Q&A with… Dan Marshall

Dan MarshallDan Marshall is an author, musician, photographer and all-out geek living in Portland, Oregon. His debut cyberpunk novel The Lightcap was released in 2013. I reviewed it here.

Hi Dan! Can you introduce yourself?

Hi there, Richard! Thanks for giving me some space on your blog. It’s much appreciated. I’m a 33-year-old science fiction author, musician, photographer, and rare/vintage/collectible hunter living in Portland, OR, USA. I have a crazy dachshund / great dane mix dog and two long-haired black cats who keep me company.

How long have you been writing and when did you start? What was your inspiration to start?

I wrote my first song at the age of four on an old organ. I wrote my first science fiction story in the fourth grade. Before that I had a long-running Superhero character story I would act out in my free time: Powerful Daniel. All kid stuff of course, but I’ve always had a strong imagination. After high school I started writing and performing songs for real (you can hear some of my music at http://music.IAmDanMarshall.com), with some spoken word thrown in for good measure. I have blogged online for over 15 years under various names. The Lightcap is my first long-form fiction work. I’m inspired to write by the age in which we live, a world that is far more strange than past generations could have ever imagined!

What sort of writing do you enjoy? Which authors come to mind as notable, to you?

I love writing political blog posts. There are many terrible things happening in our world, and I want to make sure people know about them. I love writing fiction too. It’s a perfect vehicle for satire and imagery relating to current events. Some notable authors for me would include Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K Dick, Isaac Asimov, JRR Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, and Neal Stephenson. I’m a bit of a nerd.

How would you describe your novel, The Lightcap? What’s your pitch for it?

Imagine a device that could save you from stress in the workplace. You wear it at work and take it off when you’re done, ensuring you never take worries from your job home with you. After wearing this device, Adam Redmon begins to have terrible dreams involving acts he’d never commit under his own free will. Are Adam’s nightmares symbolic or repressed memories? Is he a pawn in a larger game?

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Q&A with… David Gilani

David GilaniDavid Gilani is the current President of the University of Southampton Students Union for the academic year 2013/14. He has also been the Vice President of Communications and Station Manager for the Southampton student-run radio station, Surge. He also presented his own show on Surge. I’ve known David since secondary school.

 

Hi David! First of all, would you mind introducing yourself? What are your interests, hobbies and things you care most about?

Hello Richard. So let’s see… I’m currently working at the University of Southampton Students’ Union (SUSU) as their President for the 13/14 academic year… I still love a bit of piano here and there and I’m getting addicted to various Netflix shows (i.e. House of Cards is the best thing ever!)

Can you outline why you got involved with your university’s students union and how you’ve progressed through the ranks?

Well I started in my first year when I wanted to get a show at the student radio station. Out of the 23,000 students at Southampton, we know currently 19,500 are currently a member of some club or society. They probably don’t all realise how that connects them to SUSU, and I probably didn’t back then either. I absolutely loved (and still do) the radio station, Surge, so I ran for a committee position, and by 3rd year I was the station manager. Two years ago, I then ran in a further election to become the Vice President Communications, until running another election last year for the Presidency.

Did you have any previous experience or inclination to take part in this aspect of university? What inspired you to get involved and actually make things happen?

It was really just a love of music that made me first have a look at Surge… but honestly, the reason that I put so much time into it was because it was so easy to make friends there. I always had my friends from halls, and a few close ones on my course, but I knew that my degree wasn’t my real passion, so it was nice to make friends who shared a common interest in radio. After being treated so well and meeting so many people in my first year, I decided that I wanted to help give other people that opportunity as well, and I suppose that’s when I realised the benefit of taking up an elected position at University.

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Q&A with… Sam Richards

Sam RichardsSam Richards is a writer from England with a degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University. He currently runs the Tweet RPG online role-playing system – soon to become StoryMechs!

 

 

Hi Sam! First of all, what would you say are your main interests and activities? What would you describe your creative “background” as?

Hello Richard! My main interests are reading, gaming, music, movies, and of course, writing. More specifically, I’m a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy, videogame RPGs, and electronic and metal music. I also enjoy playing electric and bass guitar.

My creative background is a mix of self-teaching and academic study. I began writing as a hobby in secondary school, starting various sprawling novel ideas which didn’t go anywhere. After heading to Portsmouth for uni, I found myself hating my course and spotted the creative writing degree – it was exactly what I wanted. I was challenged to try my hand at a range of different writing styles, and learnt a lot about what I enjoyed to write.

What sort of games do you like to play in your spare time? Do you find yourself inspired or affected by them at all?

I don’t play games nearly as much as I’d like to! I often find myself in a quandary as I really enjoy immersive videogames but don’t have the time to invest myself in them. Recently I’ve been playing Ni no Kuni, which is a JRPG created by Studio Ghibli – sickly sweet but beautiful to play. I’ve also been replaying Infamous, which is a great open-world action platformer. I also enjoy playing board games with friends – recently we’ve all been hooked on the DC Deck Building Game.

My writing has definitely been inspired by my passion for videogames. I love narrative twists, and the games from my fairly recent youth, such as Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII, gave me a thirst for big reveals and shocks. These games also instilled me with a desire to create worlds in which a reader can lose themselves. It may seem like a strange example, but the open-world format of Spyro the Dragon really showed me that how effective it can be to let the player/reader go where they want to go.

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Q&A with… Gary Thomas

Gary ThomasGary Thomas is a writer and film-maker from Epsom in Surrey. His film “The Dog and the Palace”, funded by Arts Council England, won the Inspire Mark award from the London 2012 Inspire Programme for innovative and exceptional projects directly inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He’s currently working on his autobiography.

Can you briefly describe your career to date? How did it start? What are the projects you’re most proud of leading or being a part of?

Sure. I really started properly in 2003, I saw an exhibition at The Tate Modern Gallery by Finnish Film & Video artist Eija Liisa Ahtila. They were split screen films about different aspects of mental health, and she had interviewed people about their own experiences and made very abstract dramas about them, but with actors, so not too abstract. I remember leaving thinking ‘if that’s art, then I want to do that.’ So that’s where I started looking at arts council funding and being an artist rather than ‘just’ a filmmaker. It’s taken 10 years and 10 films to figure out I’m passionate about writing and working with actors, and that’s what it boils down to for me. I’m proud of all of my projects for different reasons, but the biggest project to date has been The Dog & The Palace, which had the biggest budget (funded by Arts Council) and looks amazing and has had really good feedback. It was about the Paralympics so had quite a specific theme and time frame but it was great to be a part of the whole Olympics / Paralympics and it was awarded an Inspire Mark from London 2012.

Does your work tend to have a general theme? Why is this theme close to you? Does that theme seem to permeate your work so pervasively?

The Dog & The Palace was an interesting one because it was a specific dream I had about the Olympics, I dreamt it in split screen! Nearly all my other work focus’ on sexuality or mental health, and is quite often from personal experience, as the best writing should be. When I saw Eija Liisa Ahtila’s work and that she interviewed people with experiences of mental illness, I was like ‘woah, I can do that kind of work… and I don’t even have to interview anyone else!’ I think its important to tell stories about mental health as well as sexuality, because not everyone gets how important they are. Recently, I was reading a few comments on Ellen Page speech where she came out as gay, and people were still saying ‘why is this a big deal’. It’s still a big deal because there aren’t enough role models out there for people growing up. I left high school in 1988, and had no decent role models who were openly gay, and no one really spoke about teenage mental health issues either.
Its changing, but change has been slow.

Along with that there’s the comedy stuff which I love, (so its not all doom and gloom!) and that’s just about finding a good story that can sustain interest in a feature or short film. The short films are nearly always a way to practice an idea, sometimes they’re linked to a feature film or other idea, sometimes they’re not.

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