1) Tell us about your current or last science fiction novel. What is it about and how did you come up with the concept?
While I write my debut novel, Rise of One (a paranormal apocalypse tale), I currently have two SciFi short stories released: Harmemoric Asylum and Powdered Souls (out July 2019!).
Harmemoric Asylum is especially close to my heart because it’s the first short story I wrote in 2005 (then rewrote for release this year) and it was shortlisted for The James White Award.
It touches on several SciFi tropes that I love from movies like Alien (claustrophobia in a hostile environment), 2001: A Space Odyssey (when AI goes bad), and Gattaca (Are you more than the sum of your genetics?).
Essentially, snowsubs burrow into glaciers that cover our cities after a global freeze – these snowsubs are the archaeologists of their time and scour old skyscrapers for tech to be reused surface-side.
But, buried beneath the ice live human spectres, harmemoric ‘echos’ of the skyscrapers’ employees.
I utilised the trope of Alien’s Ripley character in my never-say-die against-all-odds snowsub pilot Rina, who must face a particularly exceptional spectre beneath the ice.
Harmemoric Asylum is available for free download -> https://dl.bookfunnel.com/d8nqps42x1
2) How did you get started writing science fiction?
I wish I could write stories set in the real world, but after trying for so many years, it never works out. Always, whatever tale I tell has – needs! – a fantastical element.
I grew up watching the big Space Opera SciFi series: Star Wars, Star Trek, BSG, along with 80s heavy-hitting SciFi like Blade Runner, Alien, Terminator.
So, telling a story in a different realm or from a speculative perspective feels natural when I write.
Also I love SciFi fans and fandom and the geeky/nerdiness that follows. I cosplay, attend conventions (I’ll be at World Con this year, as it’s in Dublin!). I love being part of that world and contributing to it.
3) What specific sub-genres within science fiction do you write in and why?
I like to write Action SciFi, usually with paranormal and/or dystopian elements.
4) What tropes do you think are important for that sub-genre?
I think you need a balance, when it comes to any type of speculative fiction, between the tropes of the dystopian and the utopian.
You can see it, for example, in the newer Star Trek series (Discovery, JJ Abrams’ new movies, heck even The Orville) that they have tilted towards dystopian (with its incumbent explosions, drama, and lens flares).
Whereas in the ‘golden age’ of Star Trek (Next Generation, The Original Series) it is far more uptopian. The crew never in-fight or are pitched against one another, e.g. the charming grumpiness of TOS’ Bones or Scotty versus some of the latest plot lines in Star Trek Discovery. While a pure utopia, devoid of all conflict, does not make for the type of TV that viewers expect today (and is also practically just not attainable), that ‘utopian tilt’ is what makes a series like Star Trek excel in the minds of the viewer. We end up with memorable, cerebral, and touching episodes like Darmok and The Inner Light. Hopefully, when it comes to the new ST: Picard series, we might see a move away from dystopian and more towards the type of Star Trek that initially made it great.
5) Do you prefer to write in first or third person and past or present tense?
I like to start out drafting in First Person Present, as if the character is speaking the story in my ear. Then I switch to Third Person Past to really craft the tale for subsequent drafts.
This is a process that occurred naturally overtime in how I write and I find it’s quite effective at nailing a story’s opening tone and voice.
6) What is your favorite part about being a writer?
That the crazy worlds inside my head finally get to have a home! And that it’s okay to be an indoorsy reclusive hermit – it’s almost expected for a writer and it suits me just fine!
And also that I get to contribute to the current Speculative Fiction scene. If I see the rise of a trope that I cannot stand (‘subverting expectations’, for one!), I can just write another universe with my own rules and indulge in all the expectations I like.
7) What is the hardest part about being a writer?
That you are not expected to make any money from it, that being a writer is not a viable career choice, or the expectation that writing is ‘easy’ and merely a relaxing hobby.
Lack of a clear apprenticeship structure (unless you have the $$$ for a masters and even then, a masters degree is not a true apprenticeship), often means that so many writers languish for years unguided, or they put out shitty work when an education in story structure or editing would really guide and elevate them.
This also results in so many writers trying to juggle writing with full-time work. And it’s not just the daily ‘words on a page’ – it’s the editing, reviewing, proofing. If you’re self-publishing, it also includes marketing, building your brand, perhaps podcasting or YouTube, cover design… There’s never enough time. That is the hardest part.
8) What stories or authors influence your writing?
I’m a big Arthur C Clark fan – 2001: A Space Odyssey is such a great read. Its simplicity and world building influenced me a lot when I was younger.
Similarly, I found Michael Crichton’s fiction also simple and fantastic for world building (Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain).
Readability is so important in Science Fiction, I believe. You can subvert all the tropes in the world, put all the twists and spins you want on them, but if I can’t get past the first page a work can’t influence anybody.
9) Recommend a great science fiction book or movie that we might have missed you didn’t create?
I hope everybody has watched The Edge Of Tomorrow. I stayed away from it because I wasn’t a fan of Tom Cruise, but the plot is so good, so tightly-paced, excellent use of the usual SciFi tropes (the Strong!Female!Character is actually bearable to watch) and, on top of everything else, it’s funny! Humour! That’s what’s missing so much in SciFi today – fun! Please stop subverting my expectations and give me great adventure to laugh along with and sweep me away!
Also, Galaxy Quest is an oldie, but a goodie. Moon is a nice slow-burn movie, great for a snoozy Sunday afternoon.
10) Anything else about you or your novel that you would like us to know?
Rise of One is my first novel and it’s about a vampire coven in the English countryside trying to survive a zombie apocalypse – not exactly hard SciFi, but surely Speculative Fiction!
I really wanted to tackle the long-standing tropes surrounding vampires (especially in the wake of Twilight and even Anne Rice’s works) – no sparkling hunks or lacy cuffs here!
Instead I wondered, if I were to live forever and feed on people, what would that look like? So, I came up with Rise, Ogrim, and Salter, and their human, Cypriot, who live in a small country house and spend their days gardening, farming, making soaps and perfumes, until a zombie apocalypse hits the world and they are forced to bring new human survivors into their utopia world. This is the catalyst that turns the coven from peaceful into something quite ferocious and power-hungry indeed.
The story of Rise and co. is more like one of hobbit vampires, preferring ditches, roots, and hedges (rather than garlic and crosses and coffins) who are then exposed to the One Ring/the seduction of power!
Rise of One is releasing end of 2019 and you can sign up to my mailing list to be informed of its release.
11) What’s the best way to find you online?
My website is www.DixonReuel.com but I’m most active on Twitter, so follow me there -> @DixonReuel
I like to post #WritingDeskSelfies whenever I’m at my desk. I have a bit of a bugbear about people acting like writing is this mystical, muse-driven thing, when really it’s hard work that you need to pour your time and energies into to see results.
I like letting people see that writing takes frequent effort and dedication, and those selfies (although cringy!) work as an excellent check-in mechanism for myself.
If you would like a free copy of my short story, Harmemoric Asylum, you can get it here: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/d8nqps42x1