-Today we have the pleasure of speaking to Rich Larson, science fiction author, who's been writing for over a decade.
Rich, what first attracted you to the genre?
I think some of my earliest interactions with science fiction came through Animorphs, a dark, brutal, 50-book-plus series about kids fighting aliens, and Bionicle, a toy line that placed advanced robotic life in a human-free low-tech setting. Both burrowed deep into my brain, to the extent that my first novel, Annex, acknowledges Animorphs as a primary influence, and "All That Robot Shit," one of my most reprinted / translated stories, draws heavily on the Bionicle aesthetic.
-Who were your favourite authors at the time?
Animorphs was by K.A. Applegate, who went on to write Remnants, an even darker, more brutal YA sci-fi series. I also loved Canadian author Kenneth Oppel's stuff: Dead Water Zone, The Live Forever Machine, and Silverwing had a big impact on my writing style. Megan Whalen Turner's series, The Queen's Thief, gave me my taste for secondary-world fantasy. I honestly think the books we read as children are the most important ones; they seep into our gray matter right as it's branching off in all directions and become part of our neural scaffold.
-Name three of your favourite movies, and why they are your top picks.
I consulted the spreadsheet where I slot movies into categories ranging from REALLY ENJOYED to FUCK THAT SHIT, and I can report that three of my favorite movies are Enemy (Denis Villeneuve doppelganger weirdness), Titan: AE (Fox Animation sci-fi flick very much from the year 2000), and Pan's Labyrinth (I also love the novel adaptation by Cornelia Funke).
-Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pantser, one hundred percent, which makes novels tricky. Writing a short story that goes nowhere is a waste of a few days; doing the same with a novel can torpedo a whole year.
-What are your two favourite virtues in a character?
This is a great question. I write a lot of flawed and messy characters, whose faults can overshadow their virtues, but I think all of them at their core care about other people, and are curious about other people, and seek connection with other people, even if they've wrapped themselves in a cocoon of scar tissue that makes it exceedingly difficult.
- Empathy via curiosity.
2. Persistence in the hope that change is possible.
-What is your idea of happiness?
I wrote a novelette recently ("Quandary Aminu vs. The Butterfly Man") where the protagonist asks people, almost obsessively, what the happiest moment of their lives was. I think I was trying to answer the question for myself. Some of my happiest memories are moments of solitude; some are moments of connection, but the common thread is feeling outside of myself, unburdened by the Being Human game, either because I was experiencing something beautiful by myself, because I was fully focused on another person, or because I was high as fuck.
-Where do you do your best writing?
Wherever I can establish a routine: same time, same place, same playlist. I'm a big believer in state-based memory,
-Where or when do you feel most inspired?
I think it's pretty spread out. I get inspiration from real life, visual art, movies, series, books, videogames, songs, poems, dreams, altered states. It's generally a steady drip, not an overpowering bolt from the blue.
-What do you appreciate most in your friends?
The same as in fictional characters: empathy and curiosity. Also a willingness to play pool, shoot hoops, or engage in other activities where talking is optional.
-Mountain cabin or seaside villa?
Clifftop hut overlooking the sea.
-Who are your greatest inspirations?
In addition to the authors listed earlier, I'd add MT Anderson (for his hypercapitalist apocalyptic satire feed) and William Nicholson (for his Wind on Fire trilogy).
-If there was one recommendation you could give to authors starting out, what would it be?
Try to love the process. There's a lot of randomness in what ends up published and what doesn't -- slushing for a magazine is a great way to see that from behind the scenes -- so you have to enjoy throwing yourself into the merciless machinery and racking up those rejections. One major market rejected me thirty-seven times before my first acceptance, and nowadays they still reject probably 75% of the stories I send them.
-What are the characteristics you believe make a great science-fiction story?
I favor strong visuals, realistic dialogue, and at least a few cool ideas I wish I'd thought up myself.
-What is the title of your latest book?
Ymir, which was released this past summer by Orbit Books.
-Can you give us a synopsis of it?
Elevator pitch: a despised prodigal returns to his icy homeworld to hunt down an ancient, sapient warmachine and break a mining strike.
-What sparked the underlying theme?
Ymir was originally conceived as a cyberpunk Beowulf retelling, and though it maintained the cyberpunk / biopunk aesthetic, and the cold, mythic, brutal vibe, it quickly diverged from the plan. It centers on fractured family relationships and reconciliation, cyclical self-destruction, and the deconstruction of both typical heroes and typical anitheroes.
-Are you working on anything else at the moment, or have the germ of an idea for another story you’d like to titillate your audience with?
I've been tearing around France promoting the French translation of Ymir, which came out this past winter, but hopefully I'll settle in somewhere soon and get some writing done. I have six unfinished stories to polish off, and ideas for at least twenty more. No more novels in the works for the foreseeable future.
-Once again, thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions. I wish you all the best of luck in your writing endeavours!
Thanks for the intriguing questions, Benoit.
-The links to find YMIR: https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/rich-larson/ymir/9780316416573/
If you enjoyed Ymir, you'll love The Spectrum Series by Benoit Chartier!
Click the link to purchase the epub version:
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