With a huge back-catalog of writing, spanning decades now, Alan Dean Foster is one of the most prolific authors of sci-fi writing today. He took the time to talk to us about his current set up, during the current pandemic, and how he’s adapting. Alan reveals some of the pitfalls to avoid as a professional writer and gives us some details of his up and coming books, as well as the all-important release dates. We are also let in on a new project of Alan’s, a fresh way for him to explore his creativity . . .
Ben Cassidy at SFPulse: How are you Alan, how’s the current climate (pandemic) been impacting on you, and how have you managed with writing, etc?
Alan Dean Foster: Other than the common minor inconveniences (not being able to eat out, go to a movie, etc.) it hasn’t been too bad. After all, writers social distance their entire lives. I work at home, we have a nice house on some acreage, and so we’re in pretty good shape compared to, say, a writer stuck in a one-bedroom apartment in the middle of a major city. As for my actual writing, it’s not affected.
SFPulse: How well has the last book done? Are you someone who keeps tabs, considering how many books you’ve written, or do you just take sales performances in your stride?
Alan Dean Foster: Every professional artist keeps tabs. But years ago I got out of the habit of constantly checking sales figures. It does nothing and only preys on your thoughts. Much better to just get on with writing.
SFPulse: What usually gives you the idea for the plot of new books? Imagination, inspiration, or a little of both?
Alan Dean Foster: The most recent two are SECRETIONS and PRODIGALS. SECRETIONS is set on a world where the life-forms are essentially based on slime. Science, not ick. PRODIGALS came about because I had never written an invasion novel before and I thought I would try to do something different. The story takes a pretty unexpected twist.
SFPulse: Moving to your other work, do you have a favorite book you’ve written or one that you’re most proud of – Star Trek or otherwise?
Alan Dean Foster: Hard to choose, after so many books. I’m very proud of my short fiction but I can’t pick out one particular collection. Novel-wise, there’s Midworld, Sagramanda, Primal Shadows, The Mocking Program, Spellsinger…really hard to narrow it down to just one.
SFPulse: We’d love to hear about your involvement with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and if you were nervous/star-struck meeting Gene Rodenberry? Any fun anecdotes about others you met, onset, etc. – if you did?
Alan Dean Foster: I did not write the screenplay for ST:TMP, of course. I wrote the story, known in the motion picture industry as a treatment. No, I was not nervous about meeting Roddenberry. My uncle, Howie Horwitz, was a noted TV producer (77 Sunset Strip, Batman, etc.) so I had been on the fringes of the business all my life and knew pretty much what to expect. As for being starstruck, I was a little bit struck the first time I met Arthur C. Clarke. Arthur turned out to be just a regular guy … and a terrific ping-pong player. I’ve met a lot of people in the film business. None of them left me star-struck. Were I to meet Floor Jansen, now . . .
SFPulse: Some of your Star Trek novels were adaptations/extensions of The Animated Series. Do you feel that it’s perhaps unfairly seen as “the poor relation” within Star Trek fandom?
Alan Dean Foster: Actually, no. Anything that respects the original Star Trek is received with gratitude, I believe, by ST fandom. While the animation of the TV Star Trek was poor due to economic constraints, both the characters and the settings were treated as well as they would have been had the show been live.
SFPulse: Have you a favorite series of Star Trek? Or a favorite episode or moment?
A Dean Foster: There was one episode, I believe “The Corbonite Maneuver” (TOS), that attempted to portray an alien as something other than a man in a rubber suit, and also to explore a true alien motivation. Real science-fiction. We don’t get much of that. The film ARRIVAL is a good example, as is ANNIHILATION. Both, interestingly but not surprisingly, based on works by actual writers of science-fiction.
SFPulse: Having been so prolific over the years, how do you feel things are for a writer in the internet age, as opposed to before? Have you found it hard to adapt, in terms of social media, etc?
Alan Dean Foster: I just keep writing the way I have always written. The medium itself may shift and change, but a good story is still a good story. Social media simply means I don’t have to buy as many stamps.
SFPulse: What have you got up and coming, or any sneak peeks on stuff you’re working on?
Alan Dean Foster: SECRETIONS and PRODIGALS are being marketed. Later this year, THE DIRECTOR SHOULD’VE SHOT YOU will be published by Centipede Press. This is a non-fiction history of my involvement with film and T.V. adaptations. On November 18, Wordfire Press will publish MADRENGA, a fantasy novel. THE TREASURE OF THE LUGAR MORTO, a short story, will come out in Analog. And a few more things here and there.
SFPulse: If there’s anything else you’d like to add, please feel free!
Alan Dean Foster: In April, I started composing orchestral music. I’ve completed a handful of short pieces, one symphony, and the symphonic suite NIGHTWISH, which consists of half a dozen orchestral impressions of the members of Nightwish, my favorite band. The latter can be heard by going to my Facebook fan page. It can be found if you scroll down, or go over to “videos” and click on it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Only took 73 years to get around to it.
There we have it. Who knew Arthur C. Clarke played ping-pong, let alone was any good! A huge thanks to Alan, and an absolute privilege and pleasure to chat with him. We wish him the very best of luck with the latest books (we’re looking forward to them all) , and in his musical projects , too. If you’ve a favourite book or story by one of the many Alan has written over the years then get commenting. There’s certainly no shortage to choose from!