31Oct2011: MilSciFi.com interviews Adam G.
Griffith, author of the military science fiction novel, The Harbinger
and The Shepherd.
MilSciFi: "Welcome. Please tell us a little
something about your novel."
Griffith: "My novel, The Harbinger and The Shepherd, is a
mystical space opera that follows two concurrent "the hero's journey"
storylines that mirror one another. Similar situations arise for both of the
main characters, Takeo and Stephen Mason, but their decisions and the outcomes
vary for each one, shaping their ultimate ends as each struggles to reclaim the
homes they lost in the war that made them champions of their respective
MilSciFi: "Is this part of a large series or
Griffith: "It's the first book of the Prophecy of the Third Age
trilogy, but there might be more done within the universe, expanding on some of
the satellite characters and their storylines."
MilSciFi: "What inspired you to write this
Griffith: "Strangely enough, Back to the Future. The
movie series is really a pretty remarkably well put together trilogy. Plus,
being Gen-X, I grew up on all the Star Wars movies and so the epic space opera
genre has always resonated with me. I actually started writing the book after
my first solo cross-country drive. Having gone through my own epic journey, I
was inspired to write an epic journey tale. I think my father described my book
best when he called it a Kurosawa movie set in space. Take some Seven
Samurai, Back to the Future, and Star Wars to find my
MilSciFi: "Does science and technology play
an important role in this story (or in your work in general), or is it
secondary to the story telling and characterization?"
Griffith: "I have a background in biology and chemistry so
science was definitely part of the world. The biggest influence of science you'll
see in the book is in the aliens. I wrote species that made scientific sense
with evolutionarily explainable paths to becoming what they were loosely based
on real animal species. Aside from the aliens being biologically accurate, I
really focused more on the story and the characters. If someone finds errors in
the astrophysics that's fine --my degree specialization was in animal behavior."
MilSciFi: "Do you have plans to expand upon,
or write other works based on this novel?"
Griffith: "The second book in the trilogy is already in the
works. Hunting the Plague Bringer will continue many of the same
storylines found in Harbinger, but will also introduce new characters to
expand on the overall story of the trilogy."
MilSciFi: "Most authors we encounter write
novellas/novels, do you write short stories, and if so do you find it a
Griffith: "I don't really write many short stories unless
something jumps out at me. My undergrad professors were all really big on the
short story as an art form even as they were telling us it was a dying genre.
When I got to grad school, my friend and mentor, James P. Blaylock inspired
more novel-based work. Especially in Harbinger, I don't think the story
could remotely fit in a short story or even a series of short stories. The book
is a hair under 800 pages, and it really has to be. To fit the entire scope of
the story into anything less would require zooming out until all the characters
were inconsequential; I like delving into the minutia of the story to create
symbolism and with all the characters Harbinger works with, that
requires a novel."
MilSciFi: "Since time is of the essence for
getting a read up to speed in a short story, do you have a strategy, or
preferred method for doing this?"
Griffith: "Absolutely, I follow the 8 rules for writing a short
story laid out by Vonnegut. I actually have a collection of short stories and
essays in ode to Vonnegut right now called Dunking Tralfamadore. One of
the rules is start as late in the story as you can. One of my favorite
undergrad professors, Craig Wright, who is something of a short story savant,
always said the first page has to catch a reader or you risk losing them. That's
stuck with me. Most novel readers will give a book a few chapters since they're
already mentally geared up for a big investment of time, but a short story has
to get up and get going fast since most readers will have no problem setting
aside an eight page story if it's not interesting right away."
MilSciFi: "What advice would you give the
aspiring military science fiction writer?"
Griffith: "Talk to military guys. They're a different breed of
person. I was working at a sleep clinic while I was writing Harbinger,
which meant 12 hour shifts, of monitoring people's sleep. The other
sleep tech working with me was a former army staff sergeant who had been
everywhere and fought in both Iraq wars, the guy was tough as nails with a
bizarre sweet side for his patients. This big, rough, man with a shaved head
and pronounced limp was a Taoist; it opened my eyes to meet someone like that
and see how different a career soldier could be from my expectations. Just
talking to him and hearing all the ways in which war and the army changed his
body and mind really helped me gain a better understanding of how soldiers are
different from civilians. You can read all the books on military theory, watch
the History Channel until your eyes bleed, but what you really need to do is go
out and talk to soldiers."
MilSciFi: "Who is your single-most influence
in science fiction and what impact have they had on our own work?"
Griffith: "Kurt Vonnegut, without a doubt. I learned a lot about
constructing stories from him since the framework on his stories is almost
always laid bare. He inspired me to add wit and humor as appropriate. And of
course lace my work with political and religious commentary. I feel like
someone should give Vonnegut a posthumous Sociology degree for how well he
understood human society. Fiction can and should entertain, but Vonnegut showed
me it should also contain a motivational message about the world."
MilSciFi: "What is the one thing you find the
most difficult about writing military science fiction?"
Griffith: "Keeping it all straight. You should see the pile of
ancillary material I had to collect, create, and research to make this book
work. Star charts, battlefield maps, timelines, dossiers, etc. I had to
basically plan a dozen battles as though they were really being fought and then
I had to transform these World War II style battle plans into a fictional
account. The readers of military science fiction like their battles and I didn't
want to short change them."
MilSciFi: "Is military science fiction the
only thing you write, or is there something else out there we should be looking
Griffith: "Like I said, there's my short story and essay
collection, Dunking Tralfamadore. I'm also planning on branching out
into horror and YA. The ePublishing world has really opened the door for
writers to break out of molds and really write what they want. Vonnegut was
pigeonholed as a science fiction writer by traditional publishing despite being
much more than that; I like that I can write what I like now and leave a genre
as I'm inspired to."
MilSciFi: "Please tell us about your
publisher, and how did you came to chose them?"
Griffith: "The traditional publishing world is really like
trying to run a race with one foot nailed to the ground. No matter how fast you
run, you're just going to go in circles. Having run in circles for about a
decade, I decided to jump ship and look for an indie publishing house. Hungry
Panther Publishing is forward thinking, innovative, and author oriented. The
big four publishers are publisher oriented, so the work is all based on
executives who may not even read the books making guesses at what people will
buy based on market projections; it's insane. Authors are artists, working on
our own timetables, driven by a fickle muse who might change directions on us
without warning, and we're need publishers who understand this. I might write a
science fiction novel and then come back the very next week with an idea for an
amazing YA sports novel. At a traditional publishing house, they would tell me
that's great, but to go back and write another science fiction novel. Hungry
Panther Publishing trusts its talent and lets us write what inspires us. How
could I not choose them?"
MilSciFi: "Do you have any other projects in
Griffith: "The YA sports novel wasn't just an example. I'm
actually outlining a Young Adult book about a football player at a private
school trying to fit in and keep the essence of himself intact while growing up
in a single parent household."
MilSciFi: "Do you have any upcoming author
Griffith: "Not really. I've read at conferences and events in
the past, but I'm finishing up a cross country move right now and I have no
idea what is even going on in central Florida. I'm not much of a commuter so ideally
author events would be in my living room, but since that's not realistic, I'm
probably going to be really choosy about public appearances based on how close
to my house they are."
MilSciFi: "Do you have a website?"
Griffith: "I do not. It's strange to me that that modern authors
have to be web designers, graphic designers, marketing geniuses, and stand up
comedians / motivational speakers. I'm a little behind the times in this
department. I've kind of left all that up to my publisher, which is probably a
pretty silly thing to do, but to be honest, all that stuff takes time away from
writing, which is what I'd really rather be doing."