What have I learned from January? Triple checking is not enough! I missed one! Luckily, Robert has been lovely, and I’m sure most people reading this understand what your inbox can look like sometimes.
So, without further ado, I bring you another Sci-Festival interview, with Robert D’Amato.
How did you get into writing Sci-Fi/Fantasy?
It started as a friendly competition in high school. I began to write incomplete stories and then shared those stories with my friend who completed them. We tried to outdo each other’s imagination. I wish I had kept some of those ideas.
Which is the first aspect of a story you usually plan? The plot, the setting, or the characters?
I always begin with a sketch of the plot and then I write a detailed outline. As I write the outline, I begin to “flesh out” the characters. I cannot create a character without a scaffold for a general plot outline.
If you had to say that your stories were Sci-Fi/Fantasy crossed with something, what would it be?
I enjoy writing crossover fiction, mixing the science fiction and dystopian genre. I naturally embrace crossing genres, enjoying the complexity and challenge. I believe future fiction will reflex the crossing of genres and the eventual evolution of new genres, as it has done so in the past. Isn’t science fiction a crossover, too?
What, or who, would you say is your greatest influence in your writing?
The class epic stories, like the Odyssey, have influenced me. I enjoy heroic adventures. Also, Gilgamesh is a great influence which is the first great work of literature and, in my opinion, the first science fiction tale. From a modern perspective, as a teenager, I became enamored with Harry Harrison’s Deathworld and Stainless Steel Rat series. I relished his anti-hero protagonists.
How did you come up with the idea for the book you’ve listed here?
I derived my idea from both my personal experiences as a Catholic school student during the 1970s and my involvement with computer technology since the 1970s when I learned how to write Dos programming.
What was your proudest moment in the creation of this book?
The first sentence—the completion of the first few words inspired me to write the rest of the novel.
Have there been any points that had you doubting yourself? How did you get past them?
The questions I sometimes had –“Does anyone else care about these characters”? I decided I cared and that would be enough for my reader to care vicariously.
What is your favourite aspect of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres?
Science fiction allows any reader not only to be creative, but also to be critical. It is an incredible medium for social commentary under the mischievous umbrella of allegory, archetypes, and symbolism. Science fiction is a wonderful genre that teaches while delighting its reader.
What is the element you like the least about the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres?
I dislike absolute absurdity—science fiction ought to be rooted in science and not “magic.” The genre’s name gives a nod to science and its respect for the principles of science even if their speculative.
Discounting ‘because I’d have made a lot of money’ (if that is the case,) which Sci-Fi or Fantasy book/TV series/film do you wish you’d written, and why?
I would like to have created Star Trek, like most science fiction writers. But my favorite TV series is Babylon 5 because it contained the elements I enjoy in writing science fiction: the allegorical critique of current society, projected in a futuristic setting. In addition, the moral dilemmas and philosophical questions in the episodes challenged the many complacencies and apathies that corrupt civilization.
RM DAmato received a B.A. from California State University, Northridge in 1982 and an M.A. from U.S.C. in 1983. He worked as an assistant editor for the Los Angeles Times but spent most of his career as a teacher in California and Florida. He is married with one daughter. Currently, he is an adjunct professor at Florida International University. His second science fiction novel, I Have Three Things to Tell You, will be published in the spring of 2014, exploring an educational system set in the future and the social ramifications of extended life spans.
Rico, a 90-year-old, lives with his divorced daughter, Veronica, who also happens to be his doctor. His biggest challenge in life is keeping his stash of erectile dysfunction pills hidden from Veronica, until his old friend Bill visits – virtually – and informs Rico that he is dead and living in the computer. Set in an imaginary future, virtuoso computer programmer Bill has written his friends from the past into a virtual world where they are able to revisit and re-experience events, both joyous and painful, inside their Catholic seminary during the early 1970s. Worse, in Rico’s view, Bill invites him to join him to help with an impending crisis. In the meantime, Veronica is trying to deal with the crisis precipitated by the resurrection of a lethal virus that threatens everyone on earth. Within the orbiting virtual world, the former seminarians will confront personal demons, while sharing ideas about the meaning of life, friendship, and love—including the existence of God. It is an allegorical dance played out in the microcosmic and metaphysical drama of the human condition. Can they return to Earth before the plague makes it impossible, dropping the curtain on existence forever?