Interview – Jeff Doten

Interview with Jeff Doten, author of “Trips” in the Megan Survival Anthology.


You were the world builder, artist, and an author for this anthology. What challenges did you face when working between your three roles?

Lynda had told me that she was interested in something that on earth you would call the Permian, a pre-dinosaur era of large warm blooded reptiles that eventually led to mammals. It started with the art, really concept work showing what I wanted to see and how I wanted that world to feel.

The next step in the wheel house of ‘world builder’ was a combination of inspiration, research and fulfilling the parameters that Lynda and I were creating. I did a lot of reading, for me it would be more to re-familiarize myself with that era of earth. The Permian on earth was a very dry time of massive desert continents and in some ways a lower numbered ecology of large animals.

It was a very conscious decision to step away from the desert scenario to a much more dense ecology on Mega. We wanted a world with a broader range of environments then the Permian. I ran through all of the basic ecological niches, roughly feeling in the ecologies. I wrote up lists and did sketches of creatures and plants.

The most forefront creatures, the Trips and Hexes we’re very much my attempt at creating a quickly understood ecology and the relationships between the lifeforms while still having some sort of alien factor. So that’s where the Trips explosive nature and Hexes skilled precision attacks came from.

How different was the process of creating the art for the anthology and writing your story?

Not as different as you would think. The art and written world building was already based on a scenario of a crashed ship during first few weeks of the ‘mud and blood and tears’ days as we called it.

As an illustrator I am often thinking about narrative in my art, and this project was created with the intention of narrative. So it really was just a natural transition from one creative process to another. Probably the easiest analogy is thinking of me as a comic creator who designs and writes their own work. It’s a complete package.

What or who was your inspiration for your main character, Sandra?

My biggest question was thinking about my story was who would I write about? My having a teenage daughter who was away at a palaeontological summer camp was very probably a factor in my choice. That and my having already illustrated a young woman watching the creatures of mega.

Your background in zoology helped in the creation of the creatures on Mega; what is the biggest connection between zoology and science fiction?

The joy of ‘what if’ combined with some sort of plausibility. I love science-fiction with detailed down in the dirt ‘what’s it like’ world building.

If you think of zoology and paeleontology, the process of taking information or clues from the ancient world and imagining what that might be falls very much into the ‘what if’ category of science fiction. I’m sure they are connected parts of the brain

Of course with science fiction your peer review may be that your story sucks as opposed to the ‘no you’re wrong’ of science.

What do you believe is the most special or interesting part of the planet Mega?

There are many wonderful world’s in science fiction and there are many that are presented as a new exotic land. But sadly, many of those stories rarely leave the house. The phrase ‘exotic planet’ may even be written on the back of the book but the reality of the story is set in the market talking about politics. For me that’s a real let down. One of the first things I personally would do on an alien planet is get the hell outside. I would want to touch the dirt and see the animals and plants and really experience the world. Of course I’ll go back inside supper a good nights sleep. What’s different about the Mega stories is that by their very nature they are very tactile ‘boots on the ground’ experienced of another world. That’s a major appeal to me.

Reality Skimming Press brands itself as optimistic sci-fi. What does that phrase mean to you?

All generations have their disasters and nightmares, optimistic science fiction is saying we can think ahead, that we do have a future. Human beings are crazy critters – we walked out of Africa (more than once) into Europe and beyond spread all over the world. The worse that things get harder we fight, the more creative we get, and what was once impossible is one day a done deed.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m wrapping up my long in process novel ‘Crucible of Venus’. It’s a sword and planet novel written in a contemporary in tone. Me being me there is a lot of artwork involved as well. I’m continuing to do artwork for Reality Skimming press and considering a second Strange Worlds Anthology as well. I also need to rebuild the front deck. That one can’t wait much longer.

Ellen Michelle is the managing editor for Reality Skimming Press. She is also a freelance editor at ellenmichelle.com and volunteers in the editing and science fiction communities in western Canada.

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