Tag Archives: alternate history

Book Review: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Book Name: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
Author: Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)
First Published: 1889

Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Missouri, two weeks after Halley’s Comet appeared in 1835. After his father died of pneumonia, young Clemens apprenticed at the age of 12 as a typesetter for his brother’s newspaper, the Hannibal Journal. It is there that he gained his first writing experiences by creating articles and funny sketches for the newspaper. Instead of attending school, he learned by reading at the public libraries. He claimed that he found more information at the library than he ever would at a traditional school.

When he was 18, he left Hannibal and went to work as a printer in New York City among other places. He joined the newly formed International Typographical Union. He moved around a great deal, traveling on the packet Keokuk in 1854 and lived in Muscatine during 1855. The Muscatine newspaper published eight of his travelogues.

During a journey to New Orleans down the Mississippi river, steamboat pilot Horace E. Bixby talked Clemens into becoming a pilot himself. Clemens studied for two years before he received his steamboat pilot license in 1859. A steamboat pilot eclipsed the prestige and authority of the captain of the vessel due to the extensive knowledge that was needed to guide the boat down the ever-changing river and knowing the hundreds of ports to access. A pilot also earned a rewarding salary for his efforts. It was during this time when Clemens developed the pen name of Mark Twain, taken from the cry “mark twain” for a measured river depth of two fathoms. He might have remained a riverboat pilot but for the start of the American Civil War. When war broke out in 1861, all traffic along the Mississippi was curtailed.

At the start of the war, Clemens enlisted briefly in the Confederate military, but soon left for Nevada to work for his brother Orion, the Secretary to James W. Nye, the Governor of Nevada Territory. Eventually, Clemens settled in Nevada as a miner on the Comstock Lode. He did not make a good living as a miner and soon returned to writing. He wrote under his new pen name, Mark Twain, for the first time at a Virginia City newspaper called The Territorial Enterprise. Later, his experiences on the American frontier would inspire his famous short story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County which was published in The Saturday Press, a New York weekly. Twain continued to write and travel all across American and even to the Hawaiian Islands, as a reporter for the Sacramento Union. His travelogues were popular and would become the basis for his future lecture series.

During a trip to the Holy Land, Clemens met Charles Langdon and the man happened to show Clemens the picture of his sister. Later, Clemens would admit that he had fallen in love with Olivia Langdon that day solely on viewing her image. He later met and pursued Olivia until she agreed to be his wife. They moved to Hartfort, Connecticut and lived there for almost two decades. It is at the home in Hartford where Clemens wrote most of his popular novels including: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. His novel, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, features a time traveler from his contemporary American, using the knowledge of science to introduce modern technology to Arthurian England. This type of storyline would later become a common feature of the science fiction sub-genre, alternate history. It also reads as a good fantasy novel.

Clemens grew wealthy from his writing, but due to several poor investments, such as the Paige typesetting machine and by buying into a publishing house that picked poor performers, his gains all but disappeared. In 1895, Clemens organized a world tour with the help of his friend, Henry Rogers, where he gave lectures about his travels and of his famous stories. It was a five year journey, but would prove to be a hit. He was able to repay his debts and to continue to support his family.

Disaster struck the Clemens’ household in 1910, a decade after his successful world tour. One by one, his wife, two of their daughters and his friend Rogers all died within a short time span. This put the author into a spiral of depression that he never quite recovered from. All his life he had told of having visions of the future. Clemens predicted that he would die on the return of Halley’s Comet and he was right – he died on April 21, 1910, a day after the comet reappeared.

My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to its institutions or its officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death. – Mark Twain

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court begins with Hank Morgan, a 19th century gunsmith from Connecticut, gets hit on the head during a fight and wakes up in Camelot. He thinks that he should run things since he is the most advanced man in the world, but instead he is ridiculed for his odd appearance and is sentenced to be burned at the stake. Hank knows from his study of history that his execution date coincides with a famous solar eclipse. He threatens the king that he will make the sun disappear if he executes him. When the eclipse occurs, the people are convinced of Hank’s power and the King appoints him as chief minister.

Hank observes the medieval ways of the people and sees the rampant ignorance and suffering of the poor. He clashes with Merlin, the king’s previous chief adviser and top sorcerer in the land. In a fit of jealousy, Merlin spreads rumors that Hank is a fraud. To combat this, Hank rigs Merlin’s tower with explosives and a lightning rod, causing a fire that Merlin fails to prevent with his magic. In another incident, Merlin declares that a fountain has dried up and will never work again because of a demon haunting it. Hank fixes the leak and gets the fountain flowing again.

Hank also uses his knowledge and his authority as the king’s minister to modernize the country and contradict medieval teachings. Assisted by a young boy named Clarence, he sets up secret schools and factories of tools. Hank only allows his hand-picked open-minded people to enter. He goes on to construct modern infrastructure and goes on an adventure with a girl named Sandy. One day, Hank and King Arthur disguise themselves as peasants in order to see how the poor people really live. They get arrested and sold to slavery, and are about to be hanged. Sir Lancelot and the other knights rescue them but the king, horrified by his experience, promises to abolish slavery, which delights Hank.

Sir Sagramore, challenges Hank to a duel to the death upon his return from his Holy Grail quest. Hank wins the day by enlisting the help of a dozen other knights, a lasso, and a revolver. He then reveals the modern infrastructure he has created. He later marries Sandy and they have a child together.

Strangely enough, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is the first Mark Twain novel that I ever read. I was inspired to pick up the book after seeing the movie by the same name starring Bing Crosby. Later, due to prodding from English teachers, I would go on to read his more famous works, but this novel has always stuck with me. The satire about the politics of his day reminded me of other classic authors such as Lewis Carrol, Charles Dickens and others of that time period. It is an early novel of alternate history and a true child of the speculative fiction genre. I fully believe that by reading the classics in a genre, you learn the conventions and gain a stronger understanding of it as a writer. That is why I would recommend this novel to be on a must-read list, in addition to his other more well known titles.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court Book CoverMark Twain was more than an author, he was an inventor, an adventurer, a steamboat pilot and more. His writing and wit inspires me as an author, but his life inspires me as well. Samuel Clemens did not succeed at everything he attempted, but he never gave up and continued to search for what worked for him. Now he is remembered for being one of the best American authors in history.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is available for free download at Project Gutenberg.

Author Interview: Ralph E. Vaughan

Ralph E. Vaughan is a local writer to me, being a long-time resident of Chula Vista, Calif. He is a graduate of the Defense Information School, holds a degree in criminology, and is known for his many Sherlock Holmes and HP Lovecraft pastiches. It is a pleasure to introduce him here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Ralph Vaughan“Who are you?” The enigmatic Vorlons of Babylon 5 were known for asking that of people, causing all sorts of trouble. If asked, I could say “I am Ralph E. Vaughan,” but that’s the kind of answer the Vorlons rewarded with an electric shock. A similar punitive jolt would be delivered for the standard “I am my parents’ child” or “I am my children’s father.” Besides, I tried (and was occasionally successful) not to be like my parents, and my sole positive influence on my two children was to admonish them, “Don’t be like your father.” Asked to describe myself, I’d admit to being a champion of causes both hopeless and lost, a citizen of bygone ages and of empires in the dust, a speaker for people who once lived or never did, an illustrator of realms unseen, and a builder of things that sometimes endure. For awhile. I am hopelessly old-fashioned and permanently out of step with this digital protean world. I am anachronistic, maybe a bit Luddite. I don’t have cell-phone, e-reader, or pad or tablet (is there a difference?). I like writing more than any other activity (though I preferred my Remington Quietwriter to a keyboard), but I am distracted all too easily by reading, researching, game-playing, gardening, woodworking, cinema, and spending time with my dogs and cats. I’m married (40 years), have two children and two grandchildren; since retiring a few years ago, I’ve devoted myself to full-time writing and troublemaking.

When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t have the hubris to claim I was born a writer, and I don’t think I should admit to having always been a liar…but I always have liked to tell stories, much to the chagrin of authority figures. In first grade, I wrote a short story entitled “The Mouse in the Haunted House,” set, obviously, in a haunted house, but told from the viewpoint of the rodent. Mrs Hamilton was concerned enough to send a note home to my parents (not the first, by no means the last). My first real foray into creative writing was in third grade with “The White Raven.” Mrs Decker was much more enlightened – not only did she send a “good” note home to my parents (they were startled) but she entered the story in a writing contest, in which it placed first. I wrote ever more complex tales as I learned about literature and grammar, but not till high school did I start writing for publication. High school journalism and book reviews for the local paper taught me discipline. It was then I realized there was a wider audience than just me – the world, if not more.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Shadows Against the Empire is an interplanetary steampunk adventure set in 1882, but in a Solar System much more interesting than ours. I looked at astronomical beliefs in the Nineteenth Century, but most of my planet building stemmed from debates between me and my friend Carlos Carrion in high school, during which we postulated ancient life on Mars, jungles and oceans on Venus, and a Twilight Zone on Mercury. The plot involves a group of interdimensional beings, known in the mythology of many worlds as the Dark Gods, who were banished by an unknown Elder Race. They want back in, want to rule all the inhabited planets and moons, to feed upon fear and blood – they are rather nasty characters. To gain a foothold, they possess a susceptible Martian, who then becomes a major character in the plot. Although resistance eventually becomes widespread, it starts with two British soldiers, Captain Robert Folkestone and Sergeant Felix Hand, a Martian. They are the main protagonists throughout the novel, but Chief Inspector Ethan Slaughter of Scotland Yard and Lady Cynthia Barrington-Welles, who may or may not be a spy, also appear. This battle between good and evil results in an action novel that will surely please fans of classic adventure.

What inspired you to write this book?

The inspiration to write Shadows Against the Empire came chiefly from a deep and abiding interest in steampunk. Other fans, maybe most, express their interest through fashion or cosplay, but to be comfortable with that outlet you have to be very confident, somewhat egotistical, and relatively outgoing, maybe even a bit of an exhibitionist, all qualities which do not apply to me. Nor do I have any fashion sense. At heart, I’m a shy and retiring chap. But I do like to write. I have a fondness for Victorian literature, specifically Sherlock Holmes. I’ve been writing Holmes pastiches since 1981, so a full-blown steampunk novel seemed logical.

Do you have a particular writing style?

My style tends to be straight-forward, oriented toward action and characterization. I also love writing dialogue. I try to paint word pictures, almost a cinematic style. But a novel is also a collaboration between writer and reader. What I bring to the table is (I hope) good writing, extensive research, interesting characters, and exotic locales; what I expect from the reader is an enquiring intelligence, a knowledge of literature and history, and a competent vocabulary.

How did you come up with the title of the book?

My original title was Darkness Against the Empire, but as the story evolved “darkness” became nebulous and inaccurate. I substituted the more concrete “shadows,” which also echoes themes from H.P. Lovecraft. The “empire” of the title is the British Empire, but in this alternate universe it is very different, having encountered cultures on Earth that developed their own versions of steam technology first invented in ancient Egypt (Alexandria), as well as extraterrestrial races that met Earth’s colonial powers on a more or less equal footing.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

“Message” novels seem rarely to entertain. An entertaining novel, as I hope this is, will touch a reader on many levels, allowing readers to discover their own messages. My only goal was to entertain. Of course, writers don’t always know or recognize everything that goes into a novel. Readers, and critics, will always make what they want out of any novel, based on their own interests, interpretations and biases.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, events in your own life?

I don’t consciously base characters on people I know, but I sometimes filch names. Cruel people might find their names attached to some rather unsavory characters. As to the nature of the characters, I look more to cultural and mythological archetypes, as well as to my extensive readings in psychology.

What authors have more influenced your life? What about them to you find inspiring?

I aspired to write a rattling good adventure novel like Rudyard Kipling, tempered by Joseph Conrad, with a dash of H.P. Lovecraft thrown in. I also tried to infuse the story with humor, primarily through dialogue, as P.G. Wodehouse did. Also at my elbow were Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Raymond Chandler.

If you had to choose, is there a writer you would consider a mentor? Why?

If one writer could be my mentor it would be Joseph Conrad. He understood the darkness at the heart of man and the struggle to overcome it. Also, Conrad developed a clear and precise narrative voice like none other. I return often to Conrad for inspiration, especially three of his stories – Heart of Darkness, The Secret Sharer and The Secret Agent.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

On previous books, I used a software program with a library of graphics. For Shadows Against the Empire, however, I found a public domain wallpaper, then manipulated it in various ways. Despite an exhaustive search I could find neither illustrator nor first use. The reason for choosing the graphic (or the small portion used) was because it fit the spirit of the title, as well as directly illustrating a scene in the novel.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Do not “write what you know about” or “write like you talk.” Writers should write about what interests them, what they’re passionate about. As far as narrative, writers need to cultivate a clean and straightforward style, structured by good grammar, enlivened by an active voice and a developed vocabulary. Equally important is the ability to write realistic (not “real”) dialogue that moves the plot along while revealing character.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

To my readers: “When you read my book, put your cares aside, prepare to enter a universe of wonder and peril, and enjoy yourself.”

Shadows Against the Empire Book CoverRalph E. Vaughan
Chula Vista, CA


Publisher: Dog in the Night Books


Book Review: The Practice Effect

Book Name: The Practice Effect
Author: David Brin
First Published: 1984

David Brin is an American scientist and writer of hard science fiction novels. His work have been New York Times Bestsellers and he has won multiple Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Campbell awards. Brin was born in Glendale, California. He graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a degree in astrophysics. He followed this with a master of science in applied physics and a doctorate of Philosophy in Space Science from the University of California, San Diego. He currently lives in Southern California with his children.

The Practice Effect begins when scientist Dennis Nuel is barred from access to the Zievatron Project by fellow scientist and rival, Bernald Brady. Not only is Brady jealous of Nuel as a scientist, but there is a love triangle between the three that complicates their relationship. The Zievatron is a device that allows access to parallel worlds, a sort of portal into alternative realities. When the machine is activated and travels to an alternate reality, the return mechanism malfunctions. The two scientists realize that only Dennis has the skills to fix the machine. The only issue is that he must go into the alternate world in order to do this and retrieve the project.

Dennis follows the Zievatron into a parallel universe, where he is still on Earth, but in a world with significant differences from the one that he has left. The local inhabitants, a people known as the Coylians, speak English, but their society is a far cry from the modern day. It is more medieval with a structured class system. Gradually, Dennis learns that this society is built on a fundamental change of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Instead of objects being created to show their full potential and then gradually decaying over time as is normal in our reality, in this world objects only need to have a crude base. As the items are concentrated on by human thought, they are “practiced” and physically improved over time. Thus, a rough hewn stick can be practiced into a sword. A crude homespun garment gradually becomes a fine silk suit. The class system evolved so that the wealthy and privileged use the under classes to practice their goods into a beautiful and complex perfection.

Dennis’ arrive causes a stir because he not only has the ability to make items that work at the start and with practice become wondrous, but he uses his knowledge of technology from his own world to create things that the natives have never seen before. He becomes known as a “wizard” and falls under the attention of a local Baron named Kremer.

As he slowly puts together the materials that he needs to repair the zievatron and return to his home, he is pulled into the politics of this alternate world and finds himself pitted against Baron Kremer, who not only wishes to rule the world, but has plans to use Dennis for his own ends. Dennis must use his knowledge of science from our world and combine it with the strange practice effect to stop the Baron, repair the zievatron, and return to his home.

The Practice Effect Book CoverAuthor David Brin has written novels that are certainly more famous than The Practice Effect. The Postman was made into a movie starring Kevin Costner and his Uplift novels have won numerous awards. His current writing is far and above a better level of craftsmanship than in this early work. While this novel had a poor plot, weak characterizations, and unremarkable romantic relationships that were soon forgotten, the creation of this alternate world where the laws of nature are different and the physical and social ramifications of this are shown in a delightful and unique way. This is a clear forerunner to his development of science to propel the plot in his later novels. The concept of the practice effect itself makes this novel one that you should take a look at in addition to Brin’s other more well known works. To me it was as if the world was a character all unto itself. I kept wanting to see more of how the practice effect changed the lives of these people. Although I read this novel many years ago, I have never forgotten it and I feel it is a work that needs to be called attention to. Otherwise, you might miss out on a truly unique science fiction experience.

Book Review: The Probability Broach

Book Name: The Probability Broach
Author: L. Neil Smith
First Published:1980
Prometheus Award for Best Novel Winner: 1982

L. Neil Smith started life as an Air Force brat who traveled with his family all over the United States, never settling in any one place. He was interested in music, languages, science and history. His love of sharpshooting in competition began through a joint program of the National Rifle Association and the Boy Scouts. His path to the rank of Eagle Scout was paved with “more sharpshooter bars than I can remember”.

The young L. Neil Smith was interested in music. His first “real” job was that of a banjo player at the local Shakey’s Pizza Parlor and he was the leader of several small garage bands including the “Shady Grove Singers”, “The Roughriders” and the “Original Beautiful Dreamer Marching Jug Band”.

He preferred to read science fiction more than any other genre and was influenced by authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, and Isaac Asimov. The two most influential writers he read were Robert A. Heinlein and Ayn Rand. Smith recognized the connections of libertarian ideas between these two authors and these ideals guided him toward his own philosophical and political beliefs.

His readings led to political activism. In 1972 he joined the Libertarian Party. There he was influenced by the libertarian teacher Robert LeFevre which helped to cement his ideas. Later he would serve on the Libertarian national platform committees in 1977 and 1979. Smith ran for President of the United States twice on the Libertarian platform, once in California and again in Arizona, but both times he gained only a tiny fraction of votes.

In 1977, Smith felt frustrated by the course of American politics and wanted to help produce change. He began work on a science fiction novel, originally entitled The Constitution Conspiracy, where he thought to do for libertarianism that Uncle Tom’s Cabin did for Abolitionism or Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward did for socialism. This project was picked up by Del Rey in 1980 and became the alternate history and science fiction novel The Probability Broach, the first of 21 novels published by the author thus far. While it did not have the impact on society that Smith had hoped for, it is still considered one of the better examples of a libertarian utopia.

In 1979, Smith created the Prometheus Awards, a writing award to honor libertarian fiction. An independent panel was selected to pick the winning novel and the prize offered was a gold coin, then worth $2,500. Due to the cost of the award and lack of formal organization, the Prometheus Awards fell into limbo the following year. In 1982, the Libertarian Futurist Society revived the Prometheus Award for best libertarian novel of the year and they started a second annual award called the Prometheus Hall of Fame which is designed to honor classic libertarian fiction. The prize for both awards is still a gold coin, representing free trade and free minds, mounted on an engraved plaque. Starting in 2001, the offered gold coin is now a full ounce in weight. L. Neil Smith has won three Prometheus Awards down through the years, each time selected by independent panels.

Currently, L. Neil Smith is still interested in sharpshooting, being a lifetime member of the NRA, and plans to resume competitive shooting as he finds the time. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife Cathy and daughter Rylla. He continues to write novels and political essays about libertarianism and remains a political activist.

The Probability Broach is the first novel of a series set in an alternate history, the so-called Gallatin Universe, where a libertarian society has formed on the North American continent, and is known as the North American Confederacy. The story opens when Officer Edward William “Win” Bear, an officer of the Denver Police Department in an United States that is controlled by an anti-business, federalist government. Officer Bear is assigned to investigate the murder of physicist Vaughn Meiss, who has been shot down for mysterious reasons. His investigation leads him to the scientist’s unusual lab where an “interdimensional conduit” projects him into a new and confusing North America. In this alternate universe, a change in the wording of the US Constitution has given rise to an alternate world that reveres self-reliance, the encouragement to carry firearms by all citizens, and the recognition of all sentient life as citizens, including gorillas, dolphins and chimpanzees who live along side humans as equals. As Win learns about this new world, we the reader are also introduced to its new customs and ideas of freedom.

Win tracks down his counterpart in this alternate universe, a gumshoe named Ed Bear, and together they work to solve the case of Meiss’ murder which they learn was part of a “Hamiltonian” forces plot to take over the North American Confederacy. As they travel to warn the NAC Continental Congress of the pending threat, Ed and healer Clarissa Olsen are kidnapped, leaving Win and congresswoman Lucy to reveal the pending plot and then to rescue their friends. In the end, the evil Federalist Hamiltonians are routed, Gallantinian interests are restored, and happy endings ensue.

I happened upon The Probability Broach when it was first published in 1980 in my local book store and still own my first edition paperback copy to this day. It was L. Neil Smith’s first novel and I feel that it is the best of the North American Confederacy Series that followed it. Interspersed between the action of gun-toting gorillas, dolphin scientists and various duels are conversations about life in an Libertarian style utopia and the right to carry firearms. The Probability Broach is a thinking reader’s novel, one that presents ideas about a new society, wrapped up in a fun adventurous read about an “alternate history” that came about due to a single word change in the US Constitution.

One of the main functions of science fiction, in my view, is to offer up new ideas of how life might be like under a different political system or different culture. Sometimes those new ideas are horrifying, dystopias where humanity is unable to escape from the thumb of an oppressive government, but other times they make you stop and think that perhaps things could be different in a more positive way. The Probability Broach, whether you agree with Libertarian ideas or not, is certainly a novel that will make you stop and re-examine the way we do things and give you a better understanding of what Libertarianism is in general. I recommend this novel on that basis, as a way to discover new concepts while enjoying a fun, alternate history, science fiction story.

The Probability Broach Book CoverNorth American Confederacy series:

The Probability Broach (1980, unexpurgated edition 1996, graphic novel 2004)
The Nagasaki Vector (1983)
The American Zone (2001)
The Venus Belt (1980)
Their Majesties’ Bucketeers (1981)
Tom Paine Maru (1984)
The Gallatin Divergence (1985)
Brightsuit MacBear (1988) [first in new series set in NAC universe]
Taflak Lysandra (1989) [second in new series set in NAC universe]

Author Interview: Glen Robinson

Being a writer of steampunk or alternate history novels myself, I was very delighted to discovered Glen Robinson with his interesting mix of fictional and historical characters. Glen writes his steampunk novels under the pen name of Jackson Paul. I hope you’ll join me in welcoming him here at No Wasted Ink.

Author Glen RobinsonMy name is Glen Robinson. I am a professor of Communication at a small university outside Fort Worth, Texas. I have been happily married for 37 years and have three grown kids and one grandson. I have been teaching for 14 years and before that I was a book and magazine editor.

When and why did you begin writing?

I have had a passion for writing ever since high school. Every job that I have taken since college has been one that either called for me to write or allowed me time to write on the side. I write because, as a Christian, I feel I have something to say. And I write because I enjoy it—some projects more than others.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I have wanted to be a writer since I was in high school in the 70s, but my first book was published in 1983, so I guess that’s when I first officially considered myself a writer. Although even today, during the writing process, there are times when I feel I haven’t learned enough to consider myself a writer. But everyone goes through that.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I am working on several projects at present, but the book we are talking about here is “Tom Horn vs. the Warlords of Krupp.” I probably had more fun writing this book than any of my other book projects. It’s a tongue-in-cheek look at a steampunk America and Europe, the last years of the Old West, and alternate history. The story is littered with real historical characters, who as far as I know never met each other, but could have. The premise is that Tom Horn, a western gunslinger, is recruited by old friend Teddy Roosevelt to escort his 16-year-old niece Eleanor Roosevelt to Vienna. The Krupp Weapons Corporation is intent on making World War I happen (early actually), and a summit peace meeting in Vienna is intended to stop the war. Eleanor has a special talent of persuasion, and Roosevelt thinks she can help prevent war. But the Krupp people send assassins and other bad guys to stop them on their trip.

What inspired you to write this book?

Since moving to Texas in 1998, I have been inspired by the heritage that is around me here. I am also a big fan of alternate history.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My background is news writing, so I tend not to be too flowery with my writing. I especially love to allow my main character to develop a distinctive voice, and follow that whenever it happens. That’s a lot of the fun of this genre and this particular story. Also the contrast between Eastern and European “sophistication,” versus Western directness and simpleness.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

I look at it as along the lines of old serials of the 50s, so I tried to find something that would fit that mold.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

If there’s any message, it’s that simpleness is not always stupidness. Sophistication has its own issues.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

You mean like falling from a dirigible, being chased across snow by Germans in a steam-powered tank, or launching a glider from the top of the Eiffel Tower? No, most of the experiences are pretty well made up.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I like Orson Scott Card, Tom Clancy and Jerry Pournelle. I like how Card can weave spirituality into an otherwise straight science fiction story. I like Clancy because of his dedication to giving technical details that suggest credibility. And Pournelle was an early writer that got me inspired about the possibilities in my own writing.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Right out of college, my mentor was a fellow named Arthur Milward. He mostly wrote short stories for Reader’s Digest, Redbook and Saturday Evening Post. But he was very good, and had a lot of good advice for me. I miss him a lot.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I teach a class called Applied PR and Advertising, and one of my students suggested I look on deviantart.com for an illustrator. The cover art is by Mateusz Ozminski, also known on Deviant Art as artozi, who lives in Poland. He gave us a good price. The typography was done by my son, Matthew Robinson.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yeah lots. That’s why I teach writing classes. But in a nutshell, you have to keep trying, no matter what anyone else says. And keep your priorities straight.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I hope to do a sequel to Tom Horn one of these days. In the meantime, check out my many other books under my name or my pen name Jackson Paul on Amazon or on Smashwords.

Tom Horn Book CoverGlen Robinson
Cleburne, TX
Author of 11 published books in Christian suspense, steampunk/alternate history and science fiction.

Tom Horn vs. The Warlords of Krupp
Prevail Publications
Cover art by Mateusz Ozminski