An Adora-Horrible Addition For Your Christmas List

Call of Cthulhu

I love Lovecraft. Let’s just get that out of the way to start with. I could start this with some evocative phrase like: Cthulhu was dead, to begin with. You’d blink and think, I’ve heard that line before …. wait … she’s ripping off A Christmas Carol! and you’d be completely and utterly correct. While Dickens didn’t have a dead, dreaming Elder God in mind when he evoked the dread of Marley was dead, to begin with, it’s Christmas and both stories spiral into that other world, at the edge of the abyss, of man’s subconscious. Eighty-five years separate the two: A Christmas Carol in 1843 and the first appearance of Cthulhu in 1928. I bring up A Christmas Carol for two reasons: It’s December 17th (still), for a few more moments, and the story was originally published on December 17, 1843 — that’s ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY YEARS AGO — and the second reason is because it kind of fits with what The Littlest Lovecraft is doing with this:

cthulhumasHere is the Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/237875309714273/240882192746918/?notif_t=plan_mall_activity . It’s been great fun, so far, and there are days left. I’ll be blunt: there are tentacle dice on the line for this, which is why this review is appearing today instead of later on with a proper interview with the writer and artist, but that will, I hope come at another time.

Six Tentacle Dice….

That will, however, in no way influence my review of the book, because I love the book just that much, and have since before it was released. I’ve purchased multiple copies. I donated one to the library and can tell you (happily) that it is currently checked out and when it manages to rest from BEING checked out, it’s being perused and flipped through and enjoyed.

I came across it by accident. I was looking for prizes to give away during the annual Coffin Hop Blog Tour in October. A children’s book? R’lyeh? Okay, that was bad, I admit it. But, a lavishly, darkly illustrated tome true to Lovecraft’s vision and story crafting that is meant to be read aloud? Unholy hell, I wished I hadn’t had a theme for Halloween Story Time this year! The artwork is fantastic and evocative and reading the book (as I first did) on my HTC phone because I was too impatient to wait for the hard copy to reach me took nothing away from the experience. It translated beautifully among the media. Another thing I appreciated is how the respect with which the authors treat the story shines through all aspects of it. Nothing is over the top or overdone or watered down just because it is a picture book. It’s true, you know, with the tiniest of children who do not yet have a grasp or comprehension of language; pictures are the medium through which they experience the story. There is obviously a lot going on in each and every drawing–the movement, the palette chosen–all of these enhance the text and never detract from it.  Before the scenes aboard Emma and Alert, the artwork has a very Edward Gorey feel. Whether or not that was intentional, it works. It works wonderfully.

Be aware, the whole tale is here–from the cultists to the uncharted island of supernatural terror that is the corpse-city of R’lyeh, to the insanity aboard Alert. There is real horror here. As the artwork does not detract from the original story, neither does this retelling of it. The metered phrasing is A-B-C-B, like many children’s books, but there is nothing forced about finding the words to fit the rhyming scheme or meter. Because of the lilting phrasing, it is a book you can enjoy with your little ones without completely freaking them out. I suppose I should mention that I’m old enough to remember when people were concerned that some of Dr. Seuss’ artwork and storylines would “freak out the children.”

It is still on my phone. I scroll through and read it from time to time. I suppose you could classify it as a “quick fix” for Lovecraft addicts on the go in its eBook form. In its hardcover form, it is something to cradle and curl up with, to fix a nice cup of tea with and just sink inside the beautiful, terrifying, adora-horrible mythos….
Five Bloody HandprintsFive Bloody Handprints because it’s just that awesome!

Buy it NOW from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Littlest-Lovecraft-The-Call-Cthulhu/dp/0989441903/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387358321&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Littlest+Lovecraft

 

Promise Me … Promise Me …. A Review of “The Raven’s Gift” & Interview With Author Don Rearden

Living Remotely

I’d like to start by completely laying my bias out on the table. I am an Alaskan. I have lived remotely. By “remotely,” I mean that I have lived in a dry cabin with only wood heat and propane lights that sometimes weren’t worth lighting. I once ran, stupidly unarmed, from the safety of a structure toward an enraged moose that was attempting to stomp my dog into canine dust. I’ve been left on a lonesome airstrip with food for a week and a promise that I’ll be picked up unless the weather closes in, and then it might be “awhile.” I’ve done the “subsistence thing” with salmon and berries and putting things up for the winter. I learned how wood heat is best because it “warms you thrice” — once while cutting, once while splitting, and once in the woodstove. I’ve lived on what I could produce on my 1.25 acres of wonderful near the Copper River.

At our most remote, we lived a 7-ish hour drive from Anchorage. Well, until we moved to Craig. While we’re currently only 4 hours from Ketchikan here (by car and then ferry, or only about 45 minutes by floatplane), I find Prince of Wales Island more remote because we’re beholding to someone else’s method of conveyance to get us to and from more-tightly-packed civilization. Then again, it was in the 7-hours-from-Anchorage place that we had the genny, the outhouse, the dry cabin, and the bears wandering in close proximity.

In the Copper River Valley, only 200 miles from Anchorage, but still in the Concrete Bush, I kept chickens. That’s important in this, because I was keeping chickens in 2006 when bird flu first raised a threatening aspect on the horizon.

“Those birds need killing,” one Ahtna Elder told me once.

I thought about Foxy Sox and Honey Bun and the other girls. No offense, but the boys had been easy kills. They were delicious and didn’t last long in our freezer. Killing the girls would have been more difficult. They were almost family. For years afterwards, my kids would stare down at the chicken on their plates.

“It’s no one you know,” I would assure them.

It’s important to know this about me before you read my review of Don Rearden’s book The Raven’s Gift, because I’m coming at it as an Alaskan who’s not been where his characters have been, but who’s thought about and did, at times, prepare for such an eventuality.

 

The Raven's Gift US Cover

The Raven’s Gift is not an easy read. It is a heart-wrenching, soul-splitting, hand-wringing story that will keep you turning pages and questioning just what is real and how you might react should the world devolve into the chaos of a bird flu pandemic threatening to reach even beyond the confines of western Alaska. John and Anna Morgan are teachers looking for an adventure. Their search lands them in a remote village on the Kuskokwim River in western Alaska. That much is clear, but the nightmare that becomes their shared experience sharpens so vividly that it is nothing short of startling. It is no spoiler to tell you that Anna dies. The fact that John is nearly alone as the book opens belies this. It is the promise she wrings from him before her death that weighs so heavy on his heart and, in a way, keeps him moving and surviving against impossible odds.

I will admit, about 50 pages in, I put the book down. I felt I could not continue. It is so stark, so bleak, so chilling that I thought there was no way I could finish it. It is that incredibly well-written. There’s an overarching sense of foreboding—a feeling that if these events have not already transpired, they will in the near future. The truth wedged between what could have been or could be is just too much to bear.

I set it down for a week.

I picked it up again, determined to forge on. I was not disappointed. As a reader, I was never at ease. How could I become comfortable within that desolation ravaged by disease and the all-too-human reaction to it? Yet, soon, even off-balance as I was in the setting of the story, I felt myself drawn along with the characters. I wanted to know what was going to happen. Like them, I wanted desperately to hope. Some of the events were inevitable. You just know in your bones what happens, but you still mutter, “No, no, no, don’t go there…” in the hopes the characters will hear you.

Heartbreakingly, they don’t.

Those are the surprises that are not the good kind—the kind that makes your breath catch and your eyes tear up. The story bleeds desperation. As John and his companions continue their journey out of what has become their Hell on Earth, you, as the participant-reader, are wondering what you can do to make it all turn out all right. But, you know there’s nothing you can do. You can only walk with them and hope.

Rearden weaves strands of Yup’ik mythology through the story. The culture and mythos intertwine with Alaska, coalescing into this entity that is at once setting and character. Rearden is highly adept in drawing his readers, outsiders to the culture, into the midst of the mysteries of the place. He shares ancient stories that, while known to many Alaskans, are unknown Outside. You don’t have to live here to appreciate the legends and the meanings. The stories transcend time and place, and Rearden tells even the most terrifying of them with such warmth and fondness that you feel like he’s introducing you to his cherished friends.

Some reviewers objected to the way the story “jumps” back and forth through time. I disagree. The mutable timeline is part of the charm and storytelling process that makes the book so effective. A linear telling would detract from the starkness and pathos. The breaks in the formatting prepare you for a shift in scene, and there are some scenes that are so horrific that the shift is a relief, if only for a moment, only to be made more poignant by an absence when the scene shifts again. I did wish that Anna’s request had remained obscure. John’s promise permeates the story and needs no moment of clarity or revelation.

Then, there’s the ending. Endings are hard, and there’s something about Native Alaskan motifs that, for me, require reading, re-reading, and close-reading. At first reading, I found the ending confusing. I put the book down. I picked it up the next day and read it again. I understood better. I put the book down for several hours and then read the ending again. Yes. That was what I needed. It’s not the the ending is obscure or difficult, it’s just that it weaves in so many layers, much like the ending of Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf,  that I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss a thing.

You’ll want to read this. You’ll want to not miss a thing.

Five Bloody Handprints

Five Bloody Handprints for depth of storytelling, characterization, effective use of sense

of place and myths, and brilliant manipulation of time throughout the book.

Rearden-Don

And now, without further ado, please welcome Associate Professor from the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaskan Author Don Rearden to A Diamond in the Dark!

Amy: It is so nice to have you here! I thoroughly enjoyed The Raven’s Gift and your Alaska Book Week Presentation (I’m hoping it was taped somewhere–we’ll try to have the guys at UAF track that down if it was!). There were so many questions I wanted to ask you then, and I’m thrilled you’re here to meet everyone and let us get to know you! What sparked the idea for this book? Where did it come from?

Don:  I’ve long been haunted by Alaska’s neglect for the rural population and the decline of the indigenous culture with modernization and all the bells and whistles that come with Western culture. I grew up in Southwestern Alaska hearing the stories from survivors of the epidemics in the 1920’s and 1950’s and those also haunted me. I also couldn’t get past the notion that Alaska is ground zero if bird flu went pandemic, and how we didn’t seem to learn from our history and the losses of those other Alaskan sicknesses.

Amy: Did you have the story in mind first or did the characters precede it?

Don:  There is no novel without character. No story without a character in struggle. I had the idea of something bad happening in the bush before I wrote the book, but I didn’t know what or who it happened to until I wrote those first few opening lines. The same lines that are still there — and I was off and discovering the story with my characters.

Amy: How long did it take you to write the book?

Don: The initial draft probably took me about a year, but that came after rejection for my first novel. Those editors that rejected my initial book said they liked the writing and wanted to see more. I felt I had to deliver before they forgot my name.  It took a couple years after that for the novel to first come out with Penguin Canada.

Amy: Wow. Canada? What was the hardest part of writing the book?

Don: Selling it. The writing came easy. The hard part was getting the book published in the US. That took nearly five years and publication in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France, before the US. So the waiting was difficult. Especially when readers here wanted the book and were having to pay so much money to import it from other countries.

Amy: See? Now that’s a fan base — when you actually have them importing the book because it wasn’t available in the US! Do you hear from your readers? What do they say?

Don: As the book continues to sell, the personal responses continue to trickle in. I cherish those emails and letters like little gems. My day is made any time I hear from a reader who was touched by the book. Some of the messages are so deeply moving. I never expected The Raven’s Gift to have such an effect on so many people. It’s been truly humbling. Just today I received an email that said, “YOUR NOVEL SETS A NEW BAR FOR ALASKA LITERATURE—ONE WE CAN HOPE WILL BE MAINTAINED BY OTHER YOUNG WRITERS. VELMA WALLIS TOUCHED THE DARK SIDE OF THE ‘OLD DAYS’ IN TWO WOMEN, BUT YOU BROUGHT ALASKA HISTORY FORWARD IN A NEW, BRUTALLY HUMAN WAY. YOUR OUTRAGE SEARS EVERY PAGE. THANK YOU.” (sorry it was all in caps!) I never in my wildest dreams expected to receive such amazing messages about my work.

Amy: And how do you hope your story impacts readers?

Don: That’s a fun question. Secretly I want them to lobby to get it banned from schools and libraries. That would me I finally made it as a writer. Just kidding. I guess I want readers to think about their own lives and how vulnerable we are in this way we’ve chosen to live. How we lost or left behind the ways that worked for humanity, and that there are still a few rare souls that remember how to live. Those are the people we should be learning from, and I’m talking about indigenous peoples here. I also would hope readers would take stock of their relationships and really love like there is no tomorrow. Mostly I want people to think about our children and how the real hope for our world lies within them and we need to learn how to love them and take care of them — essentially we need to protect them and cherish them at all cost.

Amy: Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood?

Don: I was born in Montana, but we moved up to Alaska when I was a kid. My mom taught in several Yup’ik villages. We’d live in these creepy old school houses that everyone in the village believed were haunted. Those were pretty magical times for me as a young boy. I spent my waking hours hunting or exploring outside. Initially some of the transition to the new culture was rough, but it didn’t take long for me to really love living on the tundra. It was an amazing childhood really. I had two loving parents, who made the wilderness a part of our existence. We hunted, fished, and camped together. We shared some pretty great adventures.

Amy: So, your childhood had quite a bit of influence on your writing?

Don: Definitely. Growing up with those tales Yup’ik elders told of surviving the epidemics? Having an abandoned village across the river from your house? That stuff never left me. My dad and his friends were always telling hunting and wilderness stories from various adventures, too. So all of that amounted to some of my own writing. Living those years in a culture of oral tradition also impacted me.

Amy: Was there a moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer? Do you remember it?

Don: When I read Stephen King’s The Shining. That was the summer of second grade. After that I was pretty much ruined and wanted to be like him and scare people. That was really all I wanted to do for about as long as I can remember. Of course that and fly jets after Top Gun came out. My mom was a great teacher and my dad a storyteller, and they never discouraged me.

Amy: I could really pick up on the King influences in the book. What other writers do you like?

Don: In terms of the way that I think about my work, I’d have to say Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael. His work and his mentoring of me has had a profound effect on the nature and scope of my novel writing. I grew up devouring every Stephen King book I could get my hands on, and now like Cormac McCarthy, Joseph Boyden, Seth Kantner, and Sherman Alexie. I’m also fortunate to have had some other great writers as mentors and friends along the way, and those writers have also influenced me just in terms of guidance and inspiration.

Amy: How do you write? Do you have a process?

Don: Can you say, manic? I don’t have one. I’m totally manic. I might write for ten hours one day, then not for two weeks, then for a half month long stretch write for a couple hours every day. Those month long stretches are when I usually finish a project. In short, I have no routine. I need one. Perhaps I’ll start tomorrow.

Amy: (I love that answer). What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Don: I love to skate ski and ride bikes. I like to be out in the wilderness, which isn’t as easy now that I live in Anchorage, but I can still get away here. I like spending time with my family and listening to my two year old son laugh. I love to travel throughout Alaska, with an occasional visit to somewhere tropical like Hawaii.

Amy: Ah! Fun! Two is such an epic age! Enjoy it because it all moves faster than the blink of an eye! What can we see from you in the future?

Don: I have a new novel finished. Moving Salmon Bay, it’s about a village preparing to relocate due to climate change. I’ve got an action thriller I’m just wrapping up, and a literary novel about Arctic whaling in the works. I hope you’ll also be hearing news about a Raven’s Gift movie at some point.

Now, you see–I lobbied for that on the 49 Writers/Alaska Book Week site back in October, for The Raven’s Gift movie. I think it would be fantastic!

Thank you for visiting! Thanks to Don Rearden first for writing such an evocative book and second for taking the time to talk with me here! Get to know Don in the following places:

On his Amazon Author Page where you can also buy The Raven’s Gift

Follow him on Twitter: @donrearden

Make sure to LIKE The Raven’s Gift on Facebook!

Don is also giving away a Kindle copy of The Raven’s Gift to a lucky commenter on this post! Leave a comment for a chance to win! 

(All Diamond In The Dark random drawings are conducted using the Random Number Generator at Trinity College in Dublin. Comments open until Noon on Sunday, November 17, 2013. Winner(s) notified by email)

 

Victims of Our Own Devices….

Our Own Devices

I received this book in eBook form via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program. I thought the premise was interesting–the whole idea of short stories based on advances in technology after World War II–but found myself unprepared for this book to be a bit of a horror story.

I wondered if the author envisioned his work casting such a chilling pall whilst conceptualizing it. All the horror elements are here: some bleak, some atmospheric, some subtle, some overt. Every story holds a surprise. Every story contains some element in which technology wraps a cold, calculated hand around the throat of a protagonist.

I admit, I read other reviews of Messier’s book. One such review lamented that the characters were “flat” or that the characters lacked any reactive emotions. I believe that reviewer missed the point. Part of what I liked about Messier’s book is that the humans take on some of the characteristics of the machines that come to define them. Of course, this is not true in every case: most notably the story In The Ocean of Storms, which is part of the Leaving the Cradle series. This is the most human and chilling of the short stories in the entire collection. While some stories left me slightly bewildered (Képi Blanc), it was In The Ocean of Storms that the book as a whole came to haunt me. No spoilers here. I was going along fine, hit Képi Blanc, began to falter a bit, picked up again in the Atomic series of stories (and that is an area of special interest for me as a reader and researcher), and then hit that brick edifice that is In The Ocean of Storms and had to stop. I didn’t stop long, but it was more of a stopping and reminding myself of where and when I was, and that what I had just read was fiction, and that that did not actually happen. Did it? There’s something intriguing about a story that makes you question your sense and remembrance of history.  While the other stories twisted facts (not in a bad way) and threaded their ways through our collective mythos to their end, the events of that story in particular would have occurred within my living memory. Did they? If all the records surrounding the events depicted should be somehow destroyed and this book somehow survive, I have no doubt that, once they decipher it, future readers will take that bit of fiction as fact. That is compelling writing. That is, I believe, what other reviewers missed.

In the end, it’s not a book about people. But, it is. It’s a book about technology and the weight of that technology on the lives it touches. People who float through history as “flies on the wall” hear more and glean more from their exposure to experiments and machines than they realize. Some brushes with these devices trigger the darkest memories, long-buried secrets that were never meant to see the light of day…until something happens and that knowledge becomes important–even life-saving in some instances. It’s a series of stories that will surprise you. Some stories will challenge you, some will make you think the characters are “flat,” but don’t be fooled. Think about them. You won’t be able to help yourself, and you find that you will think about them. What I like most is that within their contexts, you come to see just what these characters and these devices and these stories truly are.

If you’re familiar with the rating system here, well, here it is: 4 Bloody-Love Handprints for compelling writing, atmospheric settings, apocalyptically good research, and believable characterization.

Four Bloody Handprints

Do you think this author was aware he was writing horror? I asked my husband once I’d finished and whisked the book back into the carousel on my Kindle. You should ask him, my husband replied. I stared at the light bulb on the cover. I should, I muttered, I have lots of things I should ask him….

….And so I did…

gilles_messier_portrait

I am pleased to welcome to A Diamond In The Dark, Mr. Gilles Messier, author of Our Own Devices.  Now, you can be as stunned and delighted as I was upon opening his replies to my questions for this interview.

Amy: Welcome to A Diamond In The Dark! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Gilles: I am a 23-year old Aerospace Engineering graduate from Winnipeg, Manitoba, currently living in Ottawa. People have called me a polymath or renaissance man, as I dabble in a wide variety of interests and hobbies. In addition to being an engineer and writer, I am also an inventor, painter, graphic designer, copyeditor, filmmaker, and outdoor sportsman. The world fascinates me, and I love the act of creation (whether it be machines, artwork, or stories), and strive to try my hand at any task that comes along. I also love accumulating useless trivia and making puns – much to the annoyance of my peers!

Though I have been writing since I was young, I have only written at a professional level for the past three years. Most of my work is in the genre of historical fiction; whenever I come across an interesting (and obscure) historical anecdote, I dramatize and fictionalize it into a short story, fleshing out the characters and expanding the story or theme. Being something of a stickler for detail, I make sure all my stories are well-researched for technical and historical accuracy.

Amy: Where did the inspiration for this collection of stories come from? How did you select your subjects?

Gilles: The three-theme format came about quite by accident. Back in 2011, I submitted what I consider my first ‘good’ short story  – The Girl at Panel 857 – for publication in my university’s literary magazine. The editor loved the story, but said it was too long for the magazine and would work better as a standalone chapbook. By that time I had written two more stories, coincidentally also set during WWII, so I combined the three into a single themed volume (I was also listening to a lot of concept albums at the time, and wanted to applying the concept to literature stories). As I kept writing, a pattern emerged: with few exceptions, my stories tended to center around three themes: WWII, Nuclear Power, and Space Exploration. There was initially no master plan; these were simply the subjects that inspired me to write. When it came time to publish my first collection of stories, my initial idea was to release a series of three-story volumes, each based on a single theme. My editor didn’t think this was cost-effective, though, so we chose instead to combine all three themes into a 9-story “1940s-1960s” collection. This meant I had to write a few stories specifically to fill gaps in the three themed sections – which proved to be an enjoyable writing exercise.

Amy: Who are your favorite writers? Who would you say inspired and continues to inspire you the most?

Gilles: For a fiction writer, I actually read surprisingly little fiction. I find reading non-fiction to be more useful all-around, but make up for my ‘literature debt’ (as it were) by converting the facts I read about into stories. I still read the occasional novel in order to ‘refresh’ my literary style, as my prose tends to get rather dry after reading too many technical documents.

I have read all sorts of literature, but the authors who had the greatest impact on my writing career were Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) and Jules Verne. The former was actually my inspiration for becoming a writer, and my first attempt at literature (a novel called Vostok, written at age 13) was heavily influenced by his style. Being very technically-oriented, I loved his relatively realistic and practical approach to science fiction.

Amy: I can completely relate to that–all about the technical detail in prose. Don’t get me started on fishing … What is your reading history? Did you read a lot growing up? What types of things do you like to read?

Gilles: I read a lot as a child. In fact, one of my favorite summer pastimes was to visit the library, check out as many books as I could carry, then spend the rest of the day in a nearby cafe, reading. I would (and still do) read about anything and everything, often just pulling any book that looked interesting off the shelf (in the regular adult section, no less). Needless to say, I amassed a very broad collection of knowledge.

I still read a lot, and on a wide variety of subjects. I tend to prefer in-depth accounts of single, relatively obscure historical or scientific events and concepts, such as military operations or mathematical theorems.

Amy: There is an element of pervasive horror in the book, and the storyline, at times, becomes quite chilling. Do you work from an outline? Did every story take the turns you expected? Were there any unexpected turns that surprised you?

Gilles: I suppose the horror aspect comes directly from my creative process. I love studying history, and once in a while I will come across an anecdote that really sticks with me, inspiring me to write a story. It just so happens that the emotion that most impacts and inspires me is horror (followed by comedy, which features far more in my later stories). I have always loved the darker, shadowy annals of history, and this translates directly to my work. This fascination with paranoia sometimes works against me, though, for despite the cautionary tone of many of stories, I am actually a firm believer in technological progress. Horror just makes for a more effective story!

My actual writing process is very “concentrated”; I will let an idea sit in my head for weeks or even months, so the main details of every story are always fully worked out by the time I actually set words to paper. The occasional new detail will emerge in the course of writing, but these are almost never major plot points. As I often have only a limited time in which to write, this process prevents me from wasting time on unworkable concepts.

Amy: Which of these stories was your favorite to research? To write? Why?

Gilles: Kepi Blanc and The Downwinders, for very different reasons. Kepi Blanc is the closest I have come to a fully “organic” writing experience, with what began as retelling of a single WWII battle snowballing into a sprawling epic about the French Foreign Legion, colonialism, and the changing face of modern warfare. While researching this story, I would constantly stumble upon little snippets – technical details, obscure battles, even marching songs – that I knew I just had to weave into the narrative. Needless to say, the final product turned out very differently from my original concept!

The Downwinders also comes to mind not for the initial writing process, but what happened afterwards. I based the story on a 5-minute documentary segment about an incident that occurred during the British nuclear tests in Australia in 1950s. This incident was so obscure, however, that dramatizing it required me to use a great deal of artistic license. Two months after the story was published, I received a strange email from Australia, which turned out to be from the daughter of the very man – Luke van Houdt – featured in the story. She soon put the two of us in touch, and I was able to interview Mr. van Houdt and learn the whole story directly from the source. I then proceeded to write an entirely new version of the story (which will appear in a future edition of Our Own Devices) based on these facts. It’s not every day that a character from your book calls you up!

Amy: Ah… now I have guilt! I didn’t go into The Downwinders in the review, but that ran a close second as my favorite stories went. It was very reminiscent of the sheep ranchers in Utah during America’s atomic testing in the 1950s and early 1960s. I remember being in Moab, Utah and talking to a woman in her late-50s whose uncles were out on the ranges when the above-ground tests went off (and the Army didn’t realize anyone was out there). I’m sure you’ve read it, but there’s a book that was published about a million years ago (or at least back in the 1980s) called The Day We Bombed Utah by John G. Fuller. Because it’s spend-y now, I would suggest Interlibrary Loan…  But, I digress… Do you have any current works in progress? What else can we expect to see from you, or where else can we find your work?

Gilles: I am very near completing a second 11-story collection, tentatively titled Twentieth Century Blues. It will be less structured than Our Own Devices, featuring a medley of stories on subjects as diverse as computers, mental health, aviation, and modern relationships. I have been experimenting quite a bit with character voice and absurdist humor, so the new collection should be far less “heavy” than Our Own Devices! I expect to have the book out by early next year, though some of the individual stories are already available as e-books.

I have also set myself an ambitious lifelong writing task: to write a novel set in every decade of the twentieth century (10 in total). I have already begun work on two: 13 Shining Stars (set during the Space Race) and The Downwinders (an expansion of the short story). I am also working on an unrelated sci-fi novel, The Reaper Weary.

Thank you for being here, Gilles!

See, now? He’s industrious and busy. I expect we’ll be hearing a lot about Mr. Messier in the months and years to come. I would highly recommend Our Own Devices to anyone who has an interest not just in how technology has come to define us, but also has an interest in the human face of the post-industrial world. Right now, it’s only 99¢ for your Kindle, so please click the book cover above and check it out!

And, to paraphrase, while horror may make for a more effective story, compelling writing will keep you reading until late into the night … or at least until the charge on your Kindle gives out (which is why there will always be physical books!)…