Chris Lawrence, Exter Press, Fiction, Immaterial Evidence, Interview, J. Chris Lawrence, Milo Fowler, Milo James Fowler, Musa, Sci Fi, Science Fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, SFWA, Shimerzine, Short Stories, Soulless in his sight, The Cost of Freedom, The Kennedy Curse, Write1sub1
Elton John was right. It is lonely in outer space.
I sigh at the vidscreen, its image a sweeping portrayal of star spangled darkness. There’s not much to do out here, floating in the vast, infinite nothing. Just a man, alone in the heavens (Squawk!), abandoned to his thoughts and ruminating on past loves (“Screech!”), missed opportunities, indelible regrets… (Moo!)
“Can you guys shut up?” I shout at the myriad aliens cluttering the galactic transport shuttle. “I’m trying to think here!”
They go on with their raucous mumblings, apathetic to my plea.
“Major Tom,” I call to the cockpit, “how much longer until we get to the Space Station?”
Maybe it’s because he doesn’t like me, or maybe because he’s just a large eye with tentacles, but Tom doesn’t answer. Either way, the ship settles into dock shortly afterward, and I soon find myself wandering the station’s halls in search of the infamous Milo James Fowler.
Milo is an enigma of the universe. He doesn’t sleep. A teacher by day, he spends his nights writing. And he writes. A lot. After only a few years of submitting, he’s amassed sixty-five published short stories, including “Soulless in His Sight” (Shimmerzine), with another ten forthcoming. He’s seen a successful release of his first novella, Immaterial Evidence (Musa Publishing), and even made it into the SFWA.
I’m out here to interview him about his story, “The Cost of Freedom” which was recently released as part of the pulp-speculative collection, The Kennedy Curse (Exter Press). Well, that, and I was hoping he could foot the bill for my ride back to earth.
I find Milo’s classroom empty, save for the janitor sitting at the desk. He’s a pleasant fellow, very casual and calm.
I say, “Excuse me, can you tell me where I can find Mr. Fowler?”
“That’s me,” he smiles.
“What? That’s not possible!” I cry. “You’re far too…normal! Fowler is a machine. You don’t look like a machine.” I squint.
He chuckles and leans back in his chair. “No, I guess I don’t, but I’m definitely Milo Fowler.”
Clearly I’m being tested. The aliens are watching me, playing a game with my head! But I won’t buckle to their trickery. I’ll play along. And maybe, just maybe, I can still get that shuttle fare.
“Er…alright! I’ve come to interview you about your new story.”
With a glance at his watch, he nods, saying, “Sure. I have time. Pull up a seat.”
I do, and then I say:
Thanks for giving me the time to chat. I mean, even though you’re a machine and all, time is tough to come by. So, what is it about writing that draws you to the craft? What does it do for you, and what got you into it?
And here I was thinking these wet-works were a clever disguise. Writing? I guess I enjoy creating imaginary worlds, populating them with imaginary people, and giving them imaginary conflicts to overcome. It’s a great way to escape real life while, at the same time, explore real life issues in a fictional setting.
I guess I enjoy creating imaginary worlds, populating them with imaginary people, and giving them imaginary conflicts to overcome.
What is your writing process like? Do you have a ritual or habit, or is it more spontaneous? Does it require a battery?
Batteries not included. I try to write 1K a day while I’m in the middle of a project, and the rest of the time, I’m usually revising — or writing flash-sized tales in spontaneous bursts.
So, tell me about The Cost of Freedom. Is it expensive and can I get some on the black markets of Goobalox Five?
It might take all you’ve got. Like most Americans, I’ve always been curious about the Kennedy assassination. There were so many factors involved and so many factions that disliked the President. In “The Cost of Freedom,” those factions are still present — along with an alien threat. Kennedy wants to save the world from invasion, and he knows he may have to die in order to unite his people.
JFK was a huge figure in American Presidential history. What was your favorite aspect of writing about him?
I enjoyed the research — and that was the part I was dreading. I write speculative fiction, so I don’t usually have to research anything; I make everything up. But with this story, I wanted all the details to be authentic from the Oval Office to the Texas School Book Depository. Unlike most Presidents, Kennedy passed away before his presidency could sour. In “The Cost of Freedom,” he’s not only an American icon; he’s a pulp hero.
…with this story, I wanted all the details to be authentic from the Oval Office to the Texas School Book Depository.
I hear you have plans for a much anticipated follow up to Immaterial Evidence. Any news on when we can expect that to appear?
Funny you should ask. I sent the synopsis and first twenty pages to the publisher today, so I should hear back from them in a couple months. The working title is Yakuza Territory, and it picks up the story just a few days after Immaterial Evidence.But while Immaterial Evidence was Blade Runner meets The Maltese Falcon, Yakuza Territory is more like Assault on Precinct 13 with mandroids and a telepathic suprahuman.
You’re a man that never sleeps. It’s not a question, it’s an irrefutable fact. So, what other projects do you have in the works?
Guess I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Currently, I’m in the process of finding good homes for twenty-five short stories and six novels, and I’m revising a weird novella I wrote earlier this year.
Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
Han — Greedo had to go.
That was a “Voight-Kampff” question. You’re design is impressive, very convincing. Moving on: Who or what are some of your biggest influences?
Radio shows and serials from the 1950’s; Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and China Mieville.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write every day, and don’t let your body of work sit on a hard drive or in a box. Get it out there where it belongs. Join Write1Sub1 for the challenge, and stay for the community.
Write every day, and don’t let your body of work sit on a hard drive or in a box.
Okay, final question: I’m a bit short on credits. Is there any chance you can give me a ride back to earth?
Sure thing. I’ve got papers to grade, but you can borrow my Cody 5000 jetpack. It should get you there in one piece.
Woah, this can’t be cheap. Thanks Milo! And thanks again for letting me insinuate you’re lying about being a human!