Chicon 7 — the 70th annual World Science Fiction Convention — is now about 30 days away. In the lead-up to the con I wanted to take some time to interview each of the other four writers who are listed with me on the ballot for the Campbell award for best new science fiction and fantasy writer. First up will be Mur Lafferty:
…I am a writer, podcast producer, editor, gamer, geek, and martial artist. I also make a mean martini. My books include Playing For Keeps, Nanovor: Hacked!, Marco and the Red Granny, and The Afterlife Series. My podcasts are many, currently I’m the editor of Escape Pod magazine, the host of I Should Be Writing, and the host of the Angry Robot Books Podcast. I also do a show with my kiddo, Mad Science with Princess Scientist. I write a column for the gaming magazine The Escapist, and in the past I’ve written for Knights of the Dinner Table, Games Quarterly, Suicide Girls, and Anime Insider.
Personally, I run, practice kung fu (Northern Shaolin five animals style), play Skyrim, hang out with my fabulous geeky husband and our nine year old daughter…
QUESTION: You seem to be working hard at independent publishing? What are the biggest plusses (or minuses) that you’ve encountered so far?
MUR LAFFERTY: The plusses are complete control over what I release; I can write zombie audio drama or afterlife humor or superhero satire. The ebook royalties are much better for indies, but as I’m learning with my first pro book deal (Released May, ’13) that an advance can eclipse that earning. The royalties are less, but the take up front is much more.
But I’d say the biggest plus is the ability to be experimental, and no one loses money except for you (in regards to your time, that is.)
QUESTION: Your “Afterlife” series has an intruiging conceit: adventures in alternate heaven(s) and hell(s). What was the genesis (pun thoroughly intended) of the project, and was it an exercise in creative fun, or did you have something more meaningful that you wanted to say with these books?
MUR LAFFERTY: I’m not religious, but the concept of afterlives have always entranced me, especially considering the different religions and how they view heaven. When I was a kid I always wondered about Heaven, since I couldn’t see just sitting around being happy as a fun thing. When we tell stories, we don’t tell stories about someone being happy and safe and secure all the time. Adventure is never safe. The thought of that for eternity actually scared me a little bit. So I took it to the next level: what would happen if you got bored and just left?
I wasn’t sure where I was going at first, and was just doing some episodic writing, but eventually an arc developed in my head and I realized the plot over the five books.
QUESTION: Got any short fiction projects in the works?
MUR LAFFERTY: I started a novella for a workshop that is called “Muda! Mura! Muri!” and it’s about cheerleaders in space. Beyond that it’s all novels.
QUESTION: Of those professional Science Fiction & Fantasy authors (living or dead) which ones did you enjoy the most when you were younger, and who are your current favorites you enjoy now?
MUR LAFFERTY: Madeline L’Engle and Robin McKinley were my biggest influences as a kid, followed by Anne McCaffrey. As a teen, it was Douglas Adams. As an adult, my favorite three are Connie Willis, Neil Gaiman, and China Mieville.
QUESTION: Do you have mentors, and how have they added to or assisted you in your success?
MUR LAFFERTY: James Patrick Kelly has been a friend and mentor for several years and I don’t know where I’d be without his support. Within my MFA program, I’ve worked with David Anthony Durham, who has been extremely helpful and thought-provoking.
QUESTION: Do you find inadvertent idea cross-polination between your writing, and your enthusiasms for martial arts and also for gaming? What’s your game of choice, by the way? And why?
MUR LAFFERTY: I would love to write a martial arts book, but it’s hard to do. I’ve read some not-so-good ones, but on the positive side, I love how Steven Gould weaves aikido into his books, and may try to follow his lead. As for gaming, I don’t think I’ve done a lot of crossover. I don’t role play much anymore. Right now I’m playing Minecraft on the XBox, Mass Effect 2 on PS3, and lots of board games.
QUESTION: As a Campbell nominee, what’s been the biggest surprise; since getting the announcement that you’re on the ballot, that is?
MUR LAFFERTY: Not a lot has changed, frankly. The honor is boggling, and sometimes I still just sit here, stunned, that the nomination even happened. And I really, really can’t wait for WorldCon.