Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Altered Europa Interview: Dave D'Alessio

Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" will be coming out on April 2, 2017.  (Read story tag-lines and pre-order the collection right here!).  In preparation for this grand release we'll be running interviews of various contributors.

MTI:  Today I'm interviewing Dave D'Alessio, who contributed The Twenty Year Reich.  It's been a while since we did an interview... 

DAVE D'ALESSIO:  Yeah. Hi, again!

MTI:  Indeed, I think the last time we did an interview was for the Veterans of the Future Wars anthology.  For those of our readers who haven't read our previous encounter, why not start off by telling us a little bit about yourself?

DD:  My bio says I’m an ex-industrial chemist, ex-TV engineer, and an ex-award-winning animator currently masquerading as a social scientist. Readers might remember me from The Prince Who Went Up a Hill, in VFW: Veterans of Future Wars. I’ve been in Daily Science Fiction and (evil laugh) Mad Scientist Journal, too.

MTI:  Your story, The Twenty Year Reich, appears in Altered Europa, an anthology devoted to alternate history and altered reality.  Tell us a little bit more about this contribution, particularly, how does it deviate from known history?

DD:  Well, it starts with Nazi Germany winning (for the most part) World War II. They’ve conquered the United Kingdom and pushed the Soviets back to the Urals. Then I rolled time forward to 1953. It’s my vision of what would have gone on about then.

MTI:  Were you at all inspired by Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle," which  imagines an alternate history where Nazi Germany was victorious in WWII?

DD:  I hate to say it, but no. I’ve read The Man in High Castle but haven’t seen the TV series yet, although my friends really like it. It’s a great story at a couple levels, not just for its alternative history but also for its deep game psychologically, but I don’t see the Axis countries as having the wherewithal to pull off conquering America.

I was more inspired by these conspiracy theories about Hitler escaping at the end of the war, and going to live in South America. I think they’re a crock. My original idea – readers can have this one for free – was about Hitler in the U-Boat, underwater with the crew for months on end as they try to sneak through to Argentina. Let’s see: he was a vegetarian they’d have to feed, and his stomach problems made him chronically flatulent. He was a junkie who needed a shot of speed to get started in the morning and a downer to get his head down at night (and there was a lot of coke in his other meds), so he probably would have been going through about three kinds of withdrawal. And his Parkinson’s was coming out. It would have been a psycho-horror situation, and not my cup of tea as a writer. So instead I just let him win the war.

MTI:  I believe you made the right writing choice (though that crazy, drug-deprived Hitler under the sea could be something to explore someday).

Moving on, if you could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an "altered" world, what would you choose to change?

DD:  I don’t think I want to touch that one. I think changing the past falls under the Law of Unintended Consequences…the unintended consequences tend to be worse than what you meant to do. I’m heavily influenced by Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder and William Tenn’s Brooklyn Project on the topic of changing the past. They got chaos theory before chaos theory was cool.

That’s not to say that I think this is the best of all possible worlds. I can imagine better worlds…that’s my job as a writer. But what I don’t know is how to make them come about by changing some historical event.

MTI:  For further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?

DD:  Probably not. I’d be the schlub that John Carter, Warlord of Mars, throws to the Tharks so he can make a getaway with Dejah Thoris.

MTI:  Gotta love a good Edgar Rice Burroughs reference!  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

DD:  I’m looking for a publisher for my pair of space light operas, The Curse of the Rhubidium Rhuby and The Royal High Inquisitor. I call them space light operas because they were very loosely inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan. That’s not really writing, but as many of my mentors have pointed out, these days marketing is half the writing business, so that’s the half taking priority for me right now.

Writing-wise, I’m focusing more on short fiction for the moment. I like to work on shorter things in between novels because they force me to focus my thinking more. I’ll get back to novels in the summer, with a third space light opera getting ready to pop out of the keyboard.

MTI:  Other than your work appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

DD:  I’m not sure when it’s coming out, but the next issue of Phobos will have my story One Grand Day in it. It’s alt-history, too. I’ve written a number of stories set in a world where Cornwallis put down the American Rebellion in 1777, and as a consequence the major European empires never fell, and this is one of them. Here’s the plot: Albert Einstein saves the day with a well-placed foot.

I also self-published a novel, The Yak Butter Diaries, on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program. It’s a humorous fantasy, not like what I usually write, so I figured it could stand alone.

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

DD:  One of my friends put me onto Cowboy Bebop. That was pretty darned cool, so I’ve been watching a lot of anime recently. The neat thing about anime is that they tend to be made in short runs of around twelve or twenty-four episodes, so there’s a lot of variety between them.

I just finished a popular series called Kill la Kill, which to me read as very subversive. It started out with a lot of the usual silliness of scantily clad school girls and rotten jokes, but across the run they slowly took it darker and deeper, and twisted the plot completely out of shape. Very clever. As an old animator myself it was clear that the director had studied Tex Avery’s films, too. Great timing.

I have Samurai Champloo, by the same team as Bebop, in the DVD player right now, rewatching it.

MTI:  How about music?

DD:  Got the new Stones CD. Stones plus blues? What’s not to like?

MTI:  Indeed, and can you name three movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored?

DD:  I’ll go four, the three of Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly) plus the film that Leone based Fistful on, Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. I’ve seen them all at least a dozen times. There’s something about the balance of good and evil in them, where it seems that the “good” guys aren’t good so much as least bad, that makes them seem more real than even really good older westerns like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

The basic concept of Yojimbo/Fistful, the “good” guy playing two bad sides against one another, was remade again as Last Man Standing. There’s got to be a good space opera in it, too.

MTI:  Readers love samples.  Do you happen to have a story excerpt you'd like to share with us today?

DD:  From The Yak Butter Diaries:

Our hero, Tamosan Acorn, has found himself at the top of the world, where lives a little old man who believes that he makes the sun go around.

"Know what's happening?" the old man said. "Half the world in light and half in dark." He spread his arms wide, toward the sunrise in one direction and the sunset in the other. "Everyone back there," he jerked his head toward the dark side, "all they know is they get a few more minutes of sleep afore the cock crows, hee hee! But them as is in light, they're saying, 'What's wrong with the sun? Have the gods forsaken us? Has the chariot stopped running? Has the burning ball stopped flapping its wings?"

Tamosan looked carefully at the line he had drawn in the dirt. It seemed to him as though it was still pointing precisely at where they thought the sun was.

"Wailing and lamentations, hee hee," the old man said. "They will be rending their clothes and making sacrifices! They will be running to their priests and wisemen and shamans and begging for answers, hee hee!"

It still looked to Tamosan as though the sun had not moved. "Is this wise?" he asked the old man. But 'wise' was not the word he was looking for. "Is this kind?"

The old man put the pan back on the fire. Tamosan was sure of it now; the pan was no emptier. "'Kind'?" the old man asked. "Where have you learned that life is kind? What fool would tell you that, hee hee?"

Tamosan shook his head. "It is not life that is kind," he said. "I think that it is people who choose to be kind." 

MTI: Fantastic excerpt.  So, that just about does it for our interview today.  Thank you, Dave, for yet another fine talk!  Readers who want to check out more of his work can order a copy of Altered Europa.

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