Interview with Daniel Sikorski

What is your writing process?
Stare at the blank page in LibreOffice and procrastinate with Spider Solitaire until I'm fed up enough to grab a vintage fountain pen and a pad of paper and head for a coffeehouse.

Or, when the inspiration hits from out of the blue, write on anything with whatever's at hand and hope to be able to get it all down before it slips away from me. I don't have a lot of control over my muse, and she--who I have named Dypsomania--strikes at unpredictable times. But when it's on, it's seriously on, and I have to go back and re-read it when the trance passes to see what I wrote because I will have very little idea. I wish I knew where it came from and what its schedule is.

Joe Straczynski described his writing process for Babylon 5 as opening up a window to that universe in the back of his mind and writing down everything he saw before anyone noticed him. I'd say mine feels like that, except that I'm not as good a writer as JMS... and that my characters have noticed me watching.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yeah, and it was pretty abysmal.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Work, mostly. Or dinking around on my computer.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Project Gutenberg, mainly. 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' is still one of my favorite reads, to say nothing of the Holmes canon.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Oooo, that's a good one. The earliest one I can recall that was a story proper and not a picture book with words was a juvenile SF novella called (as best I can recall) 'Stranded on Ganymede'... which has defied all efforts to locate it since. The name Del Rey is associated with it in my memory; whether it was written by Lester Del Rey, or was published by Del Rey Books, I don't recall.

The earliest story that I can recall clearly, with the author, was Arthur C. Clarke's "The Haunted Space Suit". And unlike so many things from my now-distant youth, it still is a great read.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Yikes. I'm going to cheat and name collections for the most part, because I could never choose one book out of these series.

The core Foundation trilogy, by Isaac Asimov. I have always loved his crisp, clean, no-nonsense style, and it was never deployed better than in these three books.

The inaccurately-named Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy. I came to the series backwards -- the BBC miniseries, then the book, then the original radio series. And I really like all of them (including the Infocom text game and even the recent movie). Every time Adams re-approached his Hitchhiker's universe, he twiddled with it: one basic story, several different ways to tell it. And unlike Lucas' meddling with the Star Wars universe, Adams didn't break it.

The Collected Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Its recent re-imagining by Stephen Moffet and Mark Gatiss only shows how well these stories have aged.

100 Great Science Fiction Short Short Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin Greenberg, and Joseph Olander. Extremely small packages can include extremely big ideas.

Egad, only one more? I think, despite incredible competition, I will have to plump for Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter. Brainhurty, but in a good way. My copy is festooned with little yellow sticky notes to keep track of my own commentary on the text.
What do you read for pleasure?
Classic SF, and modern science, mainly. I'd read Isaac Asimov's grocery lists. I'm not much on fantasy, except for Diane Duane's Door... series (and Ms Duane, on the exceedingly small chance you ever read this, will you PLEASE finish their story for us?). I've recently rekindled my love for Arthur C. Clarke, and I've always liked John Brunner and Harlan Ellison. I read Lovecraft, although with my internal editors on, because they really are fantastically over-written. And of course there's Conan Doyle's Holmes stories.

On the science fact side -- does anyone remember the LIFE Science and Nature libraries? Fantastic overviews of the leading edge of science (in the mid 1960s, anyway); when I started to rebuild the set, I was startled to see that 'The Planets' had been written by Carl Sagan, and 'Man in Space' by Arthur C. Clarke -- in which he foresaw with reasonable accuracy the World Wide Web. Even though much of the science is out of date now ('The Universe' for example refers to the Steady State model as a valid competing theory to the Big Bang model -- which at the time it was), they're still excellent. Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time' and Sagan's companion edition to his 'Cosmos' series remain on the active bookshelves. Feynman's 'Six Easy Pieces' and 'Six Not-So-Easy Pieces', Dawkins' 'The Selfish Gene', 'The Blind Watchmaker' and 'The God Delusion', Adams' 'Last Chance to See', Nagel & Newman's 'Gödel's Proof' -- I heartily recommend all these, and more.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
A battered old NextBook -- I wanted something that didn't try to force me into (without naming names but you know who you are) someone's proprietary market and format, and also didn't have a price on the far side of $100 (in fact, I got mine for $40). It also holds a small gallery of my photography, and a huge pile of MP3s so I can listen at work, or have some background music while reading. It's not wifi-capable, which I also liked: that means it's absolutely secure from the outside world, barring physically losing the device.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The need to write, more than anything else. I don't flatter myself to think that I'm going to be welcomed with open arms by the big publishing houses (and attempts at submitting for professional publication have so far come to naught), but neither do I denigrate myself to think I have nothing of interest to say. Also, I am resistant to being edited on certain things. So when I publish here, it's the pure article, and I am responsible--or to blame--for all of it, every comma and period, every jot and tittle.

And it is a *need* to write. I sometimes think my head will explode if I am struck by inspiration at an inopportune moment, when no pen and paper is at hand.

I'm aware that doesn't mean I'm necessarily a *good* writer, but it does mean I care about my craft. When a piece reaches the point that I think it's good enough for public consumption, it's set in stone and I will not edit it for it's reached a state where anything I do will lessen it. This is a luxury that indie publishing allows me, that contracting with one of the big publishing houses almost certainly would not.
Who are your favorite authors?
Strap in, this may take a while.

Isaac Asimov and Douglas Adams, first and foremost.

After that, in no particular order other than alphabetic: John Brunner, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Julia Child, Arthur C Clarke, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Diane Duane, Harlan Ellison, John Feinstein, Richard Feynman, Douglas Hofstadter, Molly Ivins, Walt Kelly, George Orwell, Thomas Paine, Mike Royko, Carl Sagan, Shel Silverstein, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Anton Wilson...
What are your other interests?
Coin collecting, vintage fountain pens -- I've just restored several, that was a fun project. Despite being monumentally untalented at it, I love golf. I think that's really the best thing about it, that you don't need to be any good at it to enjoy it. I'm a reasonably good cook, though I'm better at sides, breakfasts, and desserts than I am at main courses.

I love vintage equipment that works -- especially if it has a steampunky look to it, even though I'm not especially interested in steampunk literature as a reader or a writer. It's a glorious look regardless.

Music? All over the place: The Grateful Dead (and associated acts), Johann Sebastian Bach, Dave Brubeck, Frank Zappa, They Might Be Giants, Steeleye Span, Humphrey Lyttelton, Walter/Wendy Carlos, Max Geldray, Brian Eno... even I can't really figure out a good common thread between them, other than that they all fit my ear well.

I watch very little TV, and what I do watch is almost all British. The only recent American show I'll watch is Castle; otherwise it's Doctor Who (still prefer the classic era to the modern, though), QI, Mock the Week, and Sherlock.

I listen to a lot more radio, particular BBC Radio 4 online. I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue is hands down the funniest thing there ever was -- every single episode has at least one bang your head on the desk for laughing so hard moment in it. Close behind are The News Quiz, Just A Minute, The Infinite Monkey Cage, and The Unbelievable Truth. Past shows are worth a re-listen: The Goon Show, of course, and I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again in particular. Also The Museum of Curiosity, Revolting People, A History of the World in 100 Objects... and if you spot their productions of Sherlock Holmes, those are required listening. Clive Merrison and Michael Williams are my default mental voices when reading the stories now.
Published 2014-07-04.
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