Featured Interview With Ian James
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
There are places I remember…
I spent my childhood in New York City, watching the snow whirl past the apartments. My family moved to an island in Maine when I was six. I wound up attending hippy college before moving to South Korea to teach English eight years ago. Every place I’ve been to has been ridiculously different from the last. In Korea, everyone tries to be the same; at hippy school, everyone wants to be different; in Maine, everyone wants to get out; in New York, everyone is struggling to stay (kind of but not really).
But each place does have some things in common. Interesting fact: although Koreans generally view marijuana use as being no different from molesting children, traditional Korean medicine smells virtually identical to marijuana. You can be walking around a massive city of millions of people here, where there won’t be a stoner for hundreds of miles in every direction, and suddenly you’ll catch the unmistakeable hippy school scent of marijuana wafting through the air like an invisible Chinese dragon. It really does have the exact same smoky fart twang. But it isn’t marijuana—if it were, the cops, who are usually pretty hands-off, would throw you in the slammer for decades. One of my friends almost wound up in jail because some sleazy houseguest mailed himself a care package of weed. The police thankfully believed my friend’s explanation; the sleazeball who was staying with her is possibly still languishing in a cushy Korean jail cell, eating rice, kimchi, and seaweed off a steel tray and watching variety shows on a standard-issue government flatscreen. The previous president may even be in the next jail cell over.
When it comes to pets, my family’s house used to be a zoo. At one time we had two dogs, two cats, two lovebirds, and an iguana. I don’t know why my parents put up with it. In South Korea, raising pets is difficult—open spaces to take your dog are uncommon—so we don’t have any. We’re actually going to be moving back to Maine in a few weeks; we love it here, but my wife and I can’t abandon our kids to the cramschool machine. I’ve heard that managing mice is pretty much impossible without a cat, so we may wind up infecting ourselves with Toxoplasma gondii if we haven’t been mind-controlled—Dark Archon Cat-style—already.
I don’t think any cats have mind-controlled me, but I do, on occasion, feel the odd compulsion to beg every cat I meet to eat me.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
Books are in my genes. Seriously, if you sequence my DNA, you won’t find the usual A-G-C-T that everyone else has. The compounds you’ll pick up instead will be made from famous literary works. For example, one will read (in your sequencing machine): “All happy families are the same…” Another will say: “Madame Bovary, c’est moi!” And still a third: “Sing, muse, of the many-minded man…”
This has the unfortunate effect of giving me all kinds of genetic abnormalities. For example, I am the only person on Earth with three heads.
Like most of the writers here, I started writing as a kid. There was never a time when I wasn’t interested in books. And, unfortunately, I have to be that guy here: my great-grandmother is Gertrude Berg, whom you will find, if you do a google image search, sitting atop a throne composed of scripts she wrote for her radio and TV shows. I hope one day I can take a picture just like that.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
Right now I really, really, really, really want to get Sir Vidhia’s Shadow, because I love both the authors involved. It’s basically a memoir full of travel, sex, and writerly gossip; what more could anyone possibly ask for? I need me a paper copy, though, since scientific research (of the non-fraudulent variety) has shown that reading on paper gets the fecal matter to stick in your brain far more viscously than on any e-reader.
Otherwise, I read the greats, I’m inspired by the greats. Sooner or later I’m going to have a bunch of framed portraits of Tolstoy, Flaubert, Gogol, Nabokov, and Borges, so I can take them down from the mantelpiece, one by one, and clutch my head, and say something like: “Gustave! I really don’t know what I’m going to do this time! No man could possibly deal with selling a million books on one day! It’s such a heavy burden to carry upon my shoulders!”
Tell us a little about your latest book?
I write sci-fi, because that’s (apparently) what sells.
Seriously, I love sci-fi. I drifted away from writing it when I was younger because I thought only serious people composed serious fiction. But now that I’m faced with the prospect of having to get an actual full-time day job, I’m doing my darndest to get readers to buy my stuff.
So let me work you guys.
The Battle of Earth is the first book in a new series about the human species’ conquest of the stars. It begins several months in the past—just after Trump’s inauguration—with an alien invasion. It features diverse characters fighting their way out of an orbital prison; the characters are so memorable you’ll mistake them for your closest family members; the science is completely realistic, except for the FTL drives the aliens use to zip across the stars.
Disclaimer: this book is so awesome, I’m going to say you shouldn’t read it if you like good books—it will actually overwhelm you and drive you insane, Lovecraft-style, due to the blinding power of its endless stunning literary achievements. Definitely don’t come near this thing if you’re about to operate heavy machinery, if you’re pregnant, or if you’re soon to become pregnant. You may wind up making your baby into a science fiction fan before he or she is even born—and we all know what a dark fate that is!
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