domingo, 6 de junho de 2010

Journeyman: Interview with Alan Dean Foster

Alan Dean Foster is famous for his original Science Fiction novels, series and movie scripts, including Star Trek and Star Wars’s tie-ins and novelizations.

He was once in Brazil, back in 2000, when we had the luck to watch and hear him talking about his experiences as a pro writer and as an amateur explorer (Alan is a compulsive jorneyman and had travelled to the four corners of the planet).

Now he’s with us to a small interview, answering to five questions raised by our staff (thanks to Luiz Felipe Vasques, Eduardo Torres and Carlos Orsi Martinho), talking about the earlier days of his career, his gigs for Hollywood and how other cultures could inspire his writings.


Octavio Aragão – Hello, Alan. Please, talk a little about your career as professional writer, your literary influences (inside and outside the SF&F field) and the books that were a real pleasure to write.

Alan Dean Foster – I was born in New York City, 1946, but was raised in Los Angeles. After receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and a Master of Fine Arts in Cinema from UCLA (1968, l969), I spent two years as a copywriter for a small advertising and public relations firm, in California.

My writing career began when publisher August Derleth bought a long Lovecraftian letter I wrote in 1968 and published it as a short story in Derleth's bi-annual magazine, The Arkham Collector. Sales of short fiction to other magazines followed. My first attempt at a novel, The Tar-Aiym Krang, was published by Ballantine Books, in 1972. It incorporates a number of suggestions from John W. Campbell, the editor who published the first works of great writers like Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein.

Since then, my short fiction has appeared in all the major SF magazines, as well as in original anthologies and several "Best of the Year" compendiums. Six collections of my short form work have been published.

My work to date includes excursions into hard science-fiction, fantasy, horror, detective, western.. As to literary influences, the three primary ones were Herman Melville, Eric Frank Russell (British SF writer), and Carl Barks, the creator of the best Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comic books. From Barks I got the ability to deal realistically with older characters, and also a portion of my desire to travel and see the world.

Carlos Orsi Martinho – You write lots of media fiction, and you keep a few ongoing series of your own. Besides the obvious question of how those experiences compare, and feel, to you, did do you ever considered a media project about one of your own series? A movie, comic book version or TV serial, perhaps? And, how would you feel if another writer would come to write a novelization of a movie based upon one of your universes? Would you try to talk to the guy? Give him advice? Or just keep away...?

ADF – Every writer prefers writing their own material to working with that originated by others. I'm no exception. As to a media project based on my own work, I did have one story (OUR LADY OF THE MACHINE) done on the SF Channel in the U.S., as the opening episode of a series called WELCOME TO PARADOX. Unfortunately, the series lasted only one season, and the adaptation was not what it could have been.

I have a number of books under option for development as motion pictures. All it takes is lots of money.

As to someone writing in my universes, I have no objection to fan writing. But professionally, unless a writer is desperate for money, I think it's best to keep control over your own work. The one exception I made is for a series of games (not video) that are based on the Commonwealth.

Eduardo Torres e Luiz Felipe Vasques – How do you feel in writing the book version of RIDDICK before the release of the film? How will you deal with possible changes of script during film-making? And what should we expect from the Humanx Space project?

ADF – I can't speak to the Humanx Space project, but as to RIDDICK, I always write the book version before the release of the film. That was true of STAR WARS, the ALIEN films, and every other novelization I have done. As to changes of script while I am writing the book, I do my best to incorporate any such changes while I am writing... when and where possible, and provided, of course, that the studio supplies me with the details of such changes.

Octavio Aragão e Eduardo Torres – Different from the vast majority of the SF writers, you travel a lot all over the world, including "wild places" like Brazil. How does it contribute to your novels and scripting gigs? There was any particular situation that you witnessed in those voyages that was later translated into books or movie scripts?

ADF – I don't understand how writers can write about other cultures and places without wanting to experience them for themselves. All I ever wanted to do was see as much of the universe (in this case, restricted to one planet) as I possibly could. I am still trying to do so. I just returned from Kiribati, and will be in Venezuela, Guyana, and Trinidad in January (Señor Chavez permitting).

Not only do my travels provide me with ideas and characters to incorporate into stories, I often am inspired to write an entire book by a visit to a particular country. INTO THE OUT OF comes from time I spent in Tanzania and Kenya. CACHALOT derives from the summer I lived in French Polynesia. CATALYST was inspired by my visit to Peru. And I owe the idea behind my most recently published novel, DROWNING WORLD, to the political situation I saw in Fiji and the ecology of that little, out-of-the-way, South America country they call Brazil.

Octavio Aragão – There’s an increasing interest in France for the SF&F produced in South America and in other languages, such as Portuguese and Spanish. This is producing a growing trade of information, data and publications among authors and scholars all around the world, with Portuguese and Brazilian writers publishing in European SF anthologies and vice-versa. How do you see the chances of the non-anglophone Science Fiction and Fantasy in a market that was, till now, mostly North-American?

ADF – It's a development that is long, long overdue. SF is a world literature not only in the sense that it is written and read everywhere, but that SF readers have a connection readers of other fiction do not. You do not need to explain what a star drive is to a reader in Russia, or Australia, or China. Or robotics, or cryogenics. All SF readers have the same basic reading foundation for the genre.

American publishers have a disagreeable bias against SF from elsewhere, although this may slowly (very slowly) be changing. A Japanese author recently sold the U.S. rights to three of his SF books. The Indian government published an anthology of SF by Indian writers that I am trying to get published in the U.S. The other problem is, of course, economics. Translation work costs money. It will be a very SF solution when translation software allows for faster and easier translation work of SF stories.

Now you must excuse me. My wife and I are going to a concert tonight. DIO and IRON MAIDEN. Very soothing.

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