Tales of Wonder is the latest anthology from Inklings Press - and the mastermind behind this collection is Ricardo Victoria, who has long been a keen fan of the genre. Ricardo's a familiar face around here, of course, but he sat down for a chat about the new book, his inspirations and what comes next.
Hey Ricardo, and welcome back to the blog! Now, you’re very much in the spotlight at the moment thanks to Tales of Wonder. Science fantasy is very much your genre, so how does it feel to be in the editor in chief’s chair for the anthology?
Excited and nervous at the same time. It’s a huge responsibility as this is our 5th anthology and comes after what we consider a massive success for such a young enterprise, which is Tales From Alternate Earths. This book has to do at least as well as the last one (I hope better, no offense Brent). And given that the science fantasy genre has been a tough sell lately, and my debut novel lies in that genre, it motivates me to make it work. It has also been humbling in terms of learning what works, what doesn’t and to defend my opinion on the matter.
Some readers might not know a huge amount about science fantasy – though it’s a genre that’s been around a long time. How do you define the genre, and what examples can you give of familiar stories within it?
Tales of Wonder has a better and more detailed explanation of science fantasy, so to put it succinctly, it’s the mix of the impossible of fantasy and the improbable of science fiction to narrate the journeys of characters towards self-discovery in a setting that is more flexible and imaginative.
The genre must be by now close to a century old, believe it or not. But under different names, such as weird fiction, or the planetary romances by Burroughs. But the most well known story in the genre is Star Wars. You have the classic epic fantasy tale but instead of dragons you have space ships and instead of wizards you have the Jedi and the Sith. There are other examples, such as Avatar the Last Airbender, most 80s cartoons and the plethora of Japanese RPGs such as Final Fantasy.
So, really, that’s some of the biggest names in sci-fi, with things like Star Wars and Avatar and such! What makes you love it so much?
The creative freedom it provides being able to mix science and magic. It allows me to cast away any self-imposed restrictions (except creating a coherent world) and tell a story the way I want. It’s less clinical and more about feeling what works and what doesn’t. It is made of dreams and I have pretty vivid, weird and awesome dreams. It is fair to put them on paper and share them.
This is a good sample for readers ahead of your novel, Tempest Blades, which I know is finished and just awaiting an editor’s (cough, my) pen on it. How well do you think your story in Tales of Wonder, Kaana, represents your work in your novel?
Kaana represents, I think, a more mature voice in terms of world and character building, of taking opposite concepts and making it work in a way that may feel bonkers but makes sense. It’s a showcase of how I tackle the fusion of magic and science, as well as the motivations of the characters for doing what they do on the stories. Because we read them for the characters.
So in that regard Kaana is in a microcosm that shows what you can expect from Tempest Blades. And given that they touch upon similar subjects of friendship, overcoming fear, learning and breaking the rules, of hoping, of helping others, Kaana couldn’t have been written without the work I put in on Tempest Blades and vice versa. Both stories are symbiotic and related in the great universe inside my head. They are siblings connected by the same intellectual and spiritual musings about why we are here in the universe. And I think the answer is to evolve in the search of the answer. I hope that makes sense.
What are your favourite science fantasy books? Whose work do you love in the genre?
I would say the novelization of Revenge of the Sith by Matt Stover, the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett and the manga (Japanese comics) of Masamune Shirow. But, and it might sound a bit conceited, part of the reason for me writing Tempest Blades and Kaana is because I want to be able to offer the kind of science fantasy books I would love to read.
Not conceited at all - what's the Toni Morrison quote? "If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." I really liked Kaana – my previous favourite story of yours was probably Bone Peyote, from Tales From The Mists, but I think Kaana works on a much grander scale. It really gives a glimpse of a much bigger, bolder universe. What was your inspiration for the story?
Thanks for the comments on Bone Peyote, you are too kind. I have two inspirations. The first, the origin of Kaana, Aditi and Curve World came from a dream I had when I was at college and wrote it down to work on it someday. It was a very Seven Samurai-style dream with a girl finding a buried robot to save her village from invaders and finding later that they are actually inside a Dyson sphere. I can tell you, I have really vivid, really weird dreams that have inspired most of my writing. You can tell, I'm sure.
The other inspiration in terms of aesthetics and maturity was the short film the European Space Agency released a few years ago about the Rosetta Mission with Aiden Gillien (Littlefinger on Game of Thrones).
Without giving anything away about the story, it feels like there’s potential for more from some of these characters – any kind of sequel in mind?
Actually this story, with a few tweaks to be done further down the line was planned as the first chapter of a standalone novel. I do have the final chapter plotted in my head but need to work on, well, the rest of the book. So it is in the planning to rework it, expand it and write a novel around Kaana & Aditi and their experiences in Curve World. And in my head at least it’s kinda connected as prequel/sequel/spiritual successor to Tempest Blades.
Looking back for a moment, it’s been a productive year and a half for Inklings Press, what have you been most proud of in the course of publishing what, now five anthologies? What’s stood out for you in the process?
It has been said that writing is a solitary endeavor. But the work carried out with these anthologies proves that writing can also be a social activity. It has helped me to learn more about the writing process in general and my own in particular, what works and what doesn’t. As well, it has given me the opportunity to meet wonderful writers from whom I have learned so much. Also it has given me the confidence that my writing actually works, for better or worse. It has been a process of maturing as a writer, an experience I would not have gained otherwise. And I’m thankful for that.
I might often ask who you might cast for your lead characters in your story – but they have quite the varied look to them in terms of species, so that might not work best this time, so instead, who would be your choice of director to make the movie of your story if one were made? And why?
I think the answer is clear. My fellow Mexican Guillermo del Toro. I mean, look at his work, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim. Have you seen Pacific Rim? Only he could mix badass ladies, giant robots, fantastic creatures and eldritch abominations in a single place with anime-like sensibility. Pretty obvious, in my opinion.
Meanwhile, as we’re talking movies, let’s take one moment to just say... how darn good was Rogue One? I know we’re both fans, but I have to say wow. Wow. What did you most like about the movie?
Rogue One is a masterpiece and a lesson on how to do spin-offs that enhance the original material in ways you haven’t considering before. Aside from explaining obvious arguments such as the vent on the Death Star, R1 showed us the rarely seen side of the Rebellion. The OT usually portrayed them as plucky underdog heroes. But here they are more like desperate partisans that can’t get along between themselves as they have different ideas of how to topple the Empire. What the R1 crew does is to push them out of their comfort zone and into true conflict. Before Scariff, the Alliance was on the brink of falling apart. After that battle, it has to be united or perish. The movie also gave us the best five minutes of Vader ever, this side of Empire. That scene at the end was truly nightmarish. The ending was bittersweet but built on hope as it should be.
But what I loved more above all was the R1 crew. It was diverse in terms of gender, race, probably sexual orientation and motivations. It showed that our differences are what make us better and stronger when we work together towards a common goal. I just love that diversity. Of course, it helps that the co-protagonist was portrayed by Diego Luna, who is by far my favorite Mexican actor and a fellow Star Wars junkie. We need more diversity in epic films such as this to show that evil can be defeated if we work together.
Ok, fanboyism away. What are your goals for the year in writing, seeing as we’re still early in January?
Finish editing Tempest Blades (and by that I mean working on your edits when you are finally done) so I can start looking at agents and publishers (I do have a couple in mind, though). Start plotting world domination, I mean the second book of the Tempest Blades universe. Maybe a few short stories set there. I’m gonna work on that world for a while. Plus a couple of papers on social responsibility and action figures. You know, what pays the bills.
Great, thanks for stopping by. Traditional double question to round out the chat – what are you reading at the moment, and what is the best thing you’ve read in the past year?
I’m gonna start reading (finally!) Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. And the best thing I read last year? I would have to say that it was Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. It is well-written, amusing, educative and insightful. Non-fiction helps to write realistic characters in fiction, or at least I think that.
Thank you for the space.