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Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I wear a lot of hats - likely because I don’t have as much hair as I used to - but among the most important to me are I’m an author of science fiction, and an author of scholarly nonfiction about the past and future of media. I’m also a professor, a media commentator, and a singer-songwriter. But back to my writing: critics have been known to say that my scholarly writing reads like science fiction, and my science fiction may have too much philosophy. They don’t necessarily mean any of that as compliment, but I’m always happy to see it. There’s no reason why scholarly writing should be boring, and cutting-edge science fiction should be well-informed.
What first inspired you to start writing?
I’m the kind of person who, when I really enjoy something as a consumer, I like to try my hand at it as a producer. Fortunately, I don’t enjoy quantum mechanics. But I loved Isaac Asimov’s science fiction when I first came across it as a kid, and I knew back then that sooner or later I’d be doing some kind of writing in that genre.
If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be?
Well, if can we assume there would be an automatic translation device in my ear, that would obviously open up all kinds of possibilities, since I’m really only fluent in English. If restricted to English, John Stuart Mill and John F. Kennedy would be high on my list - if the latter, I would warn him to stay away from Dallas in November 1963, and therein try my hand at changing history (see my answer to #2 above). If speaking English was not an issue, I would chose Leonardo Da Vinci or Heron of Alexandria - the latter is the main villain in my novels, The Plot to Save Socrates and Unburning Alexandria, so I would want to give the real person a chance to explain himself. But then, back to English, I would enjoy spending a day with Marilyn Monroe, back when she was in her Arthur Miller phase, and kindly disposed to intellectuals. It would be a tough day of research, but I’m always willing to make sacrifices for my writing.
Are you a planner? Or do you prefer to dive straight into writing?
I’m definitely not a planner, except insofar as I have a very general idea that I’ll need to be writing a lot this coming week. But I always leave the specific times open, and these can be any time of day or night, whenever the impulse hits me. I’ll also say that I think in order to be a successful writer - which requires time to write - you have to be willing to practice a certain anti-sociability, or a willingness not to go out, but stay home or at least devote your attention to writing. In the long run, your friends will like you more, because you’ll be a more interesting person as a writer with works actually out there.
If you could turn any book into a film, which would it be?
That would have to be, I say selfishly, my 2006 novel, The Plot to Save Socrates, which is now actually at the very beginning stages of being made into movie. There’s a script, and some interest by some very big talent in playing Socrates and some of the other characters. But these wheels move exceedingly slowly, so it could be years before The Plot to Save Socrates is on any screen.
Aside from own work, I like to see Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy made into a series of movies.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I love being the Supreme Being in my own universe - it’s a wonderful feeling, creating characters, investing them with lives, putting them in situations, and seeing where it goes from there. I rarely collaborate, because I enjoy answering only to myself when I’m writing.
And the least?
Waiting to get my royalties from my publishers - my traditional, big publishers, that is. The money is often late, there can be mistakes in the royalty statement, and the complexity of the statement would give an accountant a headache. And probably worst of all is the ridiculously low royalty percentage - publishers usually only offer 10% of net income from sales, and you have to negotiate hard to get anything higher. This is one reason why small, independent publishers can be so attractive.
What are you working on at the moment?
The Silk Code, winner of the Locus Award for Best First Science Fiction Novel of 1999, was brought out as a ebook on Kindle, etc by JoSara MeDia last year. I’m putting together ebooks for the two additional novels featuring the same central character, Dr. Phil D’Amato, a forensic detective - I hope to have these ebooks available for The Consciousness Plague (2002) and The Pixel Eye (2003) in the next few months. And I’m also about a quarter-done with a brand new Phil D’Amato novel.
Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
My most recent novel is Unburning Alexandria - just published in May 2013 - the long-awaited sequel to The Plot to Save Socrates (2006). There’s a lot more information about those two novels and all of my books at http://theplottosavesocrates.com
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