Saturday, March 25, 2017

Interview with John Triptych, author of The Piranha Solution

Today, the Speculative Fiction Showcase has great pleasure in interviewing John Triptych, whose novel The Piranha Solution (Ace of Space, Book 1) was recently a featured new release on the blog.

You recently published The Piranha Solution (Ace of Space, Book I). What explains the enduring fascination with Hard SF and space colonisation?
I believe we are living the dawn of a new space age. The commercialization of space, with new companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, signifies a new approach to expansion in a frontier that was previously dominated by governmental agencies. You have to realize that humanity hit the apex when we landed on the moon, and it inspired so many kids to become scientists and engineers. But we seemed to have regressed for decades afterwards, sticking with only orbital manned missions and have used robotic probes to other planets since then. So these new developments are a welcome change; it means we are back to making an attempt to go where no one else has gone before. This was the driving force behind my writing of this latest novel.

To further elaborate, hard science fiction is about getting the science right. It took me months of research and I contacted a number of beta readers with actual backgrounds in applied sciences and engineering to make sure all the technologies described in the book would be plausible. Things like space physics, the laws of thermodynamics, orbital transfer manoeuvres and the latest in high-tech equipment were all carefully researched before being put into the story. What I’ve done is to fit the story into the science rather than the other way around. I wanted to make the novel as realistic as possible. I think readers have gotten more sophisticated and are perhaps tired of the usual space operas in which everybody (even the aliens) speak English, ships going faster than light or that every planet has an earth-like atmosphere and gravity. It’s the same approach as to what Andy Weir did when he wrote his awesome book The Martian. Now it will be up to the audience to decide if I succeeded or not.

The name Stilicho Jones is wonderful. Why is the naming of characters so important?
I named the main character after John Varley’s protagonist by the name of Cirocco Jones in his Nebula award-winning novel Titan. I just happened to like the name, and it’s one of the many Easter Eggs I placed in the book. Stilicho also bears a special significance because that is the name of one of Rome’s last great generals, a half-Vandal who happened to be the final bulwark against the destruction of the empire by the barbarian hordes that threatened its borders. Stilicho functions as a kind of general who is tasked by his boss (who I named after Elon Musk incidentally) to solve problems that threatens the firm he works for. Character names allow a distinctiveness that gives the readers a clear path to follow along with the story. I chose the names of my characters carefully, to make them unique and cool at the same time!

Who were your main influences as a writer of SF?
Oh, wow. I can talk about this part for hours! I actually read books of many different genres and try to incorporate them into a science fiction setting. But if you want me to narrow my answers down to the sci-fi field, well I would say almost all of them! I spent a few years being raised by my grandparents, and my uncle (who moved out) had this incredible sci-fi collection of books which I devoured every waking moment. I was particularly influenced by John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids, Roger Zelazny and Robert Heinlein’s juvenile works. Then I moved over to Ursula K LeGuin’s anthropological works and Frank Herbert’s immersive Dune saga. Then I discovered the eldritch horrors of HP Lovecraft. Soon after that, my mind was turned inside out by Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion series, Phillip K Dick’s myriad state of reality and the ever depressing Harlan Ellison. By the time I got to high school I moved onto to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. So I got the full spectrum of all the essential sci-fi works while still at a young age.

You list your interests as including art, architecture, wines, spirits, beer, history and travel. Can you elaborate?
Suffice to say, I find everything to be interesting! I’m the type of guy who loves going to museums or spending hours browsing through books in libraries. I also like to look at giant structures, and wonder how they got built. On top of that I love good food and drink, and try out any new restaurant I can find. Travelling around the world broadens one’s horizons, and makes me realize just how much there is that I don’t know about.  There’s really nothing that doesn’t interest me to be honest. Life in general is fascinating, and I absorb all the incoming information that my senses provide like a sponge. I try to add bits of trivia on all my books, and I hope that people get to learn new things when they read my works.

What are you working on at the moment?
Oh boy, right now I’m stressed out at doing three concurrent works. The first is the third book in my Dying World series, and that is slow going at the moment. The second is the sequel to The Piranha Solution - and there’s so much technical stuff I have to research on, and the third is a new trilogy set in the far future with a bit more space opera to it - it’s about a rebellion in an alien world, and I am having a blast creating a unique alien species with its own culture. If you want to know the story, think of it as like James Cameron’s Avatar, but set in a very different planet. On top of all this, my business partner asked me to go back to running the company, so I am working full time in addition to writing. Needless to say this will be a taxing year for me!

Tell us about your other SF and Fantasy writing…
I have a number of different series out. My main one is the Wrath of the Old Gods saga, which currently comprises six interlocking novels. Its theme is about the old pagan gods returning to modern earth, and how it affects humanity. These books are epic in scope, and cross into multiple genres. I have plans to continue them in the future, assuming I have the time!

Another series I have is called the Dying World. Its setting is millions of years in the future, and the oceans have dried up. The surviving pockets of humanity live a hand to mouth existence and a few of them have developed mental powers. It’s sort of like my own version of Star Wars, minus the lightsabers and starships.

In your blog, you mention Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Is humour important in your writing?
I try to add humour in all my works because there are times a lot of my stuff gets too serious. I’ve come to realize that audiences prefer to read stuff that isn’t all depressing and horrible, so I do add bits of levity as a counterpoint to all the violence, the gore and the horror. I don’t think I’ve quite mastered the art of comedy yet, but I am trying!

What Science Fiction writers are you reading at the moment, and any recommendations?
I rarely read any new works, most of what I like are the classics. I’ve recently gotten my hands on the complete Elric novels by Michael Moorcock, and I plan to finish reading them in the near future. The only problem is that I am so far behind in writing that I don’t have time to read books by others.

What is your favourite Science Fiction (or Fantasy) film?
I like Bladerunner - its visuals and immersive qualities are second to none. I can’t wait for the sequel! The first two Alien movies are also excellent - though the succeeding ones have dropped in quality. John Carpenter’s The Thing is another all-time classic for me since it combines horror and paranoia with sci-fi. Dystopian movies like Mad Max, Andre Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Hard to be a God (gross but awesome) also rate highly for me. In the end I can recommend quite a bunch so its best we stop now!

Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?
I am indeed. I started out playing tabletop role playing games as a kid and then went on to computer games since their very beginnings. I think playing these games helped in regards to providing structure to my writing. This is another subject that can run for pages so I think we need to stop right here! Sadly though, I have not been keeping up with the latest games because of my writing schedule.

Do you cook? What is your best/favourite/most popular recipe?
I can cook. My specialties include leg of lamb with yogurt sauce, three-cheese lasagne and a whole bunch of others. The only thing I am not good at is desserts - I tend to use my bare hands and instincts to measure ingredients and that’s a no-no when it comes to baking and stuff.

Do you have a garden? Have you ever grown your own food?
No I have not. I would like to do this in the future since I recently bought beachfront property. Once I get enough money to build a house I would like to retire and tend a garden, so it’s on my bucket list. I’m, also fascinated by Japanese rock gardens, and would like to build one of those too.

Would you choose tea, coffee, or something different?
I rarely drink tea or coffee or even sodas. It’s just usually water for me. Or if failing that, then wine, beer and the hard stuff- but that’s a completely different subject...

if you could have any director to shoot the film of your book(s), who would you choose?
Wow, this is a tough question! I think Ridley Scott is excellent, and I wouldn’t mind him. Too bad Stanley Kubrick has passed on or he would have been my first choice.

How would you define Speculative Fiction?
I think anything that has to do with elements of fantasy combined with imagination is speculative fiction. There has to be a slight suspension of reality in order to bring this broad genre about, even if it’s just a little, and that’s what makes it so special.

About John Triptych:

John writes thrillers of differing genres, from hyper-realistic crime books to fantastic, post-apocalyptic sci-fi novels that make you want to turn one more page just before bedtime. A former fanfiction writer turned self-publishing novelist, John Triptych’s varied interests include: reading other people’s books, recreational diving, watching movies and TV, guns, internet, politics, computer and tabletop gaming, cooking, art, architecture, wines, spirits, beer, history and travel.

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