spacer Click here to read more or purchase the book Steven Gould & Laura J. Mixon
conducted April 24, 1997

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Jim Freund:  Welcome to OmniVisions. Tonight our guests will be Steven Gould and Laura Mixon, authors of "Greenwar". Hi Steven & Laura! Glad to see you here.

Laura J Mixon:  Hi! Thanks for having us.

Steven Gould:  I feel like I should have a little stevie icon blinking.

LJM:  Honey, you =are= a little stevie icon. :)

JF:  I have to admit I'm about 75 pages from the end of Greenwar, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it. How would you describe it (briefly)?

SG:  In parallax (since Laura is describing it from her computer) I'd call it your average boy meets environment, boy loses environment, boy blows up environment sort of story.

LJM:  GREENWAR is about the clash of different ideologies -- or idealisms, if you prefer. And it's our fantasy of what a sustainable energy source might be like, what sorts of problems a young, energetic company might run into as it tries to buck the trend.

Hmmph! What about =girl= meets environment??

SG:  It's probably significant that the full title, or title/description on the cover goes: GREENWAR, an environmental thriller. We should also note that you can get a good in depth description and sense of the novel at its website:

JF:  Are Keith and Emma close to yourselves? (To audience--these are the protagonists)

SG:  There are aspects of each that are similar. I'll talk about Keith. He's got similar diving experience. He's a little younger than my 42 years. He's a smartass like me. But he diverges a bit after this. For those of you who haven't read GREENWAR yet, Keith is an EPA enforcement investigator borrowed by the FBI to go undercover at an potential target of an eco-terrorist group. Before working for the EPA, he worked for Greenpeace.

LJM:  Yes, Keith is definitely modeled after my animus. (Kidding, just kidding.)

You guessed correctly that Keith was Steve's character and Emma was mine, kinda sorta. There are definitely aspects of Emma's personality that I identify with strongly. She's also modeled in part after my mentor when I first got into the environmental engineering biz: a terrific, incredibly creative and brilliant and powerful woman named Irene, who is a dear friend. (Like Emma, she's a serious overachiever and very loving and smart.)

I think many women in traditionally male fields, such as engineering and business management, will identify with Emma. She's bossier than I am (shut up, Steve!) but we're both engineers who have been in upper management in a corporation.

JF:  At the risk of starting a marital issue online, was/is there anything like a Gabe or Boadica in your lives?

LJM:  You mean a radical? Or the great sex?

JF:  Take it any way you like. ;-)

SG:  Hmmm. The sex was better in an earlier draft (Gabe and Boadica's). I suspect each of us identifies with the urge to blow up polluters.

JF:  I can understand that as well, to an extent. Who are your heroes in fighting polluters?

SG:  Another aspect is that we're trying to represent a range of responses in the book. From corporations that pollute without qualm to radicals who believe that =all= technologies are evil. Obviously, we believe the appropriate place is somewhere in between.

LJM:  What Steve said. I've never been an environmental radical -- I spent many years in industry and believed staunchly that one should work within the system. But after almost two decades working within the system (and with some success, eventually) I have come to believe that some problems are so big and intractable -- and the consequences so serious if we =don't= change -- that dedicated activism and civil disobedience are absolutely necessary. There's always a price, though.

SG:  As far as heroes go: I greatly admire the Environmental Defense Fund. They achieve remarkable effects by working with business as opposed to simply attacking them. By giving businesses economically sound alternatives they've done wonders.

LJM:  I especially admire those who seek to persuade corporations and the government to address the concerns of posterity -- I'm a big fan of Denis Hayes, for instance. He has worked tirelessly for years on several fronts: he was one of the founders of CERES, the organization that wrote the Valdez Principles, which were created in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez incident and to which a number of Fortune 500 companies are now signatories to. He's also been deeply involved in GreenSeal, a standard-setting group to give consumers advice on what the really environmentally friendly products are (the green equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval).

The server isn't letting me post the rest of my message, but I think heroes abound: environmental workers in industry and government, etc. The real problem is that not everyone agrees what the problems are and what to do about it.

JF:  Do you think Earth First! goes too far by doing thing like spiking trees? I've wrestled with that question internally.

SG:  Every movement (Gay, Civil Rights, Environmental) needs it's extreme radicals. I don't advocate violence/harm to humans but it's the radical extreme that moves the center of consensus toward the radical moderate. I'm certainly more inclined toward achieving results through innovation and negotiation but I'd probably be on the picket line to protect the last old growth forests.

JF:  I believe I agree with that statement--especially in the wake of almost seeing our planet destroyed in several instances.

LJM:  I share Gabriel's belief that harm to humans is absolutely wrong no matter what your cause. Spiking trees comes awfully close to harming humans, in my book. Context is everything. Certain acts might be more appropriate in more desperate circumstances than in less desperate ones.

JF:  I was a 16 year-old volunteer for the first Earth Day in NYC, when Denis Hayes came around to organize us into the Environmental Action Coalition. He was quite an inspiration -- even these years later. Definitely a hero in my book. (Metaphorically -- I don't have a book -- you do.)

SG:  I would not be surprised to see this novel get hit from both ends of the environmental spectrum. From the pro-environmental extreme because it's too friendly to business and from the business-before-all crowd because we're tree huggers.

LJM:  The speaker at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Nebula Award Weekend was Dr. Bernard Harris, a shuttle astronaut. He showed us a picture of South American rainforest -- and in the shot, the remaining forests were perhaps 5% of pre-existing forest. And lifeless eroded areas were growing. It was chilling. If we don't change our outlook, there'll be nothing left for anyone. There are tremendous political and social complexities in controlling our population growth and consumption of resources, and people everywhere will feel the pinch as we make the transition to a sustainable world economy. OTOH, I heard someone complaining because a skunk cabbage found on his property meant he couldn't build his swimming pool. It meant the area was a wetland area. Yeah, that's a drag, but come on -- in a hundred years, will anyone care that that piece of property didn't have a swimming pool on it? And yet, if wetlands are wiped out, whole ecosystems collapse.

SG:  (It meant the area =might= be a wetland area.) So he couldn't build. It was Tom Doherty, our publisher.

JF:  Well, he published your book anyway. Funny story, in context. But, tell us, how can this all stop? What can individuals reading Greenwar and this chat do?

LJM:  You know the old saw: think globally, act locally. Focus on areas where you can have an impact, and pick your battles. Pick issues that interest you personally and get involved. Recycle your recyclables. I've felt overwhelmed and angry about litter strewn about for years, and just recently I started picking it up sometimes. It's amazing what a morale booster little acts can be. You can do it a little at a time; it's important not to let yourself feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the change needed.

SG:  The more extreme answer is: "What can I give up so that I reduce my environmental impact." My answer is: "How can I reduce my environmental impact by =changing= the way I do things but not necessarily giving up things I need."

Tom Doherty envisioned this book. It was solicited. He believes in technological answers.

LJM:  Gandhi said, there's enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed. An anti-American sentiment if I ever heard one!

JF:  Getting back to the book itself, I found the storm-at-sea sequence in the first third most vivid. Have either of you had to cope with such a thing?

SG:  I've been in small boats in pretty extreme weather. I've even been shipwrecked. Other than that, I guess it's our personal experience with violent weather on land.

LJM:  Nope, not I. Just got carried away with it. (I did almost drown in a pool at the age of five, though.)

SG:  Oh, and our imaginations.

JF:  How did you research the issues (and the others in the book) then?

SG:  Research? What's that?

LJM:  The technology was Steve's baby, initially. He had developed this totally cool off-shore habitat that we adapted for our purposes, and he was the one who did the first research on OTEC and did the early design drawings. I used those and elaborated on them in the sequences I wrote. The environmental management issues were things I lived and breathed on a daily basis in my job, so that was my area. The ecoteur stuff we researched by reading up on numerous activist books and articles.

I got my scuba certification as research too. Holy cow, what an experience! You've got to try it. It's incredible.

JF:  But seriously, the book is so well detailed, and so educational while providing a good thriller, that even though this is in your personal bailiwicks (sp?) you must have gone to lengths to assure the accuracy of the novel's concerns.

SG:  Okay, we did lots of research. I've been contemplating a book using an OTEC plant since 1980. When we were approached by Tor to do what they were calling an "eco-thriller", I pulled this out and Laura brought forth the corporate politics/eco-terrorist stuff. Dr. Rod Fujita, a marine biologist working for the EDF was very helpful with current OTEC technologies and their impact.

LJM:  Why do I get this feeling I'm the straight man, here? We did try to get it right. Oh, Steve says to tell you about the Melbourne research. Our first daughter, Emma, was six months old when I had a work-related trip to Tampa. I was breastfeeding, so she came along, and I decided to take a few extra days and take some notes and videos of Melbourne. In short, I spent three days driving around with Emma in a car seat, picking out the locations. It was exhausting, but fun.

SG:  We also got some good explosion info from Joe Haldeman and William Gross, both vets with hands on experience. And, as I implied, I've been scuba diving since I was 14. (Twenty-eight years? Jeeze.)

JF:  It figgers someone had to be named Emma in this family :^) ...

I'm about to open the forum up to audience, but as I do so, I'd like to ask how the collaboration process worked for the two of you? Did you write together, or read over each other's shoulders, etc.?

LJM:  We started out trying to alternate chapters. We pulled it off for about four chapters or so, but it was a disaster -- we each kept losing momentum. So I did most of the rest of the first draft, with constant plotting and brainstorming with Steve. (And numerous places where I put "[Steve, xxx has to happen here. =You= write it.]" Then he did the rewrites, which were fairly extensive. Then we both went over it again together and separately a few more times. It worked well. I'd do it again. :) We had a few heated words, though, before we were through.

SG:  Laura would occasionally call me in to write "specialty scenes". Diving scenes, some explosions (I like explosions) and some technical things. I'd be reading what she wrote and would come across a scene break followed by: "Steve writes dive scene here".

JF:  I think there've been heated words in every collaboration ever attempted...

JF:  (Message to all: We have now opened up the forum for audience participation. If you would like to join in, exit the forum and re-enter so you'll have a dialog box which lets you enter questions. Please don't forget to sign your messages so we know who you are.)

SG:  Both of our Emmas, Emma Tooke from the book, and Emma Marie, our daughter, were partially named for Emma Bull, writer and friend.

JF:  Steve, I know you've got Helm coming out, can you tell us about it it? And Laura, what are you working on, if you don't mind saying?

Marilee:  Hi Jim, Ellen! I've had a dialog box all along 'cause I got here before you. :) I'm hosting on AOL, just wanted to stick my head in and tell Steven how much I like WILDSIDE and JUMPER. I recommend them to our chatters all the time. A great example of YA lit that is still interesting reading for adults.

SG:  HELM starts with the destruction of the Earth and goes on from there. In the prolog, we have about 4000 humans alive on the moon in facilities designed for 900. Chapter one takes place 25 light years from there and 450 years later.

LJM:  I've got a solo sf coming out next year, PROXIES. It's a future intrigue with c-punk overtones, set in the same universe as GLASS HOUSES, my novel that came out in '92. I'm working on editorially-urged revisions now. And I am currently working on a really cool project: creating "Shattertown Sky," a prototype electronic fiction product to showcase a new storytelling scripting tool for writers. It's due for completion in July. After that I want to start my next book -- a sequel of sorts to PROXIES. And possibly a young adult book project or two as well.

SG:  Thank-you =very= much, Marilee. That YA/Adult borderline was very deliberate.

LJM:  Steve =really= likes to blow things up!

JF:  I can see that between the two of you, my reading list is being made that much fuller. And yes, I have to agree with Marilee. I read Jumper at my own level, and was pleasantly surprised when I heard it won a YA award from the ALA. (The pleasure of reading Glass Houses is still before me.)

LJM:  Steve says that PROXIES isn't punk enough to be c-punk. However, I see it as very noir.

GLASS HOUSES is out of stock, currently. My hope is that it'll be reissued at some point, if PROXIES et seq do well enough.

JF:  Do either of you find it different when you set out to write YA, and if so, how?

LJM:  (So many good books, so little time!)

SG:  I think that you can write for Young Adults without talking/dumbing down for them. Heinlein certainly did it in his early books. HELM has another young adult protagonist and, even though I'm definitely =not= in a contemporary setting (like JUMPER and WILDSIDE) I hope that my existing readers will like HELM.

LJM:  Hmmm. Good question. My first book, ASTROPILOTS, was YA, and I both did and didn't find it substantially different. You create a young protagonist for YA, and then you work at getting into that protagonist's head - so the issues become youthful issues, perhaps. But I think this great divide that we create between the ages is a little misleading -- the issues that concern us at adolescence are with us for the rest of our lives. Not to say that we don't grow, and put those issues into perspective, but ...

JF:  It's clear from your books and your ease-of-use here that you're both proficient with computers. And Laura said she's showcasing some software (which sounds fascinating to me). How do you think/hope/fear the technology of New Media (Web, ITV, etc.) may affect you and/or literature?

LJM:  The Erasmatron is a writer's tool -- a scripting software that allows nonprogrammers to create interactive, electronic stories. They're like computer games in that they're interactive -- you the user constantly make choices that propel you through the story -- and they're like fiction in that instead of focusing on coordination or mental skill, they focus on human interaction, theme, emotional content.

These e-stories, I believe, have the potential to drastically change the electronic entertainment landscape -- for the better. The current run of computer games are OK if you're into adrenaline or cerebral challenge, but what appeals to most people is stories about other people. And so this software is very important and sexy. I hope it catches on. Check out their website at if you want to learn more.

In answer to your question, Jim, I don't see prose fiction as either (1) going away anytime soon, or (2) becoming less interesting than electronic entertainment. They're two different beasts, each with their own strengths. There are some things you need the room and structure of prose to say. But computers allow for direct interaction with a person, and I think that form will allow for some very interesting fictional explorations.

SG:  The last time there was a new Prose form was probably Henry Fielding's Tom Jones. Before that, you had picaresques in novel length but what happened in chapter three had no bearing on chapter seven. Before that it was probably Chaucer. Do we have another Chaucer in this generation?

There will always be novels/prose. It does things that no other form can. In a sense, it's the ultimate interactive form, but it's not interacting with users choices but their past experiences.

JF:  I agree that prose will always be there, and furthermore, that books will continue to be the preferred medium for prose, though the distribution methods may change. On my website I have links to some 1100 sf/fantasy texts found (legally) online (including both of yours), and yet I still prefer to pick up something that has been bound for anything that will draw my attention for more than 15 minutes.

LJM:  Have you read about this cool invention in the process of being developed, called Smart Paper? The technology is almost there -- though currently very expensive. It'll be a flexible, durable sheet(s), bound, in various sizes for different applications.

SG:  Smartpaper in the last issue of WIRED =may= solve that for you, Jim.

Marilee:  Smart Paper sounds like DIAMOND AGE.

LJM:  The thing about paper is that the interface is virtually foolproof -- all you need is light to read it -- and it's fabulous resolution. And it's pretty portable, and works well with our position-oriented thinking processes. I hate how things disappear from memory when they aren't linked to a place in my surroundings!

LJM:  I haven't read DIAMOND AGE yet, and really want to. Do you recommend it, Marilee?

Marilee:  The problem with DA is that he starts a wonderful multi-threaded story, and then just kind of abandons half the threads in the middle. It's worth reading for the tech, though. Some really cool ideas there.

JF:  I have heard of SmartPaper, though I hadn't read the article in WIRED. Yes, that may be something along the lines of what I was thinking. But then, I remember so many such distribution methods from even 1940's sf that I knew several concerns have to be working on some similar means of prose distribution.

LJM:  Could you elaborate on that, Jim? I'm unsure what you mean.

SG:  Considering the problems with our current book distribution system, =something= has got to change. Personally, I think books-on-demand is a interesting possibility.

JF:  Since we're starting to come to the end of our chat, let's recollect a few things. First, when will Greenwar be out in the stores?

LJM:  Its official pub date is late June, so it'll start showing up in stores in late May to early June. We'll be doing a multi-city book signing tour in July and August to promote it -- the west coast and Rocky Mountain areas in July, and some signings in Texas in August.

JF:  Are you coming to NYC?

SG:  No current plans to hit New York unless we get fabulously wealthy.

LJM:  We'd love to, if only we had the money!

Marilee:  The problem with DA is that he starts a wonderful multi-threaded story, and then just kind of abandons half the threads in the middle. It's worth reading for the tech, though. Some really cool ideas there.

Steve, I've bought several books from I read them on my PDA when I'm out at the doc's or a restaurant, etc. I think it's a viable method.

LJM:  How does work, Marilee?

SG:  I used to download large chunks to a notebook and read them on the ferry.

Marilee:  The problem with DA is that he starts a wonderful multi-threaded story, and then just kind of abandons half the threads in the middle. It's worth reading for the tech, though. Some really cool ideas there.

You access it with a secure server, give them a credit card number, and then download the book. It's pretty straightforward. They provide excerpts so you know what you're buying.

JF:  Maybe we should ask your publicist... ;-)

LJM:  Jim, there's a good possibility we'll get to NYC by around Thanksgiving, if we can pull it off. That's a good while after the book's out, though.

LJM:  Heh heh. Oh, do, please!

SG:  We're footing the bill on our West Coast trip. Not much money available there.

SG:  Well, we have to go get the kids out of hock at the Babysitters.

JF:  Well I trust you'll get here sooner or later, and you're both welcome guests. Steve's done it once already.

LJM:  Thanks, Jim. And thanks to you and Ellen for hosting this chat.

SG:  Fortunately, it's not quite as late here in MDT.

JF:  And you were certainly wonderful for us here at OmniVisions!

Marilee:  The problem with DA is that he starts a wonderful multi-threaded story, and then just kind of abandons half the threads in the middle. It's worth reading for the tech, though. Some really cool ideas there.

Yes, thanks for coming, Steve & Laura! :)

JF:  And thank you! Thanks for coming by. Don't forget Ed Bryant's guest on OMNIVisions next week will be Douglas E. Winter, author of "Revelations".

LJM:  Good night, everyone. See you on the Web!

JF:  Good night! And thanks again.

SG:  Thanks again.

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