I’m a judge for the Self-Published Science Fiction Contest (SPSFC), and wanted to spotlight some of the authors in the contest! Specifically, I’ll have interviews from my team’s semifinalists. Without further adieu, to the interview!
Julian North, Author of Age of Order
What got you into science fiction?
I’m not sure there is one single thing that drew me to science fiction. My parents had no interest, but it called to me. I started young. I’ll also date myself and say the best things on TV I saw growing up (to me at least) were sci-fi: Dr. Who (on PBS), Star Trek (the original re-runs on Saturday at 7) Battlestar Galactica (the Richard Hatch version), and Buck Rogers (oh, that acting..). There was no “YA” literature back then. I read Asimov and Bova and Card. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was generally considered a nerd at school, which drove me further into sci-fi. I was also massively into Play By Mail gaming (this is way pre-internet), including a strategic game called Supernova, that I spent countless hours (and most of my scant cash) playing. Two weeks to make a move, and I’d be watching the mailbox like a hawk on Wednesdays. I had Blade Runner on VHS and would fall asleep watching many nights. Oh good times. Still love that tears in rain line that has become so famous…
Blade Runner is such an evocative film. I didn’t see it until I got to college and it just blew me away with its intense atmosphere. My friends and I would fall sleep to it frequently, as well. I noticed “Age of Order” prompts questions about our own society and justice therein what did you draw from to write it, and why the strong focus on such themes?
I was angry when I wrote Age of Order. Not yelling angry, but the low boil that Daniella has, particularly during the first portion of the book. That anger (as the author) came from my experiences in New York City, where my family still lives and where Age of Order is primarily set. So, while my wife and I settled in NYC, we are not from here. Not even close.
People warn you about some “quirks” of the city, but until you experience them, they aren’t real. In our case, it was the experience of trying to get our son in kindergarten (yes, kindergarten) that poked my outrage. Apparently, our son was deemed less than perfect by the gatekeepers to such places, and this was a judgment that could be confidently (or arrogantly) rendered upon a 5-year old. Of course, upon further inspection, there were very different standards for evaluating different families. As a parent, well, this was upsetting. Unfair. Unjust. And that’s where the theme at the heart of Age of Order came from: Do not underestimate those who appear to have–or be–less. This is an injustice, but it is also detrimental to society. Now, a book about kindergarten admissions wasn’t going to work as a dystopian novel (or maybe it would have), but the idea of an elite school, a group of diverse, fish-out-of-water characters, and an lurking threat far more vast than any of them came from that inspiration. It was therapeutic and tremendous fun to write.
It’s awesome how you managed to challenge something like your lived experience into a visceral feeling in your book like this. Some sci-fi writers try to predict the future, but it sounds like you were kind of writing to the present. How do you think dystopias help us reflect on our own choices and lives today?
I always took tremendous enjoyment from reading dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels from the time I was a kid and that love continues today. I just finished Sea of Rust, by Robert Cargill–absolutely excellent. As you suggest, I find the best dystopias a uniquely fascinating medium in which to explore what would happen to if (usually negative) trends of the time were to continue (or at least trends that are negative in the eyes of the author). A Handmaid’s Tale is one example, Oryx and Crake another. But Hunger Games and its progeny perhaps less so–sometimes dystopias just make great settings for another story. I’d put Age of Order in the middle of those examples. I had something to say about the present by projecting the future, but its also a story about characters, flaws, and relationships. Unfortunately, dystopias have largely fallen out of favor these days, which perhaps is understandable given the circumstances, yet they remain important. I see dystopias are cautionary tales, both for society and for individual behavior, and we could all do with a bit of caution and reflection in our lives.
I have read and loved all the books you mentioned! Sea of Rust is a hidden gem, to be sure! For a final question, can you tell us about any upcoming writing projects, links you’d like my readers to have, or anything else you’ve got for us readers?
I’ve written the first book in a new series which I’d say fits into no genre neatly … but it could be described as an alternate history with magic. It touches on the themes of equality, prejudice and “might makes right.” I have no idea how to market it, unfortunately. Anyway, I enjoyed writing it. Not sure when I’ll release it, though.
Amazon Page for Julian North.
Thank you for your time! Best of luck to Age of Order!
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