Interview with Mike Resnick

Tell us a little about yourself and your background? (Where are you from, where you grew up, when did you start writing?)

I was born in Chicago. My family moved to Highland Park, a northern suburb of Chicago, when I was a teen. I met and married Carol at the University of Chicago, we spent 5 years in Chicago, 2 in Highland Park, 7 more in Libertyville, Illinois…and we’ve lived in Cincinnati for the last 40 years.

I started writing (and selling) in high school,  took a job editing (while freelancing at night) in 1963, and have been a full-time freelancer since 1969, which comes to 47 years.

 

First, I have to just have to stand back and smile at your overwhelming body of work, it is truly amazing. I also want everyone to realize that you have 36, YES 36!, Hugo Award Nominations (a record among science fiction writers) plus 5 wins. This is not so much a question as I am jealous and in awe of your spectacular career!

Want to be a little more jealous? Your information is wrong. I have -37- nominations.

HA sorry about that Mike, I fired my secretary for that mistake and yes I am even more jealous HAHA! 

 

Let’s go way back to the beginning. Tell me about the first story you ever wrote, and why you wanted to write it. What pushed you to pick up the pen or start typing?

I was probably six years old, and I remember nothing about it. My mother had been an unsuccessful writer (maybe 6 story sales and a dozen article sales in 30+ years), and for all I know that’s what inspired me. Speaking of writers in the family, my daughter Laura began her career writing about 20 romance novels and winning some awards for them, then moved over to science fiction, won the Campbell Award, sold a trilogy to Tor, and has 8 novels out from DAW.

 

How do you keep coming up with new and exciting stories? Is there ever a time when you find yourself reusing your old ideas or a characters from a past story and tweaking them for a new adventure? And if you do that how do you keep it fresh?

Beginning writers worry about where they’ll get their ideas. Established writers get dozens every day, and from unexpected sources. Examples: The Branch came from a furniture repairman who happened to be a Hassidic Jew; Sideshow and its 3 sequels came from a story about John Merrick, the Elephant Man, that it was not used in either the play or the movie;

Eros Ascending came from an ad I saw for a Tahoe resort; Santiago was inspired by a quite from the late R. A. Lafferty; the Oracle Trilogy came from a question I was asked during an interview; Kirinyaga  was based on a number of customs of East Africa’s Kikuyu people; and cetera.

 

Of all your awards and nominations, which means the most to you, which are you most proud of and why?

They all mean a lot – I mean, after all, the alternative are either losing or not being nominated at all. The honor that means the most to me isn’t any of the awards, but being Guest of Honor at a Worldcon (Chicago in 2012), than which (in my opinion) there is no higher honor to be had in our field.

 

Along those same lines, which story is your favorite? Or do you have a favorite that you wrote?

I have a few favorites: “A Princess of Earth”, “For I Have Touched the Sky”, “Down Memory Lane”, a few others. My favorite character is Lucifer Jones; every time I write a Lucifer Jones story it’s the most fun I’ve had at a keyboard…until the next one.

 

You have written a plethora of short stories. What is it about this length that keeps you writing them, time, convenience? Why keep writing short stories rather than spending time on a novel length story?

I find I prefer writing then. Novels pay the bills, and I’ve not been remiss there, with 76 novels and 10 books of non-fiction about science fiction to date, but short stories are more fun. Also, to be perfect frank, I’m 74, and while I feel great and have sold 9 stories and delivered 6 books already his year (and it’s only mid-August), I realize that I’m going to slow down one of these days, and that the Star Maker is going to put a permanent end to me and my career someday…and I’d rather put another 75 or 100 notions (stories) into print than maybe 25 longer notions (novels) before that day arrives.

 

Writing this much I have to also assume that you also read a great deal, I could be wrong, but these two usually go hand in hand. Where do you go to find the best scifi and are there any particular writers that you find yourself reading more and more?

My favorite sf writers are C. L. Moore, Bob Sheckley, Barry Malzberg, and Alfred Bester, and I enjoy and admire maybe 50 more.

 

Switching gears a little I also see that you have written quite a few nonfiction books, as well as mystery novels and screen plays. Not too many writers seem to dabble in both nonfiction and fiction. Does the change in the medium keep things fresh? Why did you want to try and tackle so many different genres and mediums? Seems like a daunting task.

It’s just fun to try new things from time to time. I’ve done 3 mystery novels, and will probably do some more up the road. I’ve also sold 3 screenplays – two solo, one a collaboration – which paid very well but have never been filmed. Dealing with Hollywood can drive you crazy – but we put up with it because they play with Monopoly money.

 

I also wanted to talk a little about Daniel Galouye. Recently I finished Simularcon – 3, which was a great read. In the copy I purchased you wrote the afterword. Can you talk a little about how this came about, why did you write this afterword?

Dan was a friend. I knew him, and admired his work. We mostly corresponded, but we did meet in person at a few conventions. My agent (since 1983), Eleanor Wood, is also the agent for the Galouye estate, and when Arc Manor picked up Simulacron-3, the publisher asked if anyone in her stable could write an afterward. She knew Dan and I had been friends (he died about 40 years ago), so she asked me and I wrote it.  And became friends with Shahid Mahmud, the publisher. And have been editing Galaxy’s Edge magazine and the Stellar Guild line of books for him for the past few years.

 

Galouye has a very straightforward style in Simularcron – 3, I felt there was no wasted verbiage or overly descriptive passages which is strange for such a futuristic concept, given the time it was written. I can tell by the afterword you were a fan of Galouye’s work. What do you enjoy most about his style or his works in general?

His straightforward style and his ability to find stories that other writers miss. There was a lot of computer stories before Dan posed the questions he posed in that novel. And good as it is, he has another one that’s even better: Dark Universe – and again, it’s a situation dozens of writers postulated before Dan did, but no one ever that this phenomenal extrapolation.

 

Simularcron – 3 was lightyears ahead of its time, literally! Somehow at a time when computers occupied several rooms, Galouye was able to see the near infinite possibilities that computers were capable of, including housing an entire other world. In your own creative process how do you take what technology that is available at the time and extrapolate that to create something that has really never been seen. I find this near impossible to do and how Galouye was able to do it, as near perfectly as he did, is truly beyond my comprehension.  

I don’t even try. I don’t write hard science; I don’t write soft science; I write limp science. Which is to say: in my stories, the people are always far more important than the science.

 

Do you have any specific goals? Maybe something that you set for yourself, either words per day, or how many pieces you would like to complete each year? What drives you to keep pushing forward? I think it was Stephen King (possibly someone else) who said that as a writer you need to write one million words to get all the crap out of the way, then you can start to get to the good stuff.

I write every day of the year, usually from 10 PM to 5 or 6 AM when nobody calls on the phone or knocks on the door. I do it because I love to do it, and get increasingly uncomfortable when I miss a day or two of work. As for King’s statement, hell, I’d sold over a million words by the time I was 23 years old…and that was a long time ago.

 

Who was your biggest influence that pushed you to want to be a writer?

I don’t think I ever considered any other occupation.  Writing and reading have been my whole life. I sold my first article at 16, my first story at 17, my first poem at 17, and my first novel at 20. If I have a biggest influence, it’s Carol; we’ve been married 54 years, I half-love and half-worship her, and I want to make her proud of me…and the only thing I’m good enough at to many anyone proud is writing.

 

Can you talk about any new projects you are working on? What does the rest of 2016 hold for Mike Resnick?

I just handed in a collection called Soulmates, a series of collaborations with Lezli Robyn. Lezli and I are also collaborating on a Stellar Guild novel for Arc Manor; no title yet, but we’ll deliver it by mid-August. I owe The Castle in Cassiopeia, the last book in the Dead Enders trilogy, to Pyr. Eric Flint and I just delivered The Gods of Sagittarius to Baen. Also, I have a couple of non-fiction books coming from Wordfire, The Updated and Expanded Science Fiction Professional, Volumes 1 and 2. David Brin and I are talking about a collaborative novel, and Jack McDevitt and I will be doing a second one (our first came out a few years back from Ace). Subterranean will be bringing out the 5th Lucifer Jones book, VOYAGES. And I’m sure there’ll be more.

 

As an aspiring writer, can you offer any advice to me or anyone else out there? What do you attribute your success or perhaps failures to along your journey? What has helped you the most to become successful?

You can give up on a market or an editor, but you can never give up on yourself.

 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

You can visit my website at www.mikeresnick.com, and I’m on Facebook. Any time we’re at the same convention, come up and introduce yourself.

 

Also check out all Mike Resnick’s incredible bibliography here.

 

Manik

 

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