The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Michael J. Martinez

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 Michael J. Martinez, author of The Daedalus Incident, which was named one of the best genre books of 2013 by Library Journal and BuzzFeed. (Read an excerpt here.) Its sequel, The Enceladus Crisis, is available May 6th from Night Shade Books. Mike’s been a writer for more than two decades, most of that as a journalist, though the whole fiction thing is pretty cool lately. He also travels a lot thanks to his travel-writer wife, and he brews his own beer. His 10-year-old daughter takes all his author headshots, including the one here, because why not?

Join us as we cover subjects ranging from Benjamin Franklin to R2-D2, and more!

If you could be incarnated as any historical figure, who would it be?

When I wrote The Daedalus Incident, I did a lot of research on Benjamin Franklin, who was this amazing polymath. Inventor, printer, writer, wit, entrepreneur, statesman, ladies’ man… and fire insurance salesman. Yes, in addition to everything else, Franklin founded a fire insurance company in Philadelphia. He invented bifocals, swim fins and the odometer, along with a bunch of other stuff he’s not even well known for. If you want to talk about a full, rich life (and a long one, too), then Benjamin Franklin is the model for it. I’d happily incarnate in his buckled shoes. I’m kind of sad he’s not in The Enceladus Crisis, though I did manage to work in a historically accurate reference, so it’ll have to do.

Describe your favorite place to write.

I spent the better part of two decades as a journalist, including a few stints with The Associated Press. One of the things you learn in a job like that is to take whatever time you’re given, plant your rear in a chair, and write fast. I pride myself on being able to make the most of whatever writing time I can cadge, wherever that happens to be. However, in writing The Enceladus Crisis, I discovered the joys of uninterrupted writing time when we dropped my daughter off at camp and spent several days in the mountains. My wife’s also a writer, so we would basically spend a half-day writing, just sitting together and doing our stuff, before going off to enjoy the rest of our downtime. And the mountains were lovely and serene. Other than missing my kid, it was perfect.

Michael J Martinez The Enceladus CrisisIf you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to The Enceladus Crisis, who would it be?

Brian May. Yes, I know Queen did the soundtrack to Highlander in all its cheesy ’80s glory. (And if you don’t get all choked up hearing “Who Wants to Live Forever?” then you’re a heartless jerk, I tell you.) I definitely see an orchestral bent to the soundtrack, as opposed to glam rock, but I think Brian May could write some pretty sweeping, epic stuff. He’s got the musical range for it. Plus, if there’s a need for some electric guitar, he’s absolutely one of the all-time greats.

Bad news: You’re about to be marooned alone on a desert island—name the five things you would bring along.

Let’s see. Food and water, of course, and I’m lumping them together because nobody said I couldn’t, and having one without the other doesn’t make sense. What else? Sunscreen. Very important; my wife would kill me if I didn’t bring some. Laptop, because think of the uninterrupted writing time! And a solar-cell battery charger, of course, so I don’t run out of juice. And finally…a satellite phone. Because, really, it’s the 21st century, and if you have a satellite phone (and the aforementioned solar-cell battery charger), you really don’t need to be marooned for long. Besides, I’d miss my family, and I got stuff to do that doesn’t involve being marooned.

What D&D character alignment best describes you first thing in the morning?

True neutral. Do not come between me and my coffee. I need at least one cup before rebooting my morality, and two cups before higher brain function is fully engaged.

Name your three favorite fictional villains of all time. Alternatively: Heroes or villains—which are more fun to write?

Trick question, because I don’t really think there are absolute villains, not in real life. I like a good mustache-twirler as much as the next guy, but I tend to have some sympathy for villains. They may be misguided, even amoral, but they believe they’re fighting for their particular greater good, even if it’s ultimately a selfish one. Don’t get me wrong, because I love a good hero—I’m not a huge fan of writing antiheroes, per se—but I think villains can be wonderfully complex and a lot of fun to write.

As for favorites? I don’t know if these qualify as “all time,” but they’re what I think about when I think of villains. I like the classic arc Darth Vader had, though certainly he could’ve used some better backstory (and dialogue) in the prequels. I thought Tom Hiddleston did a fantastic job with Loki in the Marvel films. Finally, I think Littlefinger from A Song of Ice and Fire is a brilliant schemer, an outright selfish villain in a series full of morally gray characters. He’s almost refreshing in that regard.

Cast the main characters of The Enceladus Crisis (in other words, choose your dream cast for a Hollywood adaptation of your book).

I’ve always had Freida Pinto in mind for Lt. Cmdr. Shaila Jain, because I think she can pull off the competence and control of that character, and maybe the temper, too. Now that Thomas Weatherby has grown up and is a captain, I’d go with Henry Cavill for that sort of square-jawed hero vibe, though I worry he’d look too young for it. Benedict Cumberbatch would make a perfectly dissolute Dr. Finch. The rest…I’ll let Hollywood decide when, you know, they option it. (Call me!)

What is your preferred robot noise? A) Beep, B) Boop.

Neither. My favorite is R2-D2’s “yeeeeooowwww” noise. You hear that, you know it just hit the fan.

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