I met James C. Glass at the Los Angeles Literary and Science Fiction Convention known locally as LosCon. I’m pleased that Mr. Glass has consented to grant No Wasted Ink an interview about his latest science fiction novel, Branegate.
My mother taught me to read by reading the comics to me on her lap, and pointing to the words. I was reading at second grade level at age four, but had to learn my alphabet before I could enter kindergarten. By first grade I was reading at fourth grade level, and devouring library books on children’s fiction as well as all sciences, especially astronomy. I was strongly attracted to books, and the reading itself inspired me to make up my own stories, which I did from third grade on. I discovered science fiction in junior high by reading Heinlein’s RED PLANET. Attraction to that genre was natural for me, since I had decided in third grade I wanted to be an astronomer. The actual writing down of stories and sending them in began in ninth grade, and went through high school. My best friend in high school was a Chesley Bonestell-type artist, and we put out a fanzine for three years. One of our teenage authors, Joel Nydahl, actually sold two stories to Galaxy when he was around thirteen, and I managed a hand-written rejection from F&SF. (“Not quite, but please do try us again.”)
It was around this time that I began to really think of myself as a writer, but my science interests were becoming quite strong, and dominated my life by age sixteen, when I started college. For around six years I didn’t even read fiction, let alone write it. I went to U.C. Berkeley, worked my way through as an emulsion and bubble chamber film scanner and accelerator technician on ‘the hill’, and got a B.A. in Physics and Astronomy.
I got married in my senior year, did plasma physics in the Berkeley Sherwood Project and then got a job at Rocketdyne to work on arc jet and ion engines. The writing bug gave me a warning bite around this time; I wrote a few things, and got more than halfway through the Famous Writers School course before dropping out when life intervened again.
The first of four children arrived, and I went back to graduate school at Cal State Northridge for an M.S. in Physics. There, my life changed again when I discovered teaching and went on for a Physics Ph.D. at the University of Nevada, Reno. I wasn’t writing fiction, but I was living life with its hopes, dreams, failures and the drama that goes with it. In all those years I was gathering life experiences for the writing yet to come, raising children, doing science and then going through a painful divorce.
I married again, and suddenly had encouragement to do things I’d talked about doing, but hadn’t pursued. The writing bug bit very hard this time, and I began doing it regularly. More importantly I began to read fiction again, and suddenly new ideas were coming, drawn from reading and my own life experiences. I discovered I could exorcize demons of my own through writing. I’m a romantic, and rather emotional, and have found pleasure in pouring it all out on the page. I enjoy examining the dark and bright side of all my characters, hero or villain. And I draw from many people I have known. Science fiction is about science, but it is mainly about life and what makes us human in our reactions to it. And that’s what I try to show in my fiction.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
In BRANEGATE, an immortal race has established colonies in a neighboring universe, and there is success as well as oppression there, but now the home planet has been taken over by a group of corrupt bishops who want the colony planets back under their control. They plan an invasion via a branegate through the brane separating the two universes. My hero Trae is the reincarnated son of an immortal missionary who has worked to spread freedom and democracy in the colony worlds. His disciples have gone underground to escape the wrath of an emperor. BRANEGATE is the story of Trae’s coming of age, the discovery of his special powers and influence, and his eventual war against invaders from another universe.
What inspired you to write the book?
I’m interested in the idea of neighboring universes separated only by five-dimensional ‘branes (membranes), and I started with the question, “what if there was an invasion from one universe to another?”
How did you come up with the title of this book?
BRANEGATE seemed like an adequate name for the hole in the membrane connecting two universes. It indeed behaves like a gate in the brane.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
If there’s any message here, it is that freedom generally triumphs over oppression.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
Hemmingway and Steinbeck wrote passionate characters fighting against heavy odds, and that influenced my writing from the start. Zelazny did the same for me later. Heinlein, Hamilton, van Vogt, Clarke and Sawyer influenced how much science I mix into my stories. Harlan Ellison is my literary God for his mastery of the language, and the emotional content of his writing. I want my stories to be an emotional experience for my readers.
If you had to choose, is there a writer you would consider a mentor? Why?
John Dalmas and Mary Jane Engh critiqued my early work and have been first readers for me for decades. Algis Budrys ran the Writers of the Future workshop I attended, and was my first editor at Baen Books. These people taught be story and craft. Roger Zelazny held me up and gave me courage when I went through a dry season of publishing, and reminded me that writing isn’t about publishing, it’s about telling a good story.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
I had no say in the illustrator, but I did submit a sketch of my view of the cover, and the final product had good resemblance to it. I’ve done my own covers for two books. (VISIONS and SEDONA CONSPIRACY) The cover for BRANEGATE was designed my publisher Patrick Swenson at Fairwood Press, and he selected the cover artist who had also done the cover for my novel THE VIPER OF PORTELLO.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write, rewrite, and send it in until you run out of markets, starting with the top ones. Persist. There is no easy way. For new writers, I also highly recommend the Writers of the Future contest. The exposure is incredible, and it opens a lot of doors for the winners. Also, it’s never too late. I sold my first story at age fifty, my first novel at age sixty one, and at seventy five I’m still turning out books and short stories. Regardless of age, if you want to do it, just do it!
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
You can see what I’m up to by checking my web site. If you see me at a con, be sure to say hello and give me some feedback on my work. After all, I’m doing it for you.
James C. Glass
Spokane, Washington and Desert Hot Springs, California
Jim writes science fiction and fantasy, has over sixty stories, four collections and nine novels published. He won the grand prize of Writers of the future in 1991.