Martinus Publishing’s latest anthology, VFW: Veterans of theFuture 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 Joseph Conat, the entertaining author who contributed “Conversations with Monsters.” Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed.
MTI: Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Joseph Conat: Well, let's see. I have a gorgeous and tolerant wife, a beautiful and wonderfully insane daughter... two dogs, one of whom is affable and well-trained and the other is a loudmouth lunatic... two cats, one of whom is affable and invisible while being the approximate size and weight of a Ford F-150, and the other is a frustrated evil genius who I'm pretty sure has been building either a death-ray or a plasma can opener in the basement for the past fifteen years.
I've gotten brave enough with my writing to begin showing it to people other than my family and friends. I'm happy to have "Conversations with Monsters" in VFW.
MTI: Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?
JC: I've written since I was small. When I was four or five I wrote a six page book involving King Kong and... something. Lasers? Anyway, it was illustrated.
I tend to write science fiction. I'm a big fan of futurism and how technology changes society and the human condition. A lot of my stuff lately has had a strong "what if" sense. Alternate histories and whatnot.
MTI: Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?
JC: Neal Stephenson. The man is a genius. The cyberpunk satire Snow Crash, the World War II/1990s cryptographic "history" Cryptonomicon and its epic follow-up/prequel The Baroque Cycle... they're all massive tomes, but worth the effort.
MTI: “Conversations with Monsters” appears in VFW, an anthology of military science fiction that honors soldiers and veterans. Was there any particular inspiration for this story?
JC: I actually started writing a different story for this anthology, but found I'd painted myself into a corner. This one just came to me in one of those rare, but miraculous flashes of "what the hell am I gonna wri—ooh! OOH!"
I may still use some of the ideas for the original story somewhere.
MTI: If you could go back to any point in history, when would you visit?
JC: World War II, Bletchley Park. Turing and Colossus. That would be cool.
MTI: If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
JC: Can I say Neal Stephenson again? Eh, overdone. Batman.
No, that's ridiculous. Arthur Conan Doyle, though. Yeah. Or, Joseph Bell, the man from whom Doyle drew inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.
You know, let's just have an "all of history" party and I'll mingle.
MTI: Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
JC: I've been writing, on and off, a kind of alternate history novel exploring if superheroes had shown up during WWII. What would the world be like today if we had really had those tropes around for seventy plus years? It's fun.
MTI: Other than your contribution to VFW, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?
JC: Not yet, but here's hopin'.
MTI: Your bio places you in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I’m something of a car guy, and whenever I hear of Ypsilanti, I’m reminded of automotive innovator Preston Tucker, who lived there and created a very nice car after WWII. I was just wondering if you’d ever taken an interest in the man.
JC: Tucker was the man. They have one of his cars at the Henry Ford Museum and I always rush to find it when we take our daughter there. There used to be one in the old Hudson museum down on Cross St., but I'm not sure if it's still there.
I loved his innovation. The turning headlight sticks with me, an innovation that they now tout on newer cars like they just thought of it. I saw a commercial recently showcasing this "new feature" and yelled "Stolen from Tucker!"
My wife rolled her eyes and turned up the volume.
MTI: On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?
JC: Almost Human. Doesn't go quite as deep into robot/human relations issues as, say, Asimov or Philip K. Dick, but the interplay between Karl Urban and Michael Ealy is priceless. Plus, good Blade Runner-esque production values.
MTI: What sort of music do you enjoy?
JC: Movie scores. I'm such a nerd.
Hans Zimmer RAWKS!!
MTI: And if you would, name three movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored.
JC: Kick-Ass, Dredd (the new one, not the Stallone) and Serenity.
MTI: You have the attention of potential readers. Are there any great words of wisdom you’d like to share with them? Perhaps something that would persuade them to purchase your work?
JC: Argh. Wisdom? Um. Purchase my work. Um.
Look, I tell stories. I think they're pretty good, the ones I let people see. The others are being re-tooled and will see the light of day if I can get 'em right. Like any other writer, I hope folk like my stories, like my ideas, like my characters...
If you do, buy them. So I can write more.
And do the same thing for any other writer you like. Throw 'em some bones and they can do more of that stuff you like.
MTI: Readers love free samples. Is there anything you’d like to share with us today, perhaps something new or recent that you’ve written?
Grim was on Mars when that office building in New Jersey exploded.
Sitting at the conference table, he stifled a yawn. Bad form; as a Captain in the Protectorate of District 6 (Americas Northeast), he should have been presenting an image of alert seriousness, ever vigilant for potential security gaps through which Threats Against the Crown might slip, wreaking havoc on the Royal Personages and rocking the foundations of the world government. But there were no serious Threats Against the Crown, and anyway the Crown was, to everyone's knowledge, completely invulnerable.
Besides, Lord Windrunner, Vice Commissioner of His Royal Majesty's Global Constabulary Protectorate, had veered wildly from the agenda (Security Preparations for the Convocation of Petitioners at the Vatican Ruins) into an impromptu treatise on the motivations of now-extinct terrorist threats and how they might be relevant to new, but still undiscovered (and thus, to Grim's mind, probably the fevered imaginings of Windrunner himself) terrorist threats.
"For instance," Windrunner was saying as he gestured at a holographic enlargement of Europe, "despite laws specifically criminalizing the depiction of Todesengel, Death's head imagery has been found defacing buildings in Bonn..."
"Imagery that is not specifically referencing Todesengel." Windrunner was interrupted by Lord Thursday. Thursday claimed to be the earthly incarnation of the Norse god of thunder, but declined to call himself Thor in deference to the Church of Asatru and His Imperial Majesty's unspoken but ironclad edict against supers allowing themselves to be worshipped as individuals. Thursday was Regional Commissioner of Europe Southwest 2, which included the former Germany. "It lacks the peaked cap and SS insignia...it is, in fact, just a common skull motif. We believe it to be referencing that band...what's it called?"
"'Ende der Zeiten,'" supplied Thursday's aide de camp, a weaselly little spastic that went by the name of Sparks. "It means 'End of Times.'"
"Yes." Thursday stroked his magnificent golden beard and fingered the rough and beaten hammer at his waist. "Cape-thrash, if I recall. All the members have minor Gifts. Anyway," the not-a-god shook his flowing mane. "Why is Lord Wyrm not running this meeting?"
Lord Windrunner flushed. "His Majesty's Royal Protector has more pressing business," he admitted.
"More pressing than assuring nothing scuffs His Royal Majesty's indestructible rump?" Thursday guffawed. "It must be important indeed!"
In truth, this level meeting was well below Wyrm's status. As Viceroy of the Empire, Wyrm was head of the Privy Council and his duties spanned the Solar system and beyond. Windrunner was a minor official in the Global Protectorate, Wyrm's particular sphere of influence. He was embarrassed that he'd been relegated to a mere functionary, running meetings instead of making policy.
Grim could empathize, though he was coming at it from the opposite way. As a mere Captain, this meeting was not only well above his pay-grade, but outside his purview. He had nothing to do with Rome, or Southern Europe District 2, the zone in which it lay. He was acting as an amanuensis for *his* boss, who was scheduled to be there, but had decided to do something, or someone else.
He was, in fact, pretty upset about it all. He'd been up for close on twenty-four hours catching his mettings, then filling in for the Duchess Shockfront at hers. He was tired, wired and thinking about how to get fired.
And that's when Grim's artie buzzed at him.
MTI: That one looks promising. Thank you for sharing that snippet, and thank you for a thoroughly enjoyable interview. Readers who want more of Joseph Conat’s work can pick up VFW: Veterans of the FutureWars, in either Print or Kindle format.