Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Mike Robinson - Speculative Fiction Writer

This week's Speculative Fiction Writer is Curiosity Quills Press author, Mike Robinson. His first short story collection, Too Much Dark Matter, Too Little Gray, will be published on April 10th. 

Hello, Mike. Thank you for joining me. It's a rain-soaked and wild day here in Devon, so I hope you brought your raincoat. I thought we'd brave the elements and take a stroll down to see the fishing boats bring in their catches, and then treat ourselves to a fried breakfast at the Docks Cafe.

Right. Time for some questions:

Q: Which three words best describe you?

A: I suppose curious, passionate and social. I’d toss in “creative”, though it’s a little obvious (after all, it’s why I’m here!) and sounds a tad pompous. Though I guess I did just toss it in....wait...

Q: Do you have a favourite movie quote?

Yikes. Not sure. Being a native of Los Angeles, and a writer to boot, I have celluloid blood in my veins. Hmm. A hurricane of possibilities fly through my mind, from “I know exactly what I think about [the topic of God’s existence], but can never find a way to put it into words” (Woody Allen, in his Shadows & Fog) to “You think that’s air you’re breathing?” (Morpheus, in The Matrix) to the exchange: “It’s a mess, ain’t it, Sheriff?” .... “If not, it’ll do till the mess gets here.” (the Coens’ No Country for Old Men).

Q: Stephen King or Dean Koontz? Why?

A: Stephen King, if only because he has longer roots in my reading history, and influenced me far more in my younger writing life. Reading IT was what fired me out of one career path and back into writing. King is also a little more in my wheelhouse as far as his outlandish knack for the supernatural and his thematic concerns. I still feel, though, that both King and Koontz wrote their best stuff in the eighties and early-to-mid nineties. That’s not saying they’re past their prime, necessarily, just that in my judgment the best books of that particular era have yet to be surpassed.

Q: Have you always been a writer?

A: Pretty much. I’ve always been a creative person, since I was two years old and poised myself for several hours over a canvas, much to the amazement of the harried painting teacher. I’ve always been transfixed by the process. I told stories visually before I could put them into words. I wrote my first “real” story when I was about 6 or 7, and haven’t really stopped since. It was not something I decided to do, just my brain or my soul’s version of needing to go to the bathroom.

Q:  I see you belong to the second largest writers' group in Southern California, GLAWS, which lists Ray Bradbury among its many honoured speakers. Did you have the opportunity to speak to Bradbury? If so, what was he like?

A: Very infectious, a big silvery-haired stuffed animal come to boisterous life. I met him when he was already in a wheelchair, but when he spoke the immortal fourteen-year-old in him took over. I introduced myself as a fellow writer and dinosaur buff, and he chuckled. In an industry strewn with famous alcoholics and suicides, it was refreshing to see a literary giant so joyful at the end of his life. And he hardly denied the troubles and sadness he’d seen -- instead of retreating from them, he embraced them, and was as grateful for the low points as he was for the high.

Q: You've already published five speculative fiction books. Did you always know you wanted to write spec-fic?

A: Not always, technically, but certainly most of my life. I started out writing sport stories, sagas in baseball, basketball, golf, etc., until I read Bruce Coville’s My Teacher is an Alien series and wrote “Aliens In My Backyard!”, which pretty much put me on an irreversible path into the wide, octopoid world of speculative fiction. My first classifiably horror story was called “When the Moon is Full”. Which of the following do you think was the featured beast? -- A. Vampire, B. Dragon, or C. Werewolf?

Q: Your first short story collection will be published on April 10th. What is it about?

A: Many things! Universally, though, it celebrates infinite mysteriousness, and meditates on the possibility, or reality, that the irrational is the seat of the rational, that our brains (gray matter!) are ill-equipped to fathom the world’s innate weirdness. In the book, that weirdness takes on many forms, in varying genres, from science fiction to horror to magical realism, yet all of it sources back to some dark, unknowable namelessness.

Q: Would you like to share an extract with us?

“The sky was a luminous blue, a band of twilight between the waning redness at the horizon and the growing blackness of the celestial night. The air had that ripe, wintry smell to it.
          As I walked, my brain became a black hole, sucking into oblivion all else around me as it reran current issues I was having in my work, which dealt, fittingly, with black holes. I’ve been obsessed with the phenomenon since I was a kid and realized they were real, not cool ingredients in science fiction. To me nothing in the universe was as mysterious. To think that these invisible gluttons of light truly hang out there as open wounds in nature, bullying physical logic, possibly existing as passages to some other realm or realms into which they excrete their voluminous intake―it jazzed me. Hell, these things eat stars―if that isn’t a monster to end all those of the comic panel or movie screen, I don’t know what is. The din of my thoughts receded once I reached the store. There was more pressing business afoot. When I started trolling the aisles, picking out the booze, I noticed something was amiss. However, I found it hard to focus past the huge selection of bottles and six-packs before me. Everything looked good.
          Having grabbed a basket, I realized I'd need more space, so I retrieved a cart and wheeled away, loading up.
          The sky darkened as I approached the counter.
          I paid, bagged everything, trying to ignore a strange buzzing deep within my very marrow, as if my body were gearing up, being primed for something.”

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering publishing a short story collection?

A: Be selective with the stories you choose to include. Obviously, if you’re working with a publisher or editor, their two cents will be helpful, as well. If you’re like me and have among your files a Corinthian column of stories you’ve scribed over the years, the decision process can be intimidating and difficult, even with a theme in mind (and you should have a theme, especially if you’re prone to experimentation, to bending or breaking genres). A chunk of the stories in Too Much Dark Matter, Too Little Gray were published elsewhere, but I didn’t include all my previously-published stories, either because they didn’t fit thematically or they just weren’t “me” anymore. Literary longevity is a curious thing. I have stories from 2003 that, for whatever reason, are truer and deeper rooted in me than some I wrote in 2008 or 2009, though of course I always give them a stylistic spit-shine.  

Book blurb:

Award-winning speculative fiction author Mike Robinson offers up 19 of his creepily provocative short stories in his new book, Too Much Dark Matter, Too Little Gray: A Collection of Weird Fiction.

A beer run becomes an interdimensional excursion. Two men settle their differences after discovering an extraordinary secret in the wilderness. A woman faces the bureaucratic logistics of a digital afterlife. A grieving man seeks to know where his wife was reincarnated. Strange lights in the sky begin to transform the lives of a small town. God and the Devil play billiards for people's souls. A teenage deity's science fair project sprouts a startling discovery. 

These and more dream-like detours into the surreal, interstitial and inexplicable await within the pages of Too Much Dark Matter, Too Little Gray: A Collection of Weird Fiction.

Author bio:

Mike Robinson has been writing since age 7, when his story Aliens In My Backyard! became a runaway bestseller, topping international charts (or maybe that was also just a product of his imagination).

He has since published fiction in a dozen magazines, literary anthologies and podcasts. His debut novel, Skunk Ape Semester, released by Solstice Publishing, was a Finalist in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Currently he’s the managing editor of Literary Landscapes, the official magazine of the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society ( His supernatural novels The Green-Eyed Monster, Negative Space (both part of The Enigma of Twilight Falls trilogy) and The Prince of Earth are all available. He also co-authored Hurakan's Chalice, the third installment of Aiden James' bestselling Talisman Chronicles.

You can find Mike here.

Thank you, Mike. Stephen King would also be my choice. It was one of his books - The Stand - that opened me up to the wonders of both reading and writing stories. Congratulations on the publication of your short story collection. The cover is stunning. I will be adding it to my TBR list.

That's it for this week. If you're still plowing your way through the A to Z Blogging Challenge, keep going. The journey is worth it. Happy blogging.


  1. Major CONGRATS, Mike! Thrilled for you. Totally fan-girl over your cover, too. And Woot! for Stephen King. IT was way cool. I loved the Gunslinger series, too.

  2. Great interview! Congratulations to Mike. That cover is glorious! Stephen King has always been my idol.

  3. Congratulations to Mike for publishing 5 spec fiction books.

  4. Great interview, and MAN does that sound like a cool story collection. Thanks for introducing me to Mike! :)

  5. Thanks Elllie, this is a great post and pretty useful and inspiring.

    Garden of Eden Blog

  6. Great interview and as for the book title. Wish I could think up things like that.

  7. Nice interview, you two! A two year old occupied for several hours over a canvas is pretty darn good. Congrats to Mike.


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