Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by Keith R.A. DeCandido, probably best-known to Tor.com readers as the fellow rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine twice a week. Keith is an award-winning, best-selling author of a ton of media tie-in fiction (novels, short stories, comics, and more) in worlds ranging from TV shows (Star Trek, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Farscape, Leverage) to movies (Cars, Kung Fu Panda, Resident Evil, Serenity) to comic books (Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, the X-Men) to games (World of Warcraft, Dungeons & Dragons, StarCraft, Command and Conquer).
Join us as we cover subjects ranging from Alfred Bester to martial arts, and more!
Keith has also written bunches of fiction he keeps the copyright on, including the “Precinct” series of fantasy police procedurals that includes the novels Dragon Precinct, Unicorn Precinct, Goblin Precinct, and the upcoming Gryphon Precinct, as well as the short-story collection Tales from Dragon Precinct. His latest release is Ragnarok and Roll: Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet, out now from Plus One Press. It’s a collection of urban fantasy short stories taking place in Key West, Florida featuring scuba diving, folklore, rock and roll, and Norse gods.
Keith is also a veteran podcaster (The Chronic Rift, HG World, Gypsy Cove, The Dome, his own Dead Kitchen Radio: The Keith R.A. DeCandido Podcast), a second-degree black belt in karate, a musician (the percussionist for the parody band Boogie Knights), a die-hard fan of the New York Yankees, and probably some other things, too, which he can’t remember due to the lack of sleep.
Bad news: You’re about to be marooned on a desert island—name the five things you would bring along.
A seaworthy boat and four people who know how to operate it. Problem solved.
Describe your favorite place to write.
Anywhere and everywhere. The joy of laptops is that I can write wherever I want. One of my novels—the StarCraft: Ghost novel Nova—I wrote in a hotel room in Glasgow, a pub in Dublin, a cottage in Wicklow, a hotel room in Atlanta, my home in New York, various planes and trains that went back and forth between those places, and also my local Starbucks in August and September of 2005.
If you could choose your own personal theme music/song to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?
The four-note fanfare from “Danger Ahead,” popularized on Dragnet (dum-da-DUM-dum).
Here’s a two-parter: If you could go back in time and change one thing in the past, what would it be? And if you could time travel to the future, who or what would you most like to see?
I started studying karate in 2004, and the person who founded the discipline I study, and who was the person who taught my teacher, died about a month after I started training, so I never got to meet him. If I could go back in time, I’d find some way to keep him from dying—maybe alert paramedics to his heart attack before it happened so he might’ve been saved—so I could actually meet him and so he could have continued to directly influence martial artists everywhere instead of the way he’s indirectly doing it now.
As for the future, I want to see how the world changes when Belgium takes over the world.
Cast the main characters of your new/upcoming novel (in other words, choose your dream cast for a Hollywood adaptation of your book).
For the stories in Ragnarok and Roll: Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet, I’d love to see Blake Lively in the title role of Cassie, with David Ogden Stiers as Odin, Dominic Chianese as Captain Bottroff, J.D. Williams as Chet Smith, Katie Cassidy as Jana Naha, Matt Bomer as Agent Rance Demitrijian, Seth Rogen as Sandy the annoying musician, Richard Schiff as Cassie’s father, Allison Janney as Cassie’s mother, Amaury Nolasco as Paolo, Armin Shimerman as Larry, Manu Bennett as Thor, and Gretchen Mol as Sigyn (of all the roles, this is the one I’m most passionate about the casting of, as I totally write Sigyn as Mol). I have yet to find the right person to play either Loki (and no, Tom Hiddleston would not work) or Bobbi Ann Milewski.
Do you have a favorite word/phrase/etymology?
I love saying the word “Parsippany” in Bullwinkle J. Moose’s voice.
Choose your preferred fictional vacation spot: Narnia or Middle Earth or some other fictional realm…
The future seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation would be nice to live in. Replicators, no money problems, snazzy spaceships. Okay, there’s the whole the-Borg-may-blow-up-your-planet thing, but aside from that…
Heroes vs. Villains—which are more fun to write?
Villains are generally way more fun to write, though what’s really fun are self-centered bastards who have the capability of heroism and villainy both—for example, my favorite Deep Space Nine and Farscape characters to write are, respectively, Quark and Rygel.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
My parents fed me a steady diet of J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit), Ursula K. Le Guin (the Earthsea trilogy), Robert A. Heinlein (his juveniles), and P.G. Wodehouse (the Jeeves stories and novels), which explains my love of SF/fantasy and silly British humor (not to mention my pretentious insistence on using both middle initials…).
What would your Patronus/familiar be?
A tiger. Tigers are cool, and I have thought so since I was a little kid and adored both Daniel Striped Tiger on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh.
What’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to? (music, movies, pop culture, food, drink, etc…all fair game!)
I refuse to be guilty about any of my pleasures—nor do I think people should be guilty about things that make them happy. If you like death metal, American Idol, pickle-flavored prune juice, the songs of Barry Manilow, the post-John Amos episodes of Good Times, or even Star Trek: Enterprise, I’m not going to judge you, as long as you’re not harming anyone. Life’s too short not to enjoy yourself, and there’s enough real things to feel guilty about.
What D&D character alignment best describes you first thing in the morning?
Mfginner thrank zrfbst. I’m pre-verbal before coffee. (Slightly more seriously, is there such an alignment as “chaotic zombie”?)
If you, as a ghost, could regularly haunt one celebrity, author, or literary figure, who would it be?
Alfred Bester. Which would be weird, as he’s dead and I’m still alive, so we’d have to mess with the space-time continuum a bit, but he’s an author I’ve always admired and respected and loved, and one I even got to (posthumously) edit when I put together a definitive edition of The Stars My Destination, a reissue of The Demolished Man, an unfinished novel of his called Psychoshop (which was finished by Roger Zelazny), and a short story collection that included two unpublished works. Bester has been one of my favorite authors since I read The Demolished Man as a 17-year-old and it ripped my brain out through my ear, jumped up and down on it a few times, then stuffed it back in through my nose. I deeply regret never getting to meet him, so going back in time and haunting him would totally make up for that…
What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
Filling out questionnaires on the Internet.