Interview with Guy Hasson, author of THE EMOTICON GENERATION
Posted April 2, 2013on:
Welcome to the Guy Hasson THE EMOTICON GENERATION blog tour! Today we kick the tour off, and be sure to check here for the schedule and links to the other blogs.
Guy Hasson writes near-future science fiction, intimate stories suggesting technologies that fifty years away, or twenty years away, or maybe twenty minutes away. His stories are all different, but what they share in common is characters the reader instantly cares about, and a story that pulls you right in. THE EMOTICON GENERATION deals with a wide range of technological questions, but most importantly (at least for me), the idea that just because we can create a technology that does something, that doesn’t mean we should use it, that we should play God with it. Guy Hasson is also serializing his new mythology/fairy tale story TICKLING BUTTERFLIES on his blog. After a handful of e-mails back and forth with Guy I finally formalized a few questions for him.
Guy took time out of his busy day to answer a few questions for me, what a great way to kick off the blog tour!
You publish in both Hebrew and English. Do you find certain words, phrases, or even types of scenes work better in one language or another?
Oh, there are many, many differences, even between two Western societies that are basically similar. I’ll give you an example from The Simpsons. In season one’s first episode, five hundred years ago, what did Bart call a mailman that’s actually a woman? He called her a ‘fe-mailman’ (or a ‘femaleman’, depending on how you want to spell it). Try translating that into another language you know. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
I’ve lived in two different countries, in two different societies, speaking two different languages, and I write my science fiction to fit both of them equally. To do that, I use a few tricks. Here’s one of them: Americans find it very hard to have the ‘hero’ of a science fiction story or novel be anyone but an American. Now you’d think that for other countries, they would need the hero to be from their country. But that’s not the ‘foreign’ mentality. The US has dominated world SF for practically a hundred years now in stories, books, and film. So readers and movie-goers in foreign countries expect to see American heroes star in their SF. So Americans and ‘foreigners’ expect to see the same thing, for completely different reasons.
Have any funny stories about translations gone wrong?
None that have to do with my stories come to mind. But here’s one that didn’t happen to me. Once, a translator had to translate the sentence “I saw Christian Slater.” You’d think that’d be a simple enough sentence to translate.
But this translator never heard of the Christian Slater the actor. So the translation read, “I saw a Christian roofer.”
That really happened.
You work in films and the written word. When an idea forms in your mind, how do you decide if it would work better as a written story, or as visual media?
Stories begin as a single idea attached to an emotion. Once I get the original idea-emotion, it leads me to carve out the beginning, the middle, the ending, as well as the various layers of the story. The original idea even has in it, hidden, the medium in which it should be told. I can’t turn a story idea into a film or vice versa.
I’ll give you an example. A couple of months ago, when The Emoticon Generation came out, I was approached by a Hollywood producer who wanted to adapt Her Destiny, one of the novellas in the book, to a film. When he considered me to write script, as well, he asked me how I would write it, I said (roughly): “Well, you can’t do the same thing; it’s a different medium. Her Destiny is a really big story about a small, personal drama. But if I did it in film, I’d make it a big story about a big drama. Where in the novella, one person ended up seeing his own destiny, in the film I would have everyone in the world see their own destiny at the end.”
Different mediums love different things. For me, writing prose is about ideas first, writing plays is about gut-wrenching dramas or otfl comedies, and writing film is about seeing into the very souls of the main characters.
You and I have talked over e-mail a bit about Tickling Butterflies, can you let our readers know a little more about this serialized fairy tale? I’ve read the first two parts and greatly enjoyed them. What’s the time frame for having all of it online? What are you plans after the entire story has been published?
Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy, but not like the epic fantasies you’re used to.
Tickling Butterflies exists in a world where stories have power. Stories transport you. The more times a story is told, the more power it has. Fairy tales are most powerful, because stories that are told a million and eleven times create that story in a very special fairy tale land. There, all the fairy tales come true.
Tickling Butterflies is about King John the Cute, who was born in the fairy tale land, but found the truth about his world, found a way to look back in on us, the storytellers and storymakers. He then found the power we have over them, but also the power they have over us…
(Don’t worry – no spoilers. All of that is written in the book’s prologue.)
Tickling Butterflies is written as 128 separate fairytales, supposedly independent, but actually not at all. Together, they make up an epic saga about the nature of the fairy land, about the nature of Earth, and about King John the Cute and his terrible journey.
The book is due out in Israel, translated into Hebrew, in October 2013. I’m currently on the cusp of closing a deal with another European publisher, so I can’t talk about that yet. Remember the Simpson quote? Tickling Butterflies is full of ridiculous, untranslatable plays on words. I pity the translators.
These days, I’m using the power of the web and serializing Tickling Butterflies at my blog, one fairy tale at a time, every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. It’s going to take a few more months till you can read the end of the book. But in the meantime, you have a chance to get three weekly doses of fairy tales that are going to get steadily more complex and more intricate as the story continues.
Where I live, we have a pretty vibrant (if underground) speculative fiction community. Local book clubs, conventions, retail shops that specialize in scifi, fantasy, comics, and gaming. What is the speculative fiction community like in Israel, or in other countries that you’ve live in?
Right now, there’s a vibrant SF community with everything you mention. But everything here is new. I was actually part of a historical focal point in its history. Everyone my age grew up in the Seventies or Eighties reading SF classics that were translated into Hebrew (almost all the classic classics, not the newer classics). SF was considered American. An Israeli author couldn’t possibly write quality science fiction. That would be ridiculous.
In 2002, my first paperback was published. Simultaneously and independently, another new Israeli author, Vered Tochterman, published her SF anthology with another publisher. She rose from the ranks of the fans, having won writing competition after writing competition, until an SF publisher chose to take a risk on her book. As for me, I was published by one of the more veteran publishers, who thought my book was good literature, even though it was SF, and also due to the fact that I had already published in the US. In trying to find ways to market my book, I discovered to my surprise that science fiction conventions exist, and was immediately invited to one of the panels.
Vered and I were both seated in the panel, talking about our new books to an audience who clearly couldn’t believe that any good SF could come from within. Over the next couple of years, that changed. There was a new SF magazine devoted to original Israeli SF, while my publisher published another book of mine, Life: The Game, and I serialized another one online, called God’s Shadow. It was during those years that Lavie Tidhar made his first appearance, too, after having won the Clarke award.
By accident, everything happened at the same time. And suddenly it was possible to have good SF authors who are not American or British.
But now a few years have passed. There’s a new much younger generation of SF readers who take original Israeli SF for granted. From what I’ve seen, the mass bestsellers are the main things that interest them.
Speaking of the Israeli science fiction community, you’ve twice now won the Geffen Award, for All of Me™ and The Perfect Girl. Tell us a bit about that!
No one scratched anyone else’s eyes out, if that’s what you mean. But I’ll tell you my personal experience from it.
The first award was given at a convention a year after my first paperback was published, and I was excited to finally be a published author. I always thought prizes are silly and don’t really indicate quality. I always thought the quality of someone’s work should speak for itself, and who cares about the prizes. I thought I wouldn’t be excited. But I was. My heart raced, and it was hard to swallow. My main thought was that if I ever get nominated for a Hugo or a Nebula, it would be even worse. And I thought that it shouldn’t be; it’s just a prize.
When it happened and my name was called, I had tunnel vision. I got up to the stage, shook Orson Scott Card’s hand (he called the names of the winners), practically shoved him aside, gave my speech, and got off the stage as quickly as possible. Tunnel vision.
Well, a few years have passed. And I really hope that my subconscious has realized that prizes aren’t worth anything except as a marketing tool. And I hope that if I ever do get nominated for one of the Big Awards, I won’t be nervous at all.
What work of yours are you most proud of?
Tickling Butterflies is the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s an explosion of imagination, with 128 unique fairy tales that explore every aspect of what a fairy tale can be. It’s an exploration of beauty – how to make stories beautiful, what makes beauty, and where true beauty lies in the characters themselves. And lastly, if you read it to the end: The book itself is 500 pages or so, and each and every one of the last 100 pages is going to whack you over the head. So, personally, that’s the work of mine I’m most proud of.
Having said that, I try to do something completely different every time I write, so some things you just can’t compare to others. The novella Hatchling, which can be found in The Emoticon Generation, is the story readers so far have considered my best one. You start reading it at midnight, thinking you’ll only read a couple of pages then fall asleep, and you end up staying up half the night to find out what happens. You’ll think you know what the solution is, but you’ll be wrong. And on the way you’ll fall in love with Glynis, the young heroine of the story, and never forget her. Hatchling is by far the most translated story. In fact, it just won an SF competition in Russia as the Best Foreign SF Story.
Her Destiny, also in The Emoticon Generation, takes you on a journey into yourself, into places you don’t know, and into a feeling of destiny you didn’t know you had.
On the other side of the SF scale, my novella, Most Beautiful Intimacy, which can be found in my book Secret Thoughts, is going to do to you things you never thought possible. In a world where telepaths exist and can only sense feelings and thoughts through touch, a female telepath becomes pregnant. She carries the child to term, never being able to separate from him. She feels his first half-thoughts form, his first half-emotions, his first sense of touch, the first time he hears music, and so much more.
What are you currently working on?
Lately, I’m shifting into a new mode that’s all about the power of the web. Serializing Tickling Butterflies is only the first step.
I’m currently working on three new things:
One: The Indestructibles was an idea for a two-hundred million dollar film. Instead of waiting for Hollywood, I decided there was a way to do it with no money whatsoever. I’ve got a camera, I can edit on my computer, I know actors, and I know I can shoot a film by myself, having already done it. I just had to find a way to tell the 200 million dollar idea in a way I could shoot it by myself. And that’s what I did. The Indestructibles is a no-budget, 45-min. film about a centuries- spanning superhero tragedy. We already shot the film, edited most of it, and are now waiting on the music. When the film is done (hopefully in less than two months) I’ll release it on the web, for free, broken into seven webisodes. I won’t make you wait for the webisodes – I’ll publish all of them together and you can watch it/them as you like. If you’re interested, you can follow the monthly film journal and see the film’s journey from conception, through rehearsals, to editing, sound, and release.
Two: In July I’m going to become a comic book publisher that publishes digital comics. We’re currently working on creating the app for the iPad, iPhone, and Android as our first step. In the beginning, you’re going to see only titles that I write. If we earn money, I’ll ask more writers to join. I can’t actually reveal at this stage what the new series are about. But here’s what I can say. The first series is a comedy about the goofiest superhero you’ve ever seen. I’m using my background in comedy in the theater to give you an experience that will have you on the floor laughing by the end of each issue. Here’s a preview. The other two series will be quite different. One is a fantasy epic (again, different than any epic you’ve seen) and the other is a science fiction tale. Each of them will have something you’ve absolutely never seen before.
Why become a writer and owner of a digital comic book publisher? Artistic freedom. I’ll be my own boss, and the readers will quality original stories. And there’ll be no suits telling anyone what the audience really wants to see.
Here’s hoping the power of the web works for these two projects. If you want to keep updated, check my homepage for news in the upcoming months.
And lastly, I just started writing a new play: a satire about the high-tech world. A high-tech company working for God, is given the task of creating His latest miracle. That’s all I’m going to say.
I was recently asked what titles I’d recommend to high school students to get them interested in careers in math and science. Any suggestions?
Ah, gee, I don’t know. The best thing I can think of is Asimov’s non-fiction books. He wrote great articles and great books about basically anything, including many fields of science and math. I have an article of his at home in which he explains, in ten pages, how to count and do math in any base you want. It’s written in a way that a 12-year-old could understand, that’s how simple he makes it.
Another selfish question – what are your thoughts on e-readers? love them? hate them? indifferent?
On the one hand, I’m a guy who loves to smell his books and touch the pages. But on the other hand… My first published story was in an e-zine more than twelve years ago, when these things weren’t in fashion. This led to more stories being published online, which led to stories being published in magazines, which led to an e-book being published (again, more than ten years ago, when no one knew what that was), which in turn led to my books being published in paperback. And as you can see, I’m currently relying on the power of the web in serializing a novel online, in becoming an online digital comic books publisher, and in releasing my latest SF film.
Personally, as time goes by I’m getting more and more used to reading books in my Kindle app on my iPad.