Interview with Travis Perry

This month, we have an interview with Travis Perry, as part of the Mythic Orbits blog tour. Travis is the editor of the Mythic Orbits anthology series, Volume 2 of which includes stories by both Donald and Kristin (so if you ever wanted to know what sort of fiction the Mysterion editors write themselves, here’s your chance to find out!). He also helps us out as a first reader for Mysterion. We’ll let Travis tell you more about himself and what he’s been up to...

How would you describe your religious beliefs, and how would you say they influence your writing?

Perhaps I’m overthinking the question a bit, but I’d find it a lot easier to state my religious beliefs than describe them. Though the origin story of my faith would have to start with me being a child in rural Montana, awed by the glories of nature, with a strong intuitive sense that everything exists for a purpose, a plan, made by God. Also, from the first time I seriously read the Bible I was impressed by the power of its poetry and how ancient it was. I became over time a very serious student of the Bible and I would say I believe the Bible as used by Protestants is the authoritative word of God. I believe it is wholly true (albeit hard to understand at times) and it reveals Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God who died for the sins of the world, including mine. I have put my faith in Christ. The above makes me a “Bible-believing” or an “Evangelical” Christian. My own denomination is Baptist, but I am not wholly fixed on any particular denomination.

The concept that God is real and that nature reflects his glory affects my writing in that I seek to write things that portray God as I see him. I do that in a variety of ways—through characters who believe in God, or through portraying supernatural events, or through showing acts of providence.

Why do you think you became a writer, and why speculative fiction?

The easiest part of this question is the speculative fiction bit. I loved science fiction from the time I picked Robert Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo out of my Junior High library. For me, science fiction sparked so much of my already active imagination. As did fantasy, though fantasy never appealed to me quite as much. But I would spend hours walking by myself, making up stories in my own mind, visualizing the actions and projecting the emotions for everything. I was practically addicted to making up stories in my head.

You’d think with that interest in stories I’d naturally be a writer, but not so. The writing part was more of a surprise because I don’t think I hated anything more than writing when I was a kid. I hated my own handwriting, I struggled with spelling, and my thoughts never seemed as good on paper as they did in my own mind. I got the idea that I was capable of writing through writing academic papers during university studies. I didn’t actually start to write whole stories, though, until I was well over thirty years old.

My adult thoughts turned to writing not just because I’m making stories up all the time, but because I remembered how much science fiction influenced me as a kid—I wanted to likewise influence other people by what I write as a Christian.

What themes are most important to you as an author?
I’m not really sure. I wind up writing about valor and war a fair amount—in part because I’ve spent time in war zones and know something about it. I also seem to write solitary characters who don’t quite fit in with other people (WONDER WHERE THAT COMES FROM 😉). Though it’s probably noteworthy that my view of war is more pessimistic than optimistic. I write other things, too, I’m sure of it, let’s see, hard science fiction stuff and um, um, um… 😊

Which books or authors most influenced you when you first started writing? What are some of your favorites now?

I was a huge Robert A. Heinlein fan when I was a kid, especially his short stories (I generally liked short stories better than novels). I progressed from his early stories, which were kept in check by the morals of the time of writing, to the stories he released after the sexual revolution (like Stranger in a Strange Land). I felt I tainted my own values with my enthusiasm for Heinlein’s works and in fact I’m inspired to be the opposite kind of influence on young minds that Heinlein was. I find C.S. Lewis to be an inspirational example of how to influence people for the better, though I’m not all that much like him. (I of course read many other authors, my favorites including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Larry Niven, J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michel Crichton, and many others.)

Why did you start Bear Publications? What do you publish?

I started Bear because I was involved with short story anthologies with other authors when I first started getting published around 2005. I wound up doing quite a lot of editing to help produce a particular anthology called Avenir Eclectia (with Grace Bridges of Splashdown Books) and I realized I really care about making anthologies, which generally get treated as if they aren’t as important as novels. I felt I could do a better job selecting stories and making sure authors get paid their fair share of whatever book sales an anthology generates than what generally happens. So that became my first goal, making excellent short story anthologies.

I’ve also stepped into publishing novels, though so far, only one book (Lelia Rose Foreman’s combined trilogy A Shattered World). And I’ve begun to publish non-fiction that relates to speculative fiction, most importantly a set of books called Writing Speculative Fiction (also by Lelia Rose Foreman).

What are your ambitions for Bear Publications? How do you think it will grow and change in the next five to ten years?
One of the most basic things is just to publish more books, including more novels. But it also matters to me to get books in other languages, in part because I speak Spanish and French. I’m working on doing just that, getting books into other languages and countries, though it’s going a lot slower than I’d like. Translation takes a lot of time and effort.

I’m also interested in producing audio books, graphic novels, and, if possible, short movies someday. In short, I want to get stories into as many formats as possible.

What is Mythic Orbits? What sort of stories do you publish in Mythic Orbits?

Mythic Orbits was negatively inspired by anthologies written around a certain theme for which I felt some authors did a relatively poor job. I thought it would be better to seek out the best stories available, the ones writers produce when they’re truly feeling inspired, rather than ask them to produce according to a theme. I thought that since my interest in writing stemmed in part from wanting to be an influence on others, I would open this anthology up to Christian writers of speculative fiction, whether their stories featured Christian themes or not.

Part of the idea was that I wanted to demonstrate that, in spite of the poor reputation some Christian writers have, we really are as an overall group capable of producing some very good speculative fiction stories. So, to demonstrate that as broadly as possible, one of my goals has been to pick a variety of lengths, genres, and moods for these tales.

What niche do you think Mythic Orbits fills?

It’s a good question—at its heart this is an idea seeking an audience, rather than something written to any already established market. One recent thought though is that I’d like to get these anthologies into the hands of Christian readers, especially those who might have an interest in speculative fiction but haven’t read much of it. Through these anthologies, they’ll find authors worth learning more about.

Do you find that publishing makes it difficult to write? Or vice versa? Or do they both fit into your life equally well?

Recently I’ve been trying my hand at writing non-fiction. That’s in part because I was asked to fill in a regular slot on the Speculative Faith blog, which has given me the opportunity to put some of my “serious” ideas in writing. But I don’t think I’d be producing much if I were not writing it for someone else. Publishing takes a lot of time.

My fiction writing is really in the slumps right now—which perhaps is a shame. I have so many story ideas, more than I’ll ever be able to write in my lifetime. But on the other hand, I find a lot of satisfaction in helping other writers, especially via editing their work into the best version of itself it can be.

Do you have a day job besides writing and publishing? How do you think it influences your work in those fields?

I’m an Army Reserve officer with the current specialty of Civil Affairs. It’s my job to work to make various connections from the military chain of command to civilians in war zones or other crises. In practice that has more often than not meant working on military-funded humanitarian aid projects. It also means I go out to where people actually live and in fact have risked my life to a degree—which certainly has to do with why I’m so interested in writing about warfare.

I’m also a foreign language translator. I take documents (mostly but not exclusively medical) and translate them from French and Spanish into English.

What are you working on now?
I have too many projects to mention them all. The next anthology I’m producing is Mines of Mercury, part of the Terraformed Interplanetary series of anthologies I thought up. I’m also trying to get a Worlds of Weinbaum anthology finished, in which Heather Elliot and I are adapting some public domain stories by Stanley Weinbaum for modern times.

What advice would you give to authors who are interested in working with Bear Publications?
I’ve actually got a pretty open mind about types of stories. Don’t assume that I won’t like what you’ve written because it’s unusual. But if I don’t like it, I will tell you exactly why. And it could be I like some aspects of your story, but not others. I have actually done a lot of work with authors in the past to improve their stories—and I’m looking forward to doing more of the same in the future.

Travis Perry is an Army Reserve officer who has deployed to the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, and East Africa, and who has a deep interest in science fiction, though he also has written fantasy and horror. He began editing short story anthologies with Avenir Eclectia and Aquasynthesis by Splashdown Books, anthologies he also contributed short stories to. In addition, he contributed to Aquasynthesis Again, and a non-fiction military account to the anthology Stories from a Soldier's Heart. He has several novels in the works as well as numerous short story anthology projects via Bear Publications, which he owns. He currently resides with his wife Tabatha in Wichita Falls, Texas.

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  1. This was so interesting to read! Love hearing the backstory behind Bear Publications and Travis' journey to writing.


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