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Interview: J. Daniel Batt on His GENIUS LOCI Story “Ouroboros in Orbit”


Genius Loci is a new anthology edited by Jaym Gates that is due out in September. It’s currently on Kickstarter, and features stories by authors like Seanan McGuire, Ken Liu,  and more. In a special series of interviews, I asked the authors a few questions about themselves and their stories.

About Genius Loci (via Jaym Gates):

The concept of ‘genius loci‘ is indeed an ancient one, found in nearly every human mythology. Guardian spirits. Divine presences. Demonic powers. Ghosts. In GENIUS LOCI, the emphasis is on the locale as much as it is on the spirit inhabiting it.

We have a huge anthology of 31 all-new fantasy and science fiction stories drawing on the rich tradition of place-as-person. Within the pages of GENIUS LOCI, the authors present stories of sentient deserts, beneficent forests, lonely shrubs, and protective planetary spirits.

Today, I talked to J. Daniel Batt about his story “Ouroboros in Orbit”

Jason Batt is a writer, teacher, designer, artist, creator of communities, listener, and explorer.

Jason Batt serves as Creative and Editorial manager for 100 Year Starship. Jason creates visual engagement for 100 Year Starship programs and activities. He is also the managing editor of the 100YSS Symposium Proceedings.

Jason is a member of Mensa and serves on the Advisory Board for the Lifeboat Foundation with their Religious/Spirituality Board and the Space Settlement Board. He has previously served on the Sacramento Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Board. He was a panel speaker at the 2011 DARPA / NASA 100 Year Starship Symposium, a speaker at the 2012, 2013, and 2014 100 Year Starship Symposia, and host for the Sci Fi Author Night at the 2013 and 2014 Symposia.

J. Daniel Batt is a writer that has penned the children’s fantasy book Keaghan in Dreamside and the designer of many more, including The Human Race to the Future published by the Lifeboat Foundation. He served as a judge for the Lifeboat to the Stars award for science fiction literature, which was presented at the Campbell Conference in June 2013.

Jason and his wife Karen have three children: two boys, Tristan and Keaghan, and one girl, Aisleyn. He earned his B.A. in Language Arts at Chadron State College in 1998. He is currently finishing his MFA in Creative Writing.

Kristin Centorcelli: Will you tell us a bit about your story in Genius Loci and what inspired you to write it?

J. Daniel Batt: “Ouroboros in Orbit” came about from the theme of the anthology. The idea of a spirit attached to a physical space was interesting and I wanted to stretch that as far as possible. The first ideas was a haunted house but I wanted to go bigger. A spirit of the land? A country? The world? I know the Gaia myths, but thought that risked being cliche. In so many mythologies and early belief systems, the idea of a great world serpent is present. In Norse myth, it is Jormungandr. In Egypt, Ouroboros. There are tribes is South America that belief the waters that circle the world are inhabited by a giant anaconda. How amazing would it be to come upon a planet with a giant spirit snake in orbit? It also seemed to me that this might be an answer to the Fermi Paradox. Perhaps the reason we’ve yet to encounter alien life is that anytime its come near us, our world serpent has done its job. The story spun out from my fascination with mythology and science fiction.

KC: What do you like to see in a good story, and what authors or novels have influenced you the most in your work, and your life?

JDB: I like works that bend the borders of genre. I am a fan of Ken Scholes’ The Psalms of Isaak because of the mix of fantasy and science fiction. For the same reason, The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe is highly influential. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series also does a brilliant blend of fantasy, science fiction, western, and horror. I enjoy reading works that push these boundaries. I’m also a fan of non-western inspired fantasy and mythologies. For authors that have influenced me, the list is too long. Often it’s what I’m reading at the moment. On my bedstand, I have Anne Rice’s latest, a copy of Let Me In, a Terry Pratchett book, and a diary from the Terezin concentration camp. I have a feeling all of these will end up mixed together in the next thing I write.

KC: What would you say is the biggest challenge when writing short fiction?

JDB: The biggest challenge of writing short fiction is the “short” part. The story I’m working on now was intended to be only 4000 words. I’m not even halfway through and I’m at about 5000 words. I think that’s why I lean towards flash fiction. Either I’m going to write something that’s truly short (1000 words) or it drifts past the 10k mark fast. I do like flash fiction however. I like the ability to create an entire world in a very short space. I find I’m a bit more experimental in my flash fiction pieces. Perhaps it’s because it’s so short, I can risk do something different. I tend to be too safe in my longer fiction.

KC: What do you enjoy most about reading, and writing, SFF?

JDB: I love reading science fiction and fantasy and horror because they’re all playing with that question, “What if?” I love seeing the completely new worlds and new ideas that writers put out. Science Fiction and Fantasy truly are the genres without bounds– they can hold any type of story. It might have spaceships and be a horror or be a romance or an adventure or all three. Anything goes in these genres!

KC: What’s next for you?

JDB: I’m in the middle of a few short pieces. I’m editing an anthology that will be published by the Lifeboat Foundation titled Visions of the Future with some great works from some absolutely amazing authors like Greg Bear, Allen Steele, and Alan Dean Foster. A bit geeked over this project!

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).
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