Russell Lutz on ST:
The Abduction: 01.8.2
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"Theres a problem with Iota Horologii. We lost contact three days ago.
Russell Lutzs first novel, Iota Cycle, chronicles the creation and development of a human colony fifty-six light years from Earth. At the beginning of the Twenty-Third Century, the colonization ship Hermione, under the watchful care of two androids, brings one hundred thousand settlers to the planets and moons of the Iota Horologii system.
The colony takes its initial, hesitant steps as amateur flier Eliot Burke pilots the first landing in this new system and claims the landing site for his familys new farm. Slowly, citizens like Burke turn the barren ground of their new home into the breadbasket of the system.
Decades later we join a soldier and a scientist on safari through jungles stranger and more dangerous than any on Earth. In Iotas halls of power, we witness the political machinations of a government tearing itself apart. We meet a brilliant young scientist whose passionate vision of the future is clouded by love. Through it all, we follow the fates of the Burke family as they, like so many on their home planet, struggle to make their farm a success. Finally, we ride with a platoon of Rangers on a bold mission to find clues to the mystery: Why did Iota Horologii break contact with Earth? The answer leaves the Iota System itself changed forever.
author of Red Ivy Afternoon, calls it reminiscent of the best
parts of Dune, Jurassic Park, and a number of Ray Bradburys
works. Across two centuries and including stories both personal and
epic, Iota Cycle shows the dangers and the promise of the future.
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interview with Russell Lutz
by Becci Noblit Goodall, Associate Editor
Noblit Goodall: Russell, first of all, congratulations on the award-winning
Iota Cycle. As a fellow writer, let me just say that your attention
to detail is fascinating and a little intimidating! Nicely done.
How does it feel to be recognized as a "writer" by your peers as you roll out your first published book? Does it make any difference in how you perceive yourself?
Lutz: I've thought of myself as a writer for a long time now, probably
about ten years. Having a published book gives me a sense of accomplishment,
certainly. I'm also quite pleased to hear that people out there who are unrelated
to me, people who know me pretty much only through my writing, enjoy the book.
It's a great ego boost, but also a responsibility. I know any time I read
a book I like, my thought is "Okay, what's next?"
BNG: I ask that question because you are one of the writers who've been honest on ST in saying that you want your stuff to be marketable. Can you speak a bit about how this affects your writing style?
RL: I don't know how much it affects the writing process. Maybe a little, thinking about which characters I can kill and which need to have a happy ending, trying to balance the tragedy and the comedy.
of marketability definitely impact how I go about trying to put the work into
publishers' hands. I've written stuff that was enjoyable to write, but since
the end result was either (a) inaccessible or (b) derivative, I didn't bother
to show it around. When I was writing Iota Cycle, I was thinking to
myself, "Yeah, others might enjoy this. I'll talk to some people about
BNG: I'm interested to know if you've ever had a line of dialogue or plot line that you've tossed because you thought it wouldn't go over with your audience due to things like vulgarity and/or sexual content.
RL: To be perfectly honest, I have the reverse problem. While I rarely find myself offended by content in fiction (or movies or TV), I don't tend to write that way instinctively. I sometimes have to make an effort to tone up the language or the skin, just to make something seem more realistic. If I didn't, everything I write would end up feeling like Harry Potter: adult themes without adult language. (Maybe it does anyway )
What is your favorite bit of dialogue from Iota Cycle and why?
RL: I almost used Olivia's breathless explanation of what would happen if the bomb went off in "Spring" (which I find hilarious, by the way), but I have to go with another answer.
A scene that I was worried about while writing was the explanation of the technology of the "beam". It's late in the book, but I felt like I'd spent so much time using this seemingly magical piece of communications hardware, I needed to explain it. I know as a reader, I'd have been waiting for that. Exposition, particularly technical exposition, isn't hard to write. Making it read like a novel instead of a textbook, on the other hand, is the real trick. By framing it in dialogue, I think I just barely pulled it off, making a character moment out of it at the same time. It may not be the most gripping dialogue in the book, but it's a personal achievement for me.
Can you give us your short version of what components make a story speculative
RL: Isn't all fiction, by definition, speculative? I know, I know. That's not really what you're asking. Sorry.
Fiction requires suspension of disbelief. Mainstream fiction requires suspension of disbelief about what is probable. Speculative fiction requires suspension of disbelief about what is possible.
BNG: Can you articulate the difference between SF and Sci Fi? I ask this because I think there's often this notion that there is no difference or that it's a catchall for horror/sci fi. What do you have to say about that?
RL: I see Sci Fi as a subset of SF. And it really comes down to what sort of impossibility are you requiring the reader to accept. In Fantasy, it's generally the existence of magic and/or mythical creatures. In Horror (supernatural horror, not Silence of the Lambs type stuff), it's the existence of ghosts or vampires or other kinds of undead beasties. In Sci Fi, it's the existence of unrealized technology. Iota Cycle is almost purely science fiction though I do give one character a prescient dream, so, for just a moment, I blur the lines. A lot of Sci Fi does that (e.g. Dune). That's probably why there's confusion about those definitions.
Do you think effective speculative fiction tends towards dystopia/anarchy?
RL: I think that the culture of the times dictates where fiction of any type will tend. Is the culture optimistic? Then the fiction follows suit. There's always going to be writers pushing for optimism, and others for pessimism. But the overall trend isn't a function of the genre. It's a function of the world the writers are living in. For remarkably effective examples of Sci Fi that house a beating heart of optimism, look at anything Kim Stanley Robinson has written.
I'm curious about your writing habits. Are you an "I've gotta write
every day" type writer, or do you flex it into your schedule when time
allows. I ask this because it's fascinating to me that some writers fixate
on X hours per day while others tend to grab moments here and there (I'm the
RL: I have two kinds of writing sessions. Little snippets of the day that I use for outlining or editing or maybe a tiny bit of original writing, and longer sessions (at least two hours) where I really get into the meat of a piece. The little sessions I try to do almost every day. The meatier sessions I have to fit into my schedule. Sometimes it's two or three times a week, other times less. When I get less than one of those in a week, I get worried that I'm losing my momentum.
Do you have any tips for upcoming ST writers on the marketing process?
Give us some I'm glad I dids
. I wish I hads
RL: Find a writing partner and run your queries (to publishers, to agents, whoever) past them just like you run your stories past them. You can get so in your own head about your work, it's hard to step back and even write a decent synopsis, something I routinely have trouble with.
good tip (which I got from a rejection letter) is to personalize every query
you send. If you write a form letter, they'll know, and may just dismiss your
submission. (And I was so proud of that form letter!)
BNG: Russ, what's on the horizon of your imagination these days? Can you give us a glimpse?
RL: I've got the first two books of a trilogy done about the world a thousand years in the future, when everyone is living under the ocean. I'm also trying to sell a novel about a genie that's more comedic than most of my stuff. Right now, I'm finishing up a fantasy novel about factions trying to lay claim to a new, magical continent. No horror yet, but I'm certainly trying to explore many corners of the SF realm.
His first publishing credit was in the print magazine The SiNK. The story was titled "The Last Perfect Afternoon", a quiet and hopeful tale about the end of humanity. He's since had more than a dozen stories appear in print and on-line. He won the 2005 SFFWorld contest for best short fiction for "Fall", a tale of a really extreme sport. Also in 2005, his story "Athens 3004" appeared in the anthology Silverthought: Ignition.
2006 brought his first novel, Iota Cycle, to print with Silverthought Press. This bookwhich includes "Fall" as a chaptertells the story of a group of humans attempting to colonize a distant star's planetary system. The novel won the 2006 DIY Book Festival award for science fiction.
Lutz, who recently joined Silverthought Press as an associate editor, is working on writing and editing a number of new projects. These novels are about a modern day genie, the world after a thousand years of climactic trouble, and a follow up to Iota Cycle, which tells the story of a lone android on a long and difficult task to make contact with an alien civilization.