Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Interview with sci-fi fantasy author Robert Gryn

Author Robert Gryn is in the hot seat today and we’re talking about his new sci-fi fantasy, The Infinity of Roads – Suns of the End Volume Three.

Robert Gryn was born in Poland during the latter years of the communist regime. His parents recognized that the socialist experiment was doomed to fail and set out for the more hopeful shores of America. Robert spent his youth moving from one school to another, winding up in one of the worst high schools in New Jersey. After graduating, Robert spent years working odd jobs in warehouses and construction sites. Like his parents before him, Robert soon realized that the personal experiment of his own life was doomed to fail.

Determined to find a better path, Robert decided to attend Columbia University where he studied everything from Psychology to Japanese, as well as Creative Writing. Unfortunately, even graduating with highest honors didn’t put him on a path that spoke to him. He drifted again, and accidentally wound up becoming a successful technology consultant, primarily because he knew how to turn on a computer.

It was a beach vacation to St. Martin that changed his life once again. Bored with the bright
sunlight and the pristine beaches he sat down to begin writing the books that had always been in the back of his mind. He soon found that he was not so much a writer but a chronicler, as if the words had drifted into his mind from all those future centuries. What could he do but tell the stories of all those people who may never exist?

Robert has written a number of novels of impossible futures and unbelievable dreams. And as long as he knows how to turn on a computer, or commune with the thinking machines of tomorrow, he will continue to do so. 

Welcome, Robert. Please tell us about your current release.
The Infinity of Roads is the third volume in the Suns of The End series. The series is set at the end of the universe. All but a few stars have gone out or have been extinguished in stellar wars between beings that blur the line between machines and gods. The story centers around a number of characters, most of whom are just trying to survive the wars that continue to rage between the children of the gods.

In a higher layer of the cosmos, the hero Solaz deals with becoming more machine than man as he searches for a way to save a dying world made of light. On the crumbling world of the Shell, Deya, the last general of one of the immortals, struggles for survival in a frozen wasteland. Around the shadowed covered world of Uin, the twin immortal sisters Namtilak and Asuruludu continue their war to decide who will rule the Kingdom of All. The newly knighted Rider Haspar pilots her great armor through the void in the conflict between the divine sisters. Meanwhile, Darsen, the former ruler of the Kingdom of All, searches for his own origins across the fabled Seven Worlds. And somewhere amid the dreams and sentient formulas of forgotten machines, a spirit is reborn.

What inspired you to write this book?
The Suns of the End series was inspired by the Hindu epic poem The Mahabharata. While my story is not a straightforward retelling, I drew on the themes and characters from the poem. I also tried to incorporate ideas and concepts from the whole of sci-fi and fantasy. As the story is set at the end of the universe, everything has happened and so pretty much anything is fair game to appear.

This series is also something of an experiment in writing for me. In my other novels, I take a more strategic view to storytelling, but in the Suns of the End I write down ideas as they come into my mind and try to reconcile them into a cohesive story. The first volume, Fields of Rust, was originally drafted almost entirely by instinct. I like to say that I’m not so much a writer but a chronicler of stories told to me from the far future.

Of course, the reality is that I’m not some prognosticator savant but rather I draw on the sum total of the technological and mythological zeitgeist that spawns modern works of sci-fi and fantasy. I also take a liberal hand in shaping these instinctive ideas utilizing the tools of fiction writing. The result is something that I enjoy as it touches on so many chords of the stories I’ve read or seen in my life. I hope others do so as well, but even when I see critical reviews, they don’t affect me as much as reviews for my other novels because, at the end of the day, the Suns of the End is something I write primarily for myself. It’s the story I always wanted to read and will continue to read as long as its author continues to surprise me. (I have ten volumes planned, but it may take me the rest of my life to get there.)

Excerpt from The Infinity of Roads:

Darsen smiled. Every time he forgot that he had grown so young again, someone reminded him, to his surprise. He made a show of checking the diving suit he had bought for this expedition. It was more like a lesser armor worn by the warriors of the Seven Worlds than an outfit for sport. Only its gaudy colors and unnecessary embellishments made it something unsuited for combat. Even its aura was colored for aesthetics, glowing with colors matching different parts of the suit. On the back of the suit, four gravity wings shimmered in the air. An ornate far-rifle was slung in three pieces on his thighs. How unnecessary it all seemed. Darsen could have dove into the overgrowth naked. But in maintaining the pretense of normalcy, he had learned a fair bit in the last few days about the wants and thoughts of people he would have never met in court.
Most of those he encountered were content in their small personal worlds. They wished for enough coin to eat and drink their fill. Many simply wished to be entertained, whether by crude theatre or the sporting events in which Darsen had proved so capable. That a war now raged between two of the Vedalan on some small, little-known world seldom entered the conversation.
The bosun gave him the all clear, and Darsen dove off the side of the yacht. He had a glimpse of its long sleek shape and then all he saw was the tall antennas and stacks that emerged from the convoluted mass below. He could not tell where one factory ended and another began. Signs of power, smoke, and motion indicated that the factories on the surface were still alive.
Darsen let himself fall among the gaps in their architecture. In the higher layers, he did not have to use his gravity wings, simply turning his body to fall between the wide gaps in the structures. However, his path soon became filled with bridges, pipes, and assembly lines. He now used the wings sparingly, still falling, turning when necessary. Predatory drones watched him and a few even gave chase, their engines flaring plasma as their hungry talons extended from their manipulators. Darsen saw more and more machine fauna as he fell. Great forge beasts with smoking bellies, multi-legged cattle running in great vertical herds, clouds of mechanized insects whose formations were meaningful symbols or forgotten mandalas.
The path through the factories grew dark, and Darsen realized that he had fallen to a section where ancient behemoths breathed their last until there was no motion, no mechanical life. He alighted on the ground here, where there was nowhere else to fall. Whether this was the actual ground or the vast roof of some lower factory was unclear. He stood in a cavernous chamber strewn with broken engines and quiet machines. What purpose this place had served or what it had manufactured, he could not immediately tell. The only light fell in distinct shafts from broken sections of the ceiling. Some of these beams had the soft color of Brass’s orange sky, while most were the green of generators and plasma fires that still burned high above.
Darsen looked up through the coral-like formation of the factories. He could no longer see the yacht from which he had made his leap. Were he a mundane man, he might have experienced fear at this moment. The way back, if he could find it, would be difficult if not impossible. He was surrounded by dead machines and a growing dread at the edge of awareness that the stillness was not true death but the expectant silence before the ambush.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I have several projects in the works currently. I recently completed a novel about a two-sided city where all realities and people meet called Two Skies Before Night. The people who come to dwell in this city are all inadvertent refugees. The city allows them to understand each and anything written but the price is that they can’t write anything, not even graffiti. The story follows a detective who is trying to solve a double murder which takes him from the poor neighborhoods of Below to the homes of the rich and powerful of Above.

I’m currently working on a final draft of an epic fantasy tale set in a universe where Lovecraftian gods have ruled over an empire of worlds for millennia. The story focuses on a warrior who is betrayed and finds herself with nothing left but revenge. As she journeys through the normalized dystopias of several different worlds, the fairy tale that was her life slowly falls away and she comes to realize that reality is something harsh and capricious.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I remember telling my friends in high school that I was going to be a writer. But it took me years to sit down and actually start writing. Once I did, I found that I had a lot of stories to finish. I suppose a good deal of my need to write comes from all the sci-fi/fantasy novels, films, and shows I’ve read or seen over the course of my life. You can only fill your head with so much before it comes spilling out.  

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
After working for some years as a consultant, I’ve been lucky enough to work on my writing full time for the last few years. As a non-morning person, I usually work on non-creative stuff before lunch and then dive into actual writing after lunch. I’ve also had good success writing in the evenings, especially when my supply of coffee doesn’t run low. But I tend to get some of my best ideas while jogging or doing martial arts. Something about raising your metabolism gets those sci-fi synapses firing.

As for things other than writing, I confess I’m a bit of an escapist. I’m always happiest dwelling in another world, whether that’s books, films, TV shows, video games, or just daydreams.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I didn’t really know how to answer this question so I started looking up what exactly is a quirk. Is it some kind of little-known subatomic particle or just another way to flag something that doesn’t fit into our definition of normal expected behavior? And maybe this is my quirk, that when I’m writing I take a reductionist view of many things, trying to understand where they come from before including them in my stories. I suppose it’s hard for me to take anything for granted.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A Shaolin monk, then Doctor Who, then a samurai, and back around again.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Because everything comes from something, here are some recommendations for the kind of fiction I enjoy, and that make up my own personal canon:

Book: One of my favorite hard sci-fi novels that feels almost too realistic (in a scary way). And one of the few books I’ve actually read more than once.

Graphic Novel: Hayao Miyazaki’s epic tale of war after an ecological apocalypse can change the way one looks at comic books or their Japanese equivalent, manga.

Film: Seeing this performance was what originally inspired me to study and write about the Mahabharata.

Music: I listen to My Sleeping Karma a great deal while writing.

Thank you for visiting today!

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