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 Nick Cole, an army veteran and working actor living in Southern California. Nick is also the the author of The Wasteland Saga and his new standalone novel, Soda Pop Soldier, is available August 12th from Harper Voyager. Read an excerpt from the book here on Tor.com!
If we’re real nice, maybe we can get Nick to do his Connery impression for us…
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
C.S. Lewis was the gateway, as read to me and my second grade class by our teacher Jonathan Marks. Then about the 5th grade I discovered J.R.R. Tolkien’s ability to make an entire living breathing world inside your head. I began to make my own maps and plan how to conquer these strange worlds I’d mimicked in the Tolkien style.
But then of course, the Choose your Own Adventure novels came along and that was incredible because they allowed you to participate, and fail as I often did, in the fantastic. Deadwood City and Chimney Rock along with Third Planet from Altair were my favorites. Role Playing games had their place later and then in my late twenties I began to think about the end of the world and post-apocalyptic settings which was part of the process of writing The Wasteland Saga. Now, I’m thinking about re-reading The Hobbit and the rest of the Tolkien books and enjoying the really Hobbit-y parts.
Choose your preferred fictional vacation spot: Narnia or Middle-earth?
I’d like to live at the edge of the Shire. I’d like to disappear for weeks at a time into the east. I’d like to go on adventures and come back to my Hobbit hole and sit by the fire with food and tea. I’d be that kind of hobbit. Y’know, the strange kind who liked his adventures and a good fire.
Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.
I was in an improv troop called the Over-Reactors. What we lacked in talent we made up for in enthusiasm and Sean Connery impressions.
What is your favorite short story?
Probably “Arc of Descent” by Stephen King from Nightmares and Dreamscapes, as read by Rob Lowe. There was a period in my life when I was spending a lot of lonely hours on the road out in the southwest, and King’s tale of revenge and love is basically a version of my other favorite short tale, “The Cask of Amontillado,” except with a backhoe and a State Highway Department detour.
Cast the main characters of your new/upcoming novel (in other words, choose your dream cast for a Hollywood adaptation of your book).
I couldn’t resist this question because of my background in acting. So the main guy is an everyman gamer named PerfectQuestion. I’d probably go with Jason Schwartzman, who can easily nail the nerd slash hardboiled component as evidenced by his work on Bored to Death, or I’d select Joshua Jackson from Fringe for the witty determined and smart aspects of the character. Then there’s JollyBoy, an intel specialist with a passion for silenced pistols and insane battle plans who reminds me of a certain Batman villain, so I’d definitely cast Andrew Scott (Moriarty) from Sherlock in this role. PerfectQuestion’s heavily armed ColaCorp comrade in arms, Kiwi, would go to Manu Bennet from Arrow and for RiotGuurl, a gunship pilot and love interest, I’d pick Felicia Day. For the role of Fautus Mercator, the villain, I’d ask Gary Oldman to shave his head and wear a monocle along with a wide brimmed hat, so I could hang out on the set and bother him with all kinds of acting questions while he blew everybody’s mind with his… y’know… mind-blowing acting super powers.
Do you have a favorite unknown author?
I would say David Mitchell, which certain readers know of, but the main stream, or at least every time I suggest his name to someone looking for a book, have never heard of him. Black Swan Green was brilliant but so is Cloud Atlas and Number Nine Dream. Great writer, elegant prose. May I also jump in one more time and suggest John Biggins and his World War One fiction series that starts with A Sailor of Austria. He is delightful and completely under-appreciated.
Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?
For The Savage Boy I learned how to, without firearms, kill and skin a bear.
If you were secretly going to write fanfic (or, even better, slashfic) about any two characters, who would they be?
One would be Mad Max and the other would be Thundarr the Barbarian. Admit it, we’re all waiting for a Thundarr movie and I call “dibs” on writing the screenplay and getting a cameo somewhere under a cracked-in-half moon. Snake Pliskin would be cool, too.
If you could find one previously undiscovered book by a non-living author, who would it be? Why?
I think it would definitely be a novel by Raymond Chandler. He really only wrote six complete Philip Marlowe novels, so it would be very exciting to get another classic LA Noir novel from the golden age of pulp. After that, a Vonnegut would be my other choice. I’m still holding out for a rumored novel about a comedian he was working on near the time of his death.
What literary or film science fiction technology do you wish existed in our world right now?
I’ll say something contrary and seemingly simple here, but I wish this literary device actually existed as a literary device again: I wish FTL (Faster than Light) travel would make a comeback in Science Fiction. As in: I wish it was taken seriously, as it used to be when people weren’t afraid to dream up that stuff. SciFi was fun back then. Then Hard Science Fiction, which I love, came in and rained all over the “Jump to Light Speed” crowd. Somehow it made Science Fiction not fun anymore and even ironically, impossible. I’m saying there’s a place for both, and obviously with the new Warp Bubble Ship that the guy on the internet and NASA came up with, it’s possible. I’d like to see writers get back to the Art of the Impossible, which is what Science Fiction used to be about. I’d like to see warp drive, hyperspace, FTL, and I’d like to get back to Altair Three and Nebuloun IV. I’d like to meet alien empires and have space wars and struggle for survival on mysterious planets. I think it’s possible and I think we should stop being bullied by the naysayers. Warp Factor Five. Second star from the right, straight on ‘til morning.
What’s your favorite fairy tale, or fairy tale retelling?
What’s a fairy tale? It’s merely a morality lesson wrapped up in a digestible package. So I love them because I think morals are something we consider passé in modern society until a bunch of bankers decide to rip off the economy and then suddenly everyone’s concerned about right and wrong again. So quickly I will relate my favorite.
There was a fairy princess walking through a fairy forest and she found a snake that had been run over by a cart. She felt sorry for the snake and took it home. She nursed it back to health, cared for it and waited by its little snake crib every day, hoping the snake would get better. In time she fell in love with the snake and when she could no longer restrain her passion she bent down and kissed the snake. The snake immediately bit her and injected all his lethal poison into her cheek. As she lay dying she asked the snake, “Why? Why did you do this? I cared for you. I healed you. I love you. Why would you bite me and kill me?”
The snake replied, “Stupid Princess, I’m a snake, what’d you expect me to do?”