The Aphelion Interview:
by Jeff Williams
As part of our ongoing series of interviews, I have tried to find some of the more prolific and
unique voices among the authors who have published in Aphelion. When I was trying to make
the decision about who should be the subject of the next interview, I asked several staff members,
and they all recommended Atk. Butterfly. Upon looking over his work again, I realized why.
Atk. Butterfly's work doesn't necessarily hit you over the head with its depth and complexity as you are reading it. It is only later, upon reflection, that you realize how good the stories actually are. In my mind, this is the mark of an excellent author, one who has a definite future in this business. Whether it is the demented security service in "We Do Windows, Too" or the espers in "Think Slowly" undone by their own tremendous gifts, the characters and situations in his stories stick with you long after you have read them. So, without further adieu, I give you Atk. Butterfly.
Q: I would be remiss if I didn't make this my first question: What led you to select Atk. Butterfly
as your pen name? What other names do you publish under?
A: My wife asked me to use a pen name for my fiction writing so we'd still have some privacy in case I ever become famous. However, I use my real name for non-fiction. Of course, my non-fiction generates far more fan mail than I ever imagined receiving because of one true story that happens to be the source of my pen name. The story concerned a time when I was actually attacked by a butterfly. Atk. is the abbreviation for Attack. If you haven't read the story, it can be found on my web page at URL http://pages.prodigy.com/klny03a since it's much too long to reproduce here.
Q: How would you categorize yourself as a writer?
A: I prefer to write science fiction, though I dabble in horror, fantasy, and humor as well as non-fiction. Consequently, I think of myself as a science fiction writer.
Q: Someone wrote recently (I'm sorry that I can't remember who it was) that in the face of certain realities envisioned by past sci-fi writers not coming to pass, sci-fi has become stagnant, repetative, and unimaginative. Do you or do you not agree with this assessment? However you feel, where do you see sci-fi going in the future.
A: Actually, sci-fi is still quite alive and imaginative. It's just that readers aren't used to hearing new voices presenting the new face of sci-fi that publications, such as Aphelion, are presenting at present.
Q: How did you discover Aphelion?
A: I believe that I found it by means of a banner. It was a discovery well worth the visit and many repeat visits.
Q: About how long have you been writing, and what led you to this sometimes nefarious and lonely lifestyle? (This question is coming from someone who these days seems to see more of his word processor than his friends!)
A: I've been writing seriously for publication since 1994. Basically, I shared some work of mine that I didn't think was good enough for publication with some friends before then. They shared my work with some of my coworkers whom I didn't know. Those coworkers kept asking when I was going to get published. It was at their urging that I decided to submit my work to publishers since their opinions weren't based upon friendship.
Q: What types of experiences (personal and otherwise) do you draw on when you are searching for ideas for your work?
A: I draw upon everything. News stories, history, events that I witnessed or took part in, especially those that seem too unbelievable to be true. I think some of my readers would be amazed to learn how much of what I write is based upon more than a grain of truth.
Q: Can you provide a specific example of something you've written using these "grains of truth" as you call them?
A: I try to watch for new scientific advances and discoveries. I put those in my stories whenever possible. One story making the rounds right now uses the recently discovered fact that there are mountains on the sun. In fact, that fact made the entire story possible. I also use real history in some of my stories. For instance, in "Rust Bucket", the hero discovers the answer he needs in a book about Admiral Nelson of the British Navy.
Q: Who or what would you say are your greatest influences? In particular, are there any other writers that you have sought to emulate over the years?
A: The writers I've tried to emulate are also the writers I most like to read. Those are Heinlein, Saberhagen, Laumer, Clarke, and Asimov. I've actually had people write to tell me that I do write very much like Heinlein. Of course, true or not, I took that as a compliment.
Q: What is it about these five writers that makes you want to emulate them?
A: Partly the fact that they were successful. Partly the fact that I liked what they had to say. There's probably more, but that's as close as I can recognize within myself at the moment.
Q: I ask this often, but it is always interesting to me the hear the responses. How do you work as an author? How would you describe your writing process?
A: Basically, ideas just come to me. If an idea enthuses me, I write a story based upon it. If not, then I shelve it for use later when it's ripe or more developed. Usually, an idea that doesn't enthuse me isn't ready for writing about.
Q: When and where was your first story published?
A: My first fiction was "Dead Time" which was published in Keen Science Fiction! magazine in April 1996.
Q: In the Lettercol, you have mentioned that some of your work has been published in novel form. What types of novels in general do you write, and what has led you to publish them electronically?
A: So far, my novels have covered the same territory as my short fiction. The Rust Bucket series published by Boson Books, URL http://www.cmonline.com/boson, is space opera. The Censored by Earth Command series published by New Concepts Publishing, URL http://www.newconceptspublishing.com/ is erotic science fiction. Washout, published by HyperBooks, URL http://www.hyperbooks.com/, is another space opera. Witness Protection, published by Hard Shell Word Factory, URL http://www.hardshell.com/, is straight science fiction. Will Fight Evil For Food, published by Oak Tree Publishing, URL http://www.previewbooks.com/, is a combination of science fiction, fantasy, and humor.
Q: On the whole, what is your opinion about the state of electronic publishing today? Where do you see it going in the future?
A: Electronic publishing is still in its infancy. This is their chance to be seen and read and establish themselves for the future by seeking publication in Aphelion and other electronic publications.
In the future, I see most electronic publications linking up with corporate sponsors as content providers for web sites that sell products people might not be exposed to without some sort of draw. Publications that establish large followings will find that they can eventually choose from available sponsors who will then provide the funds for paying writers and editors.
Q: Have you ever sold a story for anything other than "the glory of seeing your work in print" (aka FREE)?
A: Absolutely. In fact, much of what I've had published was for payment other than glory or copies. However, I'm not above sending my work to publications that can't afford to pay since those publications might someday become paying professional markets.
Q: Your bio on the stories published in Aphelion says that you are the publisher of a writer's resource called Predators & Editors. What precisely is Predators & Editors?
A: Preditors & Editors ™ (predators is deliberately misspelled for trademark purposes) is a listing of advice and markets for writers of all persuasions. Essentially, P&E is the only web site on the Internet that gives recommendations about agents and publishers. Most reference books and web sites only tell a writer what warning signs to watch out for as an indicator of a scam artist or shark. Consequently, P&E has drawn fire from some of the scammers, but we haven't budged an inch (or a centimeter for those of you who aren't metrically challenged) on our recommendations. Yes, we will change those when offered proof to the contrary and have, but we don't bow down to threats.
Q: What gave you the idea for Preditors & Editors™?
A: It came about when I was hosting discussions on writing [on Prodigy]. I saw a need for a site that wasn't afraid to make recommendations because too many new writers simply didn't have enough information or experience to know better.
Q: Are you still an event host on Prodigy? If so, what do you do?
A: No, I'm no longer an event host on Prodigy, though that could change if they get their writing section re-organized.
Q: Not that I want you to trash Prodigy's reputation, but can you be more specific about why you feel their writing section isn't up to par at the moment?
A: Actually, it's because Prodigy is closing down what they call their Classic version in favor of their internet version software. Essentially, the old chat rooms are underused as consequence, so there's little communication among writers.
Q: Many of your stories seem to concern themselves with characters who are, in one way or another, prisoners of technology (Frank--the prisoner trying to escape from a high tech prison, the character in "Release" who destroys the ultimate fighting machine, the families in "We Do Windows, Too" under the thumb of a home security service, the espers in "Think Slowly"). Would you agree that this is a theme in your work? If so, why? If not, why not?
A: That's an interesting observation. Also, this question reminds me of an essay question on a college exam. Ouch! I thought those days were over. Clearly, it is a recurring theme, but not the only one I use. Part of the time, I'm consciously pointing out how humanity seeks to evolve. At other times, I try to show that we create other things in our image. For this one, wait until my novel Beasts Are Us comes out, though selected short stories might be published before then.
Q: Where do you see yourself going with your writing in the future?
A: Basically, I write whatever interests me and hope that it also interests and entertains others. For that reason, it's very difficult for me to state where my writing will go. Right now, I'm writing a novel that deals with genetics and the associated moralities that are affected by its usage. To use the tired cliché, it's powerful if only because it shows things from more than the usual viewpoint.
© 1999 Jeff Williams is attempting to forge in the smithy of his soul the uncreated consciousness
of all people. In the meantime, he watches airplanes and trains, listens to and plays music, and tries
to write a little as well. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org