Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview with Phoebe Wray

In the Plowshare, the crew and the civilians were in the galley, watching the live feed from the cameras in Renn’s helmet. No one talked. Her voice was piped in, but she wasn’t doing much talking, either. Leaving the sled for a careening object was one of the most dangerous steps, and she concentrated on it.

“Okay, there’s something here...” They could hear her breathing a little faster but they couldn’t see what she was doing.

“Renn?” Harry’s voice was quiet. “Talk to us.”

She scoffed and everyone relaxed a little. “I’m busy! It’s a—I dunno what—a control box, I think.”

Today's special treat is an interview with Phoebe Wray, who has a short story in an anthology of military SF by all female authors.  Take it away, Wray:

Tell us a little bit about Trashing.

It’s a short story in the anthology “No Man’s Land” from Dark Quest Books; Volume 4 of the “Defending the Future” series edited by Mike McPhail. They are futurist, military science fiction tales, all written by women. I’m very proud to have a story in it. They’re whopping good yarns.

Trashing has an unusual premise. How did you come up with the idea?

It was a story sitting half-done when I heard about “No Man’s Land.” I dug it out and polished it up. My heroine is a Lieutenant in the Targus Navy, a specialist identifying, assessing and retrieving the debris and odds and ends of satellites, booster rockets and the like, tumbling around in her galaxy. She makes a splendid find just as the Bad Guys show up.

I’ve been collecting news stories and NASA reports about space junk for a long time. That stuff, and there’s a lot of it up there, is a navigation hazard, among other things. Even a paint chip traveling 17,000 mph can do a lot of damage. And then, of course, there’s the glove that a Gemini10 crew member lost, still orbiting.

Oddly, the week after the book was released this past May, the International Space Station was on alert because a piece of junk was heading straight for it. Fortunately, it missed; but the crew had already identified their “Safe places,” in case it didn’t.

By the way, I got the planet name “Targus” from the online NASA list of named space objects. There are a gazillion of them!

You're the president of Broad Universe. Tell us about the organization.

Broad Universe is a support and information organization for women who write genre fiction. It was founded in 1999 at the Feminist Convention, WisCon. I’m one of the “mothers” and have served on the Boards from the beginning.

We ask: Why don’t women get more genre fiction published? Why don’t we get as many reviews as the boys do? Why do some stick-in-muds still say we can’t write those tales? Just read what’s out there and your mind will change.

BU is supports and encourages, and through our website ( and several online lists, we provide a sounding board/tip board/information. We’re a non-profit and all-volunteer group, with members around the world. It’s an amazingly congenial place. There hasn't been a flame war ever, since the beginning.

I stepped down as the Prez in August, having served on the Motherboard for a number of years. It was time to pass the torch. I remain on the Advisory Board.

There was a time when science fiction seemed mostly like a club for boys. You're challenging that notion by writing successfully in the genre, and you create characters who fly in the face of conventional genre stereotypes. Has it been an extra challenge to be a woman writing military science fiction?

It’s getting better. Women still aren’t taken as seriously as men in some of the subgenres, military sci fi being one. The sheer number of women who are willing to put their thoughts out there helps. For new writers, it’s challenging. And, trust me, there are still men—writers, reviewers, editors—who scoff and/or sneer.

It’s a slippery fish to land. Right now, Broad Universe has two members who are professional number-crunchers, and they are undertaking a systematic (scientific) look at the stats so we will have more meaningful data. I’ve been working on that particular issue for years. Their findings are starting to go up on our website. They are sobering.

I normally blog about indie e-books, but I have a soft spot for Edge Publishing, since they're here in Calgary, my home town. Tell us a bit about Jemma7729.

That’s my first novel, and it was a delight to work with the genial Brian Hades at EDGE. He’s a savvy, enthusiastic person, and very encouraging. EDGE continues to grow and is publishing excellent work.

The “elevator” on Jemma is that it’s “a futurist, feminist, dystopian, action-adventure novel.” Whew! It continues to get great reviews. Jemma is a rebel in North America in the 23rd century. She’s a skilled saboteur (saboteuse?), who joins with an underground movement to bring a constitutional government back to the Northern continent. She’s smart and compassionate, and the odds are totally stacked against her. She fights for freedom—for herself and everyone—no matter what.

There is a sequel—called J2—which will be out this fall from Dark Quest. It’s a bit odd, perhaps, because the heroine is Jemma’s clone. She looks like Jemma, and there are certain personality quirks that they share, but J2’s a lab rat and a thinking machine. It was fun to write.

It can be tough for a writer, sitting safely in a comfortable chair, to write credibly about the terror inherent in an action scene. You have an advantage, though. You've done things that would scare a veteran soldier green. What did you find more terrifying: standup comedy or live theatre? Do you draw on those experiences when you write?

Oh, yeah! Stand-up can be very daunting. Especially if the jokes don’t work. I loved, especially, acting Shakespeare. He never misses, if you trust him, for one thing. If you tell the truth. You have to do that in stand-up, too. Audiences know when you’re faking.

I DO use my theatre background, mainly in two places: character development and dialogue. My stories and books are loaded with dialogue. Jemma is written in first-person, so it’s one long monologue. J2 is not first person, and that allows me more character development of secondary characters. There are some people from the first book in the second. I have to be extra aware of their voices.  

1 comment:

  1. Hey, the sequel to Jemma7729 is out... if you want to review it, contact me.
    phoebe wray