Martinus Publishing’s latest anthology, VFW: Veteransof the Future Wars, is now officially released! At present, it can be purchased from the publisher, or at Amazon.com in print or Kindle form. To kick off this new book release, I’ll be interviewing some of the authors who have stories featured in this collection. Today, I'm interviewing Dave D’Alessio, the talented author who contributed “The Prince Who Went up a Hill.” Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, Dave.
DAVE D’ALESSIO: You're welcome. Thank YOU!
MTI: Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
DD: Well, my bio sort of implies it. I've butterflied about... apart from chemistry, TV, animation and social science, I've also been in the PR racket, played bass (badly) in a blues band, and worked on assembly lines. If your car has an Aamco transmission from the 1970's, I know why it's broken. There's a chance I worked on it.
MTI: Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?
DD: I've been writing stories… not necessarily fiction… since second grade. Seriously. My report card said, "David has a vivid imagination. Unfortunately, he sometimes disturbs the other children."
My stories are influenced by the kinds of stories I like, of course. If you don't like what you're writing, why should you have any expectation that anyone else should like them? So, I like speculative fiction and fantasy that focuses on people and how they deal with their situations, and that's what I generally try to write, unless I'm making an experiment of some kind.
MTI: Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?
DD: Nope. Can't pick just one.
I'd love to write with the elegance and power of Robert Heinlein. I read a book like Starship Troopers, or Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and I say, "Whoa! That's killer!" Then I say, "Dude, I will NEVER be able to write like that!"
I write a lot of space opera, so I, like anyone who writes in that genre, owe a lot to E. E. "Doc" Smith for inventing it. I also love and respect H. Beam Piper… he wrote a lot, and his writing was close enough to mediocre for someone like me to aspire to. Then there's John Carr, who loves Piper more than I do, and has kept Piper's universes going. Plus the collaboration of Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, who said, "Here's a trope… Let's write the quintessential work in it."
Then there are pulp writers of all sorts, guys (most of them guys, at least) who were pounding out words because they needed the three cents each. That includes Piper, but also guys like Dash Hammett and Raymond Chandler and Bob Howard and Horatio Alger and… this list could go on forever.
MTI: “The Prince Who Went up a Hill” appears in VFW, an anthology of military science fiction that honors soldiers and veterans. Was there any particular inspiration for this story?
DD: "Prince" is about a prince. It's about someone who has to grow up if he plans to be king someday. That's an old story.
Buried in that are the race memories of Western Civilization. One of those is the horrors of The War to End All Wars…No one thought it could get worse than the trenches of World War I, and it turned out everyone was wrong. But that sense of trench warfare was what I had in mind, and I think that shows in one of the parts of the story I'm fondest of, the section where we get into the minds of the members of a machine gun crew. The machine gunners are always the steadiest, because they control life and death, at least as long as they live. That's a very World War I perspective; nowadays a B-2 would drop a smart bomb on them from 40,000 feet; they'd never hear it coming.
MTI: If you could go back to any point in history, when would you visit?
DD: I don't believe in memories of previous lives or past life regression, but at one point I had a VERY vivid dream of dying at Gallipoli. There's a place I would like to see, if I could see it without living there at that time. Dysentery and machine gun fire do not mix.
I'd also like to go back to the late '50's or early '60's and go out to California or Colorado (depending on the exact date) and shake Bob Heinlein's hand.
MTI: I’m sure there are a million other people who would do the same with Heinlein, but if they could, the timeline would be destroyed, as he’d be too busy shaking hands to write! Moving on, if you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
DD: There's no one answer to this. Washington. Nathanial Greene. (I killed both of them off in an alternative history story once.) Janis Joplin. Jesus Christ. Heinlein. Marilyn Monroe. They're all fascinating people, and there are a hundred more just as fascinating.
The most famous living person I ever met was the folk singer Pete Seeger, who died last night. He was pretty cool, a very nice man.
MTI: Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
DD: I've got a number of projects underway. I'm in the early stages of a story I'd like to show you for "Yarr! A SpacePirate Anthology," but it's not ready for prime time yet. I'm also trying to hack my favorite novel (a space opera) into shape for publication, and working on a fantasy story about a unicorn hunter… as everyone knows, you need a virgin to hunt unicorns, so what do you do when your virgin gets lucky?
MTI: Sounds intriguing. Other than your contribution to VFW, do you have any other stories coming out in the near future?
DD: I don't know. Got about a half dozen out there with various editors. Ask me again in six months!
MTI: On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?
DD: I love Mythbusters, and they've started a new season. Then there's Gold Rush. I find the mechanics of finding gold fascinating. I just got an HDTV, and it's really cool when they get the close ups of the wash plants working.
MTI: What sort of music do you prefer?
DD: Punk/new wave. I was in a punk band before I was in a blues band. I strongly recommend the New York Dolls and the Velvet Underground. I was thrilled on the day I got my acceptance for VFW, but two hours later I was bummed because Lou Reed had died.
John Lee Hooker. Bow ow ow ow. Hey hey. Of people not dead or on social security, I'm fond of Jack White. He may be the last great guitar hero.
MTI: You have the attention of potential readers. Are there any great words of wisdom you’d like to share with them?
DD: Please keep reading. Read and read and read. "There are more worlds in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." - Wm. Shakespeare. Reading expands your mind. It's good for you!
If you read a lot and feel you have something to say, WRITE! Reading your writing expands OUR minds! But if you write, remember: "If you want to write, write. If you want to be read, rewrite." The Prince Who Went Up a Hill is a fourth or fifth draft.
MTI: Readers love free samples. Is there anything you’d like to share with us today, perhaps something new or recent that you’ve written?
DD: Here are the first three 'graphs from, "The Arizona Republic." Anyone who wants to see the rest of it can let me know. It's a flash piece, less than a thousand words.
Fires were still smoldering in downtown Tucson, and the smoke stung General Montcalm’s eyes and carried the too-familiar stench of death to him. Off to his left, a couple hundred yards away, an M-2 pounded away in bursts of three. Sounded like the Rangers had flushed out another sniper.
“Sure this is a good idea, sir?” Sergeant LeRoi asked. He was driving the combat car carefully and his eyes kept scanning the windows of the buildings they passed, ready to throw the car into reverse at the first sign of some fanatic wanting to take another damned Yankee with him.
The general was watching as carefully. It looked like the rebels were honoring the white flag flying from the car. “We’ve got to get this ended, Mal,” he told the sergeant.
MTI: Thanks you for that thrilling sample, and thank you for the interview. It has been a real pleasure. Readers who want to see more of Dave’s work along with some other exciting military sci-fi can pick up Veterans of the Future Wars today!