Author siblings Dani and Eytan Kollin’s debut novel, ‘The Unincorporated Man’ was designated a SciFi Essential and went on to win the 2010 Prometheus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the year. Their second and third novels, ‘The Unincorporated War’ and ‘The Unincorporated Woman’ were also nominated for the same award.
For what age audience do you write?
We write mainly for adult audiences and are primarily known in the genre of hard science fiction (which is to say, science that can actually work). We’ve written one novella in dark fantasy (Day by Day) and two in alt history (as yet, unpublished). We currently have a young adult novel called, ‘Chemistry, Chaos and Steam – A Magistery of Dunces’, sitting at Tor.
Henry: I can’t wait for your YA sequel, ‘United States Congress – A Magistery of Dunces’.
Tell us about your latest book.
Our latest book is called ‘The Unincorporated Future’, and wraps up the Unincorporated universe series. In it, we finally answer the question that ran as a thread through all four books – What price freedom?
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
That Freedom is a far greater gift than we can possibly imagine, and that giving it away, even if only in increments (as was the case in ‘The Unincorporated Man’), can have a devastating impact on society.
What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?
The writing part. Imagining is quite easy and fun to do. Eytan and I can talk for hours about world building and what-if scenarios, but when it gets down to the brass tacks of writing, it becomes much harder – if only because it demands so much concentration and becomes so emotionally enervating.
Henry: The writing part really is at the crux of, er, writing.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
That words are powerful magic, indeed. What starts out as a fun endeavor between two brothers becomes quite serious when, as was the case with us, we once received an email from an Afghan War veteran suffering from PTSD. He let us know that until our series of books came out, he could not pick up a book to read but had somehow managed to gobble up our series whole. Of all the emails I’ve gotten over the years, that one has had the most profound impact. It reminded me that even when I’m down on myself for not being productive enough, Eytan and my words managed to help a man we did not know who’d put his life on the line fighting for the very values that are the bedrock of our entire series.
Henry: I’ve heard David Brin say the same thing – that little black marks on white paper telling a story in your head is magic.
What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?
Getting to hang out with, panel and actively debate some of the greatest names in science fiction including, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis and Louis McMaster Bujold (to name but a few).
Henry: I’ve had the pleasure of meeting David Brin, Vernor Vinge, Peter Beagle, Tony DiTerlizzi, and Orson Scott Card. Does the fact that I’m proud of that fact make me a geek? Yes. Yes it does.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
You may not be as good as you think you are, or conversely, you may be better. Find a way to get a true reading on that answer so that you don’t waste your time pursuing something you’re not cut out for, or even better, finding your north star and never veer from it until you achieve your dreams. Once we got our affirmation from an established editor, there was no holding us back.
Henry: “A man’s got to know his limitations” – Dirty Harry
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“If your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.” Henry J. Kaiser
Henry: Nice. I also like “What you’re doing speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
Yes. I procrastinate as much as possible. I’m like water swirling around a drain, knowing I’m heading towards the inevitable, but doing my damnedest to defy gravity.
Henry: So, procrastination is your north star. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, eh? I have to say, you are the first to draw an analogy between writing and swirling around a toilet bowl. Well played, sir.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to release suppressed emotions in others. So much of the world is so screwed up because we’re afraid to feel or because we feel in eruptions rather than in small outbursts. I think the ability to “clear the air” of emotional baggage within seconds (as opposed to years of therapy) would be one hell of a power to wield.
Henry: Hopefully that superpower can be employed at a safe distance. Your brother Eytan enjoys swordplay, so would you really want to release all his suppressed emotions when standing next to him?
If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?
Bradbury for his insights, Heinlein for his cantankerousness, and Twain for his wit.
Henry: Interesting choice – two sci-fi writers and Mark Twain.
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
I’m partial to the Golem of Jewish folklore. It represents the folly of man attempting to be his own god by creating life from nothing (in this case, mud), in much the same way Dr. Frankenstein created his monster from the remains of corpses. In each case, magic and/or science gave their creators much more than they bargained for.
Henry: So, Chiffon Margarine turned out to be prophetic when they said, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature”?
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m a voracious reader and an endorphin junkie so when I’m not ensconced in a book or newspaper, you’ll find me eating up pavement on my road bike or chasing down swells on my surfboard.
Henry: Maybe with the advent of Google Glass, you’ll be able to read while you bike! #Winning
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
I’m not going to have one. I’m a member of the cryonics institute and plan on being suspended at the time of my death. If, however, someone insists on putting up a marker for a place I’m not actually occupying, then it could say, “Sorry you missed me, please check back in another hundred years.”
Henry: My other interviewees plan to be buried or cremated. You are the first to be frozen. No wonder your kids call you Pop. #rimshot
Where can readers find your work?
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Audible.com and most anywhere else fine books are sold.
This interview is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.