Saturday, July 14, 2018

Interview with Nick Dorsey, author of The Jupiter Man (Unique Tales, Book 1)

Today the Speculative Fiction Showcase has great pleasure in interviewing Nick Dorsey, author of The Jupiter Man, which we will feature as a new release on July 17th.

What connection is there between your crime writing and your Science Fiction writing?

The biggest connection is the undercurrent of people vs systems, and by systems I mean bureaucracies, or criminal organizations, big forces that my characters think they understand but they really only see the tip of, ice-berg style. And these systems always want to preserve themselves, and that's easiest to do if you strip humanity away from whoever is serving the system. My next novel deals with the criminal justice system and that idea is very prevalent.

You mention Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Heinlein as amongst your Science Fiction influences. What do those writers mean to you?

Vonnegut can read as very nihilistic at times, but he wanted to promote common decency. If this is the world we're given, and it's a hard world, we have to be good to one another, help one another through this thing. And there's so much humor in his work. So I like that dichotomy, dealing with dark material (Slaughterhouse Five deals with the firebombing of Dresden in World War Two) but at the same time he's able to make jokes about the human condition.
Heinlein is a stranger beast, to me. I love his more popular stuff like Starship Troopers but there are strong and troubling currents of nationalism and fascism that run through his work. On the other hand, he could be very progressive and hopeful (and real weird, too). His characters were constricted by the social norms and mores of their time and place (he did a lot of time/space travel and alternate dimension stuff) but they were always trying to rise above those constrictions and better themselves. I don't know if I emulate them, but that's why I love them.

In your biography, you describe yourself as having done many different odd jobs from house painter to indie film screenwriter. How has your life experience informed your writing, if at all?

I'm a fan of the folks doing the dirty work that makes societies run. And there's craft being practiced in all these unexpected places. Plus I met so many interesting people with great stories. I do my best to put some of those characters in my writing.

While doing all these different jobs, was your intention to become a writer full-time?


Tell us about The Jupiter Man. What does the title mean?

It's all a misunderstanding. Zach Hernandez is a member of a criminal organization, and in comic-book fashion, the group has a theme - this one is the planets. Zach is a big guy, so he's nicknamed Jupiter. A few things happen, and Zach is mistaken for having real-deal super powers, which I call Unique Abilities in the book. People start calling him Jupiter Man, first as a joke, then for real. He tries to correct them but the name sticks.

What is your feeling about superhero comics and films?

Some are good, some are bad. I like that DC is really going for the godlike nature of their characters, reaching for something like spirituality, even if those films don't quite do it for me on other levels. Marvel is doing great character work, as they always have. I really liked that the latest Spiderman film was an actual high-school story, with prom dates and field trips and everything. You never forget that Peter Parker is a kid, and still finding his way in the normal world. The superhero stuff is just another complication. For the record, I love the Hellboy movies-they just get so bonkers and cool.

Why do you think superhero films have enjoyed such a renaissance recently?

The technology caught up with the stories. You work with what you have. In the 40s that mean western and noir films, in the 60s and 70s, with miniatures and better practical effects, that meant more elaborate sci-fi and fantasy stuff... now in the teens I guess it means comic book films. Honestly, it's marketing. Everyone knows these movies now, they're safe bets for the studio. And Marvel has been pretty consistent with the quality, so it's a safe bet for the audience, too. Making another Avengers movie might cost half a billion dollars, but it'll make two billion at the box office. Safe bets.

Which comic artists do you enjoy?

Erik Larsen has been writing and drawing Savage Dragon for almost 25 years, probably. And the book has grown with him, it changes according to what kinds of stories he wants to tell. No rules. It's great. I loved the late Drew Hayes' Poison Elves, too. Right now the only thing I look out for regularly is Elephantmen, written by Richard Starkings and art by Moritat, but with a ton of other writers and artists filling in. It's a great speculative fiction book. Other people I like...Alan Moore, of course, and Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Brian K Vaughn and Scott Snyder... As for the artists, I can only really think of Sara Pichelli and Greg Capullo right now. Man, I'm doing a disservice to great artists out there. But now is a great time for graphic novels and comics.

Will there be sequels to The Jupiter Man, which is also called Unique Tales Book 1?

There will be at least one more novel dealing with some of the same characters, probably two, and maybe a book of short stories. Nothing will be a direct sequel. The idea is to make it a universe of Unique folks and explore that. We'll see.

You grew up in New Orleans, which is a very distinctive place. How has that influenced your writing?

Well, I set everything here. I've lived here and left, come back, left. I've got a very love/hate relationship with the city. I feel like living in a place and then leaving, getting perspective, viewing it from all sides, has really helped me think about the city. There are so many cultures and sub-cultures here, subtle eccentricities and big, bold, weird traits to explore. It's a lot of fun to dive in and write about.

In your last book, which was a crime novel, you wrote about the breakdown of an individual and of a society in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Has anything of that experience found its way into this novel, or is it more escapist in tone?

This novel is a bit more escapist, and a bit funnier (I hope). But there are some similarities. Like I said earlier, both novels deal with characters struggling against systems. Jupiter Man is really about the main character, Zach, navigating all the social norms he's expected to live by, whether those are norms he has a criminal, a civilian, or...something else. Both are about people trying to live in a world with the choices they've made, moving forward against a tide, so to speak. Only that tide they're fighting is inside of them. Characters in both Jupiter and my first novel, Bleeding Levee Blues, are trying to break free from destructive cycles.

What are you reading at the moment?

Nick: I just finished B. Catling's The Erstwhile, the second book in his epic fantasy series which is awesome, as in worthy of awe. If you're into fantasy, go to a library or bookstore or kobo or whatever asap and pick it up. I just started Umberto Eco's Island of the Day Before, and I'm enjoying it. It's been on a shelf for about 5 years waiting to be read. I really loved Eco's The Name of the Rose, which was basically a version of Sherlock Holmes set in an Italian monastery in the 13th century. It's a lot cooler and funnier than that makes it sound...

Is there a soundtrack to your writing and could you share it with us?

If you mean what I write to, I listen to anything without lyrics. Lyrics distract me. So it's jazz, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, John Coltrane. Maybe some Gregorian chants, Arvo Part, and some off beat stuff, Teijo Ito and Ennio Morricone film scores...

What are your plans for your writing?

Keep writing. A book a year seems doable, so far. I'll continue with my Tom Connelly series and put out Unique Tales, too. I've got some other ideas, maybe some collaborations coming up which I'm excited about.

About Nick Dorsey:

I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. After a stint at Louisiana State University, I moved all over the country and I worked odd jobs. These included, but are not limited to: barista, copywriter, house painter, bicycle assemblyman at Toys R Us, carpenter’s assistant rebuilding houses damaged during Hurricane Katrina, writing instructor, indie film screenwriter, and salesman at an art gallery. You know those little beads that make up braille words set into plastic signs in office buildings? For a while, I was the guy who stuck those beads into the plastic. Yeah. They still don’t have robots for that. I grew up reading Kurt Vonnegut and Elmore Leonard, Robert Heinlein and Newton Thornburg. I live in New Orleans with too many dogs. Bleeding Levee Blues is my first novel.

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