To finish this monthly feature’s second year, I am happy to welcome Kate M. Colby as my December guest. I have followed her on Twitter (and on her blog) for a while and am delighted she accepted to be featured on Sci-Fi Women Interviews!
Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk fantasy novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children. You can learn more about Kate and her books on her website: www.KateMColby.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram.
NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?
COLBY: My dad introduced me to Science Fiction by sharing with me his favorite video games and television shows. As a child, I used to watch him play Resident Evil and “help” him shoot zombies with an unplugged controller. We would also watch shows like Star Trek, Stargate, Sliders and Quantum Leap together. My interest in Science Fiction started as a way to be close to my dad, but it quickly evolved into a lifelong passion.
NG: How did you start writing in this genre?
COLBY: Honestly, I never considered writing in a genre other than Science Fiction or Fantasy. Whenever I have a writing idea, it almost always includes aspects of “soft” Science Fiction, such as an apocalypse, a dystopian government, or something else “unrealistic.” While I do enjoy literary fiction, thrillers, and even the occasional romance novel, I get enough straight reality from my real life and other forms of entertainment. I want my writing to push the boundaries of life as we know it and give my readers (and me) an escape from the everyday.
NG: Which Science Fiction authors have been most inspiring to you?
COLBY: As an independent author, I’m most inspired by Hugh Howey. Not only is his Wool series a fantastic dystopian trilogy (I wish I had written it!), he also helped lessen the stigma surrounding independently published books and paved the way for them to be taken seriously. Growing up, Lois Lowry and The Giver had a strong impact on me. From the concept itself to the social themes within the book, it challenged my views on the world and showed me how Science Fiction could be a vessel for social criticism and change.
NG: What are your favorite Science Fiction books, movies and TV series?
COLBY: Where do I even begin?! Beyond the books already listed, I really enjoy classic Sci-Fi novels like Frankenstein and graphic novels like Watchmen and The Umbrella Academy. I probably consume most of my Science Fiction through movies and television, which goes back to how I was introduced to the genre. My favorite movies include the Mad Max films (The Road Warrior is the best!), Interstellar, and pretty much anything that features superheroes. As for TV series, I’ve really enjoyed Westworld and The Walking Dead (who hasn’t?), but a few “classic” favorites are Sliders, Stargate SG-1, and The Jetsons.
NG: Do any of the video games you play provide inspiration for your writing?
COLBY: I don’t think the act of playing video games inspires my writing, as that’s my time to unwind and “turn off” my critical side. I love Ratchet & Clank, Diablo, and Resident Evil, but none of them have much in common with my published or planned novels. Honestly, I think I get more inspiration from watching others play video games, as the separation from the game allows me to really take in the visuals, as well as detach myself from and critique the storyline. In fact, watching my husband play Bioshock Infinite helped me realize that my first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, should be set in a steampunk-inspired world.
NG: What do you think of Science Fiction’s versatility and its ties to other genres such Steampunk Fantasy?
COLBY: Science Fiction’s versatility is the reason I love this genre. Whether you’re into the “harder” side of the spectrum and its serious technologies, or you’re like me and lean toward the “softer” side of apocalypses, dystopian societies, and steampunk, Science Fiction has a story for you. Because Science Fiction keeps its roots in reality, it’s a natural bridge to fantasy, and that’s how I’ve used it in my novels. My Desertera series takes place in a post-apocalyptic society that feels like a fantasy world, but it also includes steampunk technologies and stylings. I love being able to take different aspects of Science Fiction and piece them together into something imaginative and unique.
NG: What are some recurring themes and patterns in your Science Fiction stories?
COLBY: In my Science Fiction novels, I explore themes from real life that occupy much of my thought. The most obvious recurring themes are female empowerment and sexuality, the question of revenge vs. justice, and discrepancies between social classes. All of these themes have deeply impacted my life and the lives of my loved ones, and my fiction allows me to determine my own values and (hopefully) help my readers consider their own stances on these topics.
NG: Do you think Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to women creators and female characters?
COLBY: Obviously, Science Fiction remains dominated by men. However, I think it continuously becomes more open to female creators as women push forward in the field. Speaking anecdotally, I’ve never felt uncomfortable in the genre because of my sex/gender, and I hope my experience is not an anomaly (and that it remains this way as my career evolves).
From a character standpoint, I think Science Fiction has actually been one of the strongest genres for female protagonists. While the ratio of male-to-female protagonists may not be equal, when women take the leading role in Sci-Fi stories, they’re often strong (or learn to be), confident, capable, and complex. While there are exceptions to every rule, in my experience, the strongest Science Fiction female protagonist almost always proves to be a better crafted, more respected character than female protagonists in other genres.
NG: How does your background in sociology affect your writing?
COLBY: My background in sociology influences much of my writing. By studying sociology, I learned how larger societies and smaller social groups function, the building blocks of every society, and basic theories surrounding race, gender, religion, and other important topics. Having a base of academic and theoretical knowledge on these issues, as well as understanding many different perspectives on them, helps me to craft more well-rounded worlds and characters. And, as you can see above, it also affects what themes I convey through my narratives.
NG: What advice would you have for an aspiring Science Fiction writer?
COLBY: Let your imagination run wild, but also do your research. The whole point of Science Fiction is to push the limits of reality and challenge your way of thinking. No matter how out-of-the-box your idea is (mine’s certainly a little nuts!), you will find readers who “get” it. That being said, Science Fiction (and Fantasy) readers are also some of the most critical. They want to be entertained, but they’re also smart and expect a certain level of realism in their stories. So give them an imaginative world or awe-inspiring new technology – just make sure you also have an explanation in your back pocket!
NG: Thank you for being with us today, Kate! I am sure my readers will be happy to check out your website and your books.