We’re happy to be introducing a new series of interviews with some of our authors.
First, a little about “FLIPSPACE: Flight of the Mockingbird”
Training for the ISS Mockingbird, Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra and Major Lamarr Fitch find that they’re being deployed before certification. The ISS Astraeus, an International Space Organization vessel fails to transmit its latest exploration report in the Gliese 667 System twenty-two light-years away. Colonel Ramachandra learns that the Mockingbird she commands was built for more than intra-solar operation. Three people with complicated and enigmatic backgrounds are added to her crew roster just before launch.
Now let’s get things started!
Daphne: Hello. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
John: As a kid I was disappointed by the science fiction I was seeing, and in junior high school I preferred writing a fictional character’s journal rather a journal of myself as assigned by the teacher. Because I’d practically addicted to spaceflight I’ll start daydreaming it if I’m not getting enough in the news or in fiction.
Daphne: Flight of the Mockingbird is science fiction story that takes place in the far-distant future. Do you write in any other genre?
John: Other genres include speculative fiction, fantasy and horror.
Daphne: Who is you favourite sci-fi author?
John: It’s probably a tossup between Michael Crichton and Arthur C. Clarke. They both tackled stories with the backing of solid science, and still engrossed us with the depth of their characters and events in the story.
Daphne: What is the most memorable sci-fi book you’ve ever read?
John: That would be the Giants of Ganymede series by James P. Hogan. It involves finding a dead human astronaut on the moon who has been there for over 50,000 years. The discoveries and debates between main characters were intense and riveting, and engaged me to also speculate as to the outcome of the novel. This is what’s referred to as Active Reading, as those the audience is a participant in the story.
Daphne: What inspired you to write Flight of the Mockingbird?
John: The spaceflight monkey was riding me pretty hard. NASA missions were few, far between and all unmanned. Even shows involving space exploration were a let-down. I was excited for the series, “Star Trek: Enterprise” until a character I call, “Captain Buzzkill from the 26th century” steps in and spills the beans about what the first starship will encounter in the future.
Daphne: If Flight of the Mockingbird was made into a film, who would you choose to be the leading character?
John: That’s tough, because I’m not that familiar with Hindi-American or Bollywood actors from India. Most of the actresses from India I’ve seen kept their hair long, whereas Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra has hers very short.
I do picture Chief Carl Anders as being played by Carl Weathers, and wrote Major Lamarr Fitch as if he were Nathan Fillion.
Daphne: What are you working on at the moment?
John: The finale for the Astraeus Event series of Flipspace. I have a science fiction novel, “Bridging the Lotus” and a fantasy novel, “Brute” that are both waiting to be finished.
Daphne: Do you manage to write every day?
John: Not always. I’ve learned never to force a story if it’s not flowing, because the results always turned out bad.
Daphne: How do balance writing with all of life’s responsibilities?
John: To quote Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, “First order of business, survival.” The day job must be dealt with, because that’s where my steady money is. Sometimes Sniffles, my cat demands attention and may get very insistent.
Daphne: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do to overcome it?
John: Originally I wouldn’t take on more than one story at a time, but lately I’ve realized that a mood shift will push me to do a story in another genre, where creativity opens up. Also, I have a few PC games that I imagine my story through as I play, or just to numb the mind.
Daphne: Do you plot your stories from beginning to end or do you just get an idea and run with it?
John: I envision key scenes, and gauge how much character growth or plot development is needed to bridge them. Many times the ending isn’t known to me until I get there. Other stories I had plotted out, but the pathway leads itself to an unexpected direction.
Think of Shmendrick the Magician in The Last Unicorn, “Magic, magic, do as you will.”
There are even times when I get the story in whole or in part during the dream. If it’s too vague, sometimes the dream will provide a narrator or subtitles.
Daphne: Do you think the Flipspace device you describe in your novel will ever be developed and used to achieve faster than light space travel?
John: The science suggests that tesseracts could exist, but the question is why they don’t occur naturally. Two hurdles exist for interstellar flight. The first is energy, but the second is precision. Vacuum Energy could solve the power problem if we can figure out why observed
Vacuum Energy doesn’t match what established quantum principles suggest should occur. Also, figuring out how to harness it is the other issue. With precision that may prove trickier, because it means calculating trajectories with several magnitudes more accuracy than we’ve ever done before.
Alternative means of FTL travel are serious points of interest for NASA. One of those is the Alcubierre drive. You can find a description on nasa.gov or other the 100 Year Starship Project which is 100yss.org.
Daphne: The combat scenes you describe in Flight of the Mockingbird are very realistic. Are they based on real life experience or are they simply drawn from your imagination?
John: My time in the military was only a couple months, and that was back in 1992. However,
I had spoken to veterans of wars from WWII all the way through to the latest Iraq War. I read about military combat experiences, operations and watched documentaries on the subject. I had decided that in adult fiction I wanted no sugar-coating of combat. That combat is a terrifying thing is the point of why we should avoid conflict until left no other choice.
Daphne: I was intrigued by the gene importation therapy, cellular cybernetics and genetic hacking you describe. Do you think humans will ever utilise such practices?
John: The 20th century is where we discovered DNA, learned its code for proteins and unravelled the human genome. In the 21st I expect us to understand the epistatic genome which are the genes that don’t code for proteins, but influence those which do. Then Our understanding of gene interaction will be good enough that we’ll tackle major medical problems and work them with the same efficiency as any other machine.
Gene therapy exists now in its infancy, and I think we’ll go further at first to deal with genetic disorders. Following that, we’ll tackle those genes which are normal in the human species, yet lead to series problems, such as joints, blood flow, aging and other ailments that are the result of mutations that all primates inherited or that are common to all mammals.
Then we’ll decided that maybe we should have a double-retina. There is one defective step in the pathway for making vitamin C that all primates have, which we may decide should be fixed. If we learn how to prevent harmful mutations, we’ll then be able to insert the amphibian regeneration gene, whereas the one all mammals, birds and reptiles have contain defects.
In the century to come we’ll learn to write genes that have no natural parallel, but create enzymes that can in turn produce nanotechnology. This would give us thumbs at the molecular level.
Daphne: One of your characters is reconstructed and brought back to life 28 years after his death. Present-day doctors are already using stem cells to grow new body parts, but is it theoretically feasible to reconstruct a whole body.? And if so, would the reconstructed man have the memory and personality of the one who died?
John: Captain Malcolm O’Connell is a carry-over character from “Fire Alive!” His reconstitution had to do with the Xerces Protocol, which involved not only preserving neurological stems cells, but a computer backup to the neuro-synaptic pattern that represents his mind at the moment of death. I’m still deciding on what new limits to lifespan might emerge, but in Flipspace there are several legal issues as to what is considered the same person, and whether a patient has a living will for “Do Not Reconstitute.”
Daphne: Is your novel part of a series? Can you tell me a little about the world you’ve created and what makes it so different from today’s world.
John: At present, Flipspace is a twelve part series, which I constructed on the model of television or cable series. The first twelve stories are “The Astraeus Event” which is where the ISS Mockingbird crew are sent on various missions to eventually figure out what happened and how to find the crew of the ISS Astraeus.
The world of Flipspace, which is in 2175, is where I think we’ll end up as a world of nations and alliances based on the social and geo-political trends I see today. While I can’t be sure we’ll have solved the FTL problem, I think the other technologies of Flipspace will arrive by 2175 or sooner. That all depends on what emerges that might stall advancement of civilization or even knocks us back.
Daphne: Did you use a critique partner or group to help with revisions and editing?
John: With Flipspace I had a test audience. One of those is a civilian pilot, who is a big fan of WWII aces, and another is a good friend of mine at the college I work for.
Daphne: If you had a time machine, what time period would you travel to?
John: Forward… definitely forward. I tell people never wish to live in an era before penicillin. I have a good idea of where humanity will be in the future, but the time to get there is likely longer than I’ll live. Malcolm O’Connell as the “oldest non-consecutively living” human being is born in 2002. Most especially, I would love to be on hand to witness our first encounter with extra-terrestrial life, in particular intelligent life.
Daphne: Some of your characters are genetically enhanced. If you had access to such “enhancement” what characteristics would you choose?
John: My wish for enhancements is closer to fantasy, which would be a duel state genome, where traits for human and wolf were present, and I switched between them. Barring that, the claws and sharp teeth just because I feel like I should’ve had them. The fluorocarbon nano-cages that O’Connell and the Ghostwalkers have would be nice. I’d love to sprint for nearly an hour and not be short of breath. Anything that meant joints and nerves never broke down. Having the kind of immune system like a shark, where disease and cancer are never a factor would be great, without having to wait four hundred million years of evolution to get it. Better senses, and greater capacity of the brain. It’d be a long list.
Daphne: What hopes and plans do you have for your writing future?
John: I have to wrap up “Brute” and “Bridging the Lotus.” I’m also considering an urban fantasy series in the same writing template as Flipspace. I feel like the “Squad V” series needs one more novel to show where the overall theme is ending at, and maybe a few prequel stories to go with it. Other stories will be brought to me as the universe sees fit.
Leave a comment below and we’ll give one lucky commenter a free copy of John’s first FLIPSPACE mission, “Flight of the Mockingbird.” Winner may choose Kindle, PDF or ePub file format.
Winner will be chosen via random.org on
February 25, 2014 March 4, 2014.
NOTE: Due to an issue with comments not posting, this giveaway has been EXTENDED.
About John Steiner:
John Steiner earned his Associate of Biology at Salt Lake Community College and works as a college tutor at Salt Lake Community College. He exercises an avid interest in history, science, philosophy, mythology, martial arts as well as military tactics and technology.
About Daphne Olivier:
Daphne Olivier grew up in the foothills of the Amatolas, where the novel is set, and where many of the locals still speak with pride of their German/Irish heritage. The story of the Kennaway Girls has always fascinated her, and a visit to the museum in East London, which displays a collection of historic memorabilia, inspired her to write a novel based on the life of one of these brave women.
After training as a nurse, Daphne married and for many years lived on a farm. Today she lives in a small South African town together with her husband and their two dogs.