won 3 letters on the fencing team in college. It’s the only weapon I own, so I suppose it’s my weapon of choice.
Do you have any special skills?
I write pretty well; ditto for editing.
Did you go to college and, if so, what for?
I went to the Unversity of Chicago in 1959, because at 17 I was too young seriously consider making my living as a writer. When I began turning down freelance assignments so I’d have more time to go to class to learn how to be a freelance writer back in 1961, I thought about it for 10 seconds, quit college, and have never gone or looked back.
If you went to college, did you manage to pay off your student loans?
I didn’t have any student loans. I had three scholarship, and back in 1959-1961 they paid all but about $500 a year.
Any pets? If so, what are they and what are their names?
We bred and exhibited collies, had 23 champions and maybe 30 others who won some championship points, and you don’t really want me to name them all. Our biggest winners where Champions Gully Foyle, The Gray Lensman, Paradox Lost, Blue Intuition, and Nightwings.
Gray Lensman is a science fiction novel by author E. E. Smith. Are you in the habit of naming your dogs after science fiction books? As they say on the internet these days, “I see what you did there.” Oh, wait, I did a bit of homework and in the bio on your blog you clearly state that you do exactly that. Alas, the plot thins.
Gully Foyle is the protagonist of Alfred Bester’s THE STARS MY DESTINATION; “Nightwings” is an award-winner by Robert Silverberg; “Paradox Lost” was a Fredric Brown story. Some of our other champions, all carrying science fictional names, were Silverlock (John Myers Myers’ novel), The Fireclown (Mike Moorcock’s novel), The Unholy Grail (a Fritz Leiber story), Red Shadows (a Robert E. Howard story), etc.
What is your favorite animal?
As mentioned above: collies.
Speaking of pets, any pet peeves?
Nothing anyone can do anything about. Most people live too long; all dogs die too soon.
Favorite / Least favorite Food:
Favorites are Italian and Greek -- veal parmesan and pastitsio. Least favorite: anything with scales on it.
What is your favorite quotation / motto / saying?
“We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Pogo Possum
What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
Meeting and marrying Carol, my wife of 52 years.
You’ve been married longer than most people have been alive. What’s the secret to keeping it from getting stale over the decades and making it work for life?
Marrying the perfect woman helps. Having many interests in common also helps. And having some unshared interests helps too, since everyone needs some time alone. Mostly though, it’s marrying the perfect woman. And of course I must add: perfect for me. I have no idea if she would have been perfect for anyone else, and I am delighted that I never had to find out.
What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?
Going blind in one eye in 2003. Between that and some surgeries to retain the vision in my other eye, it cost me about 15 months of writing time.
I love that you almost seem more worried about the lost writing time than you seem to be worried about the dead eye. You obviously take your writing quite seriously. Have you had the opportunity to participate in any conventions / award ceremonies / author signing events? What has the reader response to your work been?
I have been the Guest of Honor at 42 conventions over the years, including a trio in France, a pair in Canada, and one in Slovakia, as well as the Big One – Worldcon – in 2012. I’ve also toastmastered a dozen or more, including the 1988 Worldcon. I probably do a signing at just about every convention I go do, which is between 4 and 6 a year.
Let me know the next time you’re out Rhode Island way and I’ll stop by.
Ever had your heart broken? Is there a story worth telling behind your answer?
Nope, and nope.
Ever broken someone’s heart? Is there a story worth telling behind your answer?
I don’t think so; I certainly hope not.
What is the best thing you’ve ever done?
Written a bunch of award-winning books and stories that I think will outlive me.
Well if I have anything to say about it they certainly will. I’ve been recommending The Wild Alien Tamer to people since I first read it when I was ten years old so that’s twenty-eight years of promotion. I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally have the rest of the Galactic Midway series to read, since, as I told you in our chat via Facebook, that I spent years trying to find the other books in the series every time I went to the library and it was just my luck that when I finally gave up looking the technology of the world finally caught up where not only could I readily and easily find your books but I was also able to find you through the magic of the internet!
Just to think that if Ruby LaRocca hadn’t said that she was born into a space carnival in her interview and I hadn’t automatically recommended that she read your book I would have never thought to try to look you up.
If you could kill one person, consequence free, who would it be and why?
I don’t think I’d do it, on the grounds that it doesn’t solve anything. Kill an Iranian Ayatollah, 10 seconds later there’s a new one in charge. Kill Barack Obama, 10 seconds later you’ve got Joe Biden as President. It’s a no-win situation.
What do you do?
I write, and occasionally edit.
How did you get started doing what you do?
I never considered anything else. I sold my first article at 15, my first poem at 16, my first story at 17, and my first novel at 20. (I wasn’t that fast at everything. I didn’t sell my first screenplay until I was 54.)
What is your advice to other people that want to get started doing what you do?
Writers write; people who are never going to succeed s writers talk about writing.
I don’t know about all that. I do a fair amount of writing, and I don’t mind taking a break every now and then to talk about the process. But I definitely get what you’re saying. The proof is in the pages. I recently got called out on that in a thread on Facebook. I was promoting my new book project and pretty much calling out other authors for not bringing their “A” game when it came to writing post-apocalyptic zombie epidemic fiction because I haven’t found any of them worth reading. Some guy commented, “I have not read Mr. Lefebyre's (sic) work. I only found one book he wrote in 2007, which received one 4 star review, along with a few things he contributed to and some shorts produced. Although I am unable to speak to his talent as a genre writer what I am comfortable saying is this; if someone feels they have the ability to write they should do just that.” and I accept the implicit challenge. I already have 28 pages in Word which roughly translates to 56 pages in book format and that’s just the sample chapter.
I don’t like promoting and I don’t do it often. I figure it’s my job to write ‘em and my publisher’s job to sell ‘em, which includes advertising and promotion.
If you can line me up with a decent publisher, by all means do. Until that happens, it’s all on me.
What are some of the projects you’ve worked on/finished in the past? Give us a little history if you will.
I’ve sold 71 science fiction novels, 3 mystery novels, 25 collections, close to 300 stories, and 3 screenplays, and have edited 41 anthologies, 2 magazines, and a line of books. Surely you don’t want all the titles.
Oh, no, the stats will suffice. I’ll direct people to your Google page if they want to check out some of the titles in your expansive bibliography.
Or, even better your Amazon profile so people can actually pick up a couple to read.
I keep an up-to-date bibliography on my web page at www.mikeresnick.com
I’m not aware of whether or not I have an Amazon profile. If I do, it’s probably a decade out of date.
What projects are you working on now?
Cat on a Cold Tin Roof, a mystery novel for Seventh Street; The Fortress in Orion, a science fiction novel for Pyr; The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, an anthology for Baen (co-edited with Bob Garcia), and an as-yet-untitled pair of science fiction books for the Stellar Guild line, one in collaboration with Tina Gower, one in collaboration with Lezli Robyn.
What are you watching?
I haven’t watched a TV series since 1982, and somehow I do not feel culturally deprived. I got tired of having my intelligence insulted every single night, so I quit cold, and have probably written an extra book a year because of that decision.
As I have told a lot of the interviewees, I used to have a piece of masking tape stuck over my TV with the question, “Do you want to be entertained or do you want to be famous?” while working on my first book. I’ve finally learned how to balance my work and entertainment ratios in my spare time. It’s how I got my first book written. Every time I’d go to fire up the Xbox or throw in a DVD I’d see that piece of tape and I’d work on editing a chapter of my book instead. These days I can watch a movie or TV show in the background or listen to some music and still get my work done.
I have a substantial collection of old movies on dvd, as well as a couple of hundred Broadway and off-Broadway musicals captured in performance, most of them bootlegs. I watch a theatrical dvd or two every week, a movie maybe every 2 or 3 weeks. Mostly I write. I’m 71, I’m a lot closer to The End than The Beginning, and I still have hundreds of stories to tell.
What are you listening to?
Show music. I always pay it while I’m at the keyboard. 75% of the time it will be by Stephen Sondheim, the team of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, William Finn, or Michel Legrand.
Do you prefer show music for any particular reason? I know a lot of authors prefer instrumental music to listen to when they write, because music with words in it can be distracting when you’re trying to write.
I hate rock and everything that’s followed it, so if I don’t want to listen to endless Crosby, Clooney and Sinatra songs from 75 years ago, there’s show music…and the best of it has brilliant lyrics (Sondheim, Finn), lovely music (Harvey Schmidt, who would be acknowledged as the next Copeland if he hadn’t gone into musicals; Michel Legrand, Jerry Herman, Frank Loesser, and all the rest).
What are you reading?
Last night I finished Broadway Boogie Woogie: Damon Runyon and the Making of New York City Culture, by Dan Shwarz. Tonight I start Bernie Goldberg’s A Slobbering Love Affair: The Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media.
I know that the credo of all authors is “If you want to write, then you must read.”, but do you ever find your reading getting in the way of your writing or vice versa?
No. I read for research, of course, but mostly I read for pleasure. I probably averaged a book a day for 40 years or so. Then after I went blind in one eye and had all those surgeries in the other, I was able to write because I could and still do compose on a large screen in 18-point type and then reduce it when I send it in…but I was reading a book maybe every 10 days, hunched over it with a powerful magnifying glass…and then Barnes & Noble, bless ‘em, came out with the color Nook. I don’t need the colors, but I do need the backlighting, and now I’m back up to 5 or 6 books a week again. I assume Kindle’s Fire does the same thing, but the color Nook was out a year earlier, so I’m a Nookaholic.
Favorite author / book?
My favorite authors are C. L. Moore, Robert Sheckley, and Damon Runyon. I don’t have a single favorite book, but the best book I’ve read is Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ (and I’m an atheist).
Favorite band / song?
My favorite band would be Tommy or Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestras, or perhaps Xavier Cugat’s. I suspect this is not an answer that will score a lot of points with your readers. I have had no use for pop music since the first jerk plugged his guitar into an electric socket.
-laughs- That’s an amazing answer! All I ask is for your honesty. The opinions of my readers doesn’t really matter to me as long as the answers are honest.
Least favorite band / song?
Every band since Bill Haley and the Comets, which I imagine covers about 60 years, give or take.
Desert Island Music / Movies / Books: You know the deal. Five of each.
Music: cast CDs of Follies, 110 in the Shade, Elegies, A Little Night Music, and the demo tape of Grover’s Corners.
Movies: Lawrence of Arabia; They Might Be Giants; Mask of Dimitrios; The Maltese Falcon; Casablanca
Books: Catch-22, by Joe Heller; Dimensions of Sheckley, by Bob Sheckley; The Complete Northwest Smith, by C. L. Moore; The American Racing Manual – 2013 edition; More Opening Nights on Broadway, by Steven Suskin
Despite the differences in our ages, we have a couple favorite films in common. Regardless of the march of the time, classics are classics. Just last year I went to see Casablanca screened off of a pretty pristine 35mm print.
If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would you do?
Write for the musical theatre.
If you wrote a musical, what would it be about?
I have absolutely no idea. I can’t write a note of music, and it’s not worth thinking about until you have a composer on your team.
Who would you want to meet that you haven’t met? You get three choices:
Alive. Dead. Fictional.
Alive: D. Wayne Lukas. Dead: Theodore Roosevelt. Fictional: my own Lucifer Jones.
What’s the best and worst job you’ve ever had?
Best job is the one I’ve had for the past 40+ years – freelance science fiction writer. Worst – editing weekly tabloids and men’s magazines, back in the mid-1960s. (It was still better than any job –outside- the field; it just wasn’t what I wanted to be working on.)
Are there any questions that I didn’t ask that you wished I had asked that you would like to answer now?
Anyone you recommend I interview that you can put me in touch with?
If you want to interview any science fiction writers, tell me who they and I’ll give you contact info.
Excellent. I appreciate it. In turn, if you know of any science fiction writers that would be interested in being interviewed, point them in my direction.
Just tell me who you’d like, and I’ll see what I can do.
Follow-up questions and thanks: [Custom questions.]
As I mentioned during the FB chat we had, I picked up your book The Wild Alien Tamer from a hardware store in a bin of books without their covers. Sadly, these books had probably been reported as destroyed and the original purchaser had been refunded and the authors not compensated for their work. As a young reader, I didn’t know how the industry works and I was just glad to be able to get a few books for a quarter a piece. As I also said, I spent around twenty years trying to find your books in different libraries and recommending the one I read to anyone that would listen. Technology has finally evolved that not only was I able to find your books, but I was able to actually find and have a conversation with you through the magic of the internet. In your opinion, how has the evolution of technology affected authors and the way that readers buy books and authors are compensated for their work? And, if so, has the change been a beneficial one?
The beauty of not having to pay rent for shelf space means than an Amazon or a Barnes & Noble can offer just about any title that’s in print, whereas a store, even a large one, pretty much has to restrict itself to the better sellers.
And of course, as people get better informed about electronic self-publishing, as they study the successes (and there are a lot more than just Amanda Hocking, who’s pretty much the poster child for self-pubbing) and learn from the thousands of failures, more and more established authors, especially those who aren’t pulling down big advances, are going to compare 8 to 10 percent royalties from a traditional publisher to 65 to 100% if they self-publish, and take the plunge.
The next 20 years are going to be very interesting. I’ll be curious to see which major publishing houses survive and which don’t.
When you sit down to write something, do you have the full story in your head, and have to go through the effort of transcribing it into your computer or do you just have a kernel of an idea and begin writing and see where the story takes you? Or does it depend on the piece? Do your stories ever change while you’re writing and surprise you with the direction they take?
I can’t stare at a blank screen and wait for inspiration, any more than I could stare at a blank sheet of paper back in the typewriter days. I always know my beginning, middle and end before I sit down to write a word…and I always know exactly what I’m going to say on each page, if not precisely how I’m going to say it.
That’s great! I work pretty much the same way, although sometimes the stories get away from me, but in an interesting way. Same thing happens to my artwork. I know what I want to do, but my hands sometimes have their own idea about what they want to create. Rarely am I disappointed in the end result. If I could only get a reliable voice-to-text conversion program I could probably write a 500 page book a month, easily. So far the voice-to-text conversion programs only seem to churn out interesting abstract zen poetry, which, although fascinating, defeats the purpose. But there’s always the hassle of having to sit at the keys and type it all out. I seriously think if I ever get well-established enough to do this full-time I’m going to just dictate my work and hire a typist.
Thanks for letting me subject you to being interviewed!
Give me all of your links for things you want to promote. All of them.
Facebook: I’m very active on Facebook, but I’ve no idea what my address is
About the Interviewee:
Mike Resnick is, according to Locus, the newspaper of the science fiction field, the all-time leading award winner, living or dead, for short fiction. He has won 5 Hugos from a record 36 nominations, plus a Nebula and other major awards in the USA, France, Japan, Croatia, Catalonia, Poland and Spain. He is the author of more that 70 science fiction and mystery novels, close to 300 short stories, and 3 screenplays, and has edited 41 anthologies. He is currently the editor of Arc Manor’s Stellar Guild line of books, and of Galaxy’s Edge magazine.
He and his wife Carol bred and exhibited collies from 1968 to 1982, producing 23 champions. They have taken numerous trips to East and Central Africa. Their daughter, Laura, is an award-winning fantasy writer.
Mike has been the Guest of Honor at more than 40 science fiction conventions here and in Europe, and was Guest of Honor at the World Science Fiction Convention in 2012.
About the Interviewer:
Scott Lefebvre has probably read everything you've read and can write about whatever you want him to write about.
Mostly because when he was grounded for his outlandish behavior as a hyperactive school child, the only place he was allowed to go was the public library.
His literary tastes were forged by the works of Helen Hoke, Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and H. P. Lovecraft.
He is the author of Spooky Creepy Long Island and a contributing author to Forrest J. Ackerman’s Anthology of the Living Dead, Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction, The Call of Lovecraft, and Cashiers du Cinemart.
His reviews have been published by a variety of in print and online media including Scars Magazine, Icons of Fright, Fatally Yours and Screams of Terror, and he has appeared in Fangoria, Rue Morgue and HorrorHound Magazine.
He is the Assistant Program Director for The Arkham Film Society and produces Electronic Music under the names Master Control and LOVECRAFTWORK.
He is currently working on a novel-length expansion of a short-story titled, "The End Of The World Is Nigh", a crowd-funded, crowd-sourced, post-apocalyptic, zombie epidemic project.
Check out the blog for the book here: theendoftheworldisnighbook.blogspot.com
Check out the Facebook Fan Page for the project here: www.facebook.com/TheEndOfTheWorldIsNighBook
Check his author profile at: www.amazon.com/Scott-Lefebvre/e/B001TQ2W9G
Follow him at GoodReads here:
Check out his electronic music here: soundcloud.com/master_control
And here: master-control.bandcamp.com
Check out his videos at: www.youtube.com/user/doctornapoleon
Check out his IMDB profile here: www.imdb.com/name/nm3678959
Follow his Twitter here: twitter.com/TheLefebvre or @TheLefebvre
Follow his Tumblr here: thelefebvre.tumblr.com
Check out his Etsy here: www.etsy.com/people/arkhamscreenings
Join the group for The Arkham Film Society here:
Stalk his Facebook at: www.facebook.com/TheLefebvre
E-mail him at: Scott_Lefebvre@hotmail.com
OPTIONAL: Prove you’re not a replicant.
A tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun beating its legs trying to turn itself over but it can't, not without your help, but you're not helping. Why is that?
I’m dead or paralyzed.
Describe in single words, only the good things that come in to your mind about your mother.
I didn’t like my mother.
It's your birthday. Someone gives you a calfskin wallet.
That’s not a question, but for the record, I don’t celebrate birthdays.
You've got a little boy. He shows you his butterfly collection plus the killing jar.
I feign interest.
You're watching television. Suddenly you realise there's a wasp crawling on your arm.
I kill the wasp. I do not watch television, with the exception of news, and the very occasional horse race or Bengals game.
You're reading a magazine. You come across a full-page nude photo of a girl. You show it to your husband. He likes it so much he hangs it on your bedroom wall.
I do not have a husband, I have a wife. She would almost certainly not hang a pin-up on our bedroom wall. Neither would I.
You're watching a stage play. A banquet is in progress. The guests are enjoying an appetizer of raw oysters. The entree consists of boiled dog.
I assume this is an Oriental play, since no one else I’m aware of eats clearly-identifiable dog. However, makes no difference. This is a play; that is clearly not a real boiled dog on stage.