Kismet is cool.
My first twitter Who-to-Follow recommendation was @onyxhawke, who has a dry sense of humor and links web articles about technology that hasn’t been invented yet, can #replaceabooktitle quicker than a librarian running after a kid with a snare drum, and actually asks his followers what they are doing today.
I think he might also be Batman.
And because Mike Kabongo, of the OnyxHawke Agency, exclusively represents Science Fiction and Fantasy writers (which I am not), I could answer without getting the holy-crap-I’m-talking-to-an-agent-I-hope-he-doesn’t-think-I’m-a-suck-up shakes.
He recently moved his blog to AgentIncite, where he posts movie reviews, tips about world and society building in writing, and interviews authors.
When he mentioned that was going to update his standard questions, and I asked if he would answer a few of my questions, he answered.
All of them.
What is a book you remember knocking your socks off as a child?
I’d have to go with A Wrinkle In Time and its immediate sequels, its been long enough since I reread them that I know for sure I haven’t managed to keep them straight in my head. Madeleine L’Engle is one of the single best writers I’ve ever had the privilege and pleasure of reading. Hard science and good fiction are a difficult mix.
As a teenager?
Not in a good way but A Brave New World. I found Aldus Huxley’s science wretchedly painful at the time, and looking back now I suspect it wasn’t even good science when it was written. The isms in the text were no less nausea inducing. The poor English teacher who assigned it to me in high school got back one of the most searing reviews I’ve ever written. Poor guy, I actually liked him.
As an adult?
I’m probably way too jaded to be mind blown at this point. I’ve had a lot of books I really like, a few score I adore and no few I loathe but mind-blowing isn’t something I expect to see any more, which should it ever happen again will make it that much more enjoyable.
That said, I adore the works of my clients, and no few of my writer friends.
What authors do you see as being the most innovative writers in SciFi/Fantasy lately?
Innovative? There’s honestly only so much you do with the written word. You can do it to various levels of quality, but innovative isn’t a word I’d apply to story telling. There are only a very limited number of story lines; the key to being memorable is how you execute them. Robin Hobb and Lois Bujold are known for asking the big questions about human behavior in ways that scream them to the reader without ever breaking the fourth wall. Some of the writers who don’t get enough credit for this are Dave Freer, the late Dianne Wynne Jones, and David Drake. It’s too bad, I think that depending on the work in question these are three of the best at showing people as they are, as they could be and how they should be.
I’m way more interested in the realistic goal of a strong story that gives me something to think about later than I am the some what silly for an adult pursuit of having ones world overturned.
I like seeing people adapt different technologies and social developments into their stories and extrapolating from their. Dave Freer’s Rats, Bats, and Vats is an excellent study on the possibilities of brain implanted chips in non humans, and the slow shield employed there is just plain neat as well. Slowtrain to Arcturus explores a lot of issues: isolationism, various social ideals and their adjacent injustices, and the nature of authority just to name a couple.
What was your favorite thing to do when you were eight years old?
Hmm, probably read. I honestly have trouble remembering that far back.
If you had $25,000 and ten minutes to spend it, what would you buy?
Hmm, does a $25,000 debit card count? If I couldn’t do that a reasonable car or down payment on a home.
What musician, living or dead, would you have play at your next birthday party?
I have no idea. I generally try and forget birthdays as I don’t consider adults ages all that relevant, but I suppose Dvorak, Dr. Dre or Bon Jovi would all be spiffy.
What was the last costume you wore?
There’s a lot of buzz lately about mixed genres: Southern Gothic Steampunk, Paranormal Erotica, Literary Noir, and so on. Are there any SciFi/Fantasy subgenres you’d like to see mixed with something else?
I want good. Really, just good. It doesn’t matter what clothes you put on the story, if you haven’t done the rest of it right you’re wasting time.
Any mix of genres you’d refuse to touch?
Um inside the SF/F continuum, not really. I’ve been told there are things called “magical realisim” and “new weird” but have never seen a meaningful definition of them. Outside the genre the story would have to be pretty compelling for me to venture outside what I know well.
Many agents do not ask for a synopsis when they query; you do. How do you use the summary? Do you read it before you read the MS? How can it affect a submission?
The synopsis is generally the last thing I open, if I do, when reading a submission. I tend to skip the cover letter unless the novel makes it past the first couple chapters. If I’m still reading around half way I may take a look at the synopsis or outline and see if the story is tied up passably well. That said the synopsis is the map not the territory. For the most part by the time I get to the synopsis I’ve already gotten far enough to know what the writer’s style is. Generally unless the synopsis shows the book ending in a way that sucks, the synopsis is just used to make sure I’m following (what the author thinks is) the right thread.
What do you see new writers having the most difficulty with, when they are in the revision stage?
All sorts of stuff, grammar, plotting, characterization… probably just noticing their own beloved baby’s warts as a whole. New writer problems are often the same ones experienced writers have, but the latter have learned enough to gloss them over before they show their work to others.
What color is your spaceship?
Black, red touches along the contours and entry and egress points.
What do you smuggle in it?
Intelligence and good sense. No really, I’ve invented drug forms of them both. Sadly there’s not much market for them among those who need them most. Well, that and 163 proof pomegranate-habanera rum (banned in 91 star systems!).
What’s your favorite grilling recipe?
Heat + meat.
What question should rookie writers always #askagent, and never do?
Twitter is such a weird social interface I’m not entirely certain it’s possible to ask and answer profound questions of style or content there. I like Twitter within it’s limitations, I suppose “When are you doing a reader mail blog post?” might be the perfect #AskAgent
What question do you like to be asked?
What’s your answer?
What’s one of the most underrated things an agent can provide for their clients?