Today I am interviewing Joe M. McDermott, author of the new science-fiction novel, The Fortress at the End of Time.
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DJ: Hey Joe! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Joe M. McDermott: I am a pudgy, middle-aged white guy. My wife is cooler than I am.
DJ: What is The Fortress at the End of Time about?
Joe: In some ways, it is about the difference between what is sold to someone, and what is actually given. It is also about pride, and how it hardens as a survival mechanism. It is also about clones in deep space, at a miserable posting with very little hope for anything better.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Fortress at the End of Time?
Joe: The book was born out of reading other books. The first book was recommended to me by Larry Nolen from OF Blog of the Fallen. He suggested I read Dino Buzzati’s The Tartar Steppe, and I loved it and found The Opposing Shore by Julian Graq on the same Amazon page. I loved that, too. I had been tinkering with ideas about clones as a method of space travel, inspired by such authors as James Patrick Kelly, and the sort of worlds created by Ursula K. LeGuin and Maureen McHugh.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Joe: I don’t think my brain works the way yours does about characters. Quirks and habits are annoying, to me, as a reader. My characters are as human as I can possibly make them, and I push them into the prison-like pressure cooker of the Citadel. They do what I think any person would do, each in their way. If they have anything that can be described as a quirk, I’ve failed as an author attempting to create something true.
DJ: What is the world or setting of The Fortress at the End of Time like?
Joe: There was a war against an enemy so alien, researchers are still attempting to figure out what the enemy might look like, and how their ships even work, at all. At the last battle, when humanity won and pushed the enemy back out into the greater Laika, from the edge of the Sagittarius Cluster, the badly damaged warship located the closest habitable planet. They survived as a far colony of man, in deprivation and desperation for a long time. It is getting better as more ice comets arrive. The colony is small, though, and much of the life of the community on the surface revolves around a monastery. Much of the job, out at the Citadel, is just paying attention and watching for the return of the mysterious enemy. If they ever do return in force, it is unlikely the colony would survive for long.
DJ: The books synopsis mentions that humanity is fighting against this mysterious enemy, but I was wondering, without spoiling anything, could you maybe shed a little more on the enemy beside being “mysterious”?
Joe: They are alien, in every sense of the word. We don’t even know what they look like, or how their ships work.
DJ: You also speaking of cloning. When I think of cloning, it’s generally of a person themselves – all their DNA and starting from zygote. But, you mention cloning a piece of his soul… How does cloning work in your story?
Joe: Quantum cloning as a form of interstellar transportation is what is happening, here. A perfect clone at the level of the molecules is shot as data across an ansible line, put together instantaneously on the other side of the line. If one believes in souls, one might wonder at the theological implications. Different characters grapple with that, as they are able.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Fortress at the End of Time?
Joe: Tor.com has been a joy to work with. About two weeks before I finished the manuscript, a new editor at Tor.com reached out to me and asked me if I had anything. I really, really like being in a place in my career where editors at extremely good houses reach out to me to see if I have anything. I did, and they bought it.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Joe: I couldn’t possibly know that. Books exist in a space inside someone else’s head. They bring themselvers – we bring ourselves – to every book read. It is a personal and quiet thing, and everyone brings different eyes and experiences to their page.
DJ: What was your goal when you began writing The Fortress at the End of Time? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Joe: If I did have such a thing, why would I tell anyone? The book exists. It tells that story, that message. If I could condense the grand meaning into a tweet or a blog post, why would I write a novel?
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Fortress at the End of Time that you can share with us?
Joe: Quoting myself would be gauche. Let me quote, instead, Maureen McHugh’s most unforgettable line of dialog, from Nekropolis, a masterpiece of SF: “Go to your mother’s!”
DJ: Now that The Fortress at the End of Time is released, what is next for you?
Joe: I just keep writing.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Fortress at the End of Time that we haven’t talked about yet?
Joe: Every time someone checks out a copy of one of my books from a library, or requests it from the library for purchase, a chain reaction of wonderful things happen.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Joe: Thanks for asking me around!
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*** The Fortress at the End of Time is published by Tor.com and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Captain Ronaldo Aldo has committed an unforgivable crime. He will ask for forgiveness all the same: from you, from God, even from himself.
Connected by ansible, humanity has spread across galaxies and fought a war against an enemy that remains a mystery. At the edge of human space sits the Citadel—a relic of the war and a listening station for the enemy’s return. For a young Ensign Aldo, fresh from the academy and newly cloned across the ansible line, it’s a prison from which he may never escape.
Deplorable work conditions and deafening silence from the blackness of space have left morale on the station low and tensions high. Aldo’s only hope of transcending his station, and cloning a piece of his soul somewhere new is both his triumph and his terrible crime.
JOE M. McDERMOTT is best known for the novels Last Dragon, Never Knew Another, and Maze. His work has appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. He holds an MFA from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Program. He lives in Texas.