Robert Vardeman

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Noms de Plume: Victor Appleton (young adult science fiction), Cliff Garnett (action/adventure), F.J. Hale (fantasy), Edward S. Hudson (science fiction), Karl Lassiter (Westerns), Daniel Moran (fantasy)

Location: Albuquerque

Key Book Titles: Sandcats of Rhyl, The Cenotaph Road, Road to the Stars, Star Trek: The Klingon Gambit, Magic The Gathering: Dark Legacy , The Weapons of Chaos series, The Masters of Space series, The Jade Demons quartet


Years in New Mexico: 44

In your opinion, why are there so many SF writers in New Mexico?

It’s one of those things that if you could live anywhere you want, why not Albuquerque or New Mexico? The cost of living is still fairly low here, we’ve got wide-open spaces, the crush of a city like Los Angeles or New York doesn’t really exist yet. I think it’s a cultural thing, also. New Mexico has always had a very strong arts-literature reputation, and if anyone happens to migrate out here and look at it, then it’s very easy to get involved in it and see the advantages of being with other people who are writers and artists. In ’78 or ’79, Tony Hillerman started a writers group that meets on the first Friday of every month; and we’ve continued to meet on the first Friday of every month for what’s going on 30 years.

What is the current state of SF publishing?

It looks as if there is more SF and fantasy being published than ever. While there may be fewer big publishers for it because of the conglomerations, there are some independent ones like Bain Books that seem to do quite well. But any kind of science fiction–the space opera, the military, the hard SF–it’s all out there. One of the nicer trends is the ease of the smaller presses to be able to print or reprint SF. That’s what I think has made for the huge, huge number of SF titles that are available every year.

How do you approach SF writing?

I read quite a lot of non-fiction, and I worked four years out of Sandia Labs in solid state physicsresearch. I have both a bachelor’s in physics, and a master’s in materials engineering, so I’m interested in seeing what the new stuff is. Where is nanotechnology going? What are the cosmological theories, the things that are really cutting-edge stuff? Looking at this, I see if there is something that really interests me, and I approach it from how people relate to a technology. What would this technology do for a society? Or a person? In effect, I believe that the best science fiction is probably more accurately described as technology fiction. Science, per se, is rather dull, because it’s people sitting and doing experiments endlessly, sometimes for years to get one result. On the other hand, the technology, the application of what they’ve found, is what interests me the most.

What inspired you to get into SF?

Actually, I never wanted to be a writer. A good friend of mine named George Procter down in Dallas was a reporter for the
Dallas Morning News , and he did want to be a SF writer. He had sold four to five short stories and a novel, and he said, “Let’s co-author a story.” I did, I enjoyed the process, and we sold the story. I got to thinking, “Gee, that was kind of fun.” I sat down and did a proposal for a fantasy book, and within four months, it sold to Dell Publishing. I did a science fiction proposal, sold that within a year. That’s really what got me started. It was just so much fun to do. It was being my own boss, spending my own hours playing God, if you want to get right down to it. I enjoyed it, and after all these years, I still enjoy it.

What really happened in the Roswell incident?

I have talked to people on both sides of the battle. From the hard science, we figure out all of the problems they have with this, and we figure that it was probably a really botched PR by the Air Force. It probably was some sort of a balloon project that they were doing. It’s possible that they were even trying to do something like put nuclear weapons on balloons, rather than just an observation thing, that they certainly did not want to tell the public about. They handled it poorly. I really cannot believe in my heart of hearts that that was a flying star or an alien spacecraft that crashed there. On the other hand, my hat goes off to Roswell for being able to parlay something that probably didn’t even happen into close to 60 years’ worth of publicity.

—Thomas Gilchrist
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