When I first received my autographed copy of Stuart Stockton’s debut novel, Starfire, I have to admit, I was dubious. A novel with a Christian worldview that features alien dinosaurs on a distant planet? It didn’t take me over five minutes to forget Starfire was speculative fiction and become immersed in the Saurian world of its hero, Rathe.
Stuart, is there any of the author in Rathe?
Definitely. There’s a little of me in all my characters. I think that what comes through from me to Rathe is a sense of loyalty and determination, as well as his softer center that comes out when he deals with Selae and Karey Or.
I was surprised to read in another interview you did that you read something written in Suarian at the American Christian Romance Writers Conference. How does a Sci-fi writer end up in a place like that?
Back then I was part of an online critique group with some ladies who insisted I attend the conference since it was a comparatively cheap conference and very close to where I lived. It was quite the experience seeing as how I was one of only seven men who attended (including faculty). But attending that year is what really put me on the path that resulted in not only Starfire getting published, but me getting married to my lovely wife.
Looks to me like God’s providence was at work here. Is there something all those aspiring to be published can learn from this?
Absolutely. God is always in control and sometimes He leads us down some very unexpected routes to fulfill our dreams. Though I imagine that the story of my wife and I would make for quite an interesting romance novel. Eccentric science fiction author ends up at a romance writers conference and meets a historical romance author. Can they truly have an alien prairie romance? Or will their love be as doomed as Aalderaan?
But most of all, I think the lesson to be learned is to be persistent, patient, and always willing to walk through the doors God opens for you, no matter how weird they look.
My wife happened to be reading Coral Moon by Brandilyn Collins at the same time I was reading Starfire. How did you come to be Ted Dawson (S-Man) in her Kanner Lake series?
That was a result of attending ACRW, speaking Saurian in front of the conference, and letting Brandilyn read an excerpt of Starfire. I left a bit of an impression with her, and so when she wanted to have an eccentric sci-fi writer in her series who was all caught up in his world she contacted me and asked if she could use my story and world.
It is a very neat bit of fact going fiction then coming back to fact as Ted Dawson actually sold his manuscript before I did.
Pretend I’m an agent and I ask you for the elevator pitch of Starfire.
Starfire is the thrilling story of a Suarian warrior who discovers an ancient artificial intelligence which places him in the center of a world war and will force him to decide between the fate of his empire and the fate of his world
And at this point most agents who specialize in Christian fiction would kindly say…
Hehe, That depends entirely on the agent. But to summarize I think most would end up with a “Thanks, but no thanks.” And I don’t really blame them. In order for their businesses to be successful, they need to represent stories they can sell to the market. Right now my books just aren’t something they could sell to 99% of the publishers out there, definitely not any of the big ones. That’s just not who their market.
While this is your debut novel, I know the world of Starfire wasn’t created overnight. Share with us the process that created such a rich, alien storyworld.
The creation of Sauria and the greater mythos of Galactic Lore is a very long story. For the long version I’d direct people to my website here (http://www.ritersbloc.com/galacticlore/sauria/howitbegan/index.htm) .
The short answer is I slowly built up the world over a long period of time starting with a small group of characters and then letting the world develop around them as needed. As I matured so did the world, slowly gaining more depth and a sense of history.
As I began looking at crafting novels from the world I worked harder on getting a basic time-line crafted that marked all the major events of the world from creation to where the stories take place, specific to Sauria. This let me give some distinctive cultural memories for the characters to reference much like we in the US reference 9/11 today.
When creating technology and settings for my alien cultures I do my best to consider how the physiology of my characters would influence how they interact with the world and build their structures. That’s why in my book my charcters use a scratch-pad for interfacing with computers and sit on benches instead of chairs. At the same time I try to make sure everything is recognizable and makes some kind of sense.
Another place to go to see my process is my old blog, where I went about creating a new world, waaay back in January of 2006. http://jerkrenak.blogspot.com/2006_01_01_archive.html
Some authors seem to struggle with fitting their story into CBA guidelines. Was that a problem for you or did you even consider it?
I never really considered it. I already knew the deck was stacked against me in CBA with my story concept and genre, so I didn’t worry about the content emphasized guidelines and just wrote what I wanted to. Though I did joke that I could get away with bad words since nobody cares if characters curse in Saurian.
Let me read a short excerpt from my review of Starfire:
Only a few have faith in who they believe to be the one true creator while most, like you, believe in nothing but themselves and the Karn Empire. You are a simple solider who will face extraordinary situations, enemies, and decisions you never imagined (except in your dreams).
Is that a fair description of Rathe (the hero of Starfire)?
Yes, I think that is a fair description of Rathe. He’s a loyal soldier seeking to better himself through service to his Empire. Everything he’s known or aspired to is tied to the Karn Empire. That’s what makes his journey tough on him, as he is exposed to a wider view of the world he begins to question himself and his beliefs as he tries to reconcile things beyond his comprehension.
A follow up question: What role do you see God and faith playing in your story?
I see God and faith playing pretty much the same role they do in real life. In so many sci-fi or fantasy tales written by Christian authors you see them taking an allegorical or sybological route, often bringing God physically into the story through a Christ-like figure and having spectacular miracles happen in contrast to or in lieu of magic.
I wanted to make the experience feel more like what I see in our own lives. Where God is active and intimately involved, but not always in visible ways and where he works through those who believe in him. I wanted to display the complexities of faith where false faiths and different interpretations of the truth conflict.
I also didn’t ever want to have a point where I specifically stated “This is the Truth”, but rather let people discover the truth on their own. Hopefully I’ve succeeded in that
So you are letting the reader see God and how people react to God through the characters’ worldview?
That’s what I’m trying to do, yes. It will always be an imperfect image, but I hope that I pique their interest enough to get them to go out and seek God in their own lives and maybe see him in a different light than what they are used to.
On a follow-up, Angela Hunt blogged these words recently: Novels, like it or not, do put forth a world view; characters learn lessons and change in ways that reflect the author’s view of life. So it’s crucial that we get it right from an eternal perspective.
Do you are agree?
Yes, I agree. As authors part of our responsibility is to portray truth through their writing, though I don’t think it needs to be the point of a story to make the worldview clear. I think the first responsibility of a novel is to entertain. But in the quest for entertainment an author shouldn’t abandon their core truths, and as such the stories they craft should hold true to the greater truth of God and how he holds the world together.
Thanks to Stuart for taking the time to give this interview. Read my review of Starfire here.
This entry was posted on Friday, June 5th, 2009 at 4:59 pm and is filed under Interviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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