Five Questions: James Marquis and his Dark Day Dreams

Dark Day Dreams cover

Dark Day Dreams is a collection of shorts by Seattle writer Jim Marquis.

James Marquis is a Seattle writer and author of science fiction novels, a memoir, and a collection of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories titled Dark Day Dreams, written under the pen name of James Hawthorne. He enjoys writing as a way to explore and expose the ways pop culture, politics, music and literature shape our everyday lives. An Amazon reviewer calls Dark Day Dreams “a book filled with curiosities.” I know Jim exclusively through Facebook. His posts are thoughtful and funny.

Do you remember the first character you created? It was a guy named Time Hunter. He was the hero of a comic book I created when I was around nine or ten. He went back to ancient Egypt.

James Marquis

James Marquis

How did you feel when you saw your work in print / electronic form for the first time? When I first saw my book in print, I was so happy. It just seemed like a miracle. And I felt reconnected with the creativity I felt as a child but had set aside for several decades.

What is your favorite piece of advice for new writers? Immerse yourself in the writing world as much as possible. Your friends and family will be supportive but networking is what actually gets stuff done. Continue reading

Two-Hour Transport: A journey into Seattle’s sci-fi and fantasy community

Two-Hour Transport

Podcaster Anaea Lay of Strange Horizons reads her work at Two-Hour Transport in Seattle.

Seattle’s reputation as a literary town includes an enormous presence in the science fiction and fantasy universe. The great Octavia Butler, author of the Parable of the Sower, penned her works in the shadow of the Space Needle, the city’s iconic landmark. Other authors include Don McQuinn, Cat Rambo, and Shawn Speakman. Lesser known and budding writers are nurtured by a vibrant writing community, and recently a new series of events is encouraging fresh voices to speak up.

Theresa Barker, Nicole Bade, and other writers are producing “Two-Hour Transport,” a monthly series featuring readings by established sci-fi, fantasy, and horror authors. These invited readers share published work or test out new work on an audience at Cafe Racer, a funky, arts-oriented watering hole in Seattle a few blocks from the University of Washington. The most recent THT I attended was on March 22, and it featured horror writer Sherry Decker, reading from her upcoming novel A Summer With the Dead, and Anaea Lay, the fiction podcast editor for Strange Horizons magazine.

In a new group called “Brag-a-Thon,” participants win a sticker when rejected by an agent or publisher.

The quirkiest segment of the THT program is the open mic, when up to ten writers ranging from pure novices to experienced pros take five minutes to share something and build up their presentation chops. Almost anything goes, from poetry in the style of Lewis Carroll to excerpts of full-length science fiction novels in progress. I’ve had great fun presenting my own work a few times, and the audience is always friendly and appreciative, no matter the skill level. It helps that everyone sips a beer or a glass of wine to support a neighborhood business.

Two-Hour Transport is part of a larger ad hoc collection of meetups under the banner of the North Seattle SciFi and Fantasy Writers, which started out several years ago as reading groups meeting in local cafes. The meetups include a regular Sunday critique group at Wayward Cafe in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood, and a new group, a monthly “Brag-a-Thon,” in which participants win a sticker for having a story rejected by an agent or a publisher. It’s all intended to build solidarity in a traditional publishing business growing less and less welcoming of writers, ironically, particularly new writers, if they don’t fit into a pre-existing pigeonhole.

I’ve enjoyed every moment of my participation in these groups. It puts the lie to the image of the lonely scribbler at his or her word processor pounding out the next great American sci-fi novel. Though a writer can isolate himself, writing is a social act that depends on support from friends, feedback from colleagues, and if you’re very lucky, help from a publisher. Here’s to a long run for Two-Hour Transport and her sister activities.

The next Two-Hour Transport is Wednesday, April 26, at at Cafe Racer, 5828 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle. To participate in the open mic, place your name in the hat near the stage.

Have you attended a Two-Hour Transport reading? What did you think?

How would King Arthur’s knights cope with a climate-changed world?

King Arthur painting

James Archer painted The Death of Arthur in 1861. King Arthur lays mortally wounded after his final battle. He waits for a ship to take him to the Isle of Avalon.

My wife and I drove from Seattle to Powell’s Books in Portland a couple of weeks ago to satisfy an itch. At this point, I’ve written three novels and eight shorts in the world of Carbon Run, but the project has run its course. Is there another way to explore the idea of a post-global warming world in which protecting the environment is the society’s single most important value?

For a variety of reasons, my mind turned to fantasy, which is odd, because I’ve never been attracted to epic fantasy, or high fantasy. I found Tolkien too dense and I shrugged at most other dragons-and-magic stories. Having said that, I enjoyed the early novels in George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (HBO’s “Game of Thrones”). He plays down the wand-waving and flying lizards shtick in favor of character development and relationships.

This led to a realization: I do enjoy at least one fantasy tradition: the Arthurian legends. It’s easy to forget that these romances were the literary fiction of the High Middle Ages, and they’re full of magic objects, fabulous beasts, and so on. The stories of King Arthur are as much about greed, lust, pride, loyalty, bravery, and family drama as they are about enchantments and floating castles. Merlin, as an archetype, gets a lot of play in modern fantasy, but his role is relatively limited, though important, in the Arthurian stories. I like that. Continue reading

Five Questions: Kevin D. Aslan, author of Encore

Encore cover image

Author Kevin D. Aslan is serializing his first novel, Encore.

I’d like to introduce Kevin D. Aslan, a debut author who is self-publishing his fantasy novel Encore as a serial. Encore follows Leo Melikian, a smart but naïve 25-year old in the south of France who discovers he’s suddenly living each day twice: Monday followed by Monday, Tuesday by Tuesday, and so on. Kevin agreed to participate in my occasional series of posts under the heading “Five Questions.” Thank you, Kevin! If you have any extra questions for Kevin, post them in the comments section below.

Do you remember the first character you created? Tell me about him/her/it.

It was a dueling squirrel called Keil, who was leading a rag-tag group defending their land against an army of beetles. I was 10 and heavily influenced by the Redwall series. I never did finish that book, although I wrote over a hundred (mostly unreadable) pages. But I ended up connecting with him so much that I used his name as my online handle for years afterwards. Continue reading

Five Questions: Elizabeth Guizzetti, author of The Grove

Elizabeth Guizzetti author photo

Elizabeth Guizzetti is author of three sci-fi and fantasy novels, including Other Systems and The Grove.

I’m starting a new occasional feature on my blog called Five Questions. I’ll ask an author five interesting questions and post their answers. Check out the answer for the bonus question! My inaugural guest is Elizabeth Guizzetti, a personal friend whom I met through a sci-fi and fantasy writers group in Seattle. Elizabeth loves to write science fiction, horror and fantasy with a bit of social commentary mixed in, not always intentionally. Her 2012 debut novel, Other Systems, was a finalist for the 2016 Canopus Award. Her most recent novel, The Grove, is on sale now.

Do you remember the first character you created? Tell me about him/her/it.

This wasn’t my first character, but the first character I remember was a ten or eleven-year-old girl trying to survive a werewolf apocalypse. I tried to write her tough, my mother said she was kind of rude to the two young men who she was with. (I think they were high schoolers, because at that age, high schoolers are super cool.)

How did you feel when you saw your work in print / electronic form for the first time?

My first published work was Faminelands: The Carp’s Eye which is a self-published graphic novel. It came out in print first and then we started the webcomic. It was (and always is) a roller coaster. It felt wonderful the first time I flipped through it, as well as terrifying. We were making changes up until it had been printing and I had a table at Emerald City Comicon 2008. It was crazy. Those feelings have been just as intense for every book that has gone through the publication process.

I made a video about I feel when holding my book for the first time if anyone wants to check it out on my YouTube Channel. Continue reading

Criminy! What do you think of the header image on my blog?

Header image

I’ve been doing some rethinking about content for my blog, especially in light of the chance that it might become the main platform for promoting my upcoming Carbon Run books. Frankly, I need to make the blog more, um, sexy, and what’s better than an attractive woman that suggests one of the characters in my novels? (I’m not saying who.) I needed an image of a reclining figure that would span the blog horizontally, and I came across one by Toxic Wolf.

What do you think?

Reading: Living In Infamy, a Carbon Run story

skullAs I mentioned in a previous post, I wrote two Carbon Run short stories, Zillah Harmonia, and Living in Infamy. I’ve recorded the second story and posted it on SoundCloud. In a future when fossil fuels are banned, the captain of a US Navy destroyer, plagued by guilt over a friendly-fire incident, hunts a dangerous carbon smuggler and gets help from a disgraced, dead relative.

Let me know what you think.

Reading: A War Beyond War, And I Am the Only Soldier

I’ve been inspired by fellow writers, particularly my friend Ramona Ridgewell, to experiment with making my short stories available online as audio readings. It’s sort of a no-brainer, given my background in radio and skills in audio production, and I’ve been thinking about it for a long time as a way to promote myself and (hopefully) upcoming novels. I’m using the SoundCloud audio distribution service.

My first audio story (the word “audiobook” doesn’t seem to fit) is called “A War Beyond War, And I Am the Only Soldier.” You can download a free PDF version of the story here. Dominic de la Traversée is a young monk in a 13th century French monastery who undergoes a frightening transformation as he fights for the existence of our perceived universe. I wrote the original story in 2007, and it was published in an anthology called Satirica. The music is by Cory Gray, and it’s available at the Free Music Archive.

I’d love to know what you think of this project. I’ve got a couple more stories in my queue. Do you think I should record those as well?

Review: The appropriated world of The Guild of Saint Cooper

The Guild of Saint Cooper cover

The Guild of Saint Cooper, a novel by Shya Scanlon

Good artists copy. Great artists steal. — attributed to Pablo Picasso, among others

Discussion of cultural appropriation has surged in the last few years in the context of race relations. White culture has borrowed and stolen from black culture for decades, particularly in entertainment, usually without enough credit to the origins of a style of music, dance, poetry, or performance. What happens then, when a writer creates a fictional world wholesale out of another fictional world? Is he borrowing in order to comment on that world, or stealing from it because he can’t come up with a better idea?

Author Shya Scanlon appropriates shamelessly from a realm created by another artist, director David Lynch, to manufacture a post-apocalyptic Seattle in The Guild of Saint Cooper, published by Dzanc Books in April 2015. Lynch is best known for Twin Peaks, a quirky, strange, and beloved television series that aired just two seasons’ worth of episodes. The first season, the better of the two, focused on a murder investigation by Dale Cooper, an FBI special agent with his own methods and approach to detective work. Cooper’s character combines the calm certainty of a Zen monk with a fascination in the unseen anticipating another fictional FBI agent, Fox Mulder, who appears in a different TV series, The X-Files, which debuted two years after Twin Peaks ended. Continue reading

What Catholic sci-fi writers can learn from Mormon writers.

Mormon gospel art

Mormon gospel art depicts scenes from the Book of Mormon. It reminds me of a mid-20th century style of science fiction cover art.

An unfinished version of this post appeared earlier by mistake. Apologies for my fat fingers.

A couple of days after Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened, Washington Post contributor Matthew Bowman pointed out a long fascination by the Mormon community for science fiction and fantasy. Some of the most well-known and best-selling writers in the genre today, such as Brandon Sanderson and Orson Scott Card, are Mormon, and Bowman shows how the religion’s history and imagery encourages world-building and an appreciation for larger-than-life characters. I’ve never read the Book of Mormon, but the copy that a young, black-and-white clad man gave to me many years ago was full of “gospel art” rendered in a realistic style that highlighted a calm certainty in their beliefs. It seemed so much like the cover art of the science fiction that confirmed my own belief in science and good storytelling.

(I know what you’re thinking: Mormonism is homophobic, misogynistic, and just this side of looney. Just listen for a minute while I talk about our shared capacity for imagination.)

Reading the article reminded me of my upbringing in Yakima, Wash., where I learned a 1960s Catholicism straining to adjust to the historic structural reforms of Vatican II. My first-grade teacher at St. Paul’s School wore a nun’s habit, as all teachers in religious orders did in those days, and her style of discipline was a mixture of the Spanish Inquisition and Attila the Hun. We studied our faith as it if were a parallel government emanating from Heaven, confessed our sins and attended Mass in the diocesan cathedral, and believed that all other religions were a ticket to Hell. (I don’t remember a discussion of Mormonism specifically, but I’d bet that it was considered an express, first-class ticket, without the free liquor.) Continue reading