By Alasdair Stuart
Dan Sawyer is working on getting genre fiction surrounded. The author of fourteen books and thirty-odd short stories, Dan is the author behind The Antithesis Progression, an epic series of novels charting the war for independence of the Moon, the Clarke Lantham Fortean crime series and Suave Rob's Double X Derring Do, the single best transhumanist surfing story ever written. And Ideas Inc., which will make you fear post it notes for the rest of your life. A relentlessly hard working author, tech journalist and audio producer, Dan and I chatted about his books, podcasting and how he became a writer.
Alasdair Stuart: Who influenced, and continues to influence you, as a writer?
Dan Sawyer: The list is long and disreputable. Some of the most obvious are Raymond Chandler, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Dorothy Sayers, Douglas Adams, Octavia Butler, O. Henry, Flannery O'Connor, Poe, both Shelleys…I could go on. And that's before we start on the nonfiction, which I don't so much read as I inject intravenously. I have the same relationship to new and interesting ideas that some people have to shoes or alcohol or crystal meth. And no, I'm not going into rehab. Put those handcuffs away. Seriously.
AS:You're one of the first writers to embrace podcasting. What benefits does the field have?
DS: I don't know that I was one of the first. I think I was second wave at least, if not third, but I am one of the older hands still in that game. Podcasting is a wonderful way to avoid doing newsletters, and a great excuse to make sure your audiobooks get produced (audio's the fastest growing market segment now–people want it, and podcasting is great practice for serving that market).
AS: What volumes of Antithesis are available now?
DS: Volume 1: Predestination and Other Games of Chance deals with the prelude to the war. Volume 2: Free Will and Other Compulsions, deals with the beginning of the war. Volume 3: Avarice and Other Acts of Charity deals with the war proper, and should see the light of day late this year or early next year.
AS:Tell us about Suave Rob. What inspired that?
DS: Suave Rob's Double-X Derring Do is the tale of a far future transsexual Evel Kenevel-type daredevil who wants to surf a supernova. The story mugged me while talking to a fan at a meet-up–she's a skydiver and a post-op M2F whose life story I found utterly fascinating, and her adrenaline junkie mannerisms put me in mind of a guy I used to surf with. I put her gestalt together with his voice, and this tale just sort of grew from that interaction in my head. It's total balls-out hard SF gonzo insanity–I still have trouble believing it's one of mine.
AS:How does it fit into the Antithesis universe?
DS: It's set in the Antithesis continuity 200 years after the main series wraps up, and there are a lot of discreet call-backs to the events in the earlier books. It's not essential to read Antithesis to enjoy Suave Rob, but you'll get more of the in-jokes.
Of course, Suave Rob is comic high adventure, where the main Antithesis books are dark and intense political thrillers, so the tones couldn't be more different…well, unless I brought in the Nazi pigeons. But that's another story.
AS: What would be the best place for new readers to start?
DS: If you like short fiction, your entrée to this universe is a story called The Man In The Rain. Otherwise, go ahead and dive straight into Predestination.
AS: Tell us a little about the Lantham books.
DS: In one sentence: Dark comedy and impenetrable, roller-coaster style puzzle mysteries designed to turn your brain inside out. To explain: Clarke Lantham is a PI who has a knack for getting involved in the kind of trouble you generally only hear about in the Weekly World News–except that, whether it looks like psychic-style social engineering, aliens, secret societies, ghosts, or cryptid creatures, the bugaboos that Lantham runs into are all based in real-world cutting edge science.
AS:What are you working on right now?
DS: Finishing up The Auto Motive, working on Avarice, and laying out the groundwork for a new Science Fiction adventure story about a psychotic TV producer and his plans for the first Mars mission.
AS:You're best known as an author and publisher. What advice would you give authors looking to go down the self publishing route?
DS: Expect a long haul. It's absolutely worth it, but you will be learning two distinct trades, instead of one, so your road to a sustainable full-time income will look very different–and much more business-centric–than a writer working the legacy route. Always be practicing your art, never stop honing your craft, and keep learning everything you can about both your business and your medium.
This is a career path that demands determination, patience, and dedication–but if you've got the temperament for it, the rewards are phenomenal.
AS: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Dan.
Alasdair Stuart is a freelance writer. He hosts Pseudopod (www.pseudopod.org), co-hosts Escape Pod (www.escapepod.org) and owns evil Post It Notes. Find him on twitter at @AlasdairStuart and read his blog at www.alasdairstuart.com.