One of the biggest perks of this Nerd Bastards gig is attending local conventions and meeting all the guests and talking with fellow fans. Living in Atlanta means that one of the biggest conventions I attend every year is Dragon*Con. That wonderful four-day weekend of endless panels, cosplay, parties, and all the nerdy things one could imagine would fit into just about the entire downtown of Atlanta. While getting ready for this years Dragon Con I was given the opportunity to talk with Mike Resnick, a multiple Hugo award-winning science fiction author and one of my personal favorites when it comes to reading scifi.
With his busy schedule during the convention it was worked out so that I could get a few minutes of Mike Resnick’s time before the convention this year. There was so much I wanted to ask him about, but most of it was about details in his books I’ve read and that wouldn’t be very interesting for those that haven’t read those particular books so I thought, why not just ask him where new readers should start.
Nerd Bastards: For the handful of readers unfamiliar with your books or short stories, and those of us that want to share your work with friends and family, what would you recommend as a starting point for both novel and short story?
Mike Resnick: They’re all my children. But if they want my all-time bestseller, it’s Santiago. If they want the book with the most awards and nominations in science fiction history, it’s Kirinyaga. And if they want my personal favorite (which I must add sank like a stone) it’s The Outpost.
Nerd Bastards: New visual technology and computer effects have brought about a resurgence of Superhero, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy on television and in the movies, even the SyFy channel is airing actual Sci-Fi series like Helix and Defiance, are any of your stories/books currently under development?
(Personally, I think that Santiago would make an excellent HBO style weekly space drama)
Mike Resnick: Santiago has been under continuous option since 1989. My wife and I have been paid (more than once, in fact) for the screenplay. If they’d made the damned thing then, I’d have made less money than I’ve made off 25 option payments. (We were also paid to write the screenplay for The Widowmaker back when Miramax had it.)
Currently under option: the 4 Widowmaker books (not with Miramax this time around), Hunting the Snark, and Sideshow.
Currently in production: my short story, Down Memory Lane. It’s an all-Chinese project (including the language).
Nerd Bastards: What part of the Hollywood process has surprised or confounded you the most when it comes to selling and developing your works for TV/Movies?
Mike Resnick: The fact that almost nobody out there reads. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dealt with producers who had only read a one-page (or shorter) synopsis of a book they’ve just shelled out major money to option or buy.
As for development, I think they prove a hundred times a year or more that you can’t do art by committee, except for the very occasional accident. (I’ve been in a number of story conferences. Sooner or later one of these 25-year-old, $800,000-a-year execs will turn to you and say something like, “But why can’t one of the twins be black?” But they pay you enough money to put up with it.
Nerd Bastards: While doing prep work for this interview I saw an interesting comment in which you stated that you haven’t watched an episode of television since 1982? I have to ask, what show broke the camel’s back?
Mike Resnick: No single show. I just realized that I was sick of having my intellect insulted a couple of hours every night, and realized that if I never watched another episode of any TV series I’d have an extra 14 hours a week to write. I think that decision has saved my sanity and resulted in maybe 35 more books produced, and somehow I do not feel culturally deprived.
Nerd Bastards: You’ve edited a ton of anthologies during your career, I’ve got a handful on the shelves behind me, often working with new writers. Can you tell us a little about that process and are there a couple of new writers you’ve recently worked with that we should be looking for on our next trip to the bookstore?
Mike Resnick: For selling them, you almost always have to have a theme, no matter how far-fetched it seems – Alternate Kennedys, Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, Return of the Dinosaurs, I’ve sold them all (and had award winners or nominees in all of ’em too). Then you get a dozen or so names they can brag about on the cover and you’re in business, and it lets you buy from a few unknowns and beginners each time out. I’ve worked with a lot of promising new writers over the years – over so many years that some of them are now well-established superstars. I’d say that among the best I’ve worked with lately are Lezli Robyn, Brad R. Torgersen, Tina Gower, Andrea Stewart, half a dozen others.
Nerd Bastards: What advice do you have for aspiring Sci-Fi writers?
Mike Resnick: Writers write. Wannabees who are never going to make it talk about writing.
Nerd Bastards: You’ve had an amazing run of Hugo nominations since 1989, winning five times and only missing a nomination in the years 1999 & 2003. It’s the equivalent of winning the Superbowl for writing five times and being in the playoffs every year but two. Were there any special circumstances for those two gaps?
Mike Resnick: None that I agree with, he said with a smile. (I should also add that I wasn’t nominated in 2013 and 2014. Reason, I assume: almost no short fiction published in those years. I had 10 books out in 2012, 5 in 2013, and 6 in 2014, which left me very little time for short fiction, where almost all my nominations and awards come from.)
Nerd Bastards: What was the first sci-fi/fantasy convention you attended as a fan, and as a guest?
Mike Resnick: My first con (I should say our first con, because Carol and I have been going to these things together for over half a century now) was Discon I, the 1963 Worldcon in Washington, D.C. My first guest since was, with Carol, as Fan Guests of Honor at the 1981 Rivercon, and my first pro guest stint was in 1984 at ConFusion. According to my bibliographer, I’ve been a Pro Guest of Honor 42 times now (including 4 times in France, once in Slovakia, and once in Canada), and a Toastmaster 12 times.
Nerd Bastards: I’ve read that your wife Carol used to make costumes for both of you to wear at WorldCon costume contest and that you won the contest more than once, if you had any pictures of those costumes that you wouldn’t mind sharing, that would be great.
Mike Resnick: I’ll attach some. We won Most Authentic at the 1973 Worldcon, Best in Show at the 1974 Worldcon, Honorable Mention at the 1976 Worldcon, Most Outstanding at the 1977 Worldcon, and Best in Show at the 1979 NasFic. We stopped after that, because ever since 1980 I morph into a businessman the instant the Worldcon starts, and I just haven’t time for the run-throughs, the preparation, and the actual masquerade.
Nerd Bastards: Has your Dragon Con schedule been finalized, where can fans find you during the convention?
Friday, 4:00 PM: Regency V, Hyatt – Pyr Rising
Friday, 5:30 PM: Augusta 1-2, Westin – Building Alternate Worlds and Times
Friday, 10:00 PM: Embassy D-F, Hyatt – Fightin’ and Writin’
Sunday, 5:30 PM: Embassy D-F, Hyatt – Getting Invited into Anthologies
And of course I’ll be at the banquet on Saturday.
Nerd Bastards: Will you be doing any signings this year?
Mike Resnick: I’ll be signing at Larry Smith’s table from 3 to 4 on Saturday. And I’ll be signing at Pyr’s table, but no one’s told me when. If it’s up to me, it’ll be 2 or 4 on Saturday, so I don’t have to fight my way through that madhouse twice.
*(Both of these will be at The Atlanta Convention Center at AmericasMart. Larry Smith‘s table is located on the second floor and although the Pyr signing time is not etched in stone yet, they are at the same location and floor and should have a listing posted at their tables by convention time.)
Nerd Bastards: What makes Dragon Con a good convention for writers?
Mike Resnick: Any time there are editors and publishers on the premises, it’s good for writers. And the more major writers who show up, the more likely it is that a number of them are also editing anthologies. And if you’re a newcomer seeking advice, you’ll probably get a bigger, more thorough dose of it in person than via correspondence.
Nerd Bastards: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about the recent SFWA blow-up. (I’m not going to go into any great detail here, readers can go Google it if they don’t know about it) What I do want to know: What did you take away from that experience and do you have any advice for the next person caught up in like circumstances?
Mike Resnick: Barry Malzberg and I had been writing a column – the Resnick/Malzberg Dialogues – for the SFWA Bulletin – for 15 years. For Issue #200 of the Bulletin, our editor, Jean Rabe (a female, I hasten to point out) asked us to discuss the contributions of the top lady editors (her term, not ours). So we titled our column “Lady Editors”, and in the course of it I mentioned that one of them, Bea Mahaffey, who was editing in 1950, when I was 8 years old, was beautiful. And Jean ran a generic painting of a warrior woman – Red Sonja, as I recall – on the cover. That issue really bothered the PC Police. The major objections seemed to be that we had no right to use the term “Lady Editors”, it was sexist and insulting to call Bea beautiful, and that Jean Rabe (who remains female) was a male chauvinist pig for running the warrior woman on the cover. In issue #202 we responded by rather vigorously defending our right of free speech, especially within a writers’ organization. (I later found out from another old-timer, Bob Silverberg, that Bea was hired exclusively for her looks, and shocked her employer by proving to be a top-notch editor.)
Our response drove the PC Police crazy. Jean Rabe got so much abusive mail that she not only quit as editor, but she quit SFWA entirely. They shut the magazine down for almost a year, created a censorship committee (under a less accurate name, of course), and brought it back with a whole new staff. Barry and I aren’t writing for them any longer, of course, but we’ll continue the column somewhere – we’ve had a few offers – and this time we will not voluntarily restrict ourselves from discussing dozens of the more narrow-minded and embarrassing episodes in SFWA’s history.
Nerd Bastards: Is there anything you’d like to plug, web site, charity, new book or project you’d like us to help spread the word about?
Mike Resnick: Might as well plug the books that came (or are coming) out in a 13-month period – December 2013 through December, 2014:
The Doctor and the Dinosaurs (Pyr – 4th in a Weird Western series);
First Person Peculiar (Wordfire Press – a collection of sf stories told in the first person);
Cat on a Cold Tin Roof (Seventh Street – 3rd in a mystery series);
Mike Resnick’s Worldcons (Edizioni della Vigna – it’s an Italian publisher, but the book’s in English, 100,000 words about Worldcons I’ve attended, including transcriptions of my Toastmaster and Guest of Honor speeches);
(Image not available yet) Away Games (Wordfire Press – a collection of science fiction sports stories);
and The Fortress in Orion (Pyr, first in the “Dead Enders” trilogy.)
If you haven’t read any of his books or short stories I personally would suggest starting with Santiago, The Widowmaker, or Outpost. They all feature colorful characters and lots of action and humor set in Resnick’s Birthright Universe. If I had to describe Santiago, it would be a mixture of Firefly and Tombstone. I’ve owned the book at least 5 times. I would lend it out or just give it to someone I thought would enjoy it and end up buying another to re-read later. If you like Santiago there is a sequel that is just as much, if not more fun, The Return of Santiago.
Those with a Kindle or Nook can skip the middle man and get most of his works straight from his website Words of Wonder. Mike was kind enough to send me a few of his favorites gratis and I’ve already burned through them. I didn’t mean to, just thought I would take a look and next thing I know, it’s 1 AM.
If your into Military Scifi then you might like his Starship series:
The starship Theodore Roosevelt is fighting on the far outskirts of a galactic war, its crew made up of retreads and raw recruits. A new first officer reports, Wilson Cole, a man with a reputation for exceeding his orders (but getting results). He’s been banished to the Teddy R. for his actions, but once there he again ignores his orders. …
This is the first of five novels about the starship Theodore Roosevelt. The next four will be, in order, Pirate, Mercenary, Rebel, and Flagship.
I have read all except the last, Flagship, and it’s on my list of books to get a hold of.
There’s also his Penelope Bailey Series, Soothsayer, Oracle, and Prophet:
Mouse, a hard-bitten, cynical woman and professional thief, finds herself in deep trouble when her attempt to rescue a seemingly helpless little girl has potentially deadly consequences in this brilliant and haunting installment of Santiago-inspired adventure. Young Penelope has long had a price on her head, and Carlos Mendoza now knows how she has outwitted her captors—and the awesome powers behind her success. As Carlos moves in for the kill, Mouse is hard-pressed to preserve her life, defend Penelope, and in so doing, save humanity. For Carlos “Iceman” Mendoza, only one thing becomes clear: in a universe of giant men, ruthless bounty hunters, and interstellar war, his greatest fear is this one girl.
Set in the same Birthright Universe as Santiago, this series follows a young girl with incredible powers that grow as she gets older. The action and pace are fast and furious. You’ll quickly find yourself wondering who’s the good guy and who the bad guys really are in this series as the story progresses. This was one of Resnick’s series that I stumbled on as I was hunting the book shelves of a local used book store. Once I saw his name I knew I would have to give it a try. Luckily for me it was the first in the trilogy.
If you’re going to be at Dragon Con this year, I’d like to suggest you try to catch one of Resnick’s panels listed above or stop by one of his signing times in the dealers room to pick up a book, meet the author, and get your new book signed!
If for some strange reason you want to meet me at Dragon Con, just look around the Marriott Atrium floor Saturday night and find the person dressed as Metalhead from TMNT. I should look like this: