Let’s start with an introduction: Who is James Alan Gardner?
I’m a Canadian writer and editor who’s written nine novels and numerous short stories. I’ve won the Asimov’s Readers Choice award (twice) and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, as well as being a finalist for the Hugo and Nebula. I have two degrees in Math, half a degree in Geology, and a second-degree black sash in kung fu.
Your new novel, the fantastically-titled All those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault, will be published by Tor Books. It looks rather fun: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?
It’s Book 1 of a series that takes place in modern times on an alternate version of Earth. In this world, vampires, were-beasts and demons came out of the closet in 1982; they offered to make anyone a Darkling like themselves in exchange for 10 million dollars. Within a few decades, most of the world’s rich and powerful had become Darklings.
Then superheroes showed up. They’re everyday people, members of the 99% who serve as a counterbalance to the supernatural power of the affluent 1%. The action of the book follows four university students who gain superpowers in a laboratory accident and find themselves entangled in Darkling shenanigans.
What inspired you to write the novel and series? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I love both superheroes and “monsters” like vampires and werewolves. I’ve been collecting comic books since forever — I actually owned the first 8 issues of Avengers, until my mother threw them out. I’ve also taken part in role-playing games for several decades, and I have a fond spot in my heart for Champions (a superhero RPG) and the White Wolf/Onyx Path games (Vampire, Werewolf, etc.). When it occurred to me to combine the two, I knew they’d make for a great setting. As for where I draw inspiration, I read voraciously, both fiction and non-fiction. In particular, honest-to-goodness science produces weird and wonderful concepts that just beg to be used in fiction.
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
Through comic books. The Silver Age comics of the 1960’s were full of science fiction tropes. Fantasy came along when Lord of the Rings got a big North American re-release, while I was in high school. Then I went to the University of Waterloo; it was a serious techie school, so the libraries and bookstore were full of fantasy and science fiction.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
Working within the publishing industry is definitely better than not working. And I love being a writer. As I’m writing, I constantly surprise myself with things I never would have expected.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
I write every morning, seven days a week, except when something serious gets in the way. In the afternoons, I do business paperwork and editing — I work with clients to improve their writing and get it ready for submission to professional markets. As for research, I’m always working my way through multiple books; I read for a few minutes whenever I take a break from writing. My favorite source of research material is used textbooks bought from the local university.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I’ve always written stories, although the earliest ones are buried deep in my parents’ basement. The earliest writing that I shared with other people was Man from U.N.C.L.E. fan-fic, naturally starring myself and my friends. I was 10 or 11 years old at the time. I don’t know if any of it has survived, but it was still fun to come up with.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
The genre is a huge tent nowadays: far too large for me to keep up with thoroughly, but I can always find something interesting to read.
About 18 months ago, I co-edited an anthology with Spider Robinson, titled Compostela… and I was struck by how pessimistic nearly all the submissions were. Almost no one had any strong hope for the future; and we were reading stories that were mostly written in 2015, before the political landscape took a turn for the worse. Personally, I’m not so fatalistic about humanity’s prospects. That’s why my own work is mostly upbeat and lighthearted, even when dealing with substantive issues.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
I’ve finished a sequel to All Those Explosions… (titled They Promised the Gun Wasn’t Loaded) and I’m currently working on a third book in the series. I also have a different series that my agent is shopping around: a science fiction story about a so-called Goddess of Thieves. That series was inspired by Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
Non-fiction, I’m reading physics text books, since the protagonist of the book I’m currently writing is a university physics student. For fiction, I’m reading Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jody Taylor; it’s a fun book about time-traveling historians.
If you could recommend only one novel to someone, what would it be?
This is the sort of question where my answer will change hourly, but right now I’d say Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente. It’s constantly delightful, and the language is gorgeous.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I can punch through boards.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
I certainly hope that All Those Explosions sells a ton of copies. That way, I can afford to just keep writing.