Please Welcome...Steve Rzasa
What a joy to have Christian speculative fiction novelist Steve Rzasa as our interview guest this month here at WhereTheMapEnds.
You pronounce Rzasa as "rah-za," which I learned much to my disappointment, as I'd been having fun saying ARR-Zassa. Alas.
I encountered Steve through the acquisitions process at Marcher Lord Press. My volunteer readers kept coming back to me with notes like, "Jeff, you have to hurry up and read this book, Commissioned, by Steve Raz... Zra.. Rastafari—By this Steve guy."
The only problem with this epic space opera, they said, was that it's so long. Like 170,000 words long, twice the length of many Christian novels.
So I began to read Steve's epic, and I was instantly hooked. I couldn't even define what it was I loved so much--or how he could have dozens of very similar characters whom I somehow never had trouble telling apart.
At that time, the book started with a sullen teenager arguing with his dad. In space, I grant you, but still: how was that intriguing? And yet, it was. Then when this teenager finds a forbidden holy book and the secret police start killing people to try to get it, I had to know more.
When Steve jumped over to his storyline about a warrior family serving throughout the federation's military forces, I was doubly hooked. Capital ship battles, daring atmospheric fighter pilots, a crumbling monarchy, young love, deep betrayals, and powered armor...? Oh, baby.
So I started talking with Steve and looking for a place to cut the book in half. We found one, and the first book became The Word Reclaimed.
[Editor's Note: Book 2 in the Face of the Deep series is called The Word Unleashed. It released in April of 2010.]
Steve is a native of South Jersey who, with his wife and sons, now lives in Wyoming, where he quietly absorbs all the SF novels retired from his local library.
And now, here's the interview.
WhereTheMapEnds: Catch us up with you. What have you been up to lately?
Steve Rzasa: I've been doing PR stuff for The Word Reclaimed and have been working on the sequel, The Word Unleashed, which is due out from Marcher Lord Press in April 2010. When I'm not writing or editing (and not working at the Johnson County Library in Buffalo, Wyoming), I'm playing with my elementary school-aged boys or watching one of two shows with my wife—Castle or NCIS.
WhereTheMapEnds: What is your favorite speculative novel of all time (Christian or secular) and why is that your favorite?
Steve Rzasa: I'd have to say Merchanter's Luck by C.J. Cherryh. It is set in a very well constructed, believable universe. The main character, Sandor Kreja, is like the anti-Han Solo—downtrodden, unlucky, kind of skinny and pale. His path to redemption is a great read.
WhereTheMapEnds: What made you want to write Christian speculative fiction?
Steve Rzasa: Well, I always wanted to write sci-fi. But prior to finding my faith, I never gave the Christian part of it any thought. Then I basically looked at what I was writing before and asked myself, what if I put my beliefs about God in here? It's the same as putting political or social beliefs into a secular book—you put who you are into your writing.
WhereTheMapEnds: What is your favorite speculative genre to read? To write? If they're different, talk about that.
Steve Rzasa: I love to read and write space opera. If a sci-fi story doesn't have a starship winging its way to some far corner of the galaxy, it's automatically a harder sell to me. It's a sad consequence of growing up on Star Wars and the many Star Trek television series and movies.
Mostly I write sci-fi, but occasionally one of the other genres pops out. None of those creations have seen the light of day yet, though.
WhereTheMapEnds: How would you characterize the current state of Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Steve Rzasa: I'd say it's still lacking, but improving steadily with the likes of Marcher Lord Press. Chris Walley's Lamb Among the Stars trilogy was a wonderful example of a sprawling space epic with Christian themes, and Kathy Tyers' Firebird series is a great allegory for the Old Testament longing for a redeemer.
WhereTheMapEnds: What have you seen that encourages you about Christian speculative writing and/or publishing?
Steve Rzasa: Companies like Marcher Lord Press that give authors a chance who might never have their books see the light of day—that's a great thing. Also, Christian spec fiction allows for issues of faith to be addressed in a wide variety of adventure stories.
WhereTheMapEnds: What would you like to see changed regarding Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing?
Steve Rzasa: Well, I'd like to see more of it! I'd also like to see it more accepted. I get the feeling that it's not taken quite as seriously as mainstream Christian fiction, perhaps because it tackles odd topics.
WhereTheMapEnds: I don't know if it's not taken seriously or if it's just not liked by the core Christian fiction reader demographic. As a group, those ladies simply prefer bonnet and buggy fiction to novels about mutant alien vampires who will eat your brain.
What do you think Christian speculative fiction writing and/or publishing will look like in three years? Five years? Ten years?
Steve Rzasa: Ten years on, I hope it will be greatly expanded and targeted to the specific audience of avid readers who like spec fiction. I think print-on-demand offers a great future for this kind of genre.
WhereTheMapEnds: What advice would you give to someone who aspires to write and publish Christian speculative fiction?
Steve Rzasa: It's cliché, but true—don't give up. Keep honing your ideas, write even when you don't feel like it, and submit, submit, submit. Get good editing advice from someone you can trust, but who can also give you his or her opinion in non-sugar-coated form. If it is in God's plan for you to be published, it will happen. You're just kind of along for the ride!
WhereTheMapEnds: Good advice! What's the best part about writing and publishing Christian speculative fiction?
Steve Rzasa: The best part is being able to infuse questions of faith and belief into a genre that might otherwise overlook such questions. Don't get me wrong—spirituality is addressed by the famed sci-fi writers, but I can't name one who takes what one would call orthodox Christianity seriously. I think it's invaluable for the fantasy and science fiction genres to address these questions--the human experience is much more than things we can see and touch.
Plus, it gives me an excuse to write about people having adventures on cool spaceships.
WhereTheMapEnds: Aha, now we see the real reason! What writing project(s) are you working on now?
Steve Rzasa: I'm working on the sequel to my first novel, The Word Reclaimed, published in October 2009 by Marcher Lord Press. The sequel, The Word Unleashed, is the immediate follow-up and resolution to the first book. I also have the beginnings of a third book to follow and another novel set in the same universe but about a starship operating in a space Coast Guard.
WhereTheMapEnds: Awesome! What's a cool speculative story idea you've had lately?
Steve Rzasa: I have a short story underway from the perspective of an officer in the king's secret police. He is tracking down fugitive Christians, but has his own secret. I like trying to explore things from the perspective of the "bad guys."
[Editor's Note: One of Steve's short stories set in the world of The Word Reclaimed and The Word Unleashed won the G. K. Chesterton Award in a 2009 contest. You can read that story online here.]
WhereTheMapEnds: What's the best speculative story (Christian or secular, book or otherwise) you've encountered lately?
WhereTheMapEnds: What else would you like to say to the readers of WhereTheMapEnds.com?
Steve Rzasa: Read Christian spec fiction! Find what you like and support the cause. Especially if what you like involves spaceships...
That's All for This Time
What a great interview, huh? Thanks again to Steve. Be sure to
visit Steve Rzasa