09-03-07: MilSciFi.com interviews author Mike McPhail, editor, illustrator and contributor to the upcoming military science fiction
anthology "Breach the Hull".
MilSciFi: "Welcome. How did you come to be
the book's editor, cover artist, and interior illustrator?"
McPhail: "I was asked. Both the title and
cover image concept was theirs (no doubt based on some of the CGI artwork from
my website), but it was up to me to work out something special for the
interior. The one thing that makes a military unit unique is its Standard (such
as a flag or unit patch), so I had the bright idea to work with each author to
design an icon (based on some element from within his story) as the opening
illustration. As for the cover; my software is from 1994 (Corel Dream 3D and
Raydream), which works great with primitives, but lacks in the organic and mesh
department, so building the space helmet--then the ships battling to reflect in
its visor--was an adventure in and of itself (can't afford Lightwave
MilSciFi: "What was your inspiration for your
McPhail: "It was less of an inspiration, and
more of an assignment. I was invited to submit to Hear Them Roar - an anthology
about strong women - but life got in the way, and I missed the submission date.
The title_Wayward Child_ was inspired by the Kansas song _Wayward Son_. The lyrics (at least
to me) told of a soldier returning after having experienced war. I had plans
for a series set within the realm of the _Time of the Alliance (Alliance Archives circa 2045)_, which
focused on a character that embodied the virtues and frailties of the
Ty'Pherrien; this set against the backdrop of an off-world colonial war.
MilSciFi: "Do you have any future plans for
stories set in the same universe?"
McPhail: "Yep. Right off the bat, _Chimera
II_, (from _Chimera_, first seen in _No Longer Dreams_) for the upcoming
anthology _Cry Havoc_. Plus this storyline appears within the _Martial
Role-Playing Game (MRPG)_ series, hopefully coming soon from Monolith Games."
MilSciFi: "What would your ideal project be
if you could plan your own anthology?"
McPhail: "A shared universe anthology of
five stories, joined together by one running story. Niven did that a few years
ago and I really liked the idea."
MilSciFi: "What other upcoming works are on
the horizon for you?"
McPhail: "It's either feast or famine, and
for now we eat. I had proposed to "Bob", possible sequels to_Breach
the Hull_, but hadn't planned to broker it to the others until after BTH was
launched; but "Bob" let it be known, and now we already have several
authors onboard for_So It Begins, BTHII_ (I'm not really complaining, I should
only be so lucky). So now I need to have a new cover mockup, and book proposal
by Philcon. On the net, we have become involved with _MilSciFi.com_, a new site
on the internet intended as a catch-all for media, books, games, TV and movies
based on military science fiction; and there are real-world inspirations, such
as the men and women of the armed forces, and the military science and
technology behind the hardware."
MilSciFi: "How would you describe your
experience working on the book?"
McPhail: "A year of frustration and
disappointment--not with the authors mind you, working with them was the real
reason I agreed to do this--no the problem was our luck with the small-press
publishers. The one that asked me to do the project just disappeared when the
time came. The jinx seemed to continue on through two other publishers, until
our luck turned around when we hit our current publisher, Marietta Publishing,
who has been behind us completely and plans on publishing a hardcover edition
of the book right off the bat (something that normally doesn't happen in
small-press due to the expense)."
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?"
McPhail: "I had proposed to my counterpart a
military anthology that would progress along a timeline from fiction - or even
fact - to science fiction. I've been told that it crossed too many genres, and
would have problems finding its fan base."
MilSciFi: "What is your favorite story you
have ever written and why?"
McPhail: "I haven't written it yet."
MilSciFi: "Give us the details on your
upcoming author appearances."
McPhail: "In November we have a pre-launch
at Between Books in Delaware, followed by the launch at Philcon that same month."
MilSciFi: "What advice would you give the
aspiring military science fiction writer?"
McPhail: "Be respectful of the subject. Now
that doesn't mean not to have any humor in the story--just the opposite would
be true--but do your homework and get the facts straight. Even in a completely
fictional Army, the basics of maintaining your soldiers (training, food,
equipment, etc) and how they operate (chain of command, division of duties, and
what skills they need) are still the difference between a great MilSciFi, and
MilSciFi: "Who is your single-most influence
in science fiction and what impact have they had on our own work?"
McPhail: "Easy, Arthur C. Clarke._Rendezvous
with Rama_ was the very first science fiction I ever read; it firmly set the
pattern--in my mind--of what a good Sci Fi should be. Now-a-days, Timothy Zahn
does that for me."
MilSciFi: "What is the one thing you find the
most difficult about writing military science fiction?"
McPhail: "I've never been in combat (Queens, New York during the drug wars, really doesn't
count), so that whole interplay of fighting to accomplish the mission, while
staying alive, is just not part of my programming. For that, I look to the
veterans for their first-hand accounts; that look in their eyes, and the
emotion when they recall the events, is the very soul of writing any military
story. The military terminology and technology is almost second nature to me
(I'm a NASA-want-a-be), and what I don't know I've learned to research."
MilSciFi: "Do you write under any other
McPhail: "Michael Donovich, but his stuff is
still on the drawing boards."