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Thanks for joining us today. Why do you write in your genre? What draws you to it?
I write science fiction, often with a dystopian, cyberpunk or gory feel. Why? For two reasons. For one, science fiction adds something that no other genre can: a radically new setting. Think of science fiction like adding Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) to food. Whatever the food, MSG makes it taste just that much better. Likewise, if you enjoy thrillers, or horrors, or romance, place the very same plot on an alien planet, or in a space port, and you’ve got a fresh take, with fascinating world mechanics that can enhance the story. And like MSG, sci-fi can give you a headache – but you’ll always come back for more.
The second reason I love writing sci-fi is that it allows me to write philosophical fiction. I’m a philosopher by training (I have a PhD in philosophy), and one of the activities philosophers love most is constructing thought experiments. “What if the world was the same as our current world, except for x, y and z?” All of my stories in my anthology, Obsidian Worlds, are thought experiments. For example, what if society decided to farm and eat women (Dinner with Flexi); or, what if the cryogenic freezing became commonplace (The Cryo Killer); or, what would life be like from the perspective of a bottle of silicone lube (Bleed Me Silicone)?
What world-building is required?
Although science fiction involves building worlds radically different from our own in some crucial respect, the world must accurately resemble our own in every other respect – otherwise it won’t be plausible. So it’s important to have an accurate grasp of current science and technological trends, to forecast where that science or technology might reach one day. If it can’t be explained, at least in theory, then it’s not sci-fi – it’s fantasy. (And fantasy generally leaves a bad aftertaste for me, with a few notable exceptions, like John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things).
My first novel, The Solace Pill, is about 3d printers capable of scanning and printing whole, functioning human beings. This isn’t possible right now, but all the ingredients are here today – the ability to print with organic material, the ability to scan people with fMRIs, etc. To write the book I did a lot of research into current 3d printing technology. Challenging and interesting.
Name one thing you learned from your hero/heroine.
Each of the eleven stories in Obsidian Worlds has a distinct hero/heroine, but they all have one thing in common – they strive obstinately to succeed against the odds. I try to do the same in my own life, but sometimes I take cues from my protagonists, and try a little harder.
I often think of Q46F, an android in one of my stories. He lives out his days, trapped alone in a bunker, amidst a world embroiled in a zombie-apocalypse. Despite having no contact with a sentient being outside his bunker for years, he’s forever hopeful for a signal. For a message. And then, he receives one…
Do you have any odd or interesting writing quirks, habits or superstitions?
I don’t have much of a writing routine, which itself is quirky. From my discussions with fellow writers, I know that most of us have elaborate rituals we need to perform before we can sit down and write. Coffee brewed just the right way. A particular music album. No sex that morning. I’ve heard lots of them.
But for me, I write whenever my mind stills, and focuses on my characters. The characters call to me, and there’s no telling quite when that will happen. It’s often after midnight, or during an intimate conversation with my partner (that can be a problem). But when they call, characters can’t be denied. They must, must be written.
Are you a plotter or pantser?
A combination of both. I plot out the beginning and the end of the story using Scrivener (fantastic software for writers). And then, once I’ve got the beginning written out, I let the story take me. Characters often grow in ways I can’t anticipate when I’m planning the story upfront, and I don’t mind that. I let them drive me where they like, and it’s usually a better location than I originally planned.
But the ending … the ending. You gotta have that planned upfront, or bad thing’ll happen. Whole books are ruined by a bad ending.
Look to your right – what’s sitting there?
There’s a note from my partner that he wrote me this morning while I was sleeping, wishing me luck for the dentist today. I have a needle phobia, and today was my first root treatment – a most ghastly experience. I write gory science fiction, and adore gore movies and books. But for some reason, I tell you, when the gore happens to me, I’m as sensitive as a newborn kitten. At one point during the procedure, the dentist, on a wet, slimy gloved finger, showed me my severed nerve. “Look,” he said. “Look!” I did. And promptly passed out.
Maybe that’s why I love writing gore. So that it’s happening to someone other than me.
Anything new coming up from you? What?
I’m currently a little past half-way through a gory sci-fi biopunk thriller. It’s going to be a full-length novel (about 80k words, all being well). And it’s the first novel I’ve written from a single point of view (although there is a secondary POV that enters near the middle). I was never quite confident enough to write a full novel from one point of view, but now that I’m into it, I’m hooked. I’m starting to really identify with my protagonist, even though this poor guy isn’t someone you’d want to be – all manner of havoc befalls him. I’m loving it.
Do you have a question for our readers?
What’s your favori
Jason Werbeloff’s short stories have been downloaded over 20,000 times. Obsidian Worlds brings together his 11 best-selling sci-fi shorts into a mind-bending philosophical anthology.
In Your Averaged Joe, a man’s headache is large enough to hold the multiverse. Q46F is an obsessive-compulsive android who finds love in a zombie-embroiled apocalypse. The end of the world isn’t all that bad – The Experience Machine will fulfil your every desire (and some you hadn’t considered). A sex bot dares to dream of freedom in Dinner with Flexi. But mind what you eat, because The Photons in the Cheese Are Lost. Don’t fret though: The Cryo Killer guarantees that your death will be painless, or your money back when you’re thawed. Unless, that is, you’re The Man with Two Legs.
Plug into Obsidian Worlds for these and other immersive stories, including the hilarious Time-Traveling Chicken Sexer. Your brain will never be the same again.
Enjoy an excerpt from "Your Averaged Joe":
“Sorry, this is a bit overwhelming. Let me introduce myself.” Then all three men spoke in unison, extending their hands, “I’m Thursday.” They each chewed a piece of gum, their masticating movements simultaneous.
Joe eyed the identical hands. Long, frosty fingers. Whitest skin. He shook hands with each. Their grips were firm. All three.
Thursday continued, “This is the Chamber.” He waved his arm around the room proudly. Joe considered the space. The rows of beds seemed to stretch forever. He couldn’t see the end of the room. And no pillars. Nothing to support the pink ceiling that extended in all directions. Joe scrunched his feet at the enormity of the Chamber, and the floor squeezed between his toes. But the floor wasn’t smooth – it was … hairy? He glanced down, and yup, fine dark hairs covered its surface. It was like standing on a forearm. Goose bumps erupted along his arms, down his legs, Joe shifted his weight to his heels, trying to avoid the hairs from scratching between his toes. And as the goose bumps spread across his back, down his chest, the ground beneath his feet changed. Between the silky black hairs, the fleshy floor lumped in places. Lumps the size of fists. Bumps, goose bumps. On the ground. He shivered.
Trying not to think about it, and resisting the urge to jump, to get his feet anywhere but on the fleshy floor, he stared at the beds. Each held a single occupant, each with brown hair, each wearing the same pale blue nightgown he was wearing. Joe looked to the bed beside his, and his heart stopped.
The man in the bed was him.
About the Author:
He's interested in the nature of social groups, personal identity, freedom, and the nature of the mind. His passion is translating philosophical debate around these topics into works of science fiction, while gorging himself on chocolate.
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