Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Guest Post: Soldier & Author Travis Perry

Travis Perry wears many hats. Over the last few month's I've had the privilege of working with him and five other authors on the Colony Zero short story project Colony Zero - Volume 1 - Contact . I found his breadth of scientific knowledge and languages quite impressive. I wanted to sit and have a cyber-chat with him.I hope you find the conversation as interesting as I did.

MARK: Many writers have day jobs along with their writing life. You, however, take that even further. I understand that you’re in the reserves. Before I go any further, I want to personally thank you for your service to the country.  

First off, give us some background. What branch of the service are you in? How many years?  What type of work do you do?

Have you been deployed?

TRAVIS: Mark, I’ve been in the Army Reserve for 23 years. I’ve had a wide variety of jobs. In 1991 I deployed with a hospital unit as a medical technician (EKG tech) to Desert Storm. (I went to the United Arab Emirates at the time.) I spent most of my enlisted time as an Army Medic. In 2004 I became an officer. In 2008 I deployed to Iraq as an artillery officer who advised Iraqis on training. In 2010-11 I went to Afghanistan as a Civil Affairs officer involved in military-funded humanitarian assistance projects for Afghans. In 2012 and 2013 I went on two separate deployments to Africa (based in Djibouti) where I did work similar to what I did in Afghanistan under non-combat conditions.

MARK: What kind of civilian work do you do?

TRAVIS: Ah, I’m still seeking a real career. Currently I’m working part time doing Census Bureau surveys, part time at the local hospital as a phlebotomist (drawing on my medic experience), part time as an online translator (I’ve translated Spanish, French, and Portuguese professionally), and of course, part time as a writer. :)

MARK: How do you balance your time between family, work, military obligations, AND writing? How long have you been writing?

TRAVIS: I don’t feel I balance very well. I tend to go on binges of doing one thing at time. I mean from day to day. Perhaps that’s a form of balance, but it feels rather out of kilter...

I started thinking of myself as a writer around ten or eleven years ago. I was writing short stories, involved in a critique group, and getting a few stories published back then. But I first got a novel published in 2011, so that’s my first actual writing success. I’m still new and developing who I am as an author.

MARK: Do you incorporate any military experiences into your writing.

TRAVIS: Sure. Not just my military experiences, but my experiences interacting with military people and being aware of professional military history and literature shapes my portrayal of combat and military life.

MARK: Being a science fiction writer, you must be interested in one of more branches of science. For me, it’s astronomy. Is there one topic that interests you the most? Why?

TRAVIS: I don’t have the math for it, but I find theoretical physics endlessly interesting. I’ve read a number of books for laymen by experts on the subject, including Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and The Grand Design and Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos.

MARK: How many books do you have out? Please list them.

TRAVIS: It’s a bit of an unfair question because most of my “books” are short story anthologies that I had either a minor or in one case a major role in (Avenir Eclectia). I have only one published novel, The Crystal Portal. My anthology contributions include Stories From a Soldier’s Heart, Aquasynthesis, Aquasynthesis Again, and Avenir Eclectia. Eventually the story I wrote for Mike Lynch’s No Revolution is too Big series and the ones for Colony Zero will be in their own anthologies. More stuff, including more novels, are in the works though!

MARK: Do you have a favorite story? If so, which one?

TRAVIS: Tough question. As a kid, my favorite stories where the novels Robert A. Heinlein wrote for younger audience (they called them “juveniles”). To this day, some of those stories entertain me more than any others. But of those stories the one I liked best was called Citizen of the Galaxy. I still think it’s possibly the best science fiction novel ever written. Though I like many, many other stories for other reasons.

MARK:  I've read Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. What makes Citizen of the Galaxy so special?

TRAVIS: Citizen of the Galaxy starts with a slave-market scene in society where poverty has a brutality we can barely imagine. The protagonist begins as slave, progresses to beggar, then is part of an outlying merchant culture, then serves in the military, finally to discover he is the scion of a wealthy Earth family, where he becomes a manager of the family business against the wishes of those in charge. Everywhere he goes he is an outsider, different from the rest, something that resonates with me. Yet he finds a few people along the way that help him, love him, and who provide him moral guidance. His exploration of the galaxy I found fascinating, but there is a lurking villainy of the evil of slavery that the protagonist encounters at various points in his life. His entire life winds up being an exploration of how slavery operates in the galaxy and his triumph as a character is that he is able in the end to finally DO something about this scourge. The imagery is great, the character's voice, the supporting characters, the ultimate value of the protagonist's life struggle, the strong moral message--all of these things make Citizen of the Galaxy my favorite science fiction novel. 

MARK: Thanks, Travis.

Please check out: Travis' Blog. Also, reach out to Travis and thank him for his 23 years of service in the Army Reserve. I'd love to see a lot of comments!


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