Guild Member Spotlight: G.K. Fields

Welcome to our ongoing series of conversations with Lost Genre Guild members. Catch them here on Mondays!

G.K. Fields (aka: Walt Staples among many other aliases)

When did you join the LGG? How did you make the connection?

I joined in March of 2009. Frank Creed invited me after I took part in a workshop he ran at the Catholic Writers Conference Online.

What’s the first thing you remember that happened in the Guild?

Actually, it was half-way between the outside and the Guild. It took Frank three days of emailing invitations before one that worked came through. An omen?

Tell us some good things that have transpired from belonging.

I learned that I’m not the only author whose work doesn’t fit publishers’ classifications (“Will it sell? Priscella Goodbody’s novels sell. Her twenty-fourth volume of the Vampire Adolescence Angst Series sold very well. Is this author’s book just like it? No? Okay, rejection slip pile then.”). Note: If you are Priscilla Goodbody or you are writing the twenty-fourth volume of the Vampire Adolescence Angst Series, you have my apologies.

What’s your genre and subgenre? Why do you think this is?

I’m afraid I’m rather one dimensional. I write mystery. Everything I write turns out to be mystery; science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, modern fiction. They all turn into blasted mysteries! The household budget even turns into mystery (“Okay, who the heck bought $25 worth of chopsticks? We ain’t even had Chinese food this quarter!”). I suppose it might have something to do with my Dad throwing out the instruction sheet that came with me before I could read it.

Do you like to read the same genre as you write? What other genres interest you? Favorite authors?

I prefer to read deceased authors usually. There tend to be fewer plagiarism suits filed by them when it is discovered that (A) a murder occurs in your book and (B) the story is set in North America. My favorite authors (who, I think, are safely dead) are Jack Douglas [Shutup and Eat Your Snowshoes], Poul Anderson [The High Crusade], Douglas Adams [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy], Eric Frank Russell [The Space Willies], Gordon Dickson [Space Paw], Murray Leinster [The Pirates of Ersatz], Robert Asprin [Another Fine Myth], Theodore Cogswell [The Spectre General], Giovanni Guareschi [The Little World of Don Camillo], Hans Hellmut Kirst [The Adventures of Private Faust], and Robert Vaughan [Brandywine’s War] (who, if he isn’t a daisy-pusher yet, I hope doesn’t see this) .

Tell us about your published work, and where we can go to find out more.

I wrote Dinosaurs of Eastern North America while at the Virginia Museum of Natural History (out of print, naturally), a series of radio plays – “Chops: The Tiger’s Teeth,” “Chops: The Sacrament of Murder,” “Sanctuary,” and “The Passionate Pink Virgin” – produced and broadcast by WYEP-FM in Pittsburgh (if you want to catch them, the signals should be passing Epsilon Eridani about now), the comic book “Crossways” some of which was published by Antarctic Press (old comic shops or email me – I have no shame), and articles in The Roanoker magazine and Strategic Review (they’re a little old, but if your Latin is up to it, you shouldn’t have much problem). I also edited The Allegheny View newspaper and, way the heck back there, a science fiction/fantasy fanzine called Nebulous.

What are you working on right now? How’s progress?

At the moment, I’m working on Chapter 12 of a mystery set in 1941 Libya entitled Chained Dogs. Someone has murdered an officer in Rommel’s headquarters, and the Party sure doesn’t love the ex-homicide detective from Upper Bavaria who is investigating. I’m also pre-writing a police procedural set in present day Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The working title is A Shenandoah Farewell. Yesterday, I began pulling together research for a science fiction story that involves Airborne operations, horse cavalry, and, with my luck, murder.

How has the LGG helped you in your work?

It’s given me someplace to talk other writers who are going through the same exasperations involved with writing. As I was telling my imaginary friend, a green and pink cow, this morning; it helps me keep my head straight.

What are your dreams for the future of Christian speculative fiction, and for yourself within that?

Seriously, I’d like to see it get out of its ghetto and become just speculative fiction that happens to have characters who approach life from a worldview that is formed by their experience of religion. This was not uncommon in science fiction a generation ago. Publishers billing themselves as “Christian” can make speculative fiction available to the readers. If we write good enough fiction, it will sell and the secular publishers will jump on the bandwagon through self-interest. Being who I am and where I’ve been, I tend to accept people of good faith who demonstrate that faith. I think Jesus said something about “those who are not against me…” But, as one of my characters said, “Enough, I talk too damn much.”

Your best writing tip?

(1) Get out and eavesdrop. Ride the bus, eat at the diner with your ears open, hang around where people are shopping. Nothing will teach you about dialogue like just listening to people speaking to each other in public. Bull-sessions in the barracks or berthing spaces weren’t wasting time, they were research.

(2) a lot of the information you can use for science fiction is available online free or at a low price. NASA, the various DOD agencies, and state websites have a ton of useful things. In my own writing, most of the non-sensitive military manuals are available online for download as a PDF. The few that aren’t, don’t cost that much (as an example, I bought the FM manual on air-cavalry operations from Amazon.com for my Kindle last night for 99 cents). I was able to buy a 2006 copy of the handbook used by all law enforcement officers in the Commonwealth of Virginia for $5 from a used book dealer down there through Amazon.com (at about a thousand pages, it is not only useful for research, it can double for weight-lifting or be thrown in front of a speeding car instead of stop-strips).

(3) If the action in your story isn’t taking place out in your front yard, read the local newspapers of the setting online. I do a Google search on every place I write about. I also read four newspapers from my settlings each morning (three cost me $5 per month, the fourth is free – at least until the publisher gets wise). It can save you from boneheaded mistakes. Ray Bradbury used to complain that at every science fiction convention he attended, a kid would come up and point out that Bradbury had the moons of Mars orbiting in the wrong direction in one of his stories.

What else are you up to that our readers would find interesting?

Outside of parting the Red Sea each morning, balancing the federal budget, and explaining what girls wearing bikinis in a snowstorm have to do with beer, I can’t think of a thing.

Something you reckon not many people know about you?

I can wiggle my ears and pick up and manipulate objects with my toes.

Your website or social media profile? Until there’s some content, what’s the point?

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