Michael J. Sullivan on why he is jumping from Fantasy to Sci-Fi
Some of the most fun I’ve had reading novels over the last few years have come as a result of Michael J. Sullivan. His novels aren’t huge, epic, Game of Thrones type novels – but rather a throwback to when fantasy didn’t take itself so seriously and the primary aim of the book was simply to give readers a good time. I was a huge fan of the social dynamic between the two opposing natures of Hadrian and Royce and truly enjoyed the plots that Michael was always sure to make untaxing and yet stimulating and enjoyable. And, evidently, I’m not the only one enjoying Michael’s books as his publishers Orbit keenly published five books by the author over the course of the last three years and the Goodreads/Amazon reviews continue to rack up 5*s. So, I must admit that I was somewhat surprised when I heard that Michael was making the jump from Fantasy to Science-Fiction – at least for the time being – and invited him onto Fantasy-Faction to discuss why and, as an author, what different challenges are involved in the creation of a Science-Fiction novel as opposed to a Fantasy novel.
Here’s the blurb for the novel – OUT TODAY (April 15th 2014) followed by Michael’s Article:
Ellis Rogers is an ordinary man who is about to embark on an extraordinary journey. All his life he has played it safe and done the right thing, but when he is faced with a terminal illness, Ellis is willing to take an insane gamble. He’s built a time machine in his garage, and if it works, he’ll face a world that challenges his understanding of what it means to be human, what it takes to love, and the cost of paradise. Ellis could find more than a cure for his disease; he might find what everyone has been searching for since time began — but only if he can survive the Hollow World.
As some may know, I have a new science fiction book coming out on April 15th, called Hollow World. This work is very different than my Riyria Revelations and Riyria Chronicles, which can best be described as classic fantasy. Some may wonder why I’m jumping into a new genre. Well it’s really quite simple.
I’ve never really thought of myself as a “fantasy author.” I’m just “an author.” Don’t get me wrong, fantasy is one of my favorites, both from a reading and writing perspective, but to date I’ve written twenty-five novels and many of them have been in other styles including: science fiction, horror, coming of age, and literary fiction. In fact, I wrote my first science fiction novel in 1985, so it really isn’t something new to me. It’s just that my fantasy work was the first to get published.
I’m sure from a “marketing perspective” this may seem like a big mistake. After all, I already have an established readership in fantasy. But I don’t write for “the market.” Instead, I write books that I want to read. Don’t get me wrong I like that my books sell well, and provide me a good living wage, and I’d love for this new book to do well too. But Hollow World was a book I never intended to write, and if it never made a dime, I would have no regrets. Once the idea was planted, there just wasn’t any way to avoid writing it. In fact, I pushed aside other projects as I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else until Hollow World was purged from my brain and placed on paper.
Within the pages of Hollow World, I explore quite a few philosophical subjects including: how one person’s utopia may be another’s dystopia; how people in a post-scarcity society find fulfillment when all their wants are provided for; the importance of individuality; and the true meaning of love. These are subjects well suited to science fiction and I discovered that just as Riyria is very much “classic fantasy,” so too is Hollow World “classic science fiction.” To be honest modernizing classics wasn’t my intention, and it only occurred to me after reviews came in comparing the book to the works of Asimov, Burroughs, and Heinlein. Now I’m not delusional enough to consider my own works in the same company as those masters, but I must say that I’m flattered that others have. I do think, however, that there is a common thread…I’m drawn to science fiction that makes me think. It’s a perfect medium to provoke thought and validates why science fiction has been dubbed a “literature of ideas.”
All of that sounds pretty “heavy” and some classic science fiction can be that and also sometimes dry. Hopefully Hollow World is neither. I tried to infuse the story with traits found in my other novels such as: characters people care about; an interesting setting; humor; and some mysteries to be revealed along the way. When I look back at Hollow World I see something different than my other works yet still very much “me.”
Will I write more science fiction in the future? I hope so. In fact, I would like to release novels in a wide variety of genres. While Hollow World was always meant to be a standalone project, I have a number of interesting ideas in its universe that I’d love to pursue. Shortage of stories is not something I suffer from. It’s quite the opposite. I have too much to write and too few years left. But whatever I focus on in the future, I’m going to keep my approach of writing the books I want to read. Hopefully there will be others who feel the same way.