Martinus Publishing’s latest anthology, VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars, is now available. To kick off this new book release, I’ll be interviewing some of the authors who have stories featured in this collection. Today, I'm interviewing Sam Kepfield, the excellent author who contributed “Lay Down My Sword.” Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, Sam.
MTI: Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
SAM KEPFIELD: By day, I’m an attorney, and by night (or early morning) I’m a writer. In between I’m a father and husband and caregiver to multiple felines.
MTI: Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?
SK: Ten years ago, I was feeling a professional emptiness. I confused deadlines with goals and ambitions. I wanted something larger than simply filing motions and arguing appeals. I had made a stab at publishing back in the early ‘90s, but gave up to enter a Ph.D. program. I sat down and said to myself that I would find the time and make the effort to get published. It took a couple of years, but I finally got that first credit, and since then, I’ve released several dozen stories and one novel.
My favorite type of story is where I have a flash of inspiration, where ideas that have been rolling around in my head for months, maybe years, reach critical mass and in a flash I have the plot, the characters, and the ending.
MTI: Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?
SK: I don’t think I could pick just one. Robert Silverberg, especially his work from the late ‘60s and ‘70s, is wonderful in its descriptive power, and his exploration of the human psyche, particularly “Dying Inside” (1972). Elmore Leonard is very instructive on the other side of the spectrum in how to write tight prose and believable dialogue.
MTI: “Lay Down My Sword” appears in VFW, an anthology of military science fiction that honors soldiers and veterans. Was there any particular inspiration for this story?
SK: “Lay Down My Sword” is part of a larger series of stories that I’m developing that deal with the creation of artificial life forms. The others are “Galatea’s Stepchildren,” published in The Future Fire (June 2009), “Droids Don’t Cry,” and “Pygmalion Unbound,” both available from Musa Publishing.
They are an alternative to Isaac Asmiov’s “I, Robot” series. Asimov showed mechanical robots living harmoniously alongside human beings. I wanted to go a little darker. What if the differences weren’t silicon-and-metal versus carbon-based? What if man actually got to play God and create new life, life that looked human, with some modifications, but was not created via the normal reproductive processes? How would we treat these new life forms? Past experience sadly tells us that they would be exploited, and called anything but what they are – human. However, the twist is that the droids know they are human – and can act on that knowledge.
MTI: If you could go back to any point in history, when would you visit?
SK: Wow. This might be easier if I hadn’t done graduate work in history and knew of so many choices. Pagan and early Christian Ireland would be high on the list. I’d like to witness the 1916 Easter Rising firsthand as well. Traveling to Revolutionary era America would allow me to see the birth and development of all the ideas we talk about today. I also have an interest in the Soviet Union, but I’m afraid I’d get picked up by the KGB for asking too many questions.
MTI: If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
SK: Again, being a former doctoral candidate and instructor in history complicates things by giving me a wealth of choices. One of my top picks would be Michael Collins, leader of the Irish Republican Army during the Irish Civil War of 1919-1922, and the first President of the Irish Republic.
MTI: Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
SK: I have several book-length manuscripts in progress. The one closest to completion is an alternate-history hard-SF spy/thriller. I also have about a half-dozen stories in various stages.
MTI: Other than your contribution to VFW, another of your stories, “The Orthogonian,” will be appearing in the Martinus Publishing anthology Altered America. Tell us a little about that one.
SK: Having done doctoral work in history, and having been a history and political junkie from the age of about ten, I love history and politics. I love alternate history.
I’d known for a long time that Richard Nixon had applied to be a G-Man, but the budget had prevented him from being hired. So it’s only natural to ask, given his personality, what sort of an FBI agent he would have been. It’s a given that he would have risen to the top. “The Orthogonian” portrays him as a high-level official, engaged in a secret mission/spy swap with the Soviet Union.
It was one of those ideas that got shelved mentally. When I saw the call for Altered America, it popped up. I started writing, and finished it at a breakneck pace. To my surprise and gratification, it was accepted.
MTI: Do you have any other stories coming out in the near future?
SK: I have a story coming out in the Far Orbit anthology from World Weaver Press. “Open for Business” is a ripped-from-the-headines tale about the privatization of space travel, and how a shoestring DIY operation captures a near-earth asteroid. It’s very much in the Golden Age style of Robert Heinlein.
MTI: Sounds tantalizing. On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?
SK: I don’t watch television. I read at night, and write.
MTI: What sort of music do you enjoy?
SK: I usually have NPR on when I’m in my office, and at night when I’m reading. When I travel, I have my CDs (I have not yet joined the Digital Revolution, and have no plans to in the near future if ever). My music of choice is rock and roll, circa 1977-1989, though I listen to quite a few other genres, including jazz, Celtic traditional, and classical.
MTI: You have the attention of potential readers. Are there any great words of wisdom you’d like to share with them?
SK: Life is too short for cheap beer and ugly women (or men). Live it to the fullest.
MTI: Fine advice, for certain. Thank you for the excellent interview. Those who want to read what Sam has to offer can pick up a copy of VFW: Veterans of the Future Wars, in either Print, Kindle or Nook format.