No, nothing to do with Cyberdyne. (Did you know there really is a robotics company called Cyberdyne?!) This John Connor is a horror/sci-fi author that I recently discovered during one of my breaks from the undead. He's written an entertaining horror anthology filled with twenty-two fantastic tales.
Some of the stories are merely entertaining, some are utterly terrifying, but they are all well-written and completely captivating. I love the variety of the stories - not only is each plot unique, but the settings, POV, etc. are also unique to each story. I wanted to know more about the man behind the stories, so I asked Connor a few questions in the Lair:
Q. Have you always aspired to be a writer, or is this a recent development?
Well, I suppose that I've been writing for a long time, but I've only considered myself to be 'a writer' for the last decade or so. I spent my career with the provincial press, which always leads people to the conclusion that I was a journalist when in fact I was a member of the commercial staff and wasn't required to write a word as a part of my employment. But opportunities came along from time to time and I made contributions to our various publications. However, it wasn't until I found myself in early retirement that the time to write seriously became available.
Q. What genre are you most comfortable with and why?
I began reading science fiction as a child when I discovered Kemlo, the creation of the author E C Elliot, and was hooked. Kemlo lived on a space station and owned his own space scooter - what nine year old wouldn't be captivated? After that I read everything I could get my hands on, which in the UK in the mid fifties, wasn't a lot. After I'd exhausted the supply of H G Wells and Jules Verne in my local library I had to look elsewhere for writers and that, with a few exceptions, meant the USA. In my teens I was a huge fan of Ray Bradbury. I loved both his sci fi and the poetry of the tales in The October Country and Dandelion Wine. I rediscovered his short stories just a while ago and they're still magical. At home, John Wyndham was an influence (both he and H G Wells were former pupils of the school I attended). The Day of the Triffids; The Midwich Cuckoos and The Kraken Wakes were all part of my reading experience. In fact, I have to admit, my interests have been pretty single track when it comes to genre preference and I must have consumed just about all there's was from Aldiss to Zelazny as a young man. No wonder then that sci fi is where I feel happiest.
Q. How does Whines and Spirits compare with your other anthologies?
In view of the above you'll see that Whines and Spirits is a little outside my usual area of interest as an author. It came about as a result of one of those opportunities I spoke about earlier. I received a commission to write a regular column for a young readers feature in one of our newspapers and that meant a ghost story was required each Halloween and New Year. Over the years I compiled quite a collection and more recently I sat down and rewrote many of them for an adult audience. That's how the title came about. It's the result of a commercial imperative I suppose.
Style wise it's not a million miles from my other works, Fifty Percent of Infinity and Short Circuits, which are both collections of short sci fi stories.
Q. Who or what influences your writing? Do you follow the same process each time, or do you approach each story differently?
What influences my writing? Well all of the above and everything else in my life - just like any writer I guess.
I look for a new idea, or more usually, since new ideas are hard to come by, a new slant on a familiar theme and I start writing. The 'voice ' is the important thing. The tone, the style; something that catches the nature of, and enhances, the narrative. That just comes naturally. I don't give it a lot of thought. There are alternative possibilities of course and the one you choose - if you do choose - can make the difference between a story that sounds credible and one that's appears contrived and false. With the voice comes the story.
Q. How do you think genres such as horror and science fiction have changed since the 1980s? Do you think readers have also changed? If so, how?
As to horror I can't offer an opinion but with regard to science fiction, yes there have been changes. Genre style is an evolving condition adapting to social mores and preferences. Twenty first century sci fi has been hijacked somewhat by the movie industry and expectations from readers new to the genre are sometimes for similarly grandiose concepts. But there are still plenty of people out there writing high quality sci fi for discerning fans. Take a look at Gardner Dozois' annual Year's Best. The near future is often more intriguing than the death of the universe and the day after tomorrow is changing all the time, as a result of what's happening today.
Q. Do you think there is a difference between US readers and UK readers, besides location? Do you think authors need to take culture into consideration when writing for different audiences?
Oh yes, I'm sure there is. We may, in many respects, share the same culture but there is a wide divergence in social mores and, I suspect, a very different national consciousness. At a basic level there's much that divides us too. I'm reading Stephen King's 11-22-63 right now and - apart from that date, which would read 22-11-63 over here - there are frequent references to sport, politics and even retail businesses (!) which leave me baffled. Do I think King should publish a UK friendly version of his story? No, certainly not. It's those touches of Americana that are an added attraction for a British audience and place the story right where it belongs.
Q. What else would you like readers to know about your work?
If there is anything to discover, I'd like the readers to do that for themselves. If you're a horror aficionado then Whines and Spirits may seem pretty tame to you; no blood and guts, no slavering monsters from the nether reaches of hell. Just, I hope, quietly chilling tales and lots of story lines to make you think. Friends tell me that's a fault. There are enough ideas in that collection to write three or four novels, they say, why don't you expand the plots a little and stretch things out? But that's not what I'm about. You'll find this with Fifty Percent of Infinity and Short Circuits too, if you're kind enough to give them a go. Ideas sparking into life and racing to a conclusion, or at least part way to a conclusion, because I like to leave the reader room to think on...
I definitely recommend Whines and Spirits to my fellow horror fans...sometimes it's nice to go back to the basics that first attracted us to the genre.