Huzzah, yay, and hooray — Mike Martinez was one of the authors caught in the recent Night Shade to Skyhorse transition, and it’s nice to see his eagerly-awaited book start to reach those eagerly awaiting hands. Here’s Mike to talk about The Daedalus Incident:
Tell Us About Yourself: Who The Hell Are You?
Nobody of consequence, really. But since that won’t really bring the readers to the yard, I’ll give it a shot. I’m a husband, father, homebrewer and, most germane to this question, a professional writer for the past two decades. The first 15 years were spent in journalism, and the last five or so have been in the corporate world. The nice thing about the latter is that it finally gave me the time to see whether writing a novel was something I could actually do, or if the notion was pure hubris. The Daedalus Incident is the result.
Give Us The 140-Character Story Pitch:
Future Mars mining colony is invaded by another dimension in which the historic Age of Sail takes place in space. Evil looms. Adventure ensues.
Where Does This Story Come From?
Ten years ago, in the depths of the dot-com messiness, I was involuntarily between jobs. I would trek to the local Starbucks each day to have a cup of coffee, get online, look for work and stay out of my wife’s hair. The Starbucks was next to a Blockbuster video store, and one day I walked past to see a poster for Treasure Planet. I was immediately enraptured by the notion of ships sailing between stars and planets. I rented the movie – and was wholly disappointed. Then I thought: I can do this better. I can make a fully realized universe that can include the romance and action of the Age of Sail, combined with the zing-pow of space opera. It was downhill from there.
How Is This A Story Only You Could’ve Written?
In a lot of ways, The Daedalus Incident is the distillation of pretty much everything I love about genre fiction and pop culture. There’s hard science-fiction and a great deal of swashbuckling adventure, with a little bit of magic in the form of alchemy. It’s cerebral and emotional at the same time. Also, I simply like stories that hearken back to a time when heroes weren’t horribly flawed criminals bent on vengeance, or lost souls haunted by death and demons. I wanted a story where everyday people could rise to the occasion when the chips are down, and do so out of a simple sense of right and wrong and duty. In the quest to create ever-more complex scenarios and wild settings, I think genre fiction can occasionally forget about those ordinary people. I wanted to bring that back. And having told other people’s real-life stories for 20 years, I figured I was somewhat qualified to tell this one. Again with the hubris.
What Was The Hardest Thing About Writing The Daedalus Incident?
A lot of my writing was informed by my journalism work. Throughout my career, I’ve spent a long time trying to understand people and their motivations, and seeing how folks react to problems and crises. That’s great for journalism, but frankly, doesn’t work as well for fiction. Getting the right amount of action and derring-do into the book was most certainly a hurdle. Real people sit down and hash it out, whereas heroes – ordinary or not – have the gumption to get up and do something. It was definitely a mindset adjustment. “More mayhem” became a mantra. I may work that into a coat of arms some day.
What Did You Learn Writing The Daedalus Incident?
The biggest thing for me was getting over the wall of self-doubt. Journalism is one thing, but a novel is a completely different beast. I don’t get all precious about writing as some sort of spiritual journey of artistic discovery, but I take a lot of pride in my work. In fact, I hate not being good at something. So it was a very personal challenge to even attempt to write a novel, let alone go through the process of getting a literary agent and getting a publisher, all without knowing if I was good enough. In the end, I learned I could indeed do it. Honestly, everything else is gravy after that.
What Do You Love About The Daedalus Incident?
I love that it’s unapologetically old-school space opera-slash-fantasy adventure. Yes, there are themes in there you can talk about, from corporatism to colonialism to personal responsibility and duty. But I’d like to think that nobody’s being beaten over the head with it. Maybe you think about those things later, or they simply stay in your subconscious. But really, I love that I wrote the kind of big adventure I grew up reading as a kid. Plus, I crashed a freakin’ frigate into the planet Mars. Who’s done that?
What Would You Do Differently Next Time?
While I was writing it, I sometimes wondered what kind of work I would produce if I had any kind of training or coursework in fiction writing. I don’t know if the end result would be better or worse, but it would be different. I imagine I may have left a few things on the table, but I also would like to think my unconventional approach may have allowed for some other benefits. Either way, I figure if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I do wish I wrote a better first draft and didn’t need so many revisions, but for a rookie, I think I did all right. No regrets here.
Give Us Your Favorite Paragraph From The Story:
I was pretty much going to punt on this question until I remembered this florid, over-the-top paragraph, where the protagonist, young Lt. Thomas Weatherby, steps up into the role he’s destined for. It’s also a little homage to all those great, rousing speeches in naval literature. It’s not quite indicative of the entire book, but I like it. Cue the rousing music:
James looked down at the deck, nodding but unwilling to meet Weatherby’s eyes. The other men looked on, seemingly wanting more. Weatherby took a deep breath, turning to address them. “I know you have fought hard, and fought well. But there is a fight left to us still,” he said. “What’s more, there’s likely little glory, and no rich prize.” Weatherby raised his voice as he continued. “But it is still a fight, nonetheless, perhaps the most important of our lives. There is a madman loose, one who would see an ancient terror awakened upon us all. And so it falls to us, to we simple men, to step forward as one, to stand tall against whatever darkness this sorcerer may conjure. So we must try, and if Daedalus must fall from the skies at last…we shall try to land her squarely upon whatever evil we find!”
What’s Next For You As A Storyteller?
What, you think I’ve planned this? I’m tickled I got this far. Thankfully, my agent Sara Megibow (fantastic advocate and a good human besides) has been on this from day one, and as I’ve had hare-brained ideas, she’s been channeling them appropriately. Currently, I’m serializing a novella, The Gravity of the Affair, on my site at www.michaeljmartinez.net. It’s the same setting as Daedalus, and gives a nice little intro to that world while telling the story of a young man who would ultimately become Britain’s greatest naval hero. And I’m hopeful that my new publishing overlords at Skyhorse think I’m worth a few more books in the Daedalus setting. I’m nowhere near done playing in this particular sandbox.