Interview with Michael Shean author of Shadow of a Dead Star

Oh happy day! Michael Shean, author of Shadow of a Dead Star, stopped by the pub today to talk science fiction. Now if you’ve hung out in the pub before you know that only a few science fiction writers have made their way onto my bookshelves and Michael Shean is one of them. I love noir stories and the way he’s combined the two into a gritty and captivating story just blew me away. With that said, I’m super excited to have him here to talk about the possibilities of merging human with machine. And the best part about the interview? The Balvanie Scotch Michael has introduced me to. So pull up a barstool, grab yourself your favorite drink and listen up. Oh, and if you stick around after the interview I hear Michael’s buying a shots of Jaegermeister for everyone. Is this guy great or what? ;)

KD: Where did the inspiration for Shadow of a Dead Star come from?

MS: I was in a dark place a few years back, very angry with certain aspects of the world and how it was affecting myself and other people I knew – I started having strange dreams about the future, and I came to feel very distant from people and society.  Shadow is an artifact of that alienation.

KD: Your novel, Shadow of a Dead Star and your serial, Bones Wires, both take place in a futuristic Seattle. What is it about this time period and Seattle that draws you to set your stories there? 

MS: At the time I just thought Seattle was a good place to set the story.  It can be beautiful but also very grim and dreary, and I had friends who lived there talk about the penetrating gloom that they felt after living there for a few years.  It’s the paradox of the area that draws me there: I hear stories of isolation and despair, but also stories of vibrance and color.  I try to capture that, and I hope that I’ve done the city justice.

KD: You combined the darkness of noir with the endless possibilities of science fiction to create a bleak future full of illusions and disconnect. Is there a message hidden within your words regarding the path that we’re on in respect to technology? 

MS: Well, I definitely feel that there’s a certain wonder that’s disappeared where technological development is concerned – when you compare the feeling about technology now from, say, the 1950s to the 1970s, it’s very much less ‘I can’t believe we can do this now!’ to ‘Awesome, what products will come from it’.  I feel that cheapens the accomplishment, and numbs us to what these things mean.  The world of the Wonderland novels is sort of a hyperactive version of that; nobody really questions if something should exists, they’re just like, gimme.

KD: Is there any new technology that you incorporated into your stories that you would like to see come to fruition? 

MS: I’m big on transhumanism.  I love the idea of augmentive technology – bionics, that sort of thing.  I’d like to see that technology really come to the fore in the next thirty years, because I feel that by integrating tools within ourselves we can better understand our relationship with them and in turn with the world in general.  Given the way humans are, however, I think it much more likely that this too will become overcommercialized and abused – but a man can dream, can’t he?

KD: If and when body modifications come to be, would you be more like Walken and stick to what you were born with or Bobbi and take advantage of the technology of the day?

MS: I think I’m definitely in Bobbi’s camp with this one.  I do think, however, that it’s important to strike a balance; Bobbi’s certainly not out of touch with what it is to be human, despite the machines in her head.  That’s sort of why the two characters work I think.  They’re both skirting the edge of what humanity has become in their time, but neither forget their human core.  I think I would want to be the same way.

KD: What draws you to the science fiction and noir genres?

MS: Well as you said before in this interview, science fiction is a genre of great possibilities; it allows you to add elements of the fantastic to your story, but also allows you to talk about modern issues.  The framework can be extremely liberating and thought-provoking, and very often folks who go into a story expecting a sort of ‘pew-pew, ray guns’ tale can come out challenged to think as much as they are entertained.  As for the noir genre, I can be a dark and brooding sort of guy; that genre fits the mood precisely, so it’s only natural that I’d run with it.

 KD:  Who are some of your favorite authors?

MS: Some of my favorite authors include William Gibson (obviously), Philip K. Dick, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Cormac McCarthy.

KD: How long have you been writing?

MS: I’ve been writing on and off since I was young, but I didn’t try and start making a real stab at this as a profession until 2009 or so.

KD: What advice do you have for writers just starting their journey into the written word?

MS: Write in as many genres as you find interesting.  Don’t stick to just one – for example, I’m working on a lighthearted comedic project in parallel with the dark stuff.  Remember that this is a job as much as a skill, and you have to treat it like one.  And finally, do not give up.  Not ever.  The only failed stories are the ones that stay in your head.

KD: What are you currently working on?

MS: Currently I’m working on the rest of the Wonderland Cycle; the sequel to Shadow of a Dead Star, which is entitled Redeye, is currently with my editor.  After that it’s straight on to the third and final volume.  Meanwhile I’m working on Bone Wires,which is a side novel that shares the Wonderland setting, and that’s being released as a serial on the Curiosity Quills website every Thursday evening.  As I mentioned, I also have a comedic piece I work on off and on, entitled Bilby the Destroyer, and I’m sure there’s another Wonderland novel in there somewhere.  Frankly I have a list of about twelve additional projects that need to get completed – I’m not going to run out of material any time soon!

There ya have it, friends! I highly suggest you check out Michael’s book, Shadow of a Dead Star, as well as his serial on Curiosity Quills. I reviewed the first six parts of it right before the new year and I’ll picking up my reviews of it this weekend so be sure to stop by the bar this weekend for that. 

Until then, cheers! 

 

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About the Author

Michael Shean

Michael Shean is a web professional and graphic artist living in the Washington, DC area. A lifelong devotee to science fiction, weird fiction and noir tales, Michael enjoys weaving complex stories involving troubled, colorful characters and deconstructing the darker side of the worlds in which they live.

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