My guest in this blog interview is Canadian author and poet, Samuel Peralta, the driving force behind The Future Chronicles—an entire series of anthologies exploring different aspects of science fiction and fantasy literature.
Sam, where did you come up with the idea for The Future Chronicles? What was your motivation behind this series?
I never meant to create The Future Chronicles. The plan was to write a grand SF novel series, beginning with a book called Labyrinth Man.
My dilemma was, how do I create a readership for Labyrinth Man – which was based on a world where telepaths and robots existed – when my readership was geared towards poetry? My idea was that I would write strong short stories based in that universe, and submit them to anthologies or magazines, and that the readers who discovered me there would find their way to Labyrinth Man.
To put that idea in motion, I wrote two spec stories – Trauma Room (a Labyrinth telepath story) and Liberty (a Labyrinth robot story) – made them the strongest I could, and submitted them to anthologies I knew were being put together, the first by David Gatewood and the second by John Joseph Adams, both well-known editors.
Fully expecting that both stories were rejected – they were my first SF stories, after all! – I organized The Robot Chronicles among a group of friends as a vehicle for my robot story, along with a follow-up I called The Telepath Chronicles. I also began asking more well-known authors, like Hugh Howey and David Simpson, if they’d be contributors to my anthologies.
To my surprise, Gatewood gave me the green-light on a new time-travel story, which was Hereafter; and Adams accepted Liberty! Those two books would, in part, propel me from nowhere into the Top 100 SF Authors list on Amazon – and jump-started a readership.
Since Liberty was now placed, I wrote a new story, Humanity, for The Robot Chronicles, later convincing David Gatewood to helm the title as editor. We never expected The Robot Chronicles to be as big a hit as it was — so in parallel to Telepath, we began planning The Alien Chronicles — and suddenly it was a bona fide series. The Future Chronicles was born. And I still haven’t finished Labyrinth Man.
There’s a considerable amount of effort that goes into financing a series like this, not to mention the logistics of herding authors like cats, arranging for editors, cover design, promotions, etc. You must really love the concept to risk investing so much time and effort.
I believe that the rise of electronic reading devices, and the way that people have begun to parcel their valuable time, has led to a resurgence of the short story. Science fiction and fantasy (SF&F) has become more mainstream, and is being accepted on a par with any literary effort – witness the success of Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro with books their readers barely realize is science fiction.
Another of my beliefs is that there are scores of independent authors out there who have amazing voices, but who can’t be heard because they don’t have a chance in the spotlight. What the Chronicles does is give them a chance in that spotlight, to have their names alongside established writers like Hugh Howey, Ken Liu, and Robert J. Sawyer. Once they’re in a book that hits the top levels – in both quality and readership – they know what is possible. They know, as I like to say: The best is yet to come. Instead of giving up, they keep writing, readers find them, and we are all blessed with wonderful stories that may not otherwise have been written.
What’s validated this vision of a new Silver Age is that readers have embraced the series – all Chronicles titles to date, including those edited by Ellen Campbell, have become the #1 bestselling SF or Fantasy anthology in turn. Three of them have broken through to the Amazon Top 100 bestseller list for all books; The Alien Chronicles went as high as #6, and another, The A.I. Chronicles, got there without any promotion besides its readership.
I’m amazed that I can be part of that kind of phenomenon, part of bringing new and relevant voices to the spotlight. The energy is what keeps me going.
How have you found working with independent authors? Although it’s less so today, there is still a stigma attached to indies. What are your thoughts on the indie revolution? Is it really transforming the publishing industry?
Independent authors are like jazz musicians – they can be incredibly talented in their own right – but they don’t mind jamming with other musicians. In essence, that’s what we’re doing in the Chronicles, putting together concert tours with friends from other bands. I’ve forged some real friendships.
In terms of transforming the publishing industry, I don’t think there’s any question that independent authors are making an impact. The Martian started life as an independently-published novel. It’s only one of a number of independent works that are coming into the mainstream.
You’ve explored robots, telepathy, aliens, AI and dragons. On the horizon, there’s zombies and alternative histories. What else do you have planned for the series?
As you mentioned, The Z Chronicles and Alt.History 101 are coming soon. The latter is the first of a new ALT Chronicles series which will be a different twist on The Future Chronicles.
Coming up for the fall are The Time Travel Chronicles and The Cyborg Chronicles, both being edited by Crystal Watanabe; and The Immortality Chronicles, being edited by Carol Davis. I’ve just commissioned a new editor, Jeff Seymour, to helm The Galaxy Chronicles, and there are a number of other titles in the works. We’re planning on releasing a new anthology every 1-2 months, which is a blistering pace for anthologies.
As an independent author that’s appeared in three of the chronicles, I love the way The Future Chronicles provides a showcase of independent writing. It’s fun. It’s a chance to break out of the author hermit shell and collaborate with peers. It’s an opportunity to reach new readers. What success stories have come out of The Future Chronicles?
How do I start? There are so many. I’ve loved the way some of the stories that originated in the Chronicles have spawned new successful series. For example, Susan Kaye Quinn‘s “Restore” in The A.I. Chronicles, was a lead-in to her book The Legacy Human, and her Singularity series. Vincent Trigili‘s ongoing Silverleaf Chronicles was a direct result of his writing “The Storymaster” for The Dragon Chronicles. A.K. Meek‘s “The Invariable Man” was popular enough that he expanded the world and released The Invariable Man: The Novel.
Will Swardstrom, best known for his work based on Hugh Howey’s world of Wool, told me that he got his first true fan mail after his story “Uncle Allen” appeared in The Alien Chronicles. I’ve had readers tell me they’d never read science fiction before – but now they would, after reading one of our titles.
There are new success stories every time we launch a new anthology. We have over 100 contributors to The Future Chronicles series now – authors, artists, editors – and to me, every single one is a Chronicles success story.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors? Given all the writers you have reviewed for The Future Chronicles and all the books you read, what do you think makes a good story? If you had to crystalize a great story into a handful of concepts or guidelines, what would they be?
To be successful, you must read a lot, and write a lot. Read to see what works and what doesn’t. Write so that your craftsmanship gets better, so that you begin to hear your own unique voice. And keep writing. Never forget the editing stage. And when you’re done, read your story aloud to yourself, so you can hear the rhythm, feel the tension, or lack of these, and tighten, tighten, tighten.
A great story has narrative momentum, characters the reader desperately want to succeed or fail, and a resolution that is a closure, a catharsis. It’s an over-simplification, of course, but that’s what I look for. If you must know, I live by Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling. All 22 of them.
Thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview, and for your support of independent science fiction.
Check out The Future Chronicles series on Amazon