Sourcerer’s Eleven: Questions for Author Luther M. Siler

This is the inaugural edition of a new feature: author/blogger interviews. Today I’m chatting with Sourcerer contributor Luther M. Siler, author of The Benevolence Archives and Skylights. Luther has graciously agreed to conduct the next interview.

1. You’ve just released The Sanctum of the Sphere, volume two of The Benevolence Archives. Can you tell us a little about that series and how it came about?cover_Luther_sanctum

I read an interview with Brian K. Vaughan, writer of the excellent comic book sci-fi series SAGA, right after George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney. Vaughan made a point that resonated with me immediately: instead of getting mad at Lucas for doing what he wanted with what was, after all, kinda HIS stuff, why not channel that energy into making up our own stories? I don’t know that he specifically used SW as inspiration, but the question that ended up leading to the series was “What would happen if Han and Chewie just took off after getting Luke to Yavin?” Some fiddling and, boom. Benevolence Archives.

2. What geeky goodness do you have planned for us next on the fiction front?

My next book– at least tentatively– will be a nonfiction book about teaching called Searching for Malumba. I foresee that coming out late fall or early winter 2015. If it comes out. I’ve tried to write it before and failed.  After that, probably the sequel to Skylights, and wrapped around that will be some more Benevolence Archives short stories. My plan is for the third BA book to be another short story collection, although release for that is unlikely until 2016 at this point.

3. Do you see yourself ever expanding your fiction beyond sci-fi?

Luther M. Siler

Luther M. Siler

Absolutely. There are a few short stories on my blog that are pure fantasy, and I’ve even got one published that’s got no science fiction elements to it. My first love is fantasy, and truth be told I read MUCH more fantasy than I do science fiction. I dabble in horror from time to time as well.

Then again, I also like to blur genres. My sci-fi has gnomes and ogres in it so if I write a fantasy novel there will probably be an alien invasion halfway through.

In fact, that’s mine. You can’t have it.

4. Our friendship began with a few conversations about blogging and e-publishing, and you’ve been successful at both. Do you have any Jedi wisdom on book production or marketing to share with those of us who are thinking of jumping into the publishing game?

Shamelessly steal ideas from people who seem to be doing things right. Interestingly, that’s my most common piece of advice for teachers as well. It works for both of my careers!

5. Why did you get into blogging? Was it to give your writing & publishing a boost, or, is there a more serendipitous origin story?

I need to write, as you may have noticed; my logorrhea appears to be exceptional even among bloggers. Writing fiction is really, REALLY hard. Writing nonfiction is not. Thus: blogging. My first blog was over at Xanga, and lasted five years or so; it came about when a classmate in my grad school program suggested a bunch of us start them and a year later I was the last man standing. I’ve had an active blog for most of the last eleven years.

6. You do book reviews from time-to-time. In your own opinion, what is the best review you’ve done so far?

I actually think I’m bad at reviews, to be honest. That said, I’m good at hating stuff, and my review of the movie Snowpiercer has several times more hits than anything else I’ve ever written at infinitefreetime. It’s actually the first Google result if you search for “Snowpiercer terrible.” No joke. Book reviews? I really enjoyed reviewing Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emporer, mostly because my review says “This is good, read it, ignore the rest of the review” and then complains for like 1000 words.

7. What’s the most fun thing you’ve ever done on Twitter?cover_luther_skylights

I recently got into a minor kerfluffle– or perhaps a debate, if we wanna get highfalutin’ about it– with a published author about self-promotion by independent authors (context here) and she actually ended up positively retweeting the article and we had a brief conversation about it. Halfway through that conversation James S.A. Corey jumps in to say he could never cut it as an independent writer and he can’t believe how hard I seem to work to sell my books.

James S.A. Corey (well, he’s two guys, technically, but only one of them runs the Twitter feed) has a goddamn TV deal and has written several books that I like A LOT, and I somehow managed to NOT insist that he take free copies of my books and read them and make me famous. This may have been a mistake.

And I may have peed a little.

8. What’s your all-time favorite science fiction story? All-time favorite character?

Character? Chewbacca. Story? If I don’t include Star Wars, which isn’t pure sci-fi anyway, it’d have to be The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. My publishing company isn’t called Prostetnic Publications for nothing.

9. Would you share with us a little about the first piece of creative writing you ever attempted?

Fifth grade, straight D&D dungeon crawl. I remember stealing the verbal component to spells directly from Dragonlance — the phrase “Ast Tasarak Sinuralan Krynawi” has been burned into my brain for a very long time– only in my story it was the words for a fireball, not a sleep spell.

I suspect it was not a very good story.

10. Give us your best pitch elevator pitch. In four sentences or less, why should we read your books?

Because I am a grown-ass man with a beard and I will cry RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF YOU if you don’t. Do you want me crying? Nobody wants to see a crying fat man. So save us all some trouble and go download my stupid little book.

cover_Luther_BA111. If you could own one (and only one) piece out-of-this world technology or magical artifact, large or small – anything from the simplest magic wand to a Death Star — what would it be?

The Infinity Gauntlet. Pretty sure I can do whatever else comes to mind once I have that. 🙂

Luther blogs at infinitefreetime.com. You can follow him on Twitter @nfinitefreetime

Blogging A to Z Day 23: Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien was born in South Africa in 1892 and lived part of his childhood in India. He served as an infantry officer during World War I and went on to become one of the leading philologists of his time. He held professorships at Pembroke and Merton Colleges, Oxford. He died in 1973.tolkien2

Tolkien is far and away my favorite author, and I doubt I’ll ever let an April go by without writing at least one post about him. This year I did three – I also wrote about The Lord of the Rings for L and the One Ring for O. I read The Hobbit, LOTR, and The Silmarillion at least every three years. I blog about Tolkien’s work often at Part Time Monster, and my ongoing series for that blog is so long I have it collected on a page for easy reference.

If my mother hadn’t read me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was a child, I might still have become a writer. But I doubt I would have developed a passion for fantasy fiction nor become a world-builder. I enjoy Peter Jackson’s adaptations of Tolkien almost as much as I enjoy the books themselves, and I’m glad the adaptations weren’t made until the special effects were good enough to make Middle Earth live and breathe.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of talking to a professor who actually met Tolkien on a trip to England. He said Tolkien had the manuscripts and notes for The Lord of the Rings in his office, and it was several six-foot-high stacks of paper. How cool would it be to have actually seen those manuscripts and talked to the man himself?

I recommend giving Tolkien a try if you’ve never read him. He’s equally good at humor and tradgedy.  He is Victorian and Modern at the same time, somehow. His descriptions and characterizations are excellent, and he has much to say about the nature of evil as well as the nature of good.

If you’re on the hunt for great Tolkien-related internet content, you might want to check out Sweating to Mordor, A Tolkienist’s Perspective, The Leather Library, and Middle Earth News. I follow them all and check in with them as often as I can.

Blogging A to Z Day 17: One Ring (to rule them all . . .)

image by Deviant Artist lucasmt

Since I began blogging in November of 2013, I’ve written at least 25,000 words about the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. Most of those posts have been part of a long series devoted to analyzing the way various characters interact with the One Ring. Over the last year, I’ve looked at Isildur and Gollum, and I am working on Bilbo this year.

My basic reading of the One Ring, for purposes of this series, is that it is more than a mere appendage of Sauron or an intelligent artifact. It’s a character in its own right. I’ve identified passages which clearly demonstrate that:

  1. It has a will of its own. Its primary motivation is to return to its master, but it delights in betrayal and in instigating conflict between other characters – especially murderous conflict.
  2. It seems prescient at times, or at the very least, has a limited ability to see what’s going on in its immediate vicinity.
  3. Although it has no power of locomotion, it is able to manipulate its own weight and size, and to attract the attention of living creatures through a sort of empathic communication.
    Click here for the A to Z list Art by Jeremy of Hollywood Nuts!
    Click here for the A to Z list Art by Jeremy of Hollywood Nuts!

It is not necessary to read the Ring as a fully-formed character, but I think the texts – especially The Lord of the Rings, more than support that reading. The interactions between the Ring and the other characters are the key to understanding how good and evil function in Middle Earth. In fact, I like this reading so much, I might just write about the One Ring for the Great Villain Blogathon next year.

What you think? Is the Ring a character, or am I pushing the interpretation too far for the sake of some nerdy fun?

If you’re on the hunt for great Tolkien-related internet content, you might want to check out Sweating to Mordor, A Tolkienist’s Perspective, The Leather Library, and Middle Earth News. I follow them all and check in with them as often as I can. And do stop back by on April 23 to read what I have to say about the good professor himself.

Blogging A to Z Day 14: The Lord of the Rings

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The Lord of the Rings is my favorite fantasy story. My mother read it to me when I was eight. She read me The Hobbit when I was six. I begged her to read LOTR for a year and a half until I persuaded her I was old enough to understand it and keep up.

A few years later I picked it up and read it on my own and the appendices gave me my first glimpse into the art of world building. My secret codes in middle school were all substitution ciphers using Tolkien’s alphabets. By the time I was 17, I was building my own world.

Two things set the Lord of the Rings apart from other fantasy epics set in constructed worlds. It’s set on this very planet in prehistoric times, and Tolkien used the languages as the starting point for building the world. That’s a neat trick if you can pull it off; I knew better than to even try it, and started with realistic geography instead.

When Diana and I started blogging in 2013, I decided to do a short series about The Lord of the Rings for Part Time Monster. That series is now in its 18th installment, and you can find the whole thing archived here. I’m planning to start it back up, and hopefully finish it, sometime this summer.

If you’re on the hunt for great Tolkien-related internet content, you might want to check out Sweating to Mordor, A Tolkienist’s Perspective, The Leather Library, and Middle Earth News. I follow them all and check in with them as often as I can. And do stop back by on April 23 to read what I have to say about the good professor himself.