Monday, September 1, 2014
"Every piece of art is a reflection of the everyday world": award winning poet Samuel Peralta talks about physics, art, and science fiction.
I've been doing author interviews for a few years now and I always try to limit my questions to 4-5 because I know writers are busy people and so are blog readers. However, today's guest is such an interesting person that I really couldn't refrain from asking more. Samuel Peralta is a physicist, an award-winning poet, a bestselling author, and just a beautiful person to meet and talk to. His work has been recognized with numerous awards, including from the BBC, the UK Poetry Society, Digital Literature Institute, and the Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. His love story Hereafter, is part of the anthology Synchronic, a collection of time travel stories written with other great authors I've interviewed on the blog like Michael Bunker, Susan Kay Quinn and Jason Gurley. Sam has another short story coming out mid September, Humanity, and is also producing "The Future Chronicles", a series of speculative fiction anthologies edited by David Gatewood. Yhe first title in the series, The Robot Chronicles, was released last July and reached #1 Bestselling SF Anthology.
Welcome to CHIMERAS, Samuel, what an honor to have you here today!
EEG: You have a PhD in physics and science has always been a big source of inspiration for you: tell us about the role of science in your art, whether it's poetry, fiction writing or filming.
SP: Every piece of art is a reflection of the everyday world, whether that part of it you reflect is inside you, or outside you. Science brings me a another perspective on that world, like a periscope lets you see above possibly murky waters into the clear air. It gives me another language, a different vocabulary, to express my art. Many poets reject the world of science and feel that it sullies their appreciation of the world. I see exactly the opposite: a knowledge of science enhances that appreciation. I believe in both science and God, in physics and beauty, in mathematics and art.
EEG: Why physics?
SP: Physics seemed to me one of the purest of sciences that still had to do with the real world. And I had an affinity for experimental physics - experimenting with catapult trajectories, constructing solar arrays, building nitrogen lasers from plastic and aluminum foil. It was fun, despite my mother's frequent concern.
EEG: You are an award-winning poet and you've been writing poems throughout your life. You've said of poetry: "Poetry demands a higher level of precision in language and imagery that needs to be worked at, cultivated, honed." How do you hone your craft? Do you have a particular routine or is every poem different?
SP: Every poem is different, but to me cultivating my craft means challenging myself with form, structure, all the elements of classical poetry, while managing to fool the reader into thinking that the poem is modern, free. natural, "unencumbered" of craft. I believe that to write free verse, you must first learn to write sestinas and sonnets, pantoum and rubaiyats. I once wrote a poem that was an condemnation of a terrorist act, that was celebrated by my readers; the poem only used the vowel "e" - and no one noticed. A private triumph. I write acrostic poems, use sonnet forms disguised as free verse, slant rhymes. My poem "Flying to Nantucket" is a limerick cycle - and a memorial to John F. Kennedy Jr. If you believe my readers, they told me the poem transcended the form. Having the fearlessness to do that - that's honing your craft.
EEG: What are some recurrent topics in your poetry and why?
Everything I find worth writing about is about love. It doesn't matter whether it comes down to the love between a man and woman, a mother and child, a person for himself, or the loss of it. That emotion is what makes us human. It comes down, all of it, to love.
EEG: You are also an independent film-maker. How did you get into film making and why? What are the current projects you're working on?
SP: I'm not so much an independent film-maker as an enabler for film-makers. It started off with one crowd-source contribution to an animated film, blossomed into producing a few select films, and has become a bit of an obsession. I think of it as paying forward my success in poetry to other creatives, in a field of art where I couldn't otherwise contribute.
I've now helped support about 90 independent films - many at the executive producer level. One of my favourites, the award-winning "Dorsal", is opening for the Atlantic Film Festival and is a selection of the Vancouver International Film Festival. Other films - "The Nostalgist", "Le Gouffre", "Man from Reno" - have also won film awards. My current interests are helping produce the English-language versions of some classic Japanese films, including "Patema Inverted" and "The Time of EVE".
EEG: Let's talk about your books: if I understand correctly, fiction is a recent diversion from poetry. Was it a conscious decision to start writing science fiction or did it just happen?
SP: It was a conscious act. A a poet, I had an epiphany in a bookstore - I was browsing through one of Margaret Atwood's wonderful collections of her poetry, when I realized that the entire shelf was filled with her numerous novels, but only one volume of her poetry was represented. I realized that the rest of her writing was still poetic, that books like Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" could be looked at as, at the heart, extended poems in prose. I wondered, could I do that? Write speculative fiction and still be true to my poetic core? And so here I am, trying to do just that.
EEG: Tell us about your upcoming series "Labyrinth Man": what was the inspiration? How many books will it comprise?
SP: The Labyrinth is the world that most of my speculative fiction will be anchored in. It's a world a world where corporations have expanded beyond governments, where pervasive surveillance is a part of life, where non-human self-awareness has begun to make humanity face difficult questions about itself. If that world sounds almost familiar, you’d be right. Change “telepaths” to “intelligence agencies” and “robots” to the name of any one of the many displaced segments in our societies, and we’d be talking about the world we live in today.
"Labyrinth Man" was the story I intended to start the series with, but it didn't happen that way. I was able to place several other stories in that world - "Hereafter", "Liberty", "Trauma Room" and "Faith" - with four anthologies before the release of "Labyrinth Man", which becomes the sixth story in the series. All of these titles are standalone and can be read in any order, but all of them contribute to an understanding of the tapestry that makes up the world of Labyrinth. And yes, I write humanist science fiction, if you will; the point of every story still comes down to love.
EEG: How does fiction writing compare to poetry writing?
SP: For me, it's just as difficult. Most people would say poetry is easier, because they channel poetry, let the muse take over. I don't - poetry consists, for me, of building a concept, doing research, outlining, writing a first draft, going through numerous edits and parallel versions, listening to the cadences of it as it's read aloud, and finally tweaking every word to a final version. Doesn't that sound a lot like the process of writing a short story or novel? I've always written poetry that way, so the process is similar. To me, the short story or novel is another form, like a sonnet or a sestina, with which to hone the craft.
EEG: What are the next titles in the anthology seires you are producing, "The Future Chronicles"?
The next title in the series is "The Telepath Chronicles", which will be released in November. the next ones will be: "The Alien Chronicles" (soon to be announced, author roster complete, for release in Jan); "The A.I. Chronicles" (publicly announced as sequel to "The Robot Chronicles", release date not finalized). There are more planned, but these are the ones that are publicly known.
EEG: Thanks so much for being with us today, Sam!
Check out all other books and poetry collections by Samuel on his Amazon page. You can also connect with him via FB, his blog, and Twitter.