Michael Underwood’s debut novel, Geekomancy, has been called “modern, sleek and whip-smart” by Cassie Alexander, and Mari Macusi says it’s “fun, fresh and full of geek culture references that will have you LOLing to the very last page.” I met Michael at WisCon this year, and asked him to share his thoughts about influences and how they affect his writing.
Bringing It with You
I grew up in the land of SF/F. I watched Star Wars and Star Trek as a wee youth and grew up geek without knowing that was what I was doing. So when I set out on my path to be a writer, I naturally brought those experiences with me, and unsurprisingly, I ended up writing genre fiction.
But there’s more to life than swords & lasers. Cultivating a cool list of interests is something I think all writers should do. It means we have several perspectives on the world, get to meet people from outside our ‘home’ communities in fandom, and, in my case, give a writer more things to say in their writing. If everyone has read the same books, seen the same movies, and we’re only ever re-writing those same stories, responding to the same list of shared narratives, then we’re a closed system, entropy will win out, and the community would cease having anything remotely new or interesting to say.
My own passions outside the genre include history, martial arts, social dance, and geek culture. I’ve brought each of those passions into my writing, and will continue to do so in new ways as my passions develop over time.
For my debut novel Geekomancy, I took my life-long love of geekdom and geek cultures and crammed it into every single nook and cranny of the novel. I had my lifetime-so-far of experiences as a geek to draw upon, but I also had a M.A. in Folklore Studies, with a focus in subcultural studies, as well as years of experience working customer service in the world of hobby and leisure retail, not to mention a tenure in the world of food service.
Y’know, like Clerks. Every day that something went terribly wrong at the game store, or someone came into the bookstore asking for ‘That one book. You know. It has a blue cover,’ the story of Clerks resonated more and more with me. I wanted to portray a protagonist who was happy with her world and her friends, if not with her immediate post-breakup circumstances, so I gave her a world of boisterous customers, happy hours, delicious pizza and marvelous milkshakes – my world, as I see it, and as I’ve lived it.
There is no one kind of science fiction story, or even three or ten. There are as many different stories as there are people telling them. The world of genre fiction is just one of many places where conversations about society, the nature of humanity, ethics and morality are playing out. We use lasers and swords, other artists use guns and courtrooms, society balls and immaculate gardens.
Genre is neither beginning nor end, it’s a combination of tools and settings, an ongoing conversation that exists on its own and in dialogue with many other conversations. We’re always adding new inputs, incorporating new information, processing, thinking and re-thinking. And it’s awesome.