22Dec2011: MilSciFi.com interviews Tom Ciolli,
author of the military science fiction novel, Gulag Moon.
MilSciFi: "Welcome. Please tell us a little
something about your novel."
Ciolli: "Gulag moon is the prequel to my Chronos Military
Science fiction series. I have a central
character, Zach Murphy, throughout the series and I wanted to go back to when
he was younger and show how disastrous his early experience with the local
militia of Rybos Five really was. The
novel starts off with the mining Syndicate dropping off a bunch of obsolete
factory workers in a forest and follows their successful efforts to
survive. Then as the characters get
pressed into service for a local militia, they find themselves outgunned by advanced
technology and have to resort to some extreme and aggressive measures to
MilSciFi: "Is this part of a large series or
Ciolli: "Yes. The
Chronos series is an ever expanding universe.
I have published three books (Gulag Moon, Chronos, and Chronos
Prophecies) and I have completed the rough draft of my fourth book, The Battle
MilSciFi: "What inspired you to write this
Ciolli: "The more I wrote about Zach Murphy, the more I found
myself making cryptic references to his valorous past, and I realized that
there was a good story to develop there."
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?"
Ciolli: "I have worked hard at making my characters plausible
and the stories compelling. I put that
first. But, if I have to take a morning
of Internet searching and make sure that my science is not too far off base, I
will take the time to do the research. My copy of the Michio Kaku's, Physics of
the Impossible is well worn and has shaped my thinking."
MilSciFi: "Do you have plans to expand upon,
or write other works based on this novel?"
Ciolli: "Definitely. Once Gulag Moon was complete, I had four
more interesting characters: Zep Hedgewick (the narrator), Rick Magnuson, Brian
Falcone, and the wisecracking Sergeant Kowalski. I liked these characters so much that they
joined Zach Murphy's eclectic squad to fight the Mining Syndicate in the Battle for Chronos. Also, readers that I have talked to felt that
letting Zep Hedgewick narrate the story added a lot of life to it. Once BFC (Battle for Chronos) is published, I have ideas
for another prequel and another follow on novel."
MilSciFi: "Most authors we encounter write
novellas/novels, do you write short stories, and if so do you find it a
Ciolli: "Several of my chapters started out as short
stories. In a way, this question hits
the issue right on the head, because initially getting an idea down on paper is
very challenging. When I wasn't able to
sell my short stories, I just kept expanding them into novels."
MilSciFi: "Since time is of the essence for
getting a reader up to speed in a short story, do you have a strategy, or
preferred method for doing this?"
Ciolli: "I tend to do two things. In Chronos, the narration is very detached
and technical. But, at the same time, I
feed just enough information to the reader that I hope they want more. In Gulag Moon and Chronos Prophecies, I have
a mix of descriptive narration and actual character dialogue to lay the story
out for the reader. As my writing has
evolved, my strategy has involved blending these two techniques."
MilSciFi: "What advice would you give the
aspiring military science fiction writer?"
Ciolli: "I have always liked the just do it credo. I never could write anything I liked until in
2009, I kept daydreaming about a scene in Chronos where Zach Murphy has been
ordered to crawl in behind the enemy lines and pin them down. I finally decided that I should write it down
before I forgot it. I had tried writing
before and it never really worked. Then
all of the sudden, I had a story that I liked.
I suppose, in retrospect, I have been using that style of daydreaming to
develop my stories ever since. So, what
is my advice? Don't give up, and,
experiment until you find a method that works for you. Then, experiment some more until you
improve. And, have some fun. This has turned out to be the most enjoyable
type of work that I have ever done."
MilSciFi: "Who is your single-biggest
influence in science fiction and what impact have they had on your own
Ciolli: "I have to say Edgar Rice Burroughs on this one. I need to reference an author who I find
viscerally stirring without all the special effects. It's hard for me to understand why I find
some science fiction topics more moving than others, but there are definitely certain
stories which have me on the edge of my seat. Burroughs' stories do this for
me. In the Martian Tales, Burroughs had
to imagine things from a turn of the century frame of reference, so his
aircraft looked like boats and his hero inexplicably appears on Mars one
day. The science is not his emphasis,
but the story is still compelling. I hope
that someday I can do that."
MilSciFi: "What is the one thing you find the
most difficult about writing military science fiction?"
Ciolli: "I think it is difficult to find something that has
not been done before. At first, I felt
like I was going out on a limb by having people fire old weapons designs, but
the more I thought about this, it made perfect sense. All along the Chronos series, I have tried to
make the science fiction a little different by watering down the super high
tech weaponry with the economics of scarcity.
I really got involved in my first story (Chronos) it became much easier to add
another piece here and there. Now, I
feel that I have three galaxies connected by wormholes and names for all the
planets and moons and distinct personalities for all the people and my imaginings
are much better grounded."
MilSciFi: "Is military science fiction the
only thing you write, or is there something else out there we should be looking
Ciolli: "I'm sticking to military science fiction for
now. I suppose if I wrote anything else,
a western would be very likely. I
included space western themes or scenes in Chronos, Chronos Prophecies and The
Battle for Chronos. So, it would be a
natural transition to pull the plug on the electronic gizmos and just write a
MilSciFi: "Please tell us about your
publisher, and how did you came to chose them?"
Ciolli: "I am self publishing Kindle and Nook books through
Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Revolutionary changes in the publishing industry present the potential
to completely bypass traditional publishers.
My experience over the last two years has allowed me to understand the
potential that exists to allow authors to retain the rights to their materials,
receive higher margins, and promote their books in an electronic fashion. The experience that I have gained self
marketing my own books, generalizes to allow me to try and contact a
specialized audience at the tip of the long tail of fiction distribution. My own books are available as electronic
books, which reduces my financial exposure."
MilSciFi: "Do you have any other projects in
Ciolli: "I am a few weeks away from
completing the initial draft of my fourth book, The Battle For
I found the Battle For Chronos (or BFC as I call it) to be
very difficult to write, because the more I thought about it, the more I
realized that much of the fight would need to occur in outer space.
It took a lot of imagining to think of how to make an island hopping campaign
in space into something other than just a bunch of space ships with
MilSciFi: "Thank you, for your time."