[INTERVIEW] Author and Editor Scott Harrison on Steampunking the Classics
Scott Harrison is a UK-based scriptwriter, novelist & playwright. He’s written novels and audio plays for Big Finish, short stories, comic book scripts and stage plays that have been produced in both the US and UK. His newest anthology, which he edited and contributed to, is Resurrection Engines. It just came out in the UK under the Snowbooks imprint and includes his short story, “The God of All Machines”. Scott was kind enough to talk to me about his writing, editing, and steampunk!
Kristin Centorcelli: Your short story, “The God Of All Machines”, was published in your anthology, Resurrection Engines, which just came out from Snowbooks in December. What is it about?
Scott Harrison: My story is a retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, only in this world Jekyll is working for the British Government in a top secret weapons development bunker deep beneath London and Hyde…well, in this story it’s not a man, but a secret military project that Jekyll is working on – a prototype, quasi-sentient, fully-armored war-suit code-named ‘HYDE’ (an acronym of Herculanium Ypsiloid-framed Drilling Exoskeleton), a piece of hardware that was originally developed for Ore Miners on the moon.
Although it can be read as a piece of standalone fiction, it also rather neatly serves as a prologue (of sorts) to a range of novels that I and a number of other writers are working on called Tales Of The Iron War. They’ll expand on this epic, intergalactic war fought between the entire human race and the K’uyth.
KC: Resurrection Engines specifies that it contains 15 Extraordinary Tales of Scientific Romance and has a decidedly “steampunk” flavor. What was your process in choosing the stories that you included in the anthology? What criteria did you look for in each story?
SH: Well the “Steampunk flavour” was deliberate; in fact it was an essential part of my original pitch to Snowbooks back at the very beginning – classic works of fiction retold within the Steampunk genre. Luckily Snowbooks were very excited by the idea, and once they’d commissioned it the process of gathering together the right stories was very simple. First thing I did was sit down and make a list of all the writers I knew who could get the job done; who’d take the basic idea and really run with it, produce something that was both original and exciting. Fortunately for me they were all as enthusiastic about the book as I was. But then, who wouldn’t be? The opportunity to take a classic story that you’d grown up adoring and give it a new, exciting twist!
There were guidelines, obviously, but you try not to bog your writers down with too many rules and limitations. You need to step back and allow everyone involved the room they need to get on with the job. So, really the answer to your question would be – the process was basically just letting all the writers get on with what they do best without too much fussing and interference from me…that comes later when I start brandishing the infamous red pen!
KC: Why do you think Steampunk has become so popular in the last few years or so, and what do you love most about it?
SH: Speaking for myself, I think Steampunk is so popular because it has no real boundaries; the rules of what you can and can’t do within the genre have yet to be clearly defined. And being inside that world, either as a reader or a writer, can be enormously thrilling – knowing that the story can go almost anywhere, do practically anything. This is exactly the reason why I love it so much. Although, having said that, I don’t think that the genre is being explored to it’s fullest right now, and that’s very sad. There are a handful of Steampunk writers who are doing very exciting things with the genre, but others…well, let’s just say there are others who aren’t.
With my story I’ve tried to push things a little; visiting places and times that are a tad uncommon, using technology that hasn’t necessarily been seen before in the genre; I’ve tried to encourage the other writers in the anthology to do this too. It’s something I do a hell of a lot more in the novel range. I’m trying to give the reader something they’ve never seen before, or wouldn’t expect to see in the Steampunk genre, and I’m very excited by that.
KC: What are some of your biggest writing influences?
SH: Growing up I read voraciously, pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I still do (or at least, I try to), so to list them all would take me days – but some of my BIGGEST biggest influences are Nigel Kneale, Nicholas Fisk, P.J. Hammond, James Blish, John Christopher, Stephen Gallagher, H.G. Wells, Douglas Hill, Stephen King, Terrance Dicks, the brilliant Pan Book of Horror series, the Fontana Book of Ghost Stories range, the Doctor Who Target novelisation range…erm, we should probably leave it there before everyone loses the will to live!
KC: I have to ask: Is there a US release date for Resurrection Engines yet?
SH: There’s no release date as of yet, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one. Things are still being discussed. However, for the moment Snowbooks will gladly ship internationally to people who place orders on their website at snowbooks.com. They’re lovely like that!
KC: You’re a pretty busy guy! Not only do you write fiction, but you’re also a playwright, a scriptwriter, and much more! What’s next for you?
SH: Well, as I’ve already mentioned, I’ve developed a new ‘shared universe’ novel range, which has just been commissioned from Snowbooks called Tales Of The Iron War, which tells of the Earth’s thirty-one year war (1914-1945) against a steam-driven spider-like alien invader, a sort of Steampunk remix of the First and Second World Wars. The idea being that the books (which will be released non-chronologically) can be read in any order and can also be read individually, so you can enjoy the range as one arcing story or dip in and out, whichever is your preference. There are a number of different writers working on the series, and I will be writing the first two novels – The Horus Engines and Cold Earth, published June and December 2013 respectively. After that there will be three books released every year.
I’ve got some more anthologies lined up – horror, SF and one based in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos – and hopefully a few more audio plays. I’ve been asked to write a couple of short stories for other people, plus I’m about to start work on a ‘companion’ book for a TV series I absolutely love which I’ll be co-writing with the series’ creator, which I’m very excited about. I’m also hoping to write a TV script in the not too distant future, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for ages! So, fingers crossed, eh!
Filed under: Interviews
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