Welcome, Berthold! He was the third person to respond to my speculative fiction interview post, and I’m thrilled to share his answers with you today.
What was the first speculative story you ever remember reading?
A children’s adaptation of a science fiction story called “The Legion of Space.” The original story (which I’ve never read) is by Jack Williamson, and the children’s adaptation is called “Unleashed in Space” by Alexander Steele.
Who is your favourite author? Why?
Oh, that’s hard! There are too many to choose from. I suppose for an all-time great example of speculative fiction, I’d say George Orwell, for 1984 and Animal Farm. I love both because he found such interesting ways of using fiction to comment on human nature and society as he saw it. For current authors, I’m a big fan of Audrey Driscoll’s reimaginings of Lovecraftian ideas. But there are so many great authors out there, I could never list them all.
What do you like most about the genre(s) you read?
Well, I read so many, this could be a long list. I love horror that hints at mysterious forces beyond humanity’s conception, and I love science fiction that examines human behavior and examines how societies are shaped. I also enjoy a good mystery where the big twist is that the cause of the trouble is something supernatural or alien.
More and more authors seem to be writing cross-genre stories these days. How do you feel about this trend?
I love it. Blending genres creates some great concepts. A good example of this is cyberpunk–it began as a hybrid of two genres, hard-boiled noir detective stories and science fiction, that turned into a new genre of its own.
If you could name a pet after one character, which character would you choose? Why?
I actually own a cat named “Mighty Cthulhu.” I named him this because my father found him as small kitten, and I thought it was funny to name him after a famous supernatural monster.
What fictional world would you never want to visit?
Oh, most of them, really. I’d certainly never want to go to Fantasy-type worlds–Middle-Earth, Westeros, etc. are out for sure.
What fictional world would you want to visit?
This is tough. Most fictional worlds have some obvious problems/dangers–they have to, because that is what makes for a compelling story, but it also means you’d have to be very brave to go there. But I think I have one book-world I’d like to live in: Sheila Hurst’s Ocean Echoes. I’m not sure if it counts since it largely takes place in the real world, but with some science-fiction and fantasy elements. It’s a tough book to categorize, but I’ve seen it referred to as “Magical Realism,” and I think that’s a great description. Hurst’s prose is so dream-like and evocative that when I read it, I feel like I’m transported onto the research ship where most of the story takes place.
Sharing spoilers with people who haven’t read the book or seen the film/show is a hot topic on Twitter and across many fandoms. How do you feel about sharing or overhearing spoilers?
I grapple with this issue often, because I write reviews of lots of things on my blog. I find I can’t write a satisfyingly informative review without discussing every aspect of a story, which typically means spoiling it. I warn readers up front that I’m going to be giving plot spoilers, and then warn them again right before I do. Part of this stems from my own frustration in the past at wanting to find spoilers for a movie, and being unable to because all the reviews were spoiler-free. This is particularly important to me in the case of films/books etc. that contain disturbing content. I recently reviewed a horror film with some very disturbing scenes that were also key to the narrative. I felt like I had to spoil it–with appropriate warnings, of course–just in the interest of making sure people who might be sensitive to such things would be forewarned.
Which series do you think should be made into a TV show or film next?
It’s not a series, but I’d love to see someone try to do an adaptation of the short story “The Repairer of Reputations” by Robert Chambers. Although it would be next to impossible to film it… The “Bobiverse” series, by Dennis Taylor, would also be interesting to see on screen, though I’ve only read the first one so far. Oh, and Carrie Rubin’s books–I’d love to see a film of The Seneca Scourge, for example. And also–okay, I’ll stop; this could get out of hand.
Which TV show or film do you think should be turned into a book?
Oooh, that’s a good one. People rarely think about adaptations going from screen to page. Now that you say it, though; that horror film I mentioned in question 8 (called The Wind) might honestly work better as a book than as a film. So much of it involves what’s going on in the characters’ minds. I admit, so many of the movies I’ve seen are based on books, I’m struggling to come up with more ideas.
What is the most unusual or interesting way you’ve come up with an idea for one of your creative works?
Well, maybe the most interesting was the time it felt like I didn’t come up with the idea. For most of my books, the ideas came together very gradually. I would have in mind a hazy, vague concept of what I wanted to do, and then gradually refined it. Usually, it started with “I’d like to do a science fiction adventure, or a conspiracy thriller,” and then slowly built from there. But there was one story that came to me one day, as if by magic, 90% done. Characters, plot structure, everything was just ready to go. In mythology, you’ll sometimes read that people believed Gods or spirits would whisper ideas to them–this felt kind of like that.
Sometimes characters don’t do what their creators want them to do. If this has ever happened to you, how did you deal with it?
Usually when this happens, the character is right. I try to revise the story to accommodate what the character is doing. (Although, I sometimes don’t realize my characters are getting out of control until beta readers point it out to me.)
What is your favourite trope?
Unreliable narrators. To me, there is nothing cooler than gradually realizing I can’t trust everything I’ve been reading/seeing. I love it.
What tropes do you try to avoid in your stories?
There are a lot of tropes related to the portrayal of female characters that I find sexist. These range from the ancient “helpless damsel,” to the “wicked step-mother” archetype for villains, to putting female characters in peril as a cheap hook for a plot. (Most revenge stories do this.) I try to avoid these kinds of tropes in my stories; one, because they annoy me when I see them in other fiction, and two, as a male writing about female characters, I try to make sure I don’t get lazy and fall back on tired cliches.
About: Berthold Gambrel is an author and blogger. You can find his blog here: https://ruinedchapel.com.