Please welcome J. Daniel Batt to The Qwillery. “Ouroboros in Orbit” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.
This is the second in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!
I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
JDB: The biggest challenge of writing short fiction is the “short” part. The story I’m working on now was intended to be only 4000 words. I’m not even halfway through and I’m at about 5000 words. I think that’s why I lean towards flash fiction. Either I’m going to write something that’s truly short (1000 words) or it drifts past the 10k mark fast. I do like flash fiction however. I like the ability to create an entire world in a very short space. I find I’m a bit more experimental in my flash fiction pieces. Perhaps it’s because it’s so short, I can risk do something different. I tend to be too safe in my longer fiction.
I do flip between plotting and “by-the-seat-of-my-pants” writing. The Tales of Dreamside series was fully plotted and stayed remarkably close to what I had outline. My upcoming novel, The Young Gods, was completely thrown on the page as it came to my mind. There were moments after moment I was surprised by what happened. I remember coming out of my office halfway through, shocked and silent. My wife comes running over, asking, “Are you okay? What happened?” I answered, “________ just died.” She stepped back and snickered, “That’s just a character in your book.” And I replied, “Ya, but I wasn’t expecting it.”
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers and literary influences?
JDB: I like works that bend the borders of genre. I am a fan of Ken Scholes’ The Psalms of Isaak because of the mix of fantasy and science fiction. For the same reason, The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe is highly influential. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series also does a brilliant blend of fantasy, science fiction, western, and horror. I enjoy reading works that push these boundaries. I’m also a fan of non-western inspired fantasy and mythologies. For authors that have influenced me, the list is too long. Often it’s what I’m reading at the moment. On my bedstand, I have Anne Rice’s latest, a copy of Let Me In, a Terry Pratchett book, and a diary from the Terezin concentration camp. I have a feeling all of these will end up mixed together in the next thing I write. Without a doubt, King is probably the most significant influence on my writing. I’ve turned to Stephen King’s work. Truly, King is my “unmet” mentor and the master craftsperson I’ve followed. I’ve read all of his works (multiple times over) and diligently absorbed all of his writing advice and guidance. It’s difficult for me to think of a better text to start this discussion with as for years (far over a decade), I’ve seen King as the model of the master writer and have tried to glean all I can from him. I’ve taken his works, in particular The Gunslinger, and scribbled my thoughts about his technique in the margins. I’ve actually diagrammed sentences of his I found particularly effective. I’ve sat for years at his feet.
TQ: Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
JDB: What’s the novel you haven’t written yet that’s burning to be written?
I have a novel idea of a young boy that wakes up alone on an interstellar ship. There are others, but they’re all dead. It’s him. Him and the robots. It’s a Robinson Crusoe in space. And then the knocking begins.
TQ: Describe “Ouroboros in Orbit”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.
JDB: Far above our world, the world-serpent Ouroboros floats, waiting, protecting each life below as if it was its own.
TQ: Tell us something about “Ouroboros in Orbit” that will not give away the story.
JDB: Why have we not met the voyagers from other planets? What prevents them from coming here?
TQ: What was your inspiration for “Ouroboros in Orbit”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?
JDB: “Ouroboros in Orbit” came about from the theme of the anthology. The idea of a spirit attached to a physical space was interesting and I wanted to stretch that as far as possible. The first ideas was a haunted house but I wanted to go bigger. A spirit of the land? A country? The world? I know the Gaia myths, but thought that risked being cliche. In so many mythologies and early belief systems, the idea of a great world serpent is present. In Norse myth, it is Jormungandr. In Egypt, Ouroboros. There are tribes is South America that belief the waters that circle the world are inhabited by a giant anaconda. How amazing would it be to come upon a planet with a giant spirit snake in orbit?
TQ: Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “Ouroboros in Orbit”.
JDB: Yet, there had been nothing like this. A world guarded by a spirit. A world whose soul wrapped around itself in wait.
TQ: In which genre or genres does “Ouroboros in Orbit” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?
JDB: The story spun out from my fascination with mythology and science fiction. So it’s part fantasy and part science fiction. It really doesn’t fit a single genre. Genre is important so we can help others find more things they enjoy reading (“if you like this, try this”). It also gives us rules that we can bend and break. Crossing genres is a great writing tool!
TQ: What's next?
JDB: I’m in the middle of a few short pieces. My upcoming novel The Young Gods will be released later this year from Realmwalker Publishing. I’m editing an anthology that will be published by the Lifeboat Foundation titled Visions of the Future with some great works from some absolutely amazing authors like Greg Bear, Allen Steele, and Alan Dean Foster. A bit geeked over this project!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
About J. Daniel Batt
J. Daniel Batt is a recovering high school English teacher with a degree in Language Arts. He is finishing his MFA in Creative Writing through National University. Jason and his wife Karen have three children: two boys, Tristan and Keaghan, and one girl, Aisleyn.
He works with the 100 Year Starship as their Creative and Editorial Director. In this role, he works to bridge the gap between scientists and science fiction writers. He is also the editor for the 2012, 2013, and 2014 Symposium Conference Proceedings, a collection of nearly 2000 pages of the latest research and thought about interstellar exploration and travel. He is the organizer of their annual Science Fiction Night, “Telling the Story,” bringing science fiction authors and scientists together to discuss the impact of science fiction on space exploration, and the lead for the upcoming Canopus Awards, celebrating the best in interstellar writing, both fiction and non-fiction.
He serves on the Advisory Board for the Lifeboat Foundation with their Media/Arts Board, Futurism Board, and the Space Settlement Board. He served as a judge for the Lifeboat to the Stars award for science fiction literature presented at the 2013 Campbell Conference. Through the Lifeboat Foundation, he is currently editing their science fiction anthology titled Visions of the Future with stories from a wide array of authors including Greg Bear, Allen Steele, Robert Sawyer, Alan Dean Foster, Hugh Howey and many others.
His short fiction has appeared in Bastion Magazine, Bewildering Stories, and in the upcoming anthology (Genius Loci). He also does marketing writing for television and film. In this role, he has written viewer discussion guides for the History Channel for The Bible mini-series, marketing material for Netflix’s Veggie Tales in the House, social justice viewer discussion guides for The Good Lie film starring Reese Witherspoon, and the full marketing kit for the upcoming film Little Boy starring Kevin James.