Women of Science Fiction 001: Interview with Susan Kaye Quinn

Welcome to the inaugural
Women in Science Fiction interview series. I’ll be introducing you to a number of fabulous women I’ve lined up. Often disregarded as not being sciency enough or smart enough to write such a serious genre, women are sometimes pushed to the sidelines of sci-fi. But let me tell you, these women are capable of amazing things and write some of the best stories you’ll ever read. To start off, I’m excited to introduce Susan Kaye Quinn, a personal friend and an inspiration to myself and science fiction authors everywhere.

Susan Kaye Quinn is a superpower in the indie science fiction scene. A role model for many authors, Susan has been a fount of knowledge, support, and fabulous reading material. I tried counting up how many books she’s published, but my mind started spinning at nineteen, and I’m sure I missed a few.

To find out more about her work and to get a free short story, check out Susan’s website.

Pavarti K Tyler: Your author tag states that you’re a “speculative fiction author.” What’s the difference between speculative fiction and science fiction?

Susan Kaye Quinn: Speculative fiction is broader than SF—technically, spec fic includes SF, fantasy, and horror. I don’t write horror, and my stories are mostly SF, but they occasionally have fantasy elements as well. Mindreading (my Mindjack series) is a paranormal ability, but I ground it in science and take a classic SF look at it—i.e. how does it affect the social and political mores of my future society? Likewise, my latest series, Singularity, looks at a future world where most of humanity has ascended into hyper-intelligent human/robot hybrids, but the main character has an ability that seems almost paranormal – and the series itself explores ideas about spirituality and consciousness that I think we’ll be forced to examine as the future of robotics and AI rushes headlong at us.

PKT: Why do you choose to label yourself as a spec fic author instead of science fiction?

SKQ: I think I do write science fiction, but often people associate SF with Hard SF (very technically dense SF) or space opera (pew-pew spaceships, yay!). I don’t write either of those (generally speaking)—although my upcoming short story, “Containment,” in the Dark Beyond the Stars anthology, is both space opera and hard SF! But it’s also about art-making and the nature of consciousness—so even my more traditional SF wanders off the farm. This is why I label myself as a spec fic writer—it has more latitude for the human-centric SF stories I write.

PKT: Your newest series deals with the technological evolution of humanity. What inspired this idea?

SKQ: The spark for the Singularity series came from a singular idea that came to me on a long drive (a lot of my stories arrive that way)—a story about a boy who wanted to be a machine. It was a reverse Pinocchio story, where a legacy human boy in a future world wanted to be an ascender, the hyper-intelligent human/machine hybrid that most of humanity had become. The idea sprung from many sources, but not least the fact that artificial intelligence is making great strides in the real world, and the old stories of Terminator and Skynet were long overdue for a reimagining.

PKT: What do you think readers can learn from this series?

SKQ: They will learn that I’m fascinated by subjects like the nature of consciousness, the source of creativity, the meaning of religion, and… that I think robots can be pretty damn sexy if they want to be.

PKT: You also have a Bollywood steampunk series (which is one of my personal favorites by the way).  How does this series fit into your overall brand or did you decide to just embrace the awesome, brand be damned?

SKQ: Brand be damned. I write what I want. Sorry if that’s confusing, readers. I know it is. Sorry about that. Here, have a free story.

Seriously, I write stories that call to me for some reason—most of my stories are serious SF thrillers, but I have a lighter side as well, and my Bollywood steampunk romance series called to that.

PKT: In addition to everything else you do, you’ve also written two books for indie authors (The Indie Survival Guide and For Love or Money). What made you want to write these and what’s the one tip you hope people take away from them?

SKQ: I wrote these for my author friends, to help them journey well in their own writing careers. For the Indie Author Survival Guide, the one takeaway I hope writers will get is that you have to treat writing like a business to make it a career—but that it’s a very viable business if you set your mind to it. For Love or Money is for authors who have already published but want to turn those first books into a career—the takeaway there is that writing for love and writing for money are both legit choices, and both can have a place in your career.

PKT: You’ve been featured in a number of The Future Chronicles collections. How has the experience of working with a collective affected you as a writer?

SKQ: Interesting question—I very much support the idea of the Chronicles, and it’s great fun to participate in this resurgence of the classic SF anthology idea, tuned up for the modern era of eBooks. As a writer, I think it’s been a great inspiration to write stories I wouldn’t normally (and often spawning new series because of it!)—I’m always looking for things that up my creative game, and the Chronicles definitely do that.

PKT: Most of your work is YA appropriate.  What made you decide to write the more adult themed Debt Collector series?

SKQ: Another story that possessed me on a long drive. Debt Collector is about a man whose job it is to kill people—sucking out their life energy and giving it to others who are “more worthy.” That kind of story doesn’t come with rainbows and kittens (well, none of my stories do, but this one really didn’t). It was by nature dark, gritty, and sexy. I respected the story and wrote what it needed to be in order to tell it well.

PKT: What do you think is the most significant scientific breakthrough in the last 10 years?  50 years?  100 years?

SKQ: 10 years—the web 2.0
50 years—the PC
100 years—the jet engine

I’m just a bit of a geek.

Fast Five:

Which would you rather: time travel or space travel?

SKQ: Time – space is pretty empty

Where would you live: rustic moon colony or a fully automated earth

SKQ: Automated earth.

Which are more dangerous aliens or humans?

SKQ: We’ve already proven humans are dangerous.

Where would you prefer to visit? A beach or a lake?

SKQ: Beach.

Zombies are real! What made it possible, magic or science?

SKQ: Science. Magic is just the science we haven’t figured out yet.

About Susan Kaye Quinn

SKQSusan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling young adult SF Mindjack Trilogy. The Dharian Affairs trilogy is her excuse to dress up in corsets and fight with swords. She also has a dark-and-gritty SF serial for ages 17+ called The Debt Collector, a middle-grade fantasy called Faery Swap, and now she’s writing about the Singularity.

It’s possible she’s easily distracted.

Susan grew up in California, got a bunch of engineering degrees (B.S. Aerospace Engineering, M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering) and worked everywhere from NASA to NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research). She designed aircraft engines, studied global warming, and held elected office (as a school board member). Now that she writes novels, her business card says “Author and Rocket Scientist,” but she mostly sits around in her pajamas in awe that she gets paid to make stuff up.

All her engineering skills come in handy when dreaming up dangerous mindpowers, future dystopic worlds, and slightly plausible steampunk inventions. For her stories, of course. Just ignore that stuff in the basement.

Susan writes from the Chicago suburbs with her three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as much as she can handle.

Susan is a proud member of The Indelibles (a pioneering indie author group), and The Emblazoners (an indie middle grade author group), as well as several Sekrit authors groups who will kill her if she mentions their names.

You can join her SKQ Facebook Group to see what she’s up to lately.

She loves to hear from readers and writer friends! Find all her social places on her Contact Page.

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A mini-kōsalogy of flash fiction stories

Featuring PK Tyler, Woelf Dietrich, Jessica West, and M. J. Kelley

Their home world is gone, their planet cut from existence. They traveled eons searching for a new home. But their new home, Earth, was already taken. From quiet stories of longing and love to tales of tragic nuclear war and brutal inter-species conflict, these narratives portray sometimes startling snapshots of a new universe with the intensity and delicacy that only flash fiction can convey. Each author's unique stories enrich the shared, singular vision of a science fiction saga that is just beginning.


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