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PostPosted: Mon 28 Mar 2011 00:13
by Cralis
Welcome everyone! This is Part 1 of a Questions and Answers exchange with Steve White and Charles Gannon, the authors of Extremis - the latest STARFIRE book set in the CLASSIC STARFIRE history from 3rd edition. Extremis continues right after the end of Exodus, also written by Steve White, and continues to story of the combined human struggle against the Arduan Invasion of Bellerophon and the Beaumont Cluster of Terran space.

Steve White is a long-time author of STARFIRE novels, having written Crusade, In Death Ground, Shiva Option, and Insurrection with David Weber. He has an extensive list of works including The Disinherited, Debt of Ages, and Prince of the Sunset.

Dr. Charles Gannon is a new author to the STARFIRE universe, but has an extensive writing background and has written for Traveler, 2300 AD, and other gaming systems. A professor of American Literature at St. Bonaventure University, he has written several academic publications as well.

STARFIRE has a long history, stretching all the way back to 1976. If you aren't aware of the history of the game and the story lines, you can get an overview in our Introduction to Starfire Web Page. But without further delay, let me post the first part of the Q&A.

Steve White's answers will be in blue, Dr. Gannon's answers in green.

Q1. First a little background. How did you get into writing and how long did it take before you knew that was what you wanted to do?

STEVE WHITE: Like many writers, I am a textbook case of a compulsive reader -- I'll read a phone book if there's nothing else available. To some extent I attribute this to my mother, who was an English teacher and got me hooked at a tender age. I started reading science fiction when in junior high school (that's what middle school was called in the late 1950s), thanks largely to Robert Heinlein and Poul Anderson. I knew I wanted to write it from a fairly early period, and wrote a lot for my own amusement, but I first broke into publication in the mad 1980s. (See Question 2, below.)

DR. CHARLES GANNON: I was writing—in one form or another—for a sizable readership from about age 15 onward. I had a series running in a Star Trek fanzine for a while (Berengeria, I think) when my dear friend Jacqueline Lichtenberg was kind enough to take an interest in my writing at age 14.

When I knew I wanted to write: here’s a quasi-amusing story. At age three, I wanted to be a paleontologist. And write about it. Then a zoologist. And write about it. Then astronaut, astronomer, etc. And always, write about it. What I realized at the tender age of 12 was that a lifetime in any one of these admittedly fascinating fields did not really appeal to me: not my kind of work. But the topic itself, and mastering it, and telling stories involving it—now THAT was cool! So at age 12, I knew I wanted to write. And that I wanted to write SF. And that the kind of SF I wanted to write the most was Hard SF. And here I am.

Q2. How did you get started writing in the STARFIRE universe?

STEVE WHITE: I began playing STARFIRE in the mid-1970s when it was still in the form of those little booklets. (I still have them.) Later I began writing short pieces for Nexus magazine, the house organ of Task Force Games, featuring Kevin Sanders. It was in the course of these that I developed the Tangri race, which David Weber had only mentioned by name in his Starfire III Empires booklet. It was through that booklet that I first came in contact with David, for I wrote TFG a letter criticizing some aspects of it, which they passed on to him. Not the most auspicious start for a relationship, but we soon became collaborators on Nexus pieces. Then Nexus folded, and we were left with a number of story ideas based on common assumptions about the STARFIRE future history, which we thought seemed an awful lot like chapters of a novel. The rest, as they say, is history.

DR. CHARLES GANNON: Another quasi-humorous story. I met Steve at Ravencon in 2008. We hit it off immediately. A few years went by, during which I often sat with him at a bar, commiserating as he cried (into any number of beers) about a stalled collaborative project he had. You can guess which it was. I often joked that I’d be happy to help. But Steve was of course loyal to his current collaborator and vowed that he couldn’t imagine collaborating again, unless it was with David Weber.

Flash forward to July 31, 2009. I am about to go out of the country for almost 4 weeks. I go back to check my email one last time. A message from Steve: was I serious? Was I still interested in partnering on the completion of the stalled collaboration? And I thought: is the Pope Catholic?

And that’s how I got involved. And again—here I am.

Q3. How does your past experiences in life help you in your writings? How about in writing Extremis?

STEVE WHITE: I am a former Naval intelligence officer, which naturally influences the way I have depicted the space navies of my fictional universes, including that of STARFIRE. (No, the character of Kevin Sanders is not autobiographical.) But all an author's life experiences inevitably shape his work, for they determine his entire view of human interrelationships.

DR. CHARLES GANNON: Wow. There’s so much I could say in response. Suffice it to say that while I haven’t been in the military, I’ve been involved in aspects of military R & D and intelligence and think-tanking for about fifteen years. On my Fulbrights, you also get very close to—and can, on some unusual occasions, get peripherally involved in—matters of diplomacy and affairs of state. Those experiences do very much show up in my writing.

The Fulbrights have also put me in extended contact with both deceptively similar and very different cultures. And that is always helpful when constructing alien viewpoints.

And lastly, there are the crises and traumas that shape you. I almost lost my right leg when I was 11—hell, I should have been squashed flatter than a bug! I’ve been on a badly damaged plane that just made it down on a dead stick. I outwitted a pretty aggressive mugger in the Bronx. I’ve saved the lives of one, maybe two, of my children—but lost one to SIDS when he was 25 hours old. We all accumulate life experiences like these—but for an author, they become like startlingly bright hues on a painter’s palette. They define us—and shape what we write.

Q4. The Exodus / Extremis story is quite different from the older STARFIRE novels, and chronologically occurs some time after the last book (Insurrection). What led up to this story? How long did it take to flesh out this story before you started writing it?

STEVE WHITE: Actually, it is Insurrection that is the odd duck among STARFIRE novels, for it is the only one that involves humans waging war on each other as opposed to being more or less united against some alien menace or other. But to answer the question about what led up to Extremis, I invented the Arduans because I was fascinated by the idea of an advanced culture which had never experienced our "conflict of science and religion" because their science had proved, to their own satisfaction at least, their religion -- specifically their belief in reincarnation. The result is a race that is single-minded and fearless to a degree impossible for us. David Weber was also interested, and in the early 1990s we evolved an outline for a two-part novel. But we never had the opportunity to write it, and the outline languished for over a decade.

Q5. The Exodus / Extremis story is the first STARFIRE story since David Weber stopped writing STARFIRE novels. How was it, for you, to pick up the torch and continue the series without him?

STEVE WHITE: David very generously offered to let me write the novel as a Steve White solo. I didn't feel up to that, but Toni found me a collaborator for Exodus, the first part of the two-parter. This partnership did not work out as well as Toni and i had hoped. But in the meantime Charles Gannon had expressed an interest in collaborating on the series. I proposed him to Toni, who to everyone's great good fortune agreed.

Stay turned, part 2 will be coming next week...