Welcome everyone. I hope this past week hasn’t seen you too snowed under with the crazy winter we’ve been having. Gregory, thank you for coming over today, glad you could make it. Will you get us started today with a little about yourself, and where you are from?
- Two daughters from my first marriage, four granddaughters. Day job, Museum Registrar with the National Air and Space Museum. I started with the museum in 1978, after ten years working restaurants. Hitch-hiked from California to Washington, D.C. in 1974-75.
- [I’m] now living in Virginia
Sounds like you’ve got a lot of stories to tell. Would one of those, by any chance be how you got into writing in the first place?
- Always have been. Starting working on my first novel at age seven in 1960. Got two and a half pages done.
- I have felt the need driving me to write, since first reading a children’s version of Homer’s “Odyssey” in 1959. I’ve loved B-movies since the same period, when my parents took their sons to the drive-in theaters to catch the latest Roger Corman offerings.
- Among my earliest memories are of playing with my parents hard-cover books. I was fascinated with the text in them, but since I couldn’t read, all I could do was build forts with the books. I did well, building walls and stairs, and was puzzling over how to build a roof. I never did manage that.
Roofs always are a little tricky. Especially if you don’t have any beams to support them. Speaking of foundations, do you have an incident that you can point to and say, “There! That’s when I became a writer.”?
- I don’t really consider myself a writer. I write because I can’t do otherwise. Same with my painting, cardboard sculptures, photography and other artwork.
I guess it depends on the definition of writer that you use. I’ve heard several different ones, and all of them are correct for me.
Since you don’t consider yourself a writer, do you try to stick with one writing style when you’re developing your work?
- Not really. It varies depending on what I am writing. The range goes from Horror, fantasy, science-fiction, Beat, and Decadent. One novel under my belt, many short stories, teleplays and a dozen B-Movie scripts.I’m most pleased with the B-Movies, including, “Attack of the Cactus People”, “Empire of the Ant Lions”, “The Cosmic Ray Creature”, “Night of the Coelacanths”, “Terror on Snail Island”, “The Nightmare of Horror Lagoon”, “Terror from the Edge of Space”, and others.
OK, I have to ask, because I love your titles. Do you have a specific method you use to come up with them, or do they just come to you as the stories develop?
- For my novel, “The Caves of Mars” – in 1993-94, I was working on a project with the National Air and Space Museum and the planetary geologists of CEPS, the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies.CEPS is staffed by NASA-affiliated scientists and is one of the NASA RPIFs, as they are called, the Regional Planetary Image Facilities, that are based in several states across the U.S.http://www.lpi.usra.edu/library/RPIF/
- I was heading the project to transfer the roughly 80,000 images returned by the Viking Mars missions of the 1970s to videodisc, and then, several years later, to DVD.This 18-month long project gave me a wondrous opportunity to study the surface of Mars in close detail, and to quiz the geologists with my impertinent questions. During that time I saw a great many surface features that I thought highly suggestive of cavern-building: huge sinkholes, vast regions of collapse, and so on.The planetary scientists of CEPS were open to my suggestions, and when I asked if it was absurd for me to speculate on the possibility of vast caverns spanning regions as vast as the area of Kentucky, Virginia, or even wider areas, no one dismissed the idea. In fact, given that Mars has no plate tectonics, a rigid crust, and a gravity much less than Earth’s, the environment might very well support stable caverns one, or two or even three billion years old.In short, it is quite possible. Is this where the water went? Are there vast subsurface oceans on Mars? The answer is, no one knows, but it is not a ridiculous speculation.But since there is no direct evidence of huge caves hosting subterranean seas on Mars, and since the scientists studying the planet have their hands full with the evidence they do have, they keep their attention focused on that which they can actually learn something about.
Which is where writers of speculative fiction come in. Since I am not a scientist, I am free to let my imagination range freely. So, I have been developing the world which Grae-don, the narrator of “The Caves of Mars” shares with his friends and enemies; Azora, warrior woman and his love-mate, his friend, Torq-aa, Jamarra, the Empress of Mars, Jor-Taq, evil scientist, Tuso, the brigand, and the monstrous tumaa, the deadly wahe-el and other fantastical creatures.
I’m guessing you try to include some realism in your work then.
- The environment is not incompatible with our current understanding of the environment of Mars, of a billion years ago. I try to make the motives and the psychologies of the characters believable. To compensate for that, I try to see how outlandish and outrageous I can make the monsters, creatures and half-humans of Mars.
Well, there is this part of the genre label that does say “fiction.” And, if you don’t play up to that somehow, then you wind up with “non-fiction”, even if it is written as a fun read. ::Chuckles::
Along with the realism, do you also draw from your own experiences to help develop your works?
Are you at a point that you can share anything about your current project, or recent news?
- Finishing up “The Giant Bat”, which I will send off to “Schlock!” when done. Another B-movie screenplay. A giant bloodsucking bat terrorizes beatniks in 1950s San Francisco.
- “The Winged Men of Mars”, Short Story
- “The Masterminds of Mercury”, Novel
Sounds like you’ve got your hands full. When you’re writing for any of the different types of art, do you ever weave messages into your work for readers to find?
- Just enjoy it, if it is the sort of thing you enjoy.
Since your work branches out into different media, not just books, do you have any books that you think back on with fondness for the way they have influenced your choices?
- “All About Dinosaurs”, Roy Chapman Andrews
- “Alice in Wonderland”, Lewis Carroll
- “The Secret Life of Salvador Dali”, Salvador Dali
- “Critique of Pure Reason” Immanuel Kant
- “Naked Lunch”, William S. Burroughs
- Everything Edgar Rice Burroughs ever wrote, and
- “Classics Illustrated”, the series published from the 1940s on, adapting works of Western literature to comic-book form. First I read the comic book, then I read the book itself.
That’s quite a list, and a few that I haven’t run into yet. Do you consider any of these authors to be a mentor, even if you haven’t met them in person?
- Edgar Rice Burroughs, among many others.
What about new authors? Any interesting ones you’ve discovered?
- Elizabeth Hand, though she’s been at it for awhile now.
She’s new to you, that counts. Are you reading one of her works now, or does someone else claim that place of honor?
- “Shadow Kingdoms”, Robert E. Howard.
Interesting title for that one. With the list you’ve given us, do you have a favorite that stands out from the rest?
- I’d have to say Edgar Rice Burroughs, as I have read his books over and over and over through the years. His straightforward style, and plain writing. He simply tells the story, without posturing or affectation.
I’ve met a few books like that, and when you go back to re-read, it is like coming back to talk with an old friend.
Speaking of friends, do you have any friends or people who have stood by and helped you when things got rough beyond your immediate family?
- “Schlock! Webzine” and “Schlock! Bi-Monthly” which have published many of my works:
- Tom Hendricks, publisher of Musea Magazine – Tom has been HUGELY helpful to me in these last few months, and I would like very much to acknowledge that (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Hendricks )
That is always a nice lift – seeing your work accepted by others.
When your working, I’m sure you encounter challenges, or learn new things about the process. Will you share some of your experiences?
- [One of the challenges is just] completing the work. I intended “Caves of Mars” to be only 180 or so pages long. It sprawled out to over five hundred.
- [Another hard challenge is] stopping. I could have gone on for another five hundred pages, but decided to save those for the next book.
- [I learned] a great deal, but putting it all into a single paragraph is beyond my writing skills.
Fair enough. Each of us faces unique challenges and lessons one our journeys. Thank you for sharing a few of yours. It helps others who are going through some rough times remember that we all do face those challenges, and can over come them. With that, I do have to ask, if you were to start over today with what you know now, would you change anything in your work?
- Every time I reread anything I ever wrote, I want to rewrite and re-edit it.
Would you say writing is a career for you, then?
- It’s a career for some, but only a passion for me.
Passions work too. They can often lead you in unexpected directions, just like an unexpected career can.
With your unique perspective, from the others I have chatted with, do you have any advice to pass along to others who are on their own writer’s journey?
- don’t think it’s my place to give advice.
Gregory, thank you so much for coming out and braving the weather today. I have enjoyed talking with you, and learning a little more about you.
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Thank you everyone for coming out today for our visit with Gregory Bryant. Mark your calendars. Gregory will be returning on Sunday with Grae-don from the “Caves of Mars” to visit with us. In the mean time, happy reading!