B O O K S /// M. C. M I L L E R


Questions & Answers

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Q & A --- On Writing, Writers, and More

Your books don't follow a single genre. Isn't this a problem
in developing a base of readers who follow your work?

Classical publishing wisdom would agree that this is a problem. Especially
in times when general readership is trending down, not claiming a publishing
identity with strict adherence to a single genre promises to dilute the appeal
of the overall body of work.

Then again, classical publishing wisdom is having to reinvent itself to survive.
The bygone era of publishing imposed many rules on the writing/publishing
process that no longer apply.

One could argue that genres are passe. They are an artificial distinction
imposed on publishing by corporate distributers more for accounting purposes
than reasons inherent to writing. The tyranny of genres gained its strongest
stranglehold on literature around the same time the publishing business turned
corporate instead of literary.

Time and time again, you will hear literary agents and avid readers stress the
importance of "voice." Writers who have a distinctive "voice" can write in
any genre and attract a following.

The same holds true for actors - Russell Crowe was brilliant in "Gladiator."
So I guess he shouldn't have been casted in Academy award-winning Best Picture
"A Beautiful Mind." Once a gladiator always a gladiator?
Watching Maximus Decimus Meridius fight in the Colosseum
hardly conjures up visions of mathematician John Nash.

Movie audiences, like readers, don't care about artificial rules.
They just want a good story, a good performance, a good read.

Common elements in the make-up of that "voice" can be anything. In my case,
even though my books may be classified by some corporate cataloger in
different genres - they all contain the following:

1) a wondrous what-if exploration of some element of science and technology,

2) an analytical view of human nature that is at once detached in its sarcasm and
empathetic in its understanding, and

3) a quirky, tongue-in-cheek humor which leaves you uncertain if I meant that
as a joke or not - but either way, you get it.

From time immemorial, people have gathered around campfires and told stories.
For most of that storytelling history, no one around those campfires bothered to ask
about the story's genre before listening. I believe the history of storytelling is on my side.

Q & A --- PW2 2012: The End of the Beginning

Is "PW2 2012" science fiction or prophesy?

"PW2 2012" is science fiction, set in the near future.
Although it includes new theories of physics involving probability,
the science involved is an extrapolation from existing theory.

"PW2 2012" is a much longer book than your other books - any reason?

At 646 pages, "PW2 2012" is the length it should be to do justice to
the scope of the story.

In recent years, big publishing houses have frowned on larger books
pure economic grounds - it costs more to produce and ship larger books.
If such books are then returned by the brick and mortar retail giants,
the costs multiply. Governing what books are fit to print based upon
purely economic reasons is a terrible yardstick for literature and dumbs
down the state of literacy.

It's the same yardstick that can't take a risk on new authors and sides with
Hollywood in believing "if one is good, two is better." The result: mass
produced sameness and a shrinking base of those who bother to read at all.

Readers have no such restrictions from the looks of it. Stephen King's "Under
the Doom" weighs in at 1088 pages and still is in the top ten of bestsellers.
Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth" made both Oprah's Book List and the
bestseller list even though it was a hefty 973 pages.

Publishers that are assured a return on investment obviously have no
hard-and-fast rule against large books. For them, it's all about money.
For the reader, it's all about smart, tight writing that is engaging,
regardless of the page count.

Did you intend the ending of "PW2 2012" to be a topic of controversy?

In many respects, the ending of "PW2 2012" fulfills the expectations of
the reader no matter what they bring to it. A reader with a positive outlook
will find just as many clues throughout the text to claim that their explanation
of the ending is correct - just as the person with a cynical outlook can find
equal reason to justify their take on the ending.

The process of reading the book, in this way, mirrors the journey of the
characters as they grapple with the meaning of the end time. As Hamilton
discovers, the end time has at its core an irrational ratio with us. We are
the missing but vital variable. The universe simply adds up what it finds,
just as it would sum the energy states of two colliding particles and
determine the outcome.

In this way, the ending of "PW2 2012" is at once a transcendent apex of
the best of humanity and a nihilistic void that negates all that ever was.
In the polarized world of humans, this is the duality that enthralls
all of us most about the End of Days.

The course of the story in "PW2 2012" takes some unusual twists and turns.
Did you worry your readers might be put off by this?

"PW2 2012" walks a fine line between tongue-in-cheek and straight-forward
drama. While its overriding themes follow a black comedy style, there's an
epic pathos that plays out as frightening real.

It deals with serious subjects thoughtfully but from an elevated angle of analysis
that is aloof in the way an extraterrestrial might watch humanity sqirm under
its own weight.

I knew that the reader's suspension of disbelief would be tested but relied on
the premise of the story to buttress the overall effect. After all, we are reading
about people who are living in a world where basic probability has become unhinged.
Of course there will be some unusual twists and turns.

"Expect the improbable, except when it's likely!" If the character's own expectations
of what's probable can directly affect what's likely, then all bets are off. I tried to
convey this inbetween state of being and maintain the arrow of the plotline and
character arcs that are necessary in the novel format.

So - what do you think is really going to happen in 2012?

Probability says that life will go on as we know it. Of course, odds are that every
day will bring us closer to something - extraordinary. There are cycles in nature,
on planet Earth, in the heavens that span eons and epochs instead of seasons.
Any one of the larger cycles could come back to bite us.

With or without human activity on the planet, ice ages have come and gone with
regular periodicity, blanketing whole continents in ice that was miles thick.
Supervocanos blow every so often. Mountains tumble into the sea and spawn
massive tsunamis that wipe out ancient civilizations. Fault lines shift now and again.
Solar activity sends massive flares our way. The magnetic field of the Earth reverses
polarity every 200,000 years or so - and we're overdue for it to happen again.
Viruses mutate into virulent forms that jump species and target humans.

And these are just the natural calamities. We know all to well the damage humans
can inflict on each other. Sooner or later, all of the prophecies will come true.

Sooner... or later.

Until then, soothsayers will keep moving the prophesized end date farther and
farther out until finally the end date arrives. Ironically, the final prophet,
the one who gets it right, will get no credit - for there will be no one left.

Q & A --- Islands of Instability

Is the MDOT-E explosive described in "Islands of Instability" likely
or is it purely science fiction?

MDOT-E is science fiction in the way lasers were once science fiction.
Scientists once knew theories of coherent light emissions before producing
laser light. Likewise, the properties of new heavy elements are unknown
although scientists are confident they will eventually be created.

The book starts off in a Uyghur village. Why was this group singled out
as flashpoint for the story?

It's always amazed me how the treatment of Muslims in the western provinces
of China get a pass, not only with the media, but more surprisingly, from
fundamentalist Muslim jihadists.

We have seen what happens when someone draws a political cartoon in Europe
which includes a Muslim religious cariciature - jihadists go ballistic, demanding
the head of the cartoonist. Yet, in western China, Muslim children are taken away
from their parents and taught in government schools that forbid mention of the
Koran and we hear nothing from the jihadists.


Uyghurs cannot even build a Mosque unless it's approved by the government and
few if any new Mosques are ever approved. Han Chinese from the east are being
shipped into the Western Autonomous Regions to mine the resources. As a side effect,
the indigenous Muslim people are being overwhelmed with a secular influence.

And yet, still we hear nothing from Al-Qaeda or jihadists in general.

It's also surprising that the elite, progressive media, the same media who do not
hesitate to point out the abuses suffered by the American indigneous peoples
and the tragic effects of their assimulation - this same media are silent when the
very same thing occurs in present day.

One can argue the history of China's Western Autonomous Region and who has
fair claim to the territory - the history of the Silk Road is colorful and complicated -
but the current religious and social troubles of the Uyghur people seem much more
incendiary than any cartoon drawn in Europe.

With Pakistan and Afghanistan right next door, why doesn't Al-Qaeda declare jihad
on China? It's ironic - the Taliban are fighting Western forces in Afghanistan -
all the while China buys up all the mining rights in Afghanistan. China plans on
building a massive railroad system connecting Afghanistan to Western China.
Every year, the very government that restricts Muslim Uyghurs is gaining more
and more economic control over Afghanistan.

While the Taliban are fighting the West - the East is stealing the country out
from under them. The real victor in the war in Afghanistan, in years to come,
will be China. The Taliban should take heed - because it appears, from the
treatment of the Uyghurs, that the Chinese government is not progressively,
politically correct when it comes to Muslims.

"Islands of Instability" is filled with detail, not only about the technologies involved,
but also about the locations. What kind of research was done?

Everything in the story was researched thoroughly using a variety of tools and
reference sources.

Wherever possible, key details were included to set the stage and provide the
reader with the proper atmosphere to match the country or conditions the
characters faced.

It is safe to say that for every detail included in the book, ten surrounding details
had to be left out. Driven by the brisk pace of a thriller, Islands of Instability had
to keep moving. There were opportunities in many places to add more detail to
scenes but such elaboration, although interesting, would have padded the story
and bogged things down.

Part of the fun of research is discovering the depth of information on a topic.
From that depth, the writer can select the perfect few details to paint the scene.
Knowing more details than what is included gives an author a command of a
subject that translates smoothly into the desired effect.

The publisher comments mentioned that Reid and Cole are characters
"we hope to see in action again." Is this a hint of a sequel?

Originally, there were no plans to write a sequel to Islands of Instability.
The story was never crafted to set up a sequel.

But in the execution of the story, the characters developed depths and
lives of their own. It is only natural for the writer and readers to want to
go on follow-up journeys with favorite characters.

Authors do this in a couple of ways. Some reprise the main characters
and have them face a whole new story with a mostly new supporting cast. Others
pick up the original story and move it forward into new territory, challenging
the same characters with the repercussions of the first book.

In the case of "Islands", a story for a sequel does exist - and the characters would
like me to write it, but whether I will or not is still undecided.

Q & A --- Uberwoot!

Is "Uberwoot!" a serious book or a comedy?

"Uberwoot!" is a black comedy. Although it has many comic elements, it also deals
with serious concerns of human nature, life and death considerations, and
fundamental questions about the meaning of happiness in current culture.

"Uberwoot!" takes some serious left turns into topics such as
engineered human nature and state succession from the Union.
Are these too serious for a comedy?

Although humorous, even slapstick in parts, "Uberwoot!" is not a straight comedy.
The backcover claims it is a "serious black comedy."

On a comedic stage, serious topics encounter a quixotic human nature.
Humans say they want happiness but seem ill-equipped to define it.

So, I ask you - what would have a bigger effect on the world - everyone leaves
everyone else alone, or everyone gets involved in trying to change everyone else?
It depends, you might say. Exactly. It depends on whether you believe human nature
is basically altuistic or self-serving.

No matter how much we may want everyone to be happy, the comedic fact is -
no one will be happy until everyone believes happiness is the same thing.
Or is there another way?

The funny thing is - some of the most critical questions facing humanity, when
analyzed closely, result in paradoxical conundrums. Finding that fact funny
and still disturbing is the essence of "Uberwoot!"

"Uberwoot!" has fantasy elements in it - such as a telepathic dog.
Doesn't this detract from any of the serious undercurrents in the plot?

Fantasy can be a wonderful place to deal with very mundane problems.

Topics too heavy or politically charged to deal with directly can be
universally approached by a wider audience when the problems are
presented through fantasy.

From fairy tales to science fiction, classic stories have explored serious
topics in a whimsical or fantastic way. A direct treatment of the issues
would not have been received as well.

George Orwell's "Animal Farm" could have been written as a gritty, realistic
view of a totalitarian state. Even if such a realistic version was written well,
its reception, in its time, probably would not be considered a classic today.
The fantasy element of presenting the class and power interplay via
anthropomorphic animals on a farm allows the reader a certain distance
from the material - a distance required to see the principle issues
independent of their political frames of reference.

Far from detracting from the serious undercurrents in a plot,
fantasy can be the vehicle that drives home the most salient points
in a way no other device can match.

The main characters in "Uberwoot!" treat some very controversial topics
as not being controversial at all. By glossing over the controversies,
aren't you alienating some readers?

The characters of "Uberwoot!" believe the positions they take and act accordingly.
If you do not believe an action is wrong, there is no reason to excuse yourself
when you do it or possess a sense of shame in any way.

Part of the comedic element of "Uberwoot!" is derived from simply,
and unjudgmentally, taking a variety of beliefs to their logical limits.

If one believes in "choice" over what a person does with their own body,
it is not an absurd leap of logic to project that position onto the question of suicide.

If healthcare is a universal right, then it's not a crazy leap of logic to extend
this right to food - after all, the necessity of food in sustaining life is the most
basic component in human health.

If marriage should be defined as a state of love between people regardless of
sex or race, then it's not an illogical leap to include multiple partners in that love.

Far from glossing over controversial topics, "Uberwoot!" embraces them in a way
that may make experiencing both sides of these debates a bit uncomfortable
while being amused.

"Uberwoot!" portrays dogs as happy little beasts who have an enviable
inner life. How much of this viewpoint is part of the comedy and
how much are you saying we should believe for real?

It's true - a case could be made that dogs have an enviable life compared to
the hectic, stressful whirlwind many people attempt to manage.

The cliche "it's a dog's life" captures the essence of this very well.
It also seems funny that so many self-help books tell humans to
"live in the moment", something dogs seem to have mastered very well.

Of course, humans claim to be a higher order of life due to many
other things: self-awareness, a concept of time, technical progress.

Who knows if this is right.

We're not exactly impartial observers.

I suspect, both humans and dogs could learn something from each other.

Q & A --- The Leaves In Winter

As a cautionary tale, how possible are the events of "The Leaves In Winter"?

Nothing in "The Leaves in Winter" couldn't be in tomorrow's headlines.

"The Leaves in Winter" centers on the actions of a madman. Is this realistic?

If history has taught us anything, it's frighteningly obvious how often madmen have managed to get their way on immense scales of consequence.

Q & A --- The Girl From An Alternate NFAR Universe

Q&A on "The Girl From An Alternate NFAR Universe" coming soon.


Q & A --- Helf Selp

Q&A on "Helf Selp" coming soon.


Q & A --- Prefetching Self

Q&A on "Prefetching Self" coming soon.


Q & A --- 1

What is the book "1" about?




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