Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Interview with Karina Fabian on Infinite Space, Infinite God II

Today I am interviewing Karina Fabian , who with her husband Rob Fabian has edited two very entertaining science fiction anthologies with Catholic themes. Today we concentrate on Infinite Space, Infinite God II (ISIGII).

My daughter-in-law Carrie, when she heard I was doing this interview, said "Catholic science fiction? What in the world would be in it?"

"Not hard to answer that one," I replied. "It's got everything that 'regular' science fiction has in it -- space travel, alien cultures on far-off planets, artificial intelligence, cyberpunk, time travel, robots, space wars... you name it, you'll find it here."

Check it out. At the end of this interview, you'll see that Karina admits that if the sales for ISIGII are not there, ISIGIII is not going to happen. If you're looking for an intriguing read, or a unique gift for a Catholic SF buff, BUY NOW!

1. I have always been curious about how one goes about putting together an anthology. I did not read Infinite Space, Infinite God I, so while you might have covered the question when that book came out, my readers might be as ignorant and curious as myself.

Which comes first, the stories or the publisher? For Infinite Space, Infinite God II (ISIGII), did you pitch the idea to publishers and then go out seeking stories? Or did you call for story submissions, assemble your book, and then go looking for a publisher?

This was definitely a "Push-Me/Pull-You." We had some stories we wanted to sell as a collection, but not enough. The publisher suggested collecting other stories from authors to make an anthology. The result was Leaps of Faith (first e-pub'd by Francis Isidore, then published by The Writers' Café Press). I showed it to another publisher of mine, a friend, and he suggested on of exclusively Catholic stories, which became Infinite Space, Infintie God I. However, his company didn't want to risk branching into sci-fi, so we shopped it around until we found Twilight Times.

ISIG I has won some awards, so Twilight Times asked us to do a second anthology.

Rob and I feel we were led to create these, and we've certainly been blessed to meet and work with such talented writers.

2. Regardless of how the anthology comes about, how do you find your authors? For ISIGII did you approach certain authors whose work you knew, send out a general call for submissions, or do a little of both?

For Leaps of Faith, FrancisIsidore put out the call. For ISIG I and II, we approached the Leaps crew and put out feelers in,, through my writing groups and the Catholic Writers' Guild.

3. Tell me about the cover art. I was very drawn to the image of the monstrance juxtaposed over the beautiful blues, greens, reds, whites and blacks of space. What does this image tell the casual bookstore browser about the contents of the book? Did you have control over the cover art, or did your publisher?

The cover art (done by the talented Kurt Ozinga www. ) is play off the cover for ISIG I. Contributor Ken Pick suggested keeping the monstrance and using a different space background. We love the effect--simple, striking, and really says what the book is about.

4. Three of your own stories appear in the anthology -- a "nuns in space" story, "Antivenin", and "Otherworld", a story about ministry in virtual reality, and "Frankie Phones Home". The characters in the first come from your novel-in-progress, Discovery. So we can look forward to seeing more of Sisters Rita, Ann and Tommie. And "Frankie..." gives a short, rousing end to Frankie's story from "Interstellar Calling" in ISIGI. But how about Father Jonas, the Jesuit who narrates "Otherworld"? Cyberpunk and Catholicism are a compelling mix. It seems to be that there are more stories of Otherworld to be told. Are there? I could see this as a continuing series.

I really wanted a cyberpunk story in ISIG II, but we had a hard time finding anyone who could pull it off, so I dinked around with some ideas and settled on exploring faith and morals in a virtual reality world where everything is "just a game." It was an interesting experience for me, because usually, I come up with the character first and the ideas, world, and plot afterward. Right now, I'm full up with other characters who demand I tell their stories (like Sisters Rita, Ann and Tommie). Father Jonas is pretty content, so while Otherworld would be fun to write in, it's low on the priority list.

5. Okay, here I want to be a little bit combative. In the brief editor's note that preceded "The Battle of the Narthex", you wrote, "Ready to laugh? Get ready for a lighthearted look at alien technology, power-hungry nobility, supernatural events, and your not-so-average Saturday evening Mass." I am a purist, and never read the editor's notes until I have finished the story. I finished "The Battle of the Narthex" sighing from a powerful Aristotelian catharsis -- I thought it one of the finest stories in the collection, and was completely puzzled by its characterization as humorous. If that is Alex Lobdell writing humorously, then I definitely need to read his serious fiction.

You will love Alex's serious fiction. "High Hopes for the Dead" in Leaps of Faith is one of my all-time favorite stories.

But seriously (sic), satisfy me on that point. What grabbed you to make you think of this story primarily as lighthearted? I thought the alien technology was fascinatingly clever and plausible. Their cloaking technology fit perfectly as an explanation of human sightings of aliens, demons, angels, etc. But what really grabbed me in the story was the nobility of the old warrior, facing a sinking sun of glory days gone and present times treated as an irrelevance. I am wondering if an age difference explains our different reactions to the story. As a sixty-something, I am an aging warrior myself. Have you gotten any other feedback indicating a difference in how the story was received by readers of different generations?

They say that a story has two elements: what the writer puts into it and what the reader puts into it. Sounds like you really got into the battle while we were more taken by the humor in the battle.

We find Alex has a very wry humor and a talent for giving old cliché's a new twist, and he uses it to great effect in "Battle of the Narthex." The aliens impersonating ghosts tickled us, like how the alien head researcher had a photo of himself impersonating a headless ghost at the Tower of London--downloaded, of course, from a human's ghosthunter website.

The quirks in the technology made us chuckle--it's an old gag, but Alex knows just how to make it a natural part of events. My favorite part, of course, was his incorporating the Catholic Mass and parish with the alien battle--like the countdown coinciding with the missile flying past the Stations of the Cross. Rob loved the perspectives of the parishioners.

We also enjoyed the ironic twists. However, I'm stopping here because I don't want to give too much away.

6. Talk to me about the elegiac tone of "The Ghosts of Kourion" and "Cathedral". The first leaves a sweet-bitter feeling, the second a bitter-sweet. Did you consciously think of these two as having similarities when you included them in the anthology?

Not consciously. We didn't really analyze the stories so much as choose ones that read well and left us either touched or thoughtful--or preferably, both. These two certainly accomplished both. I especially loved the last lines of "Cathedral": Jared, Argentine, don't you know Kat's falling? …And no one's there to catch her... I like to think Someone did.

7. "An Exercise in Logic" is a legal thriller blended with an alien prophecy tale with a dollop of colonization ethics thrown in. Any additional thoughts on the clash of religious cultures and law between Sr. Julian and the high priests of Honendo?

No, except that we found the Honendo as delightful as they were infuriating, and hope Barton will write more stories with them. However, we didn't see the clash so much as religious cultures and law as a clash of two alien thought processes.

8. (Possible SPOILERS) Colleen Drippe's stroy "Tenniel" sets up a situation where a space-traveling missionary priest has to choose between passivity that will surely end in death, and acting in a way that is contrary to his vocation. So tell me, Karina -- when you read the story for the first time, were you applauding Father Tenniel as he makes his decision to stand and fight? I know I was.

I was torn. Part of me said, "That's not the right thing," the other was saying, "That's what will get the job done." Even Colleen said Fr. Tenniel still wonders if he followed God's will. Of course, that's the point: even for the most faithful, life isn't always black-and-white.

9. Robots, androids, replicants, cyborgs, Cylons, synthoids, humanoids -- and now we have the andorganics of "Tin Servants". What kinds of artificial intelligences turn you on? Have you ever felt friendly towards your GPS, computer, or other intelligent device?

What I'd really want is an AI implant in my skull to help me remember all my appointments, obligations, etc., with a low-level nag feature. I have a story with such an implant, used as an assistant in time travel, but I've not touched it in a long time.

I do love the GPS. We call her "Techa" in Rob's truck. Rob, of course, adores his Nexus, which has done a far better job than his wife in helping him keep on a diet and exercise regimen!

We're steadily moving toward the age of androids and cyborgs. The work with prosthetics is amazing, and we recently saw a YouTube video of a singing robot that looks very convincing.

10. Okay, I gotta tell you. I was pretty confused by "Basilica". Hard science and heresy -- the Priscillians no less! I don't really have a question other than this - do you think I should go read up on the Priscillians and then tackle the story again?

Please do and let us know what you think. We personally didn't feel the need to get into deep background about it--the story itself was a great adventure on its own--but one of the best things about fiction like this is that it makes people want to think, to explore, to dig deeper. It's why we call the ISIG books "thought-provoking science fiction."

11. How did Joan Fong like Frankie's resolution in "Frankie Phones Home"?

You know, while she thanked us when we told her what we'd done, she never told us what she thought of the story! LOL. I'll have to send her a copy and ask. We've lost track of each other in the past year or so. However, I can say that the story was pretty much what she asked for: Frankie returning home to explain her sudden disappearance, and to ask forgiveness.

12. After "Battle of the Narthex", I found "Cloned to Kill" the most poignant story. It reminded me a bit of the movie "Inside Daisy Clover." This is as good a place as any to ask, what was your editing hand like? Did you do much editing of the submitted stories? Did you ask for any re-writes?

Most of the stories required a very light hand for editing. We asked for a couple of re-writes, mostly on technical basis. (This is Rob's bailiwick: If the world has this technology, then why doesn't the character use it this way?) Of course, we also extended the deadline for submissions twice in order to make sure we got truly awesome stories. Definitely worth the wait.

13. One last, silly question, but I have to ask: were you thinking of The Fantastic Mr. Fox when you read Dyads?

I'd never heard of him, and after looking him up, I still didn't connect the two. Ken Pick and Alan Loewen have built a truly unique universe with some fabulous aliens, which, while resembling Terry (ak Terran) creatures, are really their own individual--and fascinating--species. We think that's the genius behind "Dyads": interacting with a species that is so different from humans, yet with enough familiarities that some characters might think of them as less than sentients--or even less than human.

14. I lied. This is the real last question. Do you think there will be an Infinite Space, Infinite God III? What would you like to see in a third anthology, if you did one?

I'll be honest: I believe Infinite Space, Infinite God II is going to have to sell a lot better to justify an ISIG III.

You heard her, folks. Go thou forth now and BUY! So many ways to do it, too:

Buy it from Amazon:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Interview with Ann Lewis on Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes

Today I have a guest blogger, my good friend and fellow Pious Lady Debora Hosey. Debora is an inveterate lover of all things Sherlockian. She will be posing questions to Ann Lewis about her book Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes.

Debora Hosey discovered Sherlock Holmes nearly fifty years ago when a teacher had to find a way to entertain chorus members at a night-time Christmas concert when they were slated to be the final act...she read them "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" by flashlight -- and to this day, Debora continues to be thrilled by the Master Detective...

Debora is a writer of poetry and short fiction, an online reviewer, a mother of two /grandmother of four, and a lector at St. John's-Holy Angels parish in Newark, Delaware.

1. How did you come to write about Holmes?
I fell in love with Holmes in high school. In college, in one of my re-readings of the Canon, I saw the reference to the “sudden death of Cardinal Tosca” and I wanted to write it in the worst way. However, I didn’t have the writing ability to tackle the project. I put the idea aside, then 20 years later when I was moving I found my notes and realized that I’d grown enough as a writer to give it a shot. That and the fact that Holmes is mostly public domain inspired me to give a shot now.

2. The three stories are vibrant and rich in detail. Did you do a lot of research before writing...and did anything surprise or startle you?
I did a lot of research – much with primary source material when it came to Pope Leo. One fact that surprised me was that so many facts of history just fell into place for me. The fact that the Catholic Cathedral was finally being built at the right time, the fact that Leo was ordained the same year that Victoria became queen, etc. Research added the flesh to the bones of my original story ideas.

3. Did you reread any of the stories to help you prepare writing your book? Do you have a favorite Holmes story?
I reread the Canon over and over while I wrote, and actually did “word searches” through the digital text to see if a word had been used by Doyle. And I like too many of the stories to say I have an absolute favourite. “Scandal in Bohemia” comes to mind as does “Red Headed League.” But I think “Hound of the Baskervilles” will always be the one closest to my heart because it was the first one I read.

4. What's been the reaction of Sherlockians regarding the religious nature of the stories? I would guess that the non-religiously inclined would embrace the more traditional "The Second Coptic Patriarch." I loved "The Death of Cardinal Tosca," and especially, "The Vatican Cameos." By the end of the latter, I was hoping for more Leo XIII stories! It was especially delightful meeting up with Fr. Brown in two of the stories...

I’m glad you liked Papa Leo. I loved him, too and I would love to write some stories with him as the star. Not sure how well they’d go over. We’d have to see. However, in the Sherlockian community you have a nice mix of folks. I’ve received compliments from most people, even those who are atheists. One in particular, an atheist, read the book twice and he doesn’t like pastiches…which made me so very happy.

5. Sherlock Holmes is making a comeback these days...what do you think the appeal is?
He’s a classic. He’s a unique character that everyone likes to copy (Dr. House, for instance). He’s got a whacky personality and he’s exciting to read. And his buddy is just as fun (Dr. Watson). What is there not to like?

6. If you could ask Arthur Conan Doyle one question about Sherlock Holmes, what would it be?
Why didn’t you realize what a wonderful thing you’ve created? Doyle hated Holmes and felt he took too much attention away from his “greater works” of historical fiction. But when you create something whose popularity spans more than a century, he has to realize he created something amazing.

7. Do you plan on future Church Mysteries or Holmes stories?
Holmes stories, yes. I have one book written called The Watson Chronicles that I must find a home for. It’s a novel in stories about Watson (but Holmes is a BIG part of it, of course).

8. Finally, what would you like for readers to come way with after reading Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes?
I would hope that they simply had a lot of fun reading the book. That’s the primary reason I wrote it—so that people can have an enjoyable read.