I am on vacation in Las Vegas this week, so instead of a Monday Musing, I am running an interview that I recently conducted with author Lyda Morehouse. Lyda is the author of the LINK Angel series, which blends cyberpunk with religious tropes. She also writes The Vampire Princess of St. Paul series, a collection of YA novels under the name Tate Hallaway.
You write cyberpunk novels that blend technology with religion. The two topics seem mutually exclusive, since cyberpunk falls into science fiction and religion flirts with fantasy tropes. How do you make the two subjects fit together?
It’s funny to hear you suggest that they don’t, because I feel like there’s a long tradition of science fiction that deals with religious topics. One of the first books I encountered along this line was a rather cheesy one called JESUS ON MARS by Philip Jose Farmer. Later I discovered Jewish science fiction anthologies: WANDERING STARS and MORE WANDERING STARS (edited by Jack Dann). And, I don’t know, it seems like a lot of my favorite SF has fairly overt religious themes, things like the Force in Star Wars, for instance.
I think, though, it’s very common for people to want to separate science (and thus science fiction) from religion because they seem mutually exclusive, and a lot of modern evangelical right wing religions seem very adamantly anti-science. I was raised Unitarian Universalist and in one of the little pamphlets around our fellowship there was a whole little tract about how UUs have never believed that religion must be opposed to science, or visa versa. Sir Isaac Newton and lots of other scientists before and after him felt that the pursuit of scientific knowledge was essential to a greater understanding of god.
But, you know, if you had asked me when I finished Archangel Protocol a decade ago if I were writing science fiction or fantasy, I would have told you fantasy. Because, for me, SF needs to have a plot that turns on science, and mine most definitely turns on fantasy.
Well, I’d made a reference to a future past of Egypt that had flooded in, I think, Messiah Node (the third in the AngeLINK series) and the image always sort of stuck in my head. I write like that – which is to say, I have a sort of outline, but the day-to-day, nitty-gritty bits always get made up on the spot. So the image of flooded Cairo just came into my head and stuck there.
I will say that I have to credit MarsCON for the original seed that led to the image. I was listening to a talk by one of their media guests of honor. He was speaking about some BBC documentary or such that he’d done about the pyramids and he mentioned that there is a lot of water damage from the way that the Aswan dams have altered the traditional flow of the Nile. That got me thinking… which ultimately led to researching… and writing.
Your latest book is a prequel to the LINK Angel Series. What made you want to go back and explore the origins of your universe?
Part of the problem with writing apocalyptic fiction is that once you get to THE END, it’s sort of, well, the end of everything, so it’s hard to write about what happens after that.
You’re also about to release a YA Paranormal under the name Tate Hallaway. The book is very different from Resurrection Code. Do you work in both genres at the same time? How difficult is it to switch between writing distopian cyberpunk to paranormal YA? Do you find it easy, or does it take a transition period?
You can ask my editor/publisher at Mad Norwegian Press, who published Resurrection Code, about how much I struggled with the switch between genres. I missed two deadlines while I tried to re-find the voice of my science fiction world. It’s weird because I can’t even quite tell you what it is that I do differently, but the tone and the voice are very distinct. I tried rereading my own work, but that didn’t even quite do it. Eventually, the thing that broke me through was talking to a reading group that happened to be reading Apocalypse Array (the last of the AngeLINK books), and listening to them discuss what they liked and didn’t like about that book. I came back from that gathering and was finally able to recapture my original tone. So hats off to the Gaylaxicon reading group!
How do you write books that have the feel of being from the Point of view of a teen?
I use more swear words.
Seriously, what I tried to do was remember what it was like being a teenager. Granted, the last time I was a teenager Ronald Reagan was president, but the experience of feeling like the biggest loser in the entire school is still pretty universal, I imagine. At least, I decided that was likely the case and went from there.
When I was a teen, I kept a daily journal (on paper. Back in my day, we didn’t have these fancy computer things or the Internets that all you kids are into.) Anyway, for fun – and, I told myself, research – I looked at random pages in several of the volumes. Oh, the angst! Oh, the sense that every problem was a matter of life or death!
I tapped into those memories and added vampires.
I noticed on your webpage that you fielded some questions aimed right at teenaged readers and writers. Do you encounter many teens who want to write? Are there programs that offer mentorship for teen writers that you can recommend?
If you live in the twin cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, I could actually point teen writers to the Loft (www.loft.org) which is holding its first annual young adult/teen writing conference this year aimed specifically at helping teen writers find a voice and help them on the path to publication. But, outside of my own area, I really don’t know. When I taught at the Loft, which also holds 6 to 12 week courses, I had the occasional student who was still in high school, and I taught them the same way I taught the adults. I think there are a lot more avenues these days for teens who are serious about a career in writing, especially with the explosion of the young adult market in general.
But, unfortunately, I don’t know anything specific. There really ought to be!
What advice do you recommend to young readers? What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time and talk to yourself when you were first starting out?
If I could go back in time to the younger me, I’d tell myself this: “Stop selling yourself short.”
I think there’s a real tendency for all writers just starting out, whether they are teens or adults, to assume that OTHER PEOPLE get the big New York publisher contracts or are good enough to submit to Asimov’s or wherever. I wasted a lot of my time when I was first starting out submitting to tiny little ‘zines that paid nothing because I didn’t believe in myself or my writing. I never even TRIED the bigger places first, and that is a huge regret of mine. I now tell all my students that they should let the *editors* (not those pesky internal ones, either, but real editors at magazines or publishing houses) decide if their story is good enough. ALWAYS start at the top and work your way down.
I think this is going to be an even bigger problem now that it’s so easy to self-publish a book electronically. I’m afraid that a lot of good talent is going to ignore the traditional publishers because they’ve pre-decided that the big houses aren’t interested or are too hard to crack.
Where can readers find your books?
Depends on which ones they’re looking for! All the books I’ve written (and am writing) as Tate Hallaway are available wherever fine books are sold, from e-versions online to brick and mortar bookstores. Resurrection Code is available at the usual on-line outlets like Amazon.com and others, and can be ordered through your favorite bookstores as well. My older AngeLINK books are harder to come by as they’re out of print, and I published those books before electronic rights were standard language in contracts, so there are, alas, no Kindle or Nook versions available at this time. However, I still have a small stash of those books in brand-new condition which I make available through Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore: http://www.unclehugo.com/prod/
Tate Hallaway has a signing coming up at Uncles in May, and if you pre-order books now through them, I’d be happy to personalize and sign them for you!
What about you? Where can readers find you?
I’m all over the web. I’m on Facebook as both Lyda and Tate, and I twitter very irregularly @tatehallaway. If you want to know the daily nitty-gritty of my “glamorous” life, I keep a completely mundane LiveJournal blog (when LJ is up and running) at http://lyda222.livejournal.com/. Tate blogs more specifically about writing-related things at http://tatehallaway.blogspot.com/ and I contribute as both Lyda and Tate in a similarly writerly vein on my writers group’s blog http://wyrdsmiths.blogspot.com/. (Oh, and you can get to all of this directly from www.lydamorehouse.com)