Friday, March 1, 2013

Author Interview: Bruno Lombardi

Today, I'm interviewing Bruno Lombardi, who contributed A Thursday Night at Doctor What's Time and Relative Dimensional Space Bar and Grill to "The Temporal Element."  Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions, Bruno.

MTI: First of all, tell our readers a little bit about yourself?  Nothing too personal, or anything, just some introductory stuff.

LOMBARDI:  Remember that guy in university who everyone agreed was really bright but was also really, really unfocused? The guy who could get straight B’s in courses by writing a 15 page paper the night before it was due but couldn’t be bothered to put the effort into getting an A plus? The guy who switched his major more often than most people switch jobs? The perennial ‘professional student’?

Yeah—that was pretty much me during most of the 90’s.

It wasn’t a complete loss, mind you; I ended up with a double major in psychology and anthropology, with a certificate in addiction studies thrown in for good measure. I also ended up with an amazing collection of friends, as well as an equally amazing collection of stories and adventures. After bouncing around in the ‘real world’ for a while, I ended up by pure dumb luck getting a job working as a civil servant for the Canadian government in September 2001. Been working in various positions in the civil service since then.

MTI:  You're relatively new to the "published" world.  How long have you been writing fiction?

LOMBARDI:  I have been regaling friends and family with numerous stories about my various travel adventures and general day-to-day silliness since at least my college days, but I’ve only been writing fiction for about seven years or so now.

MTI:  What first compelled you to write fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

LOMBARDI:  That’s an interesting question. Back in January 2004, I signed up on an alternate history forum, mostly because I started reading up on some of Harry Turtledove’s work and wanted to see what else was out there plus to chat with other fans. I quickly became friends with various other online people there and they used to be amused/bemused by my ‘Bruno-esque’ stories, as they called them, of my various (mis)adventures.

The general consensus of the people there was that a) I was a talented story-teller, able to regale people with seemingly mundane things as just the simple act of going to a pub or travelling on a train; and b) I was ‘wasting’ my writing skills by not writing any actual (fiction) stories.

As a favor to a member there, who had devoted quite a bit of his time to developing an ‘alternate China’ timeline for the site, I was asked to write a short story based on his timeline. That was back in 2006. Since then, I’ve written a total of nine stories based in that ‘universe,’ with the longest story being more of a novella, at just shy of 33,000 words in length.

I got seriously bitten by the writing bug after that first short story, trying my hand at everything from post-apocalyptic to horror to alternate history—but my favorite genre still remains that vaguely defined and nebulous ‘speculative fiction.’

MTI:  If you could name just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

LOMBARDI:  When I was at the ripe old age of eight years old, my older sister went off to college. Bless her heart, but rather than chuck out all her old books, she decided instead to dump them all on her very bright but shy and bookish baby brother. As a result, I was introduced to the nearly complete works of Ray Bradbury.

I think I went through the entire collection in under six months.

Seeing how voracious my newfound interest was in science-fiction, my sister gave me all of her old Amazing Stories, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog and Asimov’s Science Fiction magazines the following year. Thirty plus years later, I still have some of those magazines on a shelf on my bookcase.

I was inspired by quite a few authors since that time, obviously, but I can safely say that if it weren’t for Bradbury I would never have become interested in science fiction.

MTI:  Yes, Bradbury was one my early influences, as well, and his passing last year was very sad, though he had a good long life.

Your story, A Thursday Night at Doctor What's..., appears in "The Temporal Element," a Martinus Publishing anthology devoted entirely to time travel adventures.  These fictional accounts are fascinating, of course, but do you ever believe that humanity will discover a viable way to travel backwards and forwards through time?

LOMBARDI:  I say yes—although if that would be a good thing or a bad thing is the 64 million dollar question.

MTI:  With that in mind, if you could go back to any point in history, when would you visit?

LOMBARDI:   Just like every kid, I went through a big ‘dinosaur freak’ phase. Unlike most kids though, I never really outgrew that phase, so I would love to go back to that time period and just observe them—hopefully without ending up in someone’s stomach, of course!

MTI:  I believe Steven Gepp's Extinction will be right up your alley in that regard.  On the flip side, what one piece of futuristic technology would you like to have right now?

LOMBARDI:  Faster Than Light drive. I haven’t the faintest idea what form it will take—be it warp engine or hyperspace or jump gates—but that device will be the one thing that will alter the course of humanity forever. We humans are defined as a curious species, and to have the universe finally opened up to us would be the ultimate transformative event in human history.

Mind you—to paraphrase P. J. O'Rourke—that may very well be like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys...

MTI:  In your bio, you mention that a lot of weird things have happened to you in the past.  What's one of the strangest things you can recall (and that you're comfortable enough to admit)?

LOMBARDI:  A bit of background. I take the train everywhere and Via Rail has a ‘Via Points’ program, which works pretty much the same way as air mile points work. Back in 2007, I was curious one day as to exactly how many points I actually accumulated on the card, so I called up the customer service line and gave her my number.

The girl on the line laughed hysterically for a full ten seconds.

When I inquired as what was so funny, I was informed that I possessed one of the ‘very first cards ever issued’ and that this was the first time she’s spoken to someone like that. It had totally made her day. When I asked just how many points I had, I was given a truly ridiculously high number—27,000 IIRC. Asking what exactly can I do with so many points, I was informed that I could go first class from Ottawa to Toronto, then take the cross country train from Toronto to Vancouver, with my own cabin and all meals and booze included, and then take the return back from Vancouver to Toronto and first class from Toronto to Ottawa.

All for free.

Since I had some vacation time coming up and had a friend from university that I had not seen for a while living in BC and it was my birthday soon, it’s pretty easy to guess what I did at that point.

So a few months later, I’m travelling my way across Canada and the train stops in Jasper, Alberta for a quick stopover.

I get out to stretch my legs, check out the scenery (the town is located at the base of the Canadian Rockies), grab a bite to eat and so forth—when I spot someone.

On that alternate history website I mentioned, I’m friends with a Brit. We’ve collaborated on a few stories together but all of our interaction has been online, either through the board or e-mail. We’ve never actually met before but both of us have posted a few pictures of ourselves over the years.

Guess who just happened to be travelling with his family on a Rocky Mountain trip that particular week?

My friend was vaguely disappointed; he always felt that we should have exchanged black suitcases on a park bench someplace just to complete the surrealism of the whole meeting. Instead, we spent an hour in a coffee shop discussing politics, upcoming writing projects and Atlantis—which I suppose was probably just as surreal to whoever was eavesdropping on us.

MTI:  Back to your writing, you recently had a novel published called "Snake Oil."  Give us the scoop on that.

LOMBARDI:  It’s an amusing take on the ‘First Contact’ premise. Rather than coming here to destroy us or give us enlightenment or test us in order to bring us into the Federation or whatever, when the aliens do show up they come as the interstellar version of used car salesmen, offering humanity a plethora of deals—all for the right price, of course.

Needless to say, I had a lot of fun writing it, with tongue-in-cheek references to pretty much every science fiction cliché and cultural reference out there.

MTI:  If I may take a moment to stroke my own ego a tad, I'd like to share with our readers that I was pleased to "discover" Bruno even prior to his novel acceptance, by accepting "A Thursday Night at Doctor What's Time and Relative Dimensional Space Bar and Grill" to The Temporal Element.  Do I know talent when I see it, or what?

Okay, enough of that.  Let's talk about the future, shall we?  Can you tell us a little about what writing project you're working on right now?  Or is that top secret?

LOMBARDI:  I’ll be happy to tell you about it. It’s a novel titled ‘The Coin.’ It’s a bit of a different take from my usual style, much ‘darker’ and serious.

The basic premise is that the thirty pieces of silver that were given to Judas to betray Jesus have become, essentially, both evil and sentient. The novel has two parallel plots; the first follows the pieces of silver—and the people they’ve interacted with—through the last 2000 years of history. The second is centered on a young man who can best be described as a ‘nice but slightly messed up loser’ trying to get his life back together again and opening up a bed and breakfast in a small town in present-day Newfoundland.

I’m not giving anything away when I tell you that there’s a connection between him and the coins.

MTI:  Well, my curiosity is certainly piqued.  I can't wait to see that unique story on the market!  Now, on a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

LOMBARDI:  I’ve become totally addicted to Person of Interest and The Walking Dead. The Walking Dead because, well, zombies and post-apocalypse, d’uh! Person of Interest because it’s a brilliant multi-layered show where, for once, you’ll find yourself actually happy that ‘Big Brother’ is watching out for you...

MTI:  How about music?

LOMBARDI:  I’m a big fan of blues and jazz—I even worked as a volunteer on a jazz festival in Toronto one summer—but lately I’ve been buying up some CDs that can best be described as ‘globalization blues/jazz’. Basically blues/jazz but interpreted by artists from Cameroon to Brazil to Taiwan. It’s fascinating seeing ‘normal’ music get a different spin done to them.

MTI:  We're almost out of time, so before we close I'd like to ask if there are any words of wisdom you'd like to share with potential readers?  Either that, or you could just give us a good sales pitch to get people reading.

LOMBARDI:  Three pieces of advice.

‘Perseverance pays off’ would be the first major piece of advice I could give to any would-be writers in the audience.

The second piece of advice would be to all those naysayers that say that they have no stories to tell. That’s a lie. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone. The world is full of people—and therefore, full of stories to tell.

The third piece of advice would be a piece of great advice that Ray Bradbury gave to both writers and readers alike: You must stay drunk on writing so reality can’t destroy you. No truer words have ever been spoken.

MTI:  And finally, do you have a paragraph or two of fresh writing material that you'd like to share with our audience?

LOMBARDI:  I’ll be happy to. Right now I’m working on a short story for a possible anthology. Here’s a small snippet of it:

The road was lit with Moon and star…

The Road was lit with Moon and star —
The Trees were bright and still —
Descried I — by the distant Light
A Traveller on a Hill —
To magic Perpendiculars
Ascending, though Terrene —
Unknown his shimmering ultimate —
But he indorsed the sheen —
- Emily Dickinson

July 20, 1970 – Cocoa Beach, Florida
David finished off his third bottle of beer and threw it into the ocean. With a loud splash, the bottle vanished beneath the waves, the ripples of its demise into the deep reflecting the moonlight like a cracked dark mirror.

With a cackling laugh, David looked up at the full Moon. Cocking his hand into the shape of a gun, he careful squinted one eye and sighted his index finger at the center of the Moon—and made a ‘bang’ sound.

“Got you, you mother,” he whispered to the universe at large.

Cracking open his fourth beer of the night, David Daniel Thomas Patton—'General DDT’ to his friends; Commander (Retired) Patton to his former Navy crew; ‘Dave’ to his family—proceeded to celebrate.

He was going to be the first man to walk on the Moon.

It was sometime after 3 a.m. when David—having finished his sixth beer of the night—decided to stagger home.

‘Home’ was about three miles away from the point on the beach where he had unceremoniously commended a six pack of beer to the ocean depths. Under normal circumstances, the walk would have been a rather pleasant forty-five minute journey.

This evening, however, in light of his rather advanced state of inebriation, it appeared that the journey home would take about an hour and a half instead, as his feet—against all protests to the contrary by what remained of his conscious brain—were intent on taking him the ‘long’ way home.

He came to a sudden stop as he realized where his wanderings had taken him.

Of course—where else would he be, especially today of all days?

Taking a deep breath, David walked into Apollo 11 Memorial Park.

He always hated the statue.

The statue—two astronauts standing side by side as they gazed towards the west—were completely nondescript. It was impossible to tell which one was Armstrong or Aldrin. The artist and the politicians had all given speeches about how that had been the point—something about ‘symbolizing the unity of man’ or some such nonsense—but David still hated it nevertheless.

The plaque, on the other hand, never failed to bring a tear to his eye. As he read it again, for the umpteenth time, he felt his eyes begin to water.

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men have laid down their lives in mankind's most noble goal:  the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

“We’re coming, guys,” whispered David. “Just you wait—we’re coming.”

Still swaying, David turned and continued his way home.


MTI:  Wow.  I've got to read the rest of that one sometime!  Thank you, Bruno, for giving us a glimpse of such a fine story, and for an all around fine interview.  Those who want to read more of Bruno's work can pick up a copy of The Temporal Element.

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