This week, I am pleased to present an interview is with G.D. Tinnams, author of the science fiction novel Threshold Shift. He has worked as a barman, a call centre operator, an IT support analyst and a software tester. But during all this time he was also an insatiable reader of science fiction and fantasy books.
He is very fond of weird, mind-bending stories and decided quite early on to try writing some. In 2006 and 2007 he was in the top 50 shortlist for SFX magazine's Pulp Idol and continues to write to this day.
Michael K. Rose: What role do you believe speculative fiction plays in society?
G.D. Tinnams: That is a hard one. From personal experience, reading speculative fiction as a child was all about escapism. You get away from the world that you live in to a bigger world with more ideas and more possibilities. Society as a rule can be very closed-in, with three hundred million rules and regulations that we follow every day without a second thought. Speculative fiction allows the reader to think beyond the cattle drive of normal experience and ask fundamental questions about the world they live in. How is it defined? Who defines it? What am I actually free to do? More importantly, it allows a reader to ask the most fundamental question of all: "Who am I?"
Whenever speculative fiction tries to depict an alien culture, there are always human comparisons. We cannot help it, we are not aliens. So whenever you read a science fiction book about an alien world you are really seeing this world, just from a different angle. Our very language is geared to talk about us, all our concepts are about us. In the end, speculative fiction is a window into the world around us. It both challenges our preconceptions and makes us think.
MKR: Why do you write in this genre?
GDT: I might have already answered that sort of. First of all, I really like reading it, and being challenged. When I read Permutation City and realised that people's minds were being copied to computers, it really made my head spin. The copy thinks like you, it continues like you, it is you. Then who are you? Now that just takes you to strange places that weren't on the map before.
It's like you introduce a fantastical element, and then ask "how do I react to that?" "How do I relate to that?" As humans, we like to think we react to normal situations normally. We get angry if someone is nasty, we're thankful if someone is kind. But how do we react to something that breaks the rules? What do we do? I like going to that place.
GDT: Well first of all, there's "write what you like." I like science fiction and I like westerns. I like exploring fallibility and motive. I want to know how someone feels when they make the wrong decision for the right reasons. The novel grew from that, and also through the exploration of something else, which if I revealed it here would be a major spoiler. Let's just say it's all about how we think.
MKR: What was your biggest challenge in writing it?
GDT: Writer's block. It's always writer's block. Sitting down in front of the keyboard and going completely blank. There are various ways to trick yourself into writing, but they never quite work the same way twice. I'm in the camp that both loves and hates writing. Because when I'm in that zone, it's just amazing and when I'm not, it's like hitting my head against a brick wall. That's not fun, it's just plain awful.
MKR: What are you working on now?
GDT: I have an idea about an alien trapped in a small town being hunted by other aliens. It's a bit more complex than that, and I'm sure it will go in some weird directions. The main thing I suppose is just to have fun with it and take it from there. When I was writing Threshold Shift I kept complaining to my wife that the characters kept doing their own thing regardless of what I wanted, just like errant children. When I get to the same place in this next story, then I know it's working.
MKR: Thank you for your time! Readers, check out Threshold Shift at Amazon US or Amazon UK (just look at that gorgeous, retro-style cover!) and you can connect with G.D. Tinnams on his blog or via Twitter. Read more about Threshold Shift in our Book Feature.