December 1, 2014

From Auschwitz to Outer Space: an interview with Warren Hammond, author of "Tides of Maritinia"

In TIDES OF MARITINIA, author Walter Hammond thrusts readers into Maritinia, a far-flung planet on the outskirts of the omnipresent Empire. Maritinia is a planet of little consequence; its people are purposefully deprived of technology as a means of government control, its economy rests precariously on the export of kelp… and a group of rebels have just staged a coup.

In spite of the planet’s status, the Empire needs to regain control. Naturally, they send Jakob Bryce, a hapless paper-pusher who has somehow become a secret agent of the Empire, with a simple mission: assassinate and replace one of the rebel conspirators, immerse himself in the inner circle of “New” Maritinia, and sow enough discord to bring down the unstable rebellion and make way for Empire troops to come in and clean house.

Hammond expertly constructs a vibrant world in TIDES OF MARITINIA, filled with brilliant detail, colorful characters, and a layered universe of class, politics, religion and warfare.


Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for Tides of Maritinia?

Warren: It started with a trip to see Auschwitz. Exposing yourself to the worst of humanity is a profound undertaking that affects you in unexpected ways. I knew soon thereafter that I had to explore that experience through my writing. However, I quickly found out that genocide is an incredibly difficult subject to approach. So difficult that my first attempt to write Tides was a failure. Although I felt like I had a good story to tell, I didn’t really have anything to say on the subject. A great story expresses a point-of-view, and I hadn’t yet found my own voice. After several years’ worth of processing through the many thematic directions the story could take, I finally found the single theme that propelled me to the last page. In the end, Tides is a story about the perils of dehumanization.

Gef: What kind of a gear shift is it when approaching a new novel in a new universe as opposed to returning to a series like KOP?

Warren: A big one. Creating an all new world along with a new cast of characters is always a time-consuming and challenging process. This particular project was also made tougher by the fact that it’s written in such a different voice from the KOP novels. There were times I’d actually find myself slipping into the gritty, hard-boiled voice of the KOP stories, and I’d have to back up and try it again. So, yes, it was difficult, but also exciting to be trying something new. I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t enjoy it!

Gef: How intensive was the research process for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?

Warren: Well, one of the great things about writing science fiction, especially the kind that isn’t based heavily on science, is you don’t have to do a lot of research. Instead, I made it all up. I don’t mean to say, however, that there wasn’t a lot of work involved in creating the world of Maritinia. The time I saved on research simply got redirected into world building.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of sci-fi?

Warren: That’s a tough question to answer since my view of science fiction is always evolving. Although the answer I give today will likely change tomorrow, I’ll give it a shot anyway.

Addressing issues of race, religion, politics, class, and gender can be difficult to explore when telling a story in a contemporary or sometimes even a historical setting. All people live inside their own reality, so you never know just how readers are going to react when you tackle those kinds of issues head on. To some, you’ll come off preachy. To others, you’ll sound confrontational. If you’re an essayist or maybe a literary fiction author, then by all means feel free to go for it. If done with a deft hand, your point of view will be sure to find an audience. But when writing fiction for readers who are primarily looking for a good story, you are entering dangerous territory.

Science fiction, however, pulls off a neat trick. Set your story on another world and you create distance for the reader. Suddenly you can criticize or praise a religion without pushing anybody’s buttons. Now you can explore political issues without all of your readers seeing everything through their liberal- or conservative-colored lenses.

I won’t say that science fiction is the only genre that can address the big issues of our day, but it does have a unique way of letting the author get to the heart of an issue with very little resistance from the reader, and sometimes that’s the most effective way of getting the message across.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Warren: I’d like to get rid of all the rules. People will tell you that you can’t shift the point-of-view from one character to another in the same scene, but I recently read The Godfather, and the wedding scene has something like ten point-of-view shifts. Didn’t hurt sales, did it? People say you can’t open with the weather, but The Lincoln Lawyer does exactly that. I think we need to dump all of the rules and replace them with this one: Does it work?

It’s all about execution. You can make anything work. The only question is whether or not you have the skills to pull it off.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Warren: I love kung fu movies. Bad dubbing and all. In fact, the campier, the better.

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Warren: I can’t say it’s the best movie of the year, but my favorite was Godzilla, and for a very simple reason. It made me feel like I was seven years old again.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Warren: I’m only 12,000 words into my next book. At this point, it’s too early to share publicly since it’s not yet fully developed. However, you can keep up with my latest news by finding me on Facebook or Twitter, or simply by visiting my website: warrenhammond.net.

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