I am very pleased to be able to host Tom Jackson King today for his new book Stellar Assassins I have been lucky to read one of his other books The Gaean Enchantment recently and look forward to reading Stellar Assassins as well as many of his other works.
Short author bio: T. Jackson King (Tom) is a professional archaeologist and journalist. He writes hard science fiction, anthropological scifi, dark fantasy/horror and contemporary fantasy/magic realism–but that didn’t begin until he was 38.
Before then, college years spent in Paris and in Tokyo led Tom into antiwar activism, hanging out with some Japanese hippies and learning how often governments lie to their citizens. The latter lesson led him and a college buddy to publish the Shinjuku Sutra English language underground tabloid in Japan in 1967. That was followed by helping shut down the UT Knoxville campus in 1968 and a bus trip to Washington D.C. for the Second March on Washington where thousands demanded an end to the Vietnam War.
Temporary sanity returned when Tom worked in a radiocarbon lab at UC Riverside and earned an MA degree in archaeology from UCLA. His interests in ancient history, ancient cultures and journalism got him several government agency jobs that paid the bills, led him to roam the raw landscape of the Western United States, and helped him raise three kids.
A funny thing happened on the way to normality. By the time he was 38 and doing federal arky work in Colorado, Tom’s first novel STAR TRADERS was a stage play in his head that wouldn’t go away. So he wrote it down. It got rejected. His next novel was published as RETREAD SHOP (Warner Books, 1988). It was off to the writing races and Tom’s many voyages of imaginative discovery have led to six published novels, a book of poetry, and a conviction that when humans reach the stars, we will find them crowded with space-going aliens. We will be the New Kids On The Block. This theme appears in much of Tom’s short fiction and novel writing.
Purchase link: http://www.amazon.com/author/tjacksonking
Website / Blog: http://www.sff.net/people/t-jackson-king
Al Lancaster is a shipwrecked tech scavenger who wakes up from Suspense on the auction block of Hercules Station in the alien-run Markan star system, light years distant from Earth. The only human in a star-traveling culture where ancient Guilds of Trade, Assassins and Spies train solo beings to serve alien masters, Al finds that survival depends on his human predatory instincts. He becomes an industrial thief, bounty hunter and sometimes “hit man” for alien merchants, a job that deeply troubles him as a Zen Buddhist. Hope flares briefly when he falls in love with the alien cat-woman Delo Quar Anken, only to see her kidnapped by a sadistic alien merchant. But Al vows to survive, even when he is faced with his greatest challenge—to carry out a “hit” on the Messiah of Death, a plasma cloud alien that literally cannot be killed.
Tell us a little about your book?
Stellar Assassin explores the plight of Al Lancaster, a Human shipwrecked in an alien-run star system, where he finds that the only value he has to aliens is his human predatory instincts. In short, his native ability to do violence. But Al is a Zen Buddhist, and had worked on his human starship as an interstellar archaeologist, finding and analyzing dead alien technology on worlds where alien civilizations have died. Then he and his shipmates signal that data back to Earth using tachyons, particles that cannot go as slow as the speed of light. But now, Al finds himself on an alien-run asteroid space station where merchants, spies and assassins all have formal guilds that allow them to hire out for barter money. And since all aliens have in common greed, hunger, territoriality and sex, the basis for a weird kind of commerce exists. Al goes to work as an industrial spy, bounty hunter and sometimes “hit man” for alien merchants, but he hates the work he does in order to survive. Then he encounters an alien cat-woman who is so human-like that he begins to hope. To think there may be a future for him beyond violence.
How did you come up with the title?
That came about from the theme of Al joining the alien-run Assassins Guild. The Guild is an ancient group within the larger Forty-Seventh Florescence galactic civilization that Earth has only recently discovered. So, Al is, in effect, an interstellar assassin available for hire to greedy aliens.
How are your story ideas born?
Usually as scenes in my mind, with a lead character and impressive first dialogue. All of my novels and most of my short stories begin as a single scene in my mind, which then gives me the idea for the storyline, which I make notes about, and then build the scenes and characters. The complexity of the storyline determines whether the scene image becomes a novel or a short story.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The message of most of my stories, including this novel, is that We Are Not Alone and We Gotta Prove Ourselves to anyone else who lives out there in the Milky Way galaxy. And handling First Contact with other people who happen to be Aliens will be very complex, very strange and very humbling. While I do not see galaxy conquering alien races as likely given sub-light star travel, I do think most alien species will act in their own self-interest. So I think a galactic society will exist, but one built on mutual self-interest. As in, What Do You Got For Me Today? So imagine a distant interstellar future where Humans will be ignored unless we offer Aliens something they need or want. My novels explore the idea that Humans will always be forced to “prove ourselves” to alien species who got to the stars long before we did.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
The research I get to do in possible Alien biologies, Alien cultures and Alien motivations. Especially the research into evolutionary biology and cross-cultural anthropology. That is one reason why the academic background of Al Lancaster is as the ship’s Xenosapientologist-Archaeologist. I really like writing stories where I get to extrapolate beyond the ordinary, but then find normal feelings, desires, hopes and motivations within an interstellar society.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The re-reading and re-reading of the finished manuscript in order to catch typos, errors, and places where the story development needs to be improved.
What are the future plans for you and this book?
I have several other sci-fi novels that I have written in past years. I plan to release them online in both print and ebook formats. The wonderful part of the internet and online publishing is that now Independent authors can do for themselves what the New York traditional publishers used to do. We can now design our cover art, find a nice text font, format the chapters in readable mode, write up promotional info, and do the “reach out” marketing on our own. I love attending science fiction conventions to meet readers and fellow sci-fi authors. But I also love the worldwide “links” I make each day with people around the world. I write stories for everyone from any society, and love getting reviews and comments from people around the world.
Did you try the traditional route to publishing, i.e. querying agents/publishers?
Nope. I have had an agent and two traditional publishers in the past. But since I can do decent self-editing of my manuscript, I know what I like in book covers, and I can do the marketing thanks to my journalism background, I focus now on getting my backlist of prior novels out to readers online, while writing new short stories, and a new novel or two over the next year. Plus, I will be working on getting out the other two books in the Little Brother’s World trilogy.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Well, my interest in writing began in the fifth grade in Southern California, when for a class assignment I wrote my first science fiction short story. It told the story of a young boy who built a rocket ship in his backyard, took off for Mars, landed on Mars, and found evidence of life there in some tiny fossils that poked out of the red sands of Mars. After that I wrote a few more short stories in high school, then stopped writing except for poetry as I graduated from college, did field archaeology for the government, and raised a family. I only got back into writing sci-fi when I was 38 and feeling hungry for more Human-Alien contact and encounter novels than were available on the book market at that time. I had read them all. So I began writing my own novels around the theme that we Humans, when we visit other stars, will discover we are the New Kids On The Block and are forced to cope with a pre-existing, ancient galactic society of thousands of alien species.
Have you published anything else?
Yes, six other sci-fi and fantasy novels, plus a book of poetry. Those titles are Star Vigilante, The Gaean Enchantment, Little Brother’s World, Judgment Day And Other Dreams, Ancestor’s World, Retread Shop and, in poetry, Mother Earth’s Stretch Marks.
What’s next for you? / What is your next project?
My next project is the alternate Earth future First Contact novel Star Of Islam. That novel will be released in May 2013 by my small press publisher, Fantastic Books of New York City. The story outline is: “Helen Sarkissian had always wanted to be the first Human to talk to Aliens. But was signing on as crew aboard a Shiite-run starship the answer? Or would she and every other Western humanist on board The Sword of Islam end up dead from Shia bloodlust? Then again, the Aliens already on the world the Shia had assumed to be empty might have an opinion about everyone’s survival.” This novel will not be politically correct, and is likely to tick off those folks who are cultural relativists.
Any advice for other writers/indie authors out there?
Read a lot and always keep writing, no matter what.