Tesseracts 17 Interview: Ben Godby

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

Ben Godby’s tale takes us to the farthest reaches of the universe and a man with a dark mission.

CA: “Star Severer” was one of the bleaker stories in Tesseracts 17. In one sense it signals the end of everything. Stories like this can be depressing, yet you presented more depth. What were the important elements you were exploring in this piece?

I think I’ve benefited from living in a peaceful time in a peaceful place. I can’t remember who wrote it, but a sentence which recently struck me with its veracity and import was, “Make no mistake, we are living in a golden age.” Not surprisingly, it’s always been hard for me to understand war—or, more generally, the very idea of having “enemies.” On the other hand, I’ve grown up with video games, board games, role-playing games, books, movies, and all other sorts of media that make me—on a visceral level—love war, and love killing, and love having some brute-obvious object of ethically appropriate hatred.

SF, speculative fiction, Tesseracts 17, science, deadly machines

Ben Godby loves games and fantasy, but Star Severer is science fiction with a dark vein.

This tension has caused me to write a lot of stories that explore violence and its necessary ambiguity. In “Star-Severer,” I needed that footchase scene, and I needed Odashi and his soldiers to violently board Mueller’s vessel, because in a lot of ways, violence is what makes stories worth telling and hearing for my narrative consciousness. But intellectually, I abhor violence and don’t understand it—which is why my protagonists are usually unwilling, unwitting, or unhappy soldiers.

CA: This story literally takes us to the far reaches of the universe. Do you write in this universe or these worlds often?

It’s hard for me to write anything that’s anything but fantastic. I have three distinct universes I like to write in, although two of them—one which is decidedly fantasy, and another which is a sort of fantasy-cyberpunk fusion—have begun a sort of mental meld over the last six months. I like reading contemporary, modern, and realistic fiction, but I get bored writing about the mundane world.

This universe, by the way, is the “Children of the Earth” universe, which is marked by conflict between the Children of the Earth, who believe in Terran orthodoxy (Earth’s universal primacy), and “Terretics,” usually colonists of far-flung worlds who have ceased to care for Earth and its imperial ways. “Children of the Earth,” published online in Kaleidotrope, also takes place in this universe. http://www.kaleidotrope.net/archives/summer-2012/children-of-the-earth-by-ben-godby/

CA: The story  harkens some to our human condition; that of being a violent species sometimes determined to commit genocide. Do you think we will every move beyond this flaw?

I think humanity is slowly become “gooder,” if I may be permitted such a silly word. At least, the developed nations of the world are becoming less and less willing to kill each other. But, there are still horrible wars committed across the globe every day, and whenever the nuclear stalemate is resolved, large, powerful countries will almost inevitably go to war once again. I hope we move beyond the need to fight each other, but I think this will require the elimination of acquisitive ideologies like capitalism, competitive ideologies like free market economics, and a lot of great science to solve the environmental problems that are creeping up on us and creating more cause for conflict.

CA: Science fiction isn’t as popular as fantasy fiction these days. Do you think it’s too realistic and we wish to escape any sense of reality?

I’ve heard this before, but I actually find that SF is really popular. What’s interesting to me is that SF has evolved a lot more than fantasy. There’s a lot of people who are upset that SF has become really dark and pessimistic, but at least it reflects evolving trends in the psychology of writers and readers. I can’t believe how many fantasy books are, for all intents and purposes, identical to each other minus a few special details: magic works this unique way in such-and-such a world, but it is still a romantic 13th century medieval world with kings and emperors, subjected women, racism, some kind of orc or goblin analogue (e.g. sranc [R. Scott Bakker's fantasy series] or the shanka [Joe Abercrombie]), and a hero quest. I like fantasy, but I want to see it do more, and outside of China Miéville, Jeff VanderMeer, Steph Swainston, and a clutch of other New Weird writers, I don’t see much “evolved” fantasy getting very popular.

CA: What else are you working on now?

An MBA and a rather successful Dwarf Fortress. http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/ I hate to say it, but with my studies, work, and volunteerism as they’ve been the last year and a half, I’ve barely written anything. I’m hoping to start a new AD&D campaign (which I consider to be a sort of creative writing) in the new year, and once I graduate in August 2014, hopefully I’ll get back on the writing horse. The plan, though, is to write novels rather than short stories. Writing short fiction was always meant to be “practice” for writing novels, although I kind of fell into loving it.

Ben Godby writes mysteriously thrilling pseudo-scientific weird western adventure fantasy tales. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario with a girl, two dogs and a cat. Ben is part of the Codex Writers’ Group and his book reviews have been published in Strange Horizons. He is a business communications specialist, a videogame addict, and a heavy metal enthusiast. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy from McGill University and is a part-time student in the University of Ottawa’s French MBA program.

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