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Titans of Chaos

Null A Continuum
May 2008


author John C. Wright

John C. Wright

"Peter Power Armor"
"Forgotten Causes"

01-24-08: interviews author John C. Wright, contributor to the military science fiction anthology "Breach the Hull".

MilSciFi: "Welcome. What was your inspiration for your story/s?"

Wright: "I have two stories in the collection. The first is PETER POWER ARMOR. It was
inspired by the idea that the Mobile Infantry gear in Robert Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPER out to be commercially available for children. I wrote it back when there was a Muslim sniper haunting the area around
Northern DC and Virginia shooting people at random. It made me speculate on the nature of war changing as the tools of war change."

"The second is called FORGOTTEN CAUSES which was inspired by the Marine motto: Semper Fideles — eternally faithful. It seemed to me that fidelity that was eternal, no less period of time, would be needed to conduct a war over interstellar distances at slower-than-light speeds."

MilSciFi: "Do you have any future plans for stories set in the same universe?"

Wright: "I intend (at some point) to write a sequel to FORGOTTEN CAUSES, because there are still six more colony worlds somewhere in the universe, whose ancestors are guilty of terracide."

MilSciFi: "What would your ideal project be if you could plan your own anthology?"

Wright: "I would like the greatest names in fantasy literature to come together and write a series of short stories set in the background of Jack Vance's THE DYING EARTH."

MilSciFi: "What other upcoming works are on the horizon for you?"

Wright: "The greatest names in fantasy literature to come together and write a series of short stories set in the background of Jack Vance's THE DYING EARTH. I have been
asked to contribute a story. It should be coming out some time next year."

MilSciFi: "How would you describe your experience working on the book?"

Wright: "Professional and competent."

MilSciFi: "If you had a chance to write one story just because you wanted to, and didn't have to worry about if it would sell or not, what would it be about?"

Wright: "I write all my stories just because I want to, I am afraid. I have a day job that pays my rent, so I never actually worry about selling them. I wish I did worry about selling them. It would make my work more professional and competent."

MilSciFi: "What is your favorite story you have ever written and why?"

Wright: "My favorite story is NULL-A CONTINUUM. This is the sequel, authorized by his estate, of the late A.E. van Vogt's most famous work WORLD OF NULL-A. It happens to be my favorite book as well, the one that most influenced my young life. While there are many books I admire, there not many I have the particular talent and panache to impersonate— this is one of them. I, and no one else, was allowed finally to decide the fate of the mysterious Patricia Hardie, the ruthless Enro the Red, the sinister shadow-being known as The Follower, and to decide, once and for all, the real identity and cosmic destiny of Gilbert Gosseyn, amnesiac superman with a Null-A trained double brain. This is the only story I will ever write for John W. Campbell Jr.'s ASTOUNDING magazine. It was a work of pure love."

MilSciFi: "What are you working on next?"

Wright: "My next novel is about a man who falls in love with a posthuman, a swan princess, and when she is summoned away to the galactic cluster at M3 to plead with the machine intelligences there for the freedom and dignity of mankind, he must stay behind on Earth, by hook or by crook, to force human history into the path of ever-upward achievement, if the decision at M3 is to be rendered in humanity's favor. The star-faring races are only those whose institutions and contracts can endure across the tens of thousands or millions of years needed to cross the star gulfs at subightspeed: most biological races are mayflies, and cannot pass the test." 

MilSciFi: "Give us the details on your upcoming author appearances."

Wright: "My appearance is quite slovenly, for I do not shave or trim my hair as I ought, and by shirt-tails flop out over my belt buckle, exposing my mushroom-colored belly —- er, wait. You meant something else, didn't you?"

MilSciFi: "What advice would you give the aspiring military science fiction writer?"

Wright: "(a) write (b) submit what you've written (c) never let a rejected manuscript spend a night on your desk; mail it out that day to the next editor (d) submit what you have written according to the editorial guidelines you can find a
reference book called WRITER'S MARKET (e) expect to get on average one hundred rejection slips before you make your first sale; this is an average. If someone sells his first manuscript on his first try, that means someone else did not make his first sale until his two hundredth try (f) use proper spelling, punctuation and grammar, unless you are deliberately deviating from the rules for an artistic effect. Avoid politically correct constructions like "he or she" and "African American" unless you are a partisan of a political party and mean only to sell stories to members of your party, and don't mind it if all the cool people laugh at you. These expressions are faddish, and will date your story badly. (g) Avoid contests that charge a fee, manuscript doctors, or reading fees. Never, never submit to an editor who asks a dime from you. Money flows toward the author, never away from the author."

"Of all these, (a) is the hardest. Simply sit and write the damn story down. Write one short story a week, and at the end of a year, you'll have 50 short stories to sell.  Don't wait to be in the mood. Don't think there is some special trick to getting around writer's block. Simply sit and write the damn story down. The art and science of writing consists, first and foremost, is the act of being courageous in the face of a blank sheet of paper."

"Final piece of advice. If you want to see how to write a good military SF story, read Robert Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS. It is the novel that started the genre. He does everything basically right. If you want to see how never to write a good military SF story, watch the Paul Verhoeven film STARSHIP TROOPERS. This film is the worst bit of military and the worst bit of science fiction yarn spinning I have ever seen. He does everything wrong. Just do the exact opposite of Verhoeven, and you'll be fine." 

MilSciFi: "Who is your single-most influential inspiration in science fiction and what impact has he had on your own work?"

Wright: "A.E. van Vogt had the greatest influence on my work: I steal all my ideas from him. He captures the "sense of wonder" that is to science fiction what the sense of horror is to horror writing."

MilSciFi: "What is the one thing you find the most difficult about writing military
science fiction?"

Wright: "Simply sitting down and writing the damn story (see above)."

MilSciFi: "Do you have any awards you would like to share with us?"

Wright: "Nope."

MilSciFi: "Do you have a website where our readers can go to fine more information about your work?"

Wright: "Yep."

MilSciFi: "Do you write under any other names?"

Wright: "Nope."

MilSciFi: "Is military science fiction the only thing you write, or is there something else out there we should be looking for?"

Wright: "I write everything. THE GOLDEN AGE is far-future space opera; LAST GUARDIAN OF EVERNESS is high fantasy set in the modern age; ORPHANS OF CHAOS is a book in its own genre, where every event is interpreted either as being magical or superscientific depending on the viewpoint character; NULL-A CONTINUUM is classic science fiction."

"I also have written nonfiction essays about topics ranging from religion in Star Wars to Joss Whedon's Cowboys in Space to the inner meaning of the movie King Kong to the love life of Batman. These nonfiction essays appear in STAR WARS ON TRIAL; FINDING SERENITY; KING KONG IS BACK; the UNAUTHORIZED BATMAN."

"I also have a short story due to appear in an anthology set in the background of Jack Vance's THE DYING EARTH, along with greatest names in fantasy literature."

Thanks for asking
John C. Wright


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Copyright ©2008 Mike McPhail, All Rights Reserved.


The views contained in this interview are those of the author, and
do not necessarily represent the views of