Thursday, September 8, 2016

Interview with Colin Spindler author of Of Bots and Beans

Today we have great pleasure in interviewing Colin Spindler, whose debut novel Of Bots and Beans was featured on the Showcase last month. Colin is here to talk to us about coffee-flavoured metaphysical space opera.

I think...

What do you think your writing has in common with Philip K. Dick's and how does it differ?
I won't pretend to be at PKD's level in terms of narrative complexity and style. The guy invented psychedelic sci-fi. His influence can be felt in a number of my stylistic decisions. In an alternate universe, wherein PKD does not write The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, my parallel is working on a lesser version of CULT Group Coffee Sequence. His sense of humor, his love of weird names... There would be no Jerubimbo Gripebagger, no Dame Saffron Von Scruplescotch, without there having been a Horselover Fat and a Palmer Eldritch.
My writing differs from PKD's most noticeably in the depth of my female characters. For all his genius, most of PKD's heroes are male and the movers and shakers are usually men. With characters such as the unnamed believer, the Voice (a feminine AI), Dame Saffron Von Scruplescotch, the gender-neutral character known only as the Participant, as well as a Kat Scullythorne, PhD, an important academician who is introduced in Phobos Eclipse of the Heart, I strive to show that feminism and psychedelic sci-fi can and should co-exist.
Another difference between my writing and PKD's has to do with the hard drug imagery that is abundant in PKD and nonexistent in CULT Group Coffee Sequence. Psychedelic art does itself no favors when it equates drug-taking with mind expansion. PKD explicitly denounced the idea, but his imitators regularly miss the nuance, overlooking the complicated ideas and gravitating instead towards Timothy Leary-like sensationalism.
The coffee imagery can be read as a parody of drug culture sensationalism in psychedelic SF.

The names of your characters remind me a little of Mervyn Peake's writing - was he an influence?
I've not read Mervyn Peake. Can you recommend a good place to start? I owe the fascination with goofy names to Charles Dickens, Frank Herbert, and PKD.

What is a coffee-flavoured metaphysical space opera?!
CULT Group Coffee Sequence is a space opera that plays with metaphysics and realities beyond human perception. Its space ghosts, disembodied consciousnesses, and nanobiotech bots invisible to the naked eye are reflections and refractions of the same invisible light. That is to say, they are all invisible (except when nanobots take on physical forms), sentient, mysterious, and all function as metaphors for the human soul -- which is itself a metaphor for human beings' categorical rejection of the reality of our own mortality.

 Is it satirical or would that give the game away?
I've been told it's satirical. To me, it's a fun examination of magical thinking. There's some Carl Jung and Alan Watts and others like them in it, too. And a ton of puns because puns give life texture, which is always preferable to "meaning."
My primary intention with CULT Group Coffee Sequence is to entertain readers with a silly story. My secondary goal is to give my readers something fun to think about.
One reviewer read Of Bots and Beans to be a send-up of the "absurdity of religion." The case can be made for its being a satire in that regard but that was not my intention.
In the opening scene of Of Bots and Beans, the idea that a Sheikh of the Shadhiliyya, who is traditionally credited with the discovery of coffee, took the recipe from a female believer is certainly provocative but not gratuitous.
There is no profanity, no blasphemy for its own sake. For instance, I do not give the Sheikh a name (fictitious or historical), nor do I set the scene in Yemen, where the first evidence of coffee-drinking was found in Sufi temples. This is purposeful: I'm not looking to offend readers who have religious sensibilities.
At the same time, I believe in the individual's (and thus, in the artist's) right to temporarily profane the Sacred for the constructive purposes.
Ultimately, I'm aiming for a tone akin to that of Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain: playful, irreverent, infatuated with archetypes, intolerant of charlatanism, more than a little bit kooky, and forever seeking. Few images are as powerful as that of The Holy Mountain's character in Christ-like garb screaming, terrified, in a room full of life-sized plaster-cast moulds of himself on the cross. When he smashes holes in the crucifixes and trashes the place, nothing is more satisfying to the viewer.

 I am having difficulties getting the name Jerubimbo Gripebagger out of my mind. What do you suggest?
All I can say is, if Jerubimbo Gripebagger sticks with you, just wait until you learn about the late Vladimarino Gripebagger, his uncle, the famed cosmonaut.(SFS: Eek!)

Apple or PC?

Do you use Scrivener or Word? Or another word-processing program? Or even pen and paper?
I write with OpenOffice, FocusWriter and LibreOffice on PC. Sometimes I work in OfficeSuite on my tablet. I do plotting on the Android flowchart app SimpleMind, which is a lifesaver.

Do you have any pets? Do they influence your writing?
We have a cat named Cassafras, whose original owner had named Cassidey. Not sure how that portmanteau came about but it stuck. She's a sassy little lady.  

Would you rather see your stories on the big screen or the little screen?
This is an interesting question. I'd prefer to see my stories and on the Amazon Bestseller List first and foremost. I don't see the artistic purpose in changing media from the word to film. My interests are geared more towards video games. I'd like to adapt my work for the little screen as interactive narratives and story-driven video games.

Are you hooked on any of the shows on the sci-fi channel? If so, which one(s)?
Laura and I are watching the X-Files on Netflix. That's about the only show I can think of.

What is your view of Star Wars, and the latest episode (if seen)?
I enjoyed it. Looking forward to the next. Rey is quickly becoming my favorite Jedi.

What is your favourite Science Fiction (or Fantasy) film?
Mad Max: Fury Road was fantastic.

Are you a Luddite? Or do you prefer to be on the bleeding edge of technology?
I'm neither. I love playing video games but my graphics card is several years old. I live on a budget, so being on the bleeding edge isn't possible. I like to learn about new tech.

Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?
I am a gamer of the first order, yes.

Do you cook? What is your best/favorite/most popular recipe?
I make a mean coconut curry.

Do you have a garden? Have you ever grown your own food?
My partner Laura has a garden, so, yes. We had some of her tomatoes and basil in a salad just last night.

Have you ever been to Starbucks?
On occasion. I prefer indie shops.

Coffee or Tea or Water? Espresso, Drip, Instant, or French Press? Bag or Looseleaf? Bottled, Filtered, Tap or Rainwater?
Coffee, big fan of espresso and French press. The best coffee I've ever had was at Cafe Milagro in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

Would you prefer an independent bookshop, or a big chain?

Do you have your own office, study or writing space, or can you write in a cafe or the library?
I write at home. I've never understood writers who bring their gear to the coffeeshop. More power to them, I just can't write like that. 

Who do you consider are your major influences in writing?
Raymond Carver, Angela Carter, John Cheever, Lewis Carroll... Those are just the C's.

What writer, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
I'd like to meet Frank Herbert, author of Dune. I think we'd have some entertaining friendly disagreements.

If you could have any director to shoot the film of your book(s), who would you choose?
Alejandro Jodorowsky.

How would you define Speculative Fiction?
Margaret Atwood wrote a whole book on the SF designation. I think I'll defer to her wisdom.

On a scale of 1-10, how eccentric are you?
Self-reporting is a flawed method of data collection. Also, I'm bad at math and my standardized test scores are rarely reflective of --- let's just say, 7. Seven sounds about right.

Do you consider yourself a slave to the muse?
To be honest, I subscribe to Frank Herbert's line about there being “no difference on paper” between words written easily in a fit of inspiration and words that were written while the author would've preferred to be doing something else.
I put words on the page with or without the Muse's permission.


About Colin Spindler:

 Aside from self-publishing coffee-flavored metaphysical space operas via Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Amazon Kindle Singles, Colin writes articles about video games at and

Colin lives in Durham, NC.


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