Speculative fiction
Five Questions for Karl Dandenell

Five Questions for Karl Dandenell

Author of “The Long View” (Hard Science Fiction)


How long have you been writing? What got you started?

 God heavens, we’re starting there? All right. I’ve been writing since middle school, more or less. I think I turned in a SF short story for an 8th grade English creative writing class that was blatantly influenced by ELP’s “Lucky Man.” (In my version, the wounded prince was replaced by an explorer on an alien world who died, becoming a statue when his cybernetic armor failed.)

Two early bootstraps for my writing brain were (of course) Star Trek and the local library. For a provincial town, Santa Maria had a pretty heavy selection of Golden Age writers, plus the odd volume of New Wave SF. I also distinctly remember borrowing my brother’s copy of Creatures of Light and Darkness and thinking, “yah, that’s the stuff.” Once I read Lord of Light and A Wizard of Earthsea, I was committed. I wanted to play in that sandbox. I was fortunate enough to have friends who encouraged me (at least to my face), and a couple of supportive English teachers through high school.

What are you working on right now? And which of your stories would you recommend to someone new to your work? 

Now – I have at least 6 short stories in various states, plus two completed stories that need some editing before I send them off to seek their fortunes. My big project for 2018 (thus far) will be a novella that I’m going to workshop at Futurescapes in Utah. I think it’s got the potential to turn into an actual book, and Futurescapes will have a strong roster of pro writers (and students) whom I hope will help me whip the story into shape. Right now, I’m pantsing it.

For folks new to my fiction, I’d suggest “Layover” and “Human Faces,” both of which I sold after my time at the Viable Paradise Writing Workshop. Metaphorosis Magazine also has one of my favorites, “Comes the Tinker.”

I keep links on my website for my recent fiction: http://www.firewombats.com/recent-publications/

What are some of your literary influences?

As I mentioned above, Roger Zelazny and Ursula Le Guin,  Walter Jon Williams, plus Jack Vance and Patricia McKillip. More recently, I’ve been drawn to Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, John Scalzi, Ken Scholes, Ken Liu, and Aliette de Bodard.

What are you reading right now?

I have a pretty substantial TBR pile. Actually, it’s a TBR shelf. I’m currently reading James A. Corey’s Babylon’s Ashes for my lunch breaks. In the evening, I like to alternate between craft books (Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story) and fiction (the excellent Requiem, part of Ken Scholes’ The Psalms of Isaak series. He just published the last volume so I’m treating myself to a complete reading binge).

My struggle right now is keeping up with all the writers I know. Every time I take a class, I rediscover an old favorite, or encounter someone new and really good. (That’s how I was introduced to Fran Wilde. She’s amazing.)

And thus my Goodreads list grows.

Being the brief writer, what was it like to read four other versions of your story idea? What surprised you most?

I was pretty happy to see where people took my idea. There were several times where I thought the writer had captured an opportunity that hadn’t occurred to me, which is quite helpful. I’ll admit to a certain amount of trepidation, especially given that I don’t normally write Hard SF. Most of my work contains a generous helping of handwavium.

The surprise would have to be sheer diversity of viewpoints. Because we kept the briefs fairly generic, I expected a certain tendency of themes and approaches, and that just wasn’t the case. I absolutely did not expect a humorous treatment, and yet someone managed to lighten up a pretty serious topic. The other surprise was the speed at which the writers completed their assignment! I came in dead last, even though I had the whole story mapped out in my head.

You can read Karl Dandenell’s story in Metaphorosis Magazine, “Comes the Tinker,” for free online.

For more about Karl Dandenell:

Website: http://www.firewombats.com/

Twitter: KDandenell

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