Since fake news is all the rage these days, I made up a fake promotional interview with myself which was never actually published in anything vaguely resembling a news source. Yet here I am, trying to fool you into thinking it’s newsworthy. I’m such a trendoid. Yeah, yeah, I know, I’ll get around to the actual (finger quotes) professional publicity soon and bust out of this echo chamber, but first I gotta write a few books so I’ll have something to promote.
Charon Dunn originated in Maui, lives in San Francisco, and is leaping into self-published science fiction authorhood after a lifetime of quiet fanlike behavior. She has a thirty-pound cat, a multitude of trial prep skills and an obsessive fondness for chicken tikka masala. She keeps a blog at http://charondunntheblog.blogspot.com/ and she is right in the middle of the Adventures of Sonny Knight trilogy, volume 2 of which shall be released later this year. Her goal is to accumulate a modest cult following comprised of people that don’t really join cults, and then later on to be a brain in a jar that walks around on robotic legs.
Sieging Manganela is a short novel (just under 65k words) which takes place in the Sonny Knight universe, concerning a young soldier named Turo who, while laying siege to a city, makes a connection with a girl who lives inside.
IMAGINARY INTERVIEWER THAT I MADE UP (BECAUSE I AM AN ASOCIAL FRIEND-LACKING HERMIT) TO ASK ME QUESTIONS THAT I CRIBBED FROM REAL INTERVIEWS WITH SUCCESSFUL WRITERS: So tell me about your protagonist.
CD: Arturo “Turo” Berengar has lots of references to bears in his name, because he’s a strong stoic bear most of the time. His friends used to call him Turo, but they all died, and he has a massive case of stress and grief and survivor’s guilt and depression as a result. He’s trying to hold it together until the war ends, to keep his blind mother receiving benefits. He’s a bundle of stress but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at him. He conceals it well. He is seventeen years old.
II: What’s his moral compass like?
CD: He’s been talking to a girl that lives inside the city he’s sieging, and that might be treason, but the war might be over soon and Turo’s prospects for meeting girls are pretty slim. That’s what he wants, a wife and kids and a farm like the one where he grew up.
He has also started thinking about all the ways in which his society has bent and twisted itself to accommodate an extended war. His people used biological modification to make themselves extreme warriors – large and muscular, quick reflexes, superb healing capacity. Unfortunately it had a bad effect on their fertility, rendering most women sterile and making the fertile ones extra picky. If Turo wants the family he craves, he’s either going to have to be a big war hero or start dating girls from other cultures.
II: What’s the setting like?
CD: I’m writing in the far future, 3741 to be exact. The climate has warmed and cooled. Meteors took out Central America. The oceans are anoxic and toxic, metal degrades rapidly and atmospheric changes have made flight impossible – people are forced to travel by ocean or railroad, with frequent stops for repairs. Most of the wildlife died out after the meteors but there are bioengineered pets and livestock. People are either bottled up in large enclosed cities or leading hardy low-tech lives in this changed environment. The city of Manganela is approximately in northern Argentina, right at the edge of the reconfigured coast.
When the meteors hit, the people of earth (the cooperative ones, anyway) built large enclosed domes, and hid out for three or four generations, waiting for the dust to settle. During that time, specifically in North and South America, nationalities dissolved, and a civil war broke out involving a 1/3-2/3 split. After everyone came out of the domes and reestablished their territory a war happened, and the majority side, a bunch of different proto-nations operating under the acronym AMBIT, won. The victorious warriors split into two countries – a low-tech outdoorsy farming nation full of bioengineered super folks, and a bottled-up nation full of nerds who sold them the bioenhancements, and these are the two countries at war. Sieging Manganela takes place just as that war is supposedly ending.
I wanted to write about a planet upon which all the disasterous changes have happened, and yet people dealt with it and kept going. Kind of an optimistic dystopia, if you will. Aside from Sieging Manganela, which takes place in the last little dystopic corner of this idyllic world, where warriors clash with scientists. There is lots of bioengineering and high tech medicine, with plentiful virtual reality and digitized people and ancestral social media on the internet, but there’s no space, no aliens, no time travel, no mind melding and no magic.
II: Hard military science fiction, then?
CD: You could call it that, but the notion of me writing in that genre blows my mind and I’ll probably never do it again. Sieging Manganela came from me doing NaNoWriMo in the middle of being blocked on the Sonny Knight trilogy, which I’d classify as YA science fiction adventure. Sieging Manganela is darker and closer to horror, which is a genre I adore yet can’t seem to write – until I tried coming at it from a military science fiction angle. And yes, in fact it is military science fiction in a salute to Heinlein kind of way.
And, since most of the point of view characters are teens, I guess it counts as YA. So, military horror YA bioengineering dystopian science fiction adventure, hold the starships.
I will note that the research for it involved some grueling reading about soldiers, and specifically child soldiers, because I wanted to treat my soldier characters honorably. I love soldiers, especially when they’re happy and healthy and still have all their parts attached and are goofing off drawing pictures and drinking beer and telling each other about the awesome lives they’re going to have after they’re done being soldiers. There are some villains in this tale, and they are not soldiers.
That said, yeah, there’s kind of an anti-war theme running through it, but no preachy granola hogwash and no disrespecting of warriors. In the same spirit of trigger-disclosure, there’s minimal sex, some extreme violence and no animal cruelty. There’s at least one nonstr8 character but since it’s not relevant to the plot it’s undisclosed, and you’ll have to guess who.
II: Was this your first NaNoWriMo?
CD: It was! I was feeling rather gloomy because I had just started to expand Sonny Knight from one book into three, and even then I was pessimistic about its commercial potential. Even though I was trying hard to keep it corporate-publishing-friendly, it seemed like it got longer and weirder every day. The story springs from an act of revenge that occurs 3/20/3748, and I wanted to explore the incident that inspired the revenge, and so I decided to write it as a NaNoWriMo novel. I was pleased with the result, and I went back later and wove in a couple of flashbacks to thicken it up a little.
I went in thinking Sieging might be a good introductory novel for starting the rejection slip process, but it insisted on coming out several shades darker than I normally write – I’ll blame that on the time pressure. And it’s in a genre where I’m only a tourist.