Scifipulse recently had the privilege of interviewing Mike Brooks. Mike is the author of the Keiko novels Dark Sky, Dark Run and Dark Deeds. Mike has also written for Games Workshop’s Black Library imprint and has worked in the homelessness sector for fifteen years. As well as this, Mike sings and plays in a punk band. Here Mike talks about his new novel The Black Coast as well as how to make readers see the world from the perspective of a mind fundamentally different to theirs.
SFP: What sparked your interest in science fiction?
Mike Brooks: I honestly don’t know! I can’t tell you why I’ve always been drawn more to fantastical stories than realistic ones. I think that most of the first reading children do is fantastical – you get a lot of kids books about talking and thinking animals, anthropomorphised or otherwise, plus witches, fairies etc: somewhat fewer about insurance brokers or whatever. I guess the appeal of the unrealistic stuck.
SFP: What are your thoughts on “anti-woke” people?
Mike Brooks: I wish people wouldn’t use ‘woke’ so much, for me it kind of plays into narratives like the ‘red pill’, and ‘sheeple’, and so on. It feels like an all-or-nothing claim, that you’re either ‘woke’ or not, and I don’t like that. I like to think of myself as a fairly progressively-minded person, but that doesn’t mean that I know best about everything; I’m still ignorant and biased in certain areas, although I do my best not to be, and to learn and educate myself. But so far as I can tell, being “anti-woke” means you’re not only fine with, but are actually proud of, being bigoted in some form or other. And I simply cannot understand people who think in that manner. I wish they would go away, or at the very least stay quiet. I have no time for them.
SFP: What stories can be told in science fiction that have not yet been addressed?
Mike Brooks: No idea. I’m not a story theorist! I just write what I feel like writing, and other than trying to make sure I’m not directly ripping someone off, I’m not hugely bothered about whether the general themes have been covered before. The most important point is that you can tell pretty much any story in sci-fi and fantasy: I don’t think of them as genres so much as settings. What it tells you is that you are in a setting that is not like the real world in some way. Once that’s established, you can do what you want. The Expanse is as much or more political thriller as it is a story about first contact with aliens; RJ Barker’s Age of Assassins is a murder mystery; and Tasha Suri’s Books of Ambha are romances with political flavour in a fantasy world.
SFP: What for you is the greatest science fiction book of all time and why?
Mike Brooks: I have absolutely no idea. I probably couldn’t even reliably give you my top ten novels, let alone pick the best one of a certain genre.
SFP: Can you please tell us what fans can expect from The Black Coast series?
Mike Brooks: The Black Coast is the first in the God-King Chronicles, and it’s a low-magic fantasy thriller with themes of diversity, acceptance, religion, and gods. There is magic, and there are monsters, but it’s not the throwing-fireballs kind of magic; it’s more subtle than that. I wanted to write something vaguely similar to Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord books about King Arthur, and explore how people’s understandings of magic and religion make them act. As well as that, it’s about different peoples faced with circumstances which mean they have to learn to live together; although there are of course many barriers to that, ranging from prejudice to body-possessing demons…
SFP: What is one sci-fi book you wish you had written and what would you have done differently if you had been writing it?
Mike Brooks: I don’t think there is one, to be honest. I’m happy to be writing my stuff, and leave other people to write theirs. Obviously you read things and think that you’d have been happier had something been done in a different way, but I can’t think of any book or instance that I have a burning desire to change.
SFP: How do you put a human reader in the shoes of an alien (eg an Ork) and make the reader empathize with them?
Mike Brooks: For any character, you need to introduce the reader to how they think and why their view of the world makes sense to them. Orks have an easy worldview to understand, even if you don’t share it: fighting is the most fun thing that they can do. Once that fact is established, it makes perfect sense for them to act in the way they do. They’re not even being particularly cruel, they’re just doing what they want to do, and don’t really understand (nor, to be fair, would they care) that other species don’t necessarily feel the same way about it. So you need to find an explanation for why a character feels the way they do, what it is that has made them see the world in a certain way, and why their actions are a logical reaction to that. If you can do that, the reader will (hopefully) understand the character’s motivations and accept them as a real person, even if they don’t agree with the character’s actions.
SFP: And finally, if you could assemble a team of 5 characters from across all science fiction, fantasy and comics to fight a zombie apocalypse, who would you choose and why?
Mike Brooks: That’s a tricky one. I think I’d take Roboute Guilliman from Warhammer 40,000 for overall command, since he’s a genius with logistics and also one of the more humane of the Primarchs. Rogal Dorn might be better for building defences but he’s rather colder, and besides zombies probably aren’t going to have hugely complicated strategies for breaching strongpoints. But Roboute could make sure that supply lines keep operating, and no one is left undefended. Then I’d take Song Oak from Kipo And The Age Of Wonderbeasts, since she’d be great at working on a vaccine. I’d probably recruit Beast from Marvel to work on that with her (and defend her if zombies breach the lab). I’d take Moist von Lipwig from Discworld to essentially be the propaganda guy, reassure everyone and get the right messages out at the right times and in the right manner. And finally, it would be a toss-up between Carnival from the Deepgate Codex or Selene from Underworld as a strike leader for attacks or rescue missions. Selene probably plays better with others, but Carnival can actually fly…
Scifipulse would like to extend our warmest thanks and best wishes to Mike for so graciously answering our questions.
Mike’s website is http://www.mikebrooks.co.uk
His Twitter is @MikeBrooks668