It’s a little late in the month, so you’ve only got about one more week to read James Wylder’s thrilling space adventure story, “To Catch a President,” for free as our Featured Story for March, but it will be (pretty much) forever available in the World Unknown Review Volume III. After a bit of a delay, I got a chance to chat with James about his writing and his story, and I’m very excited to bring you our interview so you can get to know this exciting author, if you haven’t already.
LS: Let’s get right to it: who is James Wylder, anyway?
JW: He’s a writer from Elkhart, Indiana who is most known for writing a Doctor Who Poetry Book called An Eloquence of Time and Space.. He tours a lot, has had a few plays produced, and just released his first novel last year! He’s also the host of the monthly live fiction show, “Tales by the Blue Light” in Elgin, Illinois.
“To Catch a President” is such an homage to the classic age of sci-fi, with its own twists and modernization infused into it. Is it safe to assume that you’re a fan of the genre?
Oh, very much so. Alfred Bester and his novels The Stars My Destination and The Demolished Man were some of the most formative books I read. I think Destination really shows its influence on this story especially.
Though I think my true love for space adventure formed from the Star Wars novels of Timothy Zahn and Michael Stackpole.
What really grabbed me and wouldn’t let go was the clear sense of worldbuilding in your story. I’m a sucker for worldbuilding and intrigue, and it’s very clear that “To Catch a President” isn’t a story that exists in a bubble. How much of this world have you written about and explored in other ways?
I’ve written, and am writing, quite a lot! My first novel is set in this universe, as will be my second novel (which features a different main cast, but the same setting). There’s also going to be a big anthology later this year featuring a ton of exciting writers like Nathan P. Butler (Star Wars Tales, WARS), Tim Sutton (Marble Hornets), and Kylie Leane (Key). I’ve been toiling over the stories for it, getting it all in order. It should be a massive and exciting work.
The whole thing is part of a larger project called “10,000 Dawns” that I created with a few friends out of college. We wanted to tell stories together, so we decided to create a universe we could all do that in. Its a lot of fun, but also we’ve created some amazing tales I can’t wait to share with everyone.
The novel is a great starting place for anyone who loved this tale and wants more set in the same universe.
This vision of the future is one that clearly spans many different cultures. What inspired you to include those cultures and how did they develop into what we see in the story?
I think generally science fiction is a bit too homogeneous. Somehow, it’s become normal that tales can feature outlandish things aplenty, but it’s always happening to people of European ancestry. Yet in my own life, the people around me come in all kinds: all sorts of religions, ethnicities, sexualities, etc, etc… If my own life is so diverse, why shouldn’t the people exploring space be the same way? Including such a diverse cast simply brings the story up to par with reality for me.
Of course, bringing a culture into the future is difficult, especially when you aren’t a part of it yourself. However, most of the people in the story (aside from the Centro crew) didn’t grow up on Earth. They’re a morphing of the culture they came from on Earth centuries ago. So the question then is: how would their cultures change? There is a plethora backstory about that, especially for the Martians, but basically just as any immigrants adapt to the new country they come to but keep some of their old ways, so do the people who have gone out to space. Hopefully, I did an okay job writing these people and their lives. I aim to keep improving in that regard.
Besides your own, who is your favorite space captain and/or pirate?
My favorite space captain is Jonathan Archer from Star Trek Enterprise. You can probably see a bit of that in Hirsch.
My favorite pirate captain in space is Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly. You can definitely see a lot of that in Kali.
That’s so true! As soon as you said ‘Jonathan Archer,’ I thought, “Oh, well that’s Hirsch!” And, branching off of that, I feel like the idea of the space pirate is one that has definitely taken flight (pardon the pun) in popular culture. What do you think might be behind the appreciation of this trope? How do you try to develop your own pirates into something unique?
I think the space pirate channels the idea of ultimate freedom: no one can hold you in space as long as you keep moving. It’s lawless, but there is an aesthetic of nobleness and self-empowerment to it. I think to many it feels very liberating.
Space pirates show up a lot, though. They’re a common trope. I think the multiculturalism of their crew did a lot to make them stand out before anything else I did. Sure, I tried to give them memorable tactics and interesting body modifications, but the crew having such a diverse mindset really is what makes them fun to write.
Zhang Han by Olga Andreyeva and Ayanna Mohammad by Sketching Sands
If you were in charge of a film version of your story, who do you think you would cast in some of the roles?
Priyanka Chopra would be a good choice for Crimson Kali, she has the screen presence for it.
Vidyul, well, it might be surprising but I think Mindy Kaling would do a great job? She primarily does comedic roles, but she can play a wide range of emotions quickly and well, and I think she could really handle it.
Chuluuny Khulan could probably play Zhang Han well, though she’s only been in one film as far as I know. I’m not particularly familiar with Mongolian actresses unfortunately.
Alia Shawkat could be a great Ayanna! She has the spunk, the fire, the attitude. She was amazing in drunk history playing Alexander Hamilton, and she’d tear up this role as well.
Hirsch? Easy. Liam Hemsworth.
I never realized how much I needed Mindy Kaling in that role until just this moment. In the words of one of my own favorite space captains, “Make it so!”
Read any good books lately?
I read Devil in the White City recently, which was a fantastic book that really changed my entire view on architecture. I’m fascinated by it now, especially landscape architecture.
I’m currently in the middle of Eric Asher’s Vesik series, which is a rollicking good time.
Do you have a method for your writing? If so, what’s it like?
I really wish I did. I’m trying to get myself into a more formal schedule, so hopefully that changes. I usually try to find a place like a coffee shop or library, so I can remove distractions if possible.
What’s next for James Wylder?
I’m busy editing the above mentioned 10,000 Dawns anthology, as well as my second novel. After that? I’m planning another anthology that should be very exciting, and I think I’m going to try my hand at writing a non-fiction book. I’ve done nearly everything else at this point (poetry, prose, plays, long form, short form…), so I may as well get all the bases covered!
Where can we find more of your work?
You can find updates about me at http://www.jameswylder.com
You can also find all my books on amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/James-Wylder/e/B00JLQGXKU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1490328092&sr=1-2-ent
You can also like the facebook page for 10,000 Dawns to stay up to date on it at:
Anything else you’d like to add?
It was a real pleasure getting to contribute to this anthology! I hope you guys got some joy from my little tale.
I know I did, and I also hope everyone had as much fun with “To Catch a President” as I did, and that you’ve really enjoyed getting to know the man behind the action as well. I know we can expect many, many great things from him in the future.