Jason S. Walters is an author, essayist, and publisher best known for running Indie Press Revolution (IPR), a distributor of micro-published roleplaying games. He is also one of a small group of investors that purchased Hero Games in 2001, and serves as its general manager. After owning a San Francisco bike messenger service for 15 years, he and his wife Tina moved to Midian Ranch: a homestead near the town of Gerlach, Nevada. It is also the location of IPR’s warehousing complex. They have a daughter with Down syndrome named Cassidy and animals too numerous to mention.
This interview is part of a blog tour promoting Jason’s new novel, Nakba, and the re-release of The Unforgiving Land.
Tells us about your novel.
Nakba is a novel about the evils of over-urbanization, the dangers of self-righteousness, and the necessity for having frontiers – whether on our own planet, on other worlds, or in outer space.
…and shape-shifting Japanese sex androids. It has those. And homemade spaceships. And starship captains with Down syndrome. And Masai tribesmen on Mars. And lots of other things.
What first inspired you to start writing?
Hunter S. Thompson of all people . I remember reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and thinking “This guy’s nuts! I could totally write like this.” And also Glen Cook. I greatly enjoyed his Black Company novels and figured I could probably write something like them. So I did.
How long did it take you to get your first book published?
Not long… because, rather than doing things the hard way, I cheated and bought a publishing company.
What is your best piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to work for free. Meet people who share you goals, network with them, and create your own clique of authors.
What qualities do you think are needed to be a successful published author?
Talent, determination, a willingness to go to book shows, and the ability to network with people. In an ideal world we could all dress up in Mao suits, hold our books above our heads, and shout “This! Is! My! Art!” But in the real world who you know and how willing you are to sell your book matters as much as actual talent – or possibly even more.
What would you say is the most enjoyable aspect of writing?
Those rare and wonderful occasions when the Muses grant you total clarity and you know, just know you’ve created something worthwhile. The rest is simply drudgery.
What is the one moment in your career that you feel most proud of?
When I nearly won an ENnie Award for the book Lucha Libre Hero. That’s the award they give out for roleplaying games. I was so sure was was going to win. I wore a Mexican wrestling mask to the award ceremony and everything.
Which has been your most difficult novel to write and why?
I had a really hard time with Nakba, actually. I have a mischievous three-year-old with Downy syndrome, a wife whose a tender bar, and two jobs. So, unlike my previous works, the only time I had to work on it was in the middle of the night.
If you could change just one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be?
I’d arrange it so that every man, woman, and child on the planet had a basic e-reader and knew how to use it. Then there would be no publishing industry as we know it.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading John Geiger’s fascinating The Third Man Factor: Surviving The Impossible. It’s about guardian angles. Or hallucinations. Or heightened states of consciousness. Who can say?
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I got my first article published in City Bike Magazine; that’s a motorcycle magazine in San Francisco. I started off honing my skills writing articles for magazines. Mostly of the very disreputable variety.
What books have influenced your life most?
It may sound kind of cliché but Atlas Shrugged had a lot of influence on my life. Even though I don’t agree with Rand on a lot of things she’s an important (if overlooked) figure in American science fiction. Anthem is as good of a dystopian novella as you’ll find anywhere, certainly in the same league as 1984, Animal Farm, or Brave New World.
I would say philosophically that Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress a had big impact on my worldview, as did Elizabeth Moon’s often overlooked Remnant Population. But oddly the book that may have had the greatest impact on my latter life is an odd little book called Rancho Costa Nada by L.A. Times reporter Phil Garlington. It inspired me to go out into the desert and live off-grid for many years.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Philosophically I’ve always admired Heinlein. But for writing style it’s hard to beat China Mieville. His last four – The City and The City, Kraken: An Anatomy, Embassytown, and Railsea – are works of extreme beauty.
What are your current projects?
I’m writing a little roleplaying game book called Santa Muerte for my friend Tom Rafalksi over at Beautiful Harmony Media. In it you play unfortunate souls who get shanghaied into becoming superpowered boarder guards between the lands of the living and the dead. When I’m done with that I’m going to edit another roleplaying game by my friend Wilson Zornwill called At The Hands of An Angry God; a most excellent treatment of the politics of being a utopian idealist fleeing from an oppressive culture.
Then I’m going to return to working on Vesta, the sequel to Nakba, and The Inverted City, which is the long overdue sequel to my first novel The Vast White. Unless I get distracted and start writing something else, of course!
A thousand years ago humanity’s dissidents fled, leaving behind a peaceful, unified world content to exist in a state of perpetual hedonism. Then a daring escape plunged civilization into chaos, forcing its rulers to expand outward to maintain order. Now all that stands between a newly imperial Earth and the rest of the solar system is a loose coalition of Maasai tribesmen, cloned feminists, shape-shifting humannequins, and vengeful Berbers led by the least likely hero in human history: a young woman with Down syndrome and a bad attitude.
In the desert life is hard. It can also be surreal. In the absence of congestion and convention, imagination takes you by the hand: or the balls. In this macabre collection of riveting tales, ENnie Award-nominated author Jason S. Walters grabs the reins of storytelling as if it were a wild stallion, leading the reader ever deeper into the physical and spiritual wasteland of the Black Rock Desert.