Interview by Chris Manson
1. Where do you live?
Durham, North Carolina. I moved up here in 2010 to be with my fiancee LeAnn. We married a year later.
2. What’s your background, as far as the time you spent on the Emerald Coast?
My dad was civil service. We moved from England to Fort Walton Beach back in 1969. I graduated Choctaw in ‘76, graduated Oberlin College in 1980, then came back to Fort Walton Beach. I’d probably still be there if I hadn’t met LeAnn.
3. Tell us about your new book.
Now and Then We Time Travel looks at films and TV about time travel, changing history and alternate history. The text focuses on films and television series from the U.S., Canada, England and Japan (because of how popular anime has become). One appendix tackles everything I could find from the rest of the world. Another looks at material with a very slight time‑travel element—like someone miraculously getting to time‑travel at the end and fix everything, like the first Christopher Reeve Superman film.
4. What prompted you to take on the time travel genre?
I knew there were recurring elements in time travel films, such as, Oh, I left my great love in the past, but look, here’s her exact double in the present, I’m happy again! I thought it would be interesting to look at the films and study the elements in detail. I discovered, for example, that movies and TV focus far more on changing someone’s personal history (Back to the Future, for instance) than anything else. Which makes sense—it’s a visual medium, so personal drama works better than abstract discussions of theory.
5. How much time did you spend watching films and TV episodes, and when did you sleep?
It took two years to work on the book. I thought I was giving myself a very generous deadline, but there was much more material than I realized. I was watching various TV shows right up to the end. But I did squeeze in some sleep.
6. Did you discover a new favorite movie while researching the book?
Quite a few. Nostradamus, with Rob Estes and Joely Fisher, has time‑traveling fallen angels coming from the past to kill enough good people in the present that Satan can win the apocalypse. It ain’t art, but it’s fun. The Visitors, from France, is hysterical slapstick about medieval characters wandering around the present. And the TV series Day Break and Odyssey 5 are both excellent.
7. And what was the worst thing you watched?
So hard to pick, because I watched so much crap…I might go with The Final Countdown because it’s got all the ingredients for success, including good actors, a decent budget and a good concept (modern‑day aircraft carrier goes back to Dec. 6, 1941), yet it’s completely pointless. After lots of debate about changing history, they get sucked back to the present before the Japanese attack so nothing really happens.
8. What is your personal favorite as far as time travel flicks?
It’s hard to pick but I’d go with either Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure or the 1960 The Time Machine with the most elegantly designed time machine ever. But don’t hold me to those. For TV, undoubtedly Doctor Who.
9. Who are some of the writers that inspired you?
For film reference books, Bill Warren’s Keep Watching the Skies, a history of 1950s science fiction films, is probably my gold standard. For fiction, the fantasy writers Fritz Leiber, Jorge Luis Borges and Diana Wynne Jones.
10. What else are you writing for these days?
At the moment, I’m mostly writing fiction. I just had a story come out in the online magazine Lorelei Signal. I also self‑published an ebook on the Bond films, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast.
11. What do you miss most about the Emerald Coast?
All my friends, definitely.
12. Are you already working on your next book?
Yep. I’m spending most of my time on Southern Discomfort, a fantasy set in Georgia in 1973.
13. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Have fun. The odds are against becoming obscenely wealthy, there’s lots of rejection—the best reason for becoming a writer is that you enjoy it.
14. If you could time travel to any era, what would it be and why?
I’d pick the 1970s, simply because I was a teenager and I’d love to compare my memories of the era with my adult perceptions.
15. What do you like best about writing?
The moment I get the most fun out of is when I’m rewriting and I finally see how everything is supposed to fit together. It’s incredibly satisfying, whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction.
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