interview by Joe Vaz

From Issue 16 (Dec 2011)

Where is home?
Home is in Santa Maria, California, nestled between steep canyon hills and surrounded by red oak trees and lots of wild critters.

Do you write full time?
I wish. I’m an electrical engineer at Lockheed-Martin, doing electrical engineery things. I also design nasty mechanical puzzles and games on the side. Probably best known for board games. Still, I’m going to retire in a year or two, and I hope to be fairly prolific after that.

What inspired this story?
I find it interesting to consider a new technical device and then consider the repercussions of introducing it to a society. A number of my stories start with the device, and follow an individual’s story as he (or society) learns to deal with it. More often than not, devices are inspired by whatever popular science book I’m reading at the time. For the life of me, however, I can’t remember the source of the initial inspiration for this story. I started writing it a few years ago and have been tweaking it ever since.

The Flayer is a hell of a doomsday device. How did you come up with it?
I wish I knew. Sometimes some of the most hideous things just pop into my mind and won’t go away. And writing them down usually just makes them worse.

How far away do you think mankind is from creating something as dangerous as the Flayer (not necessarily the technological aspect of it, but a weapon, or disease that could potentially wipe out half the planet in weeks or months)?
I think a disease is most likely to do the job, and I think we’re only a few mutations away from a serious pandemic at any time. All you need is one really nasty airborne virus with a two-week incubation period, and WHAM, it’s bye-bye humans. Unfortunately, our own efforts to cure diseases often make them stronger. Could happen next year or next century, but I do think it will happen. Hopefully we won’t have all our eggs on one basket by then.

Do you mostly write science fiction?
Yes, but there’s quite a bit of fantasy in there. Also, some of the science (like the Flayer) is so far out there that it might be considered science-fantasy.

What authors inspire you?
Christopher Moore, Iain Banks, David Brin, Steven Brust, Vernor Vinge, Terry Pratchett. I read a lot of different authors, though, and I’m always on the lookout for new authors I like. Lev Grossman and Marie Phillips are both promising new talents.

Are you working on anything right now?
Always. I’m shopping around for an agent for a book about a kid whose gravity points east. It’s a fun story with plenty of action, and I’m looking forward to finding a home for it. I have quite a few short stories in work. My brother and I are also working on a book together that basically covers all the contentious issues between Christianity and Humanism. We’re pretty much opposites, and writing has been stressful for both of us.

Where might we find more of your work?
Daily Science Fiction has published two very short stories, one SF and one Fantasy. As far as games and puzzles are concerned, there’s always, my business website.

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Joe Vaz

Joe Vaz is the founder and editor of Something Wicked, which occasionally affords him the honour and good fortune to hang out with really cool people.
In his other life he is a film and television actor who gets small parts in big movies, most recently in Dredd 3D, due to be released in September 2012.

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