Clan Destine Press is bringing out a new anthology And Then, and you can read interviews with the authors here over the next few weeks. There is also an Indiegogo campaign, to which y’all can contribute here.
In And Then, Jason Franks, author of the excellent Bloody Water, talks “Exli and the Dragon” and the value of Pew-Pew lasers.
What inspired your story/novelette?
Most of the ideas in “Exli and the Dragon” came from brainstorming around Lindy’s brief: two-protagonist adventure stories in any genre. I decided to write an SF piece, because I haven’t written any SF for a few years, and most of the ideas propagated from there. I don’t think there are enough convincing aliens in popular fiction, so I decided to make the narrator a creature who is not even vaguely humanoid. (I guess you’d call Exli a cushion-oid).
I prefer to write characters who are criminals and monsters, so that led me to making the pair of them convicts. I also decided that I wanted a lot of action but not a lot of violence. Exli and the Dragon are not equipped for combat against the more durable species they come up against, and so they have to win their way to freedom with agility and guile. Having said that, I couldn’t resist putting in a bit of Pew-Pew! Space Lasers in Space!
In terms of direct inspiration, I had just read an Iain Banks’ last Culture novel when Guardians of the Galaxy came out at the cinemas and I couldn’t help but wish that he had written the movie, so that became a touchstone for the project as well. Hopefully the result is a drolly humorous jailbreak story set in a space prison.
What appealed to you about this project?
Firstly, the opportunity to work with Lindy Cameron at CDP was a big incentive. Secondly, the brief was really interesting–it’s a different experience to design a story for two protagonists because the way that they interact becomes the principal mechanic of the story. I love to write dialogue so this was the part of the process that I enjoyed the most: learning about these two characters as they went about the business of escaping from prison.
Lindy also suggested that these stories might become serials, and I love me some serial fiction. Most of my novel projects have grown out a desire to write a series of discrete short stories based around a particular character, so this was double the fun.
What advantages does a long-short form offer?
The novelette feels very natural to me these days–I’m not sure I’m still capable of writing anything shorter. I am very interested in exploring ways to compress a big story into a small number of words and many of my recent shorts have been experiments in compression. Perhaps not very successful experiments, it must be said: the most frequent criticism I hear from my writing group is that there’s too much going on for a short, and that I should unpack the story into a novella or a novel. If the story is complex enough there’s just no substitute for word count.
But there’s no trickery in “Exli and the Dragon”. It runs to 9000 words of banter and action. Even so, I only managed to tell half the story I pitched to Lindy. If there’s an opportunity to do another installment, Exli and the Dragon are still up to no good, and so am I.
The future of short fiction is …
… probably not a question I am well-positioned to answer. I don’t write much of it anymore, or if I do, it usually winds up being a comic.
There are a lot of new markets now and I hope that readership starts to grow again. New formats and publication models offer new opportunities, but I think it’s going to be a long time before short fiction has the same level of paying readership that it enjoyed in the 20th century.
What’s next for you?
I have a short horror/fantasy novel called Shadowmancy coming out very soon and I’m presently trying to get my next book, XDA Zai, ready for submission by the end of January. Also, more Left Hand Path comics, more McBlack comics, and… maybe even a short story or two.
Jason Franks is the author of the occult rock’n’roll novel Bloody Waters and the writer of the Sixsmiths and Left Hand Path and comicbook series. His short fiction has been published in Aurealis, Midnight Echo, After the World, and other places. Franks’ work has twice been short-listed for an Aurealis Award. Find him online at www.jasonfranks.com.