Fantasy, Sci-fi and Literary Heroes in Our Society- Guest Post – Andrew Weston

Today I am pleased to welcome back Andrew Weston, science fiction author, for a guest post on my feature for 2015.  Here are his views on fantasy, sci fi and literary heroes in society, and its influences.

Name: Andrew P. Weston

Location (as I am wondering if it is regional)? Kos – Greek Islands.

How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi is in our society today? I think both genres are extremely pervasive, and you can see that from the focus the entertainment industry devotes them. As an experiment, I researched the internet, using a variety of sites, regarding the top 10 films of 2014 – guess what? Science fiction and fantasy dominated every list I looked at. It’s the same story when you peep ahead into 2015. Why is this? Quite simply, because the entertainment industry isn’t stupid. They cater to the obvious demand, and the public would appear to have an increasingly voracious appetite for entertainment that stretches the imagination.

Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be?Certainly, because the science fact of today, was very often the science fiction of yester-year. You only have to think of the long running series “Star Trek” to see this aspect in an everyday setting. When it first came out, I can remember everyone talking about the handheld communication devices they used to speak with each other around the planet. Doors that swish open when you walk toward them. Hypo sprays, etc. Such things are now common, and people are much more accepting when new and innovative ideas are presented in a factual way. That’s why well written Science Fiction and Fantasy can contribute so well to keeping things fresh.

If you could pick a couple of characters from literature as ‘heroes’ who would it be and why? My first choice would be the character of Thomas Covenant from Stephen R. Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Bane series.

He’s an everyday guy who suffers the indignity of contracting leprosy and losing two of the fingers from his right hand. His wife divorces him and takes their son away. Neighbours shun him, and he becomes a lonely hermit of an individual, cut off from society. To compensate, he becomes overly rigid in his approach to life. (Lepers have to exercise extreme caution so that they don’t pick up new infections that can spread their disease further and cause terrible disfigurement). His illness becomes manageable, and he manages to lead a balanced – if somewhat lonely – life. Imagine his horror, then, when he is miraculously snatched away from reality, and transported to ‘The Land’ – a place of magic and wonder where the very air brings healing and relief. Although healed, his disfigurement identifies him as a prophesised hero, come to save the land, from the cruel taint of the Creators arch-enemy, Lord Foul.

Mind blowing!

And yet, despite all the wonders he sees and experiences, Covenant doesn’t want anything to do with it – and determinedly slogs through every hurdle put in his way, whilst stubbornly clinging to the notion that everything around him is false. He doesn’t want rewards, accolades or special treatment. He just wants to go home. An antitypical hero if ever there was one, because at the end, he ends up saving the Land from destruction. A great character.

My second choice would be an ‘old fashioned’ kind of hero, John Carter, (of Edgar Rice Burrows, “A Princess of Mars fame”, in what became known as the Barsoom Series).

He’s an old style ‘man’s man’. An army veteran snatched from home to fight someone else’s war. It had high action in an old-world setting. Sword fights, damsels in distress, daring feats in the face of certain death, and a ‘never give up’ attitude. What I liked about his character, is that when he’s originally snatched away, he falls in with a crowd of ‘typical aliens’. Green skinned, multi-armed Tharks. They are a warlike race, and because of his superior strength and agility (Due to Barsoom’s lower gravity), Carter soon rises to fame among them. However, Barsoom also has a red-skinned humanoid race, and he soon becomes embroiled in their politics and attempts to bring peace to their troubled world. A great story, and trend-setter of its time.

It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this? I’m realistic about it. Cliché’s will often recur because of the very nature of the genres involved. Look at early science fiction. Popular stories were full of tales about robots, space travel, settling on distant planets. Fantasy novels were often set on ‘alternative’ worlds where elves, dwarves, and humans co-existed in an uneasy alliance forged around the use of magic. Sound familiar? Of course it is. Its bread and butter stuff. It’s what you ‘DO’ with it that matters.

Here’s an example. Think about what’s popular in TV/Films lately? Vampires, witches, aliens, artificial intelligence. But look at the difference – say, between Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Twilight from the Underworld franchise. The new Battlestar Galactica v something like Edge of Tomorrow. Transcendence v the Anomaly. Like I say, you’re taking similar settings, but it’s what you do with it that matters.

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable? ‘Facts’ are the foundation of a good story. If it’s believable, people will be able to relate to what they’re reading. If they relate to it, you capture their imagination. You suck them into your imaginary world and get them involving themselves. That’s exactly what you want. Yes, by all means – stretch the imagination – make it outlandishly fantasmagorical if you want to. But ensure to base it in well researched ‘reality’. Remember, even if your characters live in a world of magic and wonder, unless you’ve done your homework, and established that magical system upon well founded ‘laws and precepts’ – ‘strengths and limitations’, it’s going to sound false and turn people off. You have to consider such things nowadays…or suffer the consequences.

What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most?  Who would you say are the most influential writers/film-makers? Influenced me the most? I grew up with Gerry Anderson. What a mind. Some of his concepts were incredible. Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, UFO, Space 1999. I also loved Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Lost in Space. Land of the Giants. Those influences stuck with me all my life and led to a vivid imagination.

Today, I’d say some of our best film makers are Peter Jackson, JJ Abrams, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas. Of course, the advancing nature of special effects have helped immensely. Nonetheless, films by these guys are guaranteed to draw the crowds and are of high quality. I’d be delighted if any of them decided to take of the IX?
(Perhaps you could give them a call?).

****

Andrew P. Weston is a Royal Marine and Police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats.

An astronomy and law graduate, he is a contracted writer of fiction and poetry. Creator of “The IX” – and the “Guardians” and “Cambion Journals” series, has also has the privilege of being a member of the British Science Fiction Association, and British Fantasy Society.

When not writing, Andrew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA in one of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for Astronaut.com and Amazing Stories.

Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-P-Weston/e/B00F3BL6GS/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Author Website:

http://www.andrewpweston.com/

 

Andrew’s latest book is a fine military science fiction – which I featured recently.  Check it out, you won’t regret it!

IX coverlarge

Meet some of Andrew’s characters:

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/character-interview-number-twenty-five-marcus-brutus/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/character-interview-number-twenty-four-alan-mcdonald-fantasymilitary/

https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/character-interview-number-thirty-daemon-grim/ (not from IX)

And Andrew: https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/new-release-the-ix-by-andrew-p-weston-fantasymilitaryhistorical/

The IX

Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/IX-Andrew-P-Weston-ebook/dp/B00RM54QBA/

Amazon.UK:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/IX-Andrew-P-Weston-ebook/dp/B00RM54QBA/

 

New Release and Interview – The IX by Andrew P. Weston – Fantasy/Military/Historical

The IX…

Janet Morris and Perseid Press invite you to read dangerously…

Warriors from the past, present, and future fight to save us all… The IX by Andrew P, Weston.

Available now for pre-order; Kindle ships 26 January. Luxury trade edition from Perseid Press available mid February. If you’re serious about dark and heroic fiction, you’ll want this book: http://www.amazon.com/IX-Andrew-P-Weston-ebook/dp/B00RM54QBA/

Like The IX on FaceBook at: https://www.facebook.com/TheIXbyAndrewPWeston

Come and meet the author today.

Welcome to Andrew Weston

Where are you from and where do you live now? Originally, I’m from Birmingham in the UK, although I now live on the idyllic Greek island of Kos in the Aegean Sea.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer, although I also love the paranormal. My latest work, The IX, (Pronounced, ninth) is a monster Sci-Fi epic involving the past, present, and future, that blends Roman Legionnaires, U.S. Cavalry, and modern-day Special Forces into a smorgasbord of kick-ass action against killer aliens on the other side of the galaxy. Here’s a short blurb:

Roman legionnaires, far from home, lost in the mists of Caledonia.

A  US cavalry company, engaged on a special mission, vital to the peace treaty proposed by Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln.

A twenty-first century Special Forces unit, desperate to prevent a nuclear catastrophe.

From vastly different backgrounds, these soldiers are united when they are snatched away from Earth at the moment of their passing. Thinking they may have been granted a reprieve, imagine their horror when they discover they have been transported to a failing planet on the far side of the galaxy, where they are given a simple ultimatum. Fight or die. Against all odds, this group of misfits manages to turn the tide against a relentless foe, only to discover the true cost of victory might exact a price they are unwilling to pay.

How far would you be willing to go to stay alive?

The IX. Sometimes, death is only the beginning of the adventure.

***You’ll  get to see it soon, courtesy of Perseid Press***

Where do you find inspiration? From everyday life and experience. Some ideas have come to me whilst at work, others in dreams. The inspiration for my latest book, the IX, came after a discussion with ex military colleagues at a reunion dinner a few years back. The conversation centred around what actually happened to the lost 9th Legion of Rome when they disappeared in the mists of Caladonia, circa 120 AD. Nobody knows for sure, and it seems incredible that over 5,000 men and their equipment could simply vanish in that way. I mean, it’s as if they were scooped off the face of the earth. The topic obviously stayed in the back of my mind, because some weeks later, I was watching an old sci-fi movie on TV –‘Millenium’. In that film, time-travellers from the future journey back to snatch people away from scenes of major disaster at the moment of their deaths. It got me thinking…

What if the 9th were snatched away? And…

The rest? Well, you can read about it J

Do you have a favourite character? If so why? In the IX? Yes, Captain James Houston of the 5th Cavalry Company. He’s a backstabbing swine who’d sell his own mother out to save his own skin. Characters like him allow you to play so much. There’s nothing better than getting your readers to hate someone, and then dangling them along with a carrot as the villain seems to get away with everything…Or do they?

Are your characters based on real people? Because of the complicated structure of the IX, some are, especially the Special Forces unit. I based most of the fictional team members on guys I worked with whilst in the military.

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? I had to do a massive amount of research for the IX. Remember, the inspiration was based on the 9th Legion of Rome. But, how were they structured? Who did what? How did they march, set up camp, and operate? What did they wear, and what weapons did they use. The Caledonian tribes of that time were vicious savages, and experts in jungle, warfare. However, where did they come from? How did they fight? How far would they travel to engage in combat, and what made them capable enough to defeat entire legions?

Many, many facets like this had to be considered, and that was before I’d even started work on U.S. Cavalry companies and the Native American tribes of the eighteenth century. (Thankfully, I had a friend to assist me with that – she’s of Cree descent, and proved to be a goldmine of information.) J

The easiest part related to the Special Forces unit. For that, I drew on firsthand military knowledge and experience.

Once that was done, I then had to make certain the futuristic/scientific tech referred to within the story had a basis in fact I called on my educational background in astronomy and physics for that. Even so, I still had to research the very latest developments, trends, and breakthroughs to ensure the ‘theoretical’ aspects had that ring of truth. Even though this is a science fiction novel, I wanted it to be believable. There’s no doubt in my mind that if you make things too farfetched and super-convenient, it turns readers off.

Despite the work involved, I really enjoy the research aspect, as it adds a depth of authority to your work that improves quality and reading enjoyment.

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book? Usually? Yes, I like to convey a little message…dependent upon the subject matter. I think it makes it more personal, and helps the reader place themselves within the make-believe worlds I create.

With the IX, its:
‘be true to yourself, no matter what circumstance does to you’.

See how you can spot that, as you read through the story.

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? Yes, I do self edit, BUT, that’s before I send it into the publisher. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some ‘strong’ professional editors. Each of them has a different style and personality that rings through during the formal editing stage. So, I tend to stay as ‘neutral’ as I can when I complete my own edits…to make their life easier…and then adopt the House style during the closing stages.

In answer to the second part, YES, I do feel a book suffers without professional editing. I’m an incredibly focused, self-disciplined individual. But boy do I miss things. We all do. Word blindness is the bane of all writers. You need that extra set of eyes to cut and polish the rough diamond you’ve created, and turn it into a lustrous jewel of a masterpiece. (And even then, you have to keep checking…)

Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? Yes I do, because that’s the way the publishing world is geared. Certain big-name ‘Houses’ dominate the industry, and basically, hold all the cards. And as some have no doubt seen, unless you manage to secure a contract with them, you’re not viewed as having ‘arrived’, no matter how skilled you are as a writer. That’s a shame. We’ve all seen the ocean of books filling the shelves out there. Even if you’ve written an absolute masterpiece, without the clout of a massive name behind you, it can sink into the depths and will never see the light of day.

Fortunately, there are a number of smaller, extremely competent publishers coming to the fore. Although they’re independent, they come from professional/recognized backgrounds, and draw quality writers to the fold. Times are changing, but slowly.

What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? Imagination! It allows YOU to involve yourself in a make-believe world as you see fit, not the way some glitzy director from Hollywood wants you to. That being said, if any top quality sci-fi directors get to read this, and fancy a brand new project that’s bound to be a sure-fire hit, PLEASE, feel free to contact me on……… J

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? Don’t give up. Work hard to improve your craft. And don’t be afraid to take risks.

Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? The last book I read was “Poets in Hell”, from the “Heroes in Hell” shared world saga. A great set of stories delving into the many quirks of the Underworld. If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend the entire series.

Can you name your favourite traditionally published author? And your favourite indie/self-published author? Traditional, it’s a tie between – Raymond E. Feist &Julian May. Indie – Laura DeLuca.

Do you have a favourite movie? I think you have to go a long way to beat the sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet. Well ahead of its time.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I hunt shadows in the dark with a specially designed net.

Book links, website/blog and author links:

Blog: http://andrewpweston.blogspot.gr/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WestonAndrew
Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-P-Weston/e/B00F3BL6GS/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0