Speculative Fiction—an all-encompassing genre created to describe stories of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and other stories that have an element of “What if...” in them. A story in speculative fiction is one that adds an element of the unreal, or asks, what would become of our society if history took a different direction at some important event? Fiction with a little something extra thrown in.—William D. Richards
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?!
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
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
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
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
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
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
Coffee, big fan of espresso and French
press. The best coffee I've ever had was at Cafe Milagro in Manuel Antonio,
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?
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
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
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 smashthegamestate.com and