MC Planck’s new sci-fi novel, The Kassa Gambit, just came out, and he was kind enough to take the time and answer a few of my questions about the book, and his writing!
**We’ve also got a copy of the book up for grabs, so be sure to check out the giveaway details at the bottom of the post!
Please welcome him to the blog!
Michael, your sci-fi novel, The Kassa Gambit, just came out. What inspired you to write the novel? Will you tell us a bit about it?
My wife had just finished her novel, Song of Scarabaeus, another space-adventure in the same vein (although with more romance). I had invented a spaceship engine for her, and thought, why let it go to waste?
The short tagline for TKG is: Aliens attack! Followed by much heroic brooding…
What do you like most about writing sci-fi?
You can talk about interesting ideas. For example, in TKG there’s the idea of a node-map; the hyper-space connections between the stars have no relation to their physical location, so two stars that are visible to each other can be a very long way apart, while it can be a short journey to the other side of the galaxy. I think that’s interesting in how it would redefine our concepts of territory. On Earth national borders are kind of fluid and porous, but in node-space they are necessarily discrete and concrete.
Did your Philosophy degree influence your writing in any way?
In some ways the book is a repudiation of the transhumanist idea, the notion that technology will make us more than human. I think technology will make us better, but there is always a limit of complexity after which things fall apart faster than you can patch them up. Actually, that might just be the engineer in me talking.
What sort of research did you do for The Kassa Gambit?
I looked up some star names, which I preceded to misuse. I also had to look up the name of a suitably poisonous gas.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
Jack Vance, particularly The Demon Princes series, which is one of the greatest space-opera adventures ever. Stanislaw Lem shows up, especially in the “Highest Possible Level of Development” argument. I’ve always admired Ursula Le Guin, William Gibson, and Dave Duncan too, the first two for their style and the last for taking old ideas and making them new.
Is there anything in particular that you need in order to write? Anything in particular that inspires your creativity?
A computer. Seriously, if I had to type manuscripts – or (shudder) hand-write them – I would not be a writer. I revise too much as I’m typing each sentence.
I also need respite from my two-year-old, the most potent distillation of cuteness the world has ever produced. Grandma’s house is good for that, but after about six hours I start missing her.
To spark my creativity, I just go for a walk. The voices in my head basically never shut up.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Lord of the Rings. I still remember how I felt when I realized it was over, and I could never go back in quite the same way.
What are you reading now?
I just finished The Death of Nnanji, Dave Duncan’s late addition to his Seventh Sword series. But don’t start there – read Hero (SF) or Reaver Road (F) first.
I read in your bio that you moved to Australia as an adult. What do you love most about living there?
It’s hard not to answer that question without sounding too political, but basically, it’s like living in Southern California, if SoCal had free health care, a $15 minimum wage, no guns, 5% unemployment, 4 weeks vacation a year for everybody, and miserable weather. Also, too many sausages (Aussies eat sausages like we eat burgers). I love it. Except the weather – it really is ridiculous. Completely unpredictable – in the middle of the night it’s too hot to sleep; by noon you need a coat to go outside.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you most like to spend it?
Writing. I also like to play games, although frankly I’m getting a little tired of hide-and-seek. Especially since the two-year-old tells me where to hide.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events?
About The Kassa Gambit:
Centuries after the ecological collapse of Earth, humanity has spread among the stars. Under the governance of the League, our endless need for resources has driven us to colonize hundreds of planets, all of them devoid of other sentient life. Humanity is apparently alone in the universe.
Then comes the sudden, brutal decimation of Kassa, a small farming planet, by a mysterious attacker. The few survivors send out a desperate plea for aid, which is answered by two unlikely rescuers. Prudence Falling is the young captain of a tramp freighter. She and her ragtag crew have been on the run and living job to job for years, eking out a living by making cargo runs that aren’t always entirely legal. Lt. Kyle Daspar is a police officer from the wealthy planet of Altair Prime, working undercover as a double agent against the League. He’s been undercover so long he can’t be trusted by anyone—even himself.
While flying rescue missions to extract survivors from the surface of devastated Kassa, they discover what could be the most important artifact in the history of man: an alien spaceship, crashed and abandoned during the attack.
But something tells them there is more to the story. Together, they discover the cruel truth about the destruction of Kassa, and that an imminent alien invasion is the least of humanity’s concerns.