Wednesday, October 3, 2018

THE MEGAROTHKE by Robert Ashcroft

I got to know Robert Ashcroft at this year's WorldCon, and his insights were extremely helpful. His book, THE MEGAROTHKE, is a gripping sci-fi/horror:

Seven years after the limitless depths of the Hollow War decimated Earth, leaving only 50,000 humans to fight for survival in Los Angeles, Theo Abrams is sent on a mission to destroy the enigmatic being that initiated this apocalypse, confronting the fact that humanity's yearning to transcend reality caused its downfall . . .

According to your website bio, you are trained as cryptologic linguist. Can you explain?

 A cryptologic linguist is someone who listens to enemy communications in a foreign language. While I can't talk a lot about my experiences, I can say that I was qualified in Korean and Spanish. A big part of what influenced The Megarothke came from simply living in an active duty environment. It's a foreign culture to most Americans, but unlike traveling, it's a culture that demands immediate assimilation and obedience.

Imagine, for example, if you had to go to boot camp before flying to Tokyo or Paris. A French waiter might refuse to serve you, but they aren’t going to scream at you and make your whole family do push-ups. We trample over other etiquettes while on vacation, but in uniform, you can't walk inside a building without taking off your hat. There is a joke that you have to use sunscreen because a sunburn would constitute damage to government property. This mentality runs very deep.

While serving, you also don't have to think about a lot of societal problems. You don't have to shop or worry about being laid off. But on the other hand, you feel responsible for what's happening, even when it's not you, and the army doesn't have a perfect track record. What's also amazing to me about our military situation is the lack of any nuanced scrutiny by the American public. We're either faultless heroes or high school drop-outs/criminals. The cultural divide is huge, and there really isn't enough productive discussion around our greater, global foreign policy.

That being said, I understand. We're busy. We're trying to get by. We don't have a lot of access to where the decisions are being made. This sense of frustration is what I wanted to articulate with Theo, the main character. He is not someone that is in place to make a difference, even when he sees things he knows need to change. All he can really do is press forward and try to protect his friends and family.

Indeed. THE MEGAROTHKE explores the horrors of war, and how people try to rebuild after it. What do you hope readers gain from Theo and his experiences?

 Oh shoot. I may have answered a lot of this in the previous question. I want people to stop and consider where our money and energy goes as a culture. Self-gratification and violence are over-budgeted, in my opinion.

On another note, I do think that in the stages of post-apocalyptic rebuilding, most cities would be authoritarian. Democracy is a lot of work and very hard to maintain. Anyone who doesn’t believe that humans like authoritarian regimes has never paid $65 a month to an HOA just to receive passive aggressive snail mail about their garbage can being out on the curb. That might be over-sharing.

No such thing. In your interview with Bookpeople, you said the hardest thing about writing is, "Protecting the time and space necessary to let yourself―and sometimes force yourself―to do good work." In what ways have you found this necessary time and space?

I recently canceled my home internet. I have unlimited data on my cell phone, and can do a WiFi hotspot, so I'm not 100 percent cut off from the world. But overall, it's helped me focus to remove two devices (the television and laptop) from my list of distractions. Before that, it was so easy to bounce between all three devices. We spend our lives staring at screens connected to the internet. Within 24 hours of cutting it off, I had located solitaire. That was a big realization for me. I even searched for Space Cadet, that pinball game, but it doesn't come pre-installed.

Robert's art studio.
Apparently, we thrive on distractions! What are some of your current projects?

 I'm sort of in a short story renaissance. I also recently bought a whole bunch of paint supplies and started learning how to work with acrylics. I made a little studio in my house. My goal is to get good enough to eventually do my own artwork someday, but that’s a long way off. If anyone reading this has any tips, feel free to send them along! Plus, it's just really fun and rewarding!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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