Our next Science Fiction Trading Card Spotlight features Max Gladstone, who is displayed on card number 281 from the Science Fiction Collection. Max is Hugo, Nebula, and Locus award winning author with such titles as “Empress of Forever” and This is how you lose the Time War”. He created Serial Box series “Bookburners”, and the interactive television series “Wizard School Dropout”. Before becoming an author, he has also sung at Carnegie Hall. In his free time, Max likes to unwind with cooking, exercise, and playing music.
How has writing today changed from when you were younger? What do you like or dislike about the changes?
When I was kid, I didn’t want my characters to be weak. Like a lot of people just starting out, I was drawn to superlatives, to the strongest, the smartest. Or I thought I was! Of course, it’s weakness that makes characters relatable, and interesting—even those first characters. I’ve become more aware of this now.
How early in your life did you know you would be a writer?
I’ve always been writing, since before I can remember. But the first time I thought I really could make it a profession, and that I wanted to, was in high school—I’d finished a novel-length fic for the old ElectricFerret Fantasy Powers League game, featuring superpowered characters from a bunch of different talented creators. The audience liked it, and I thought: I could make a life out of this.
If you did not become a writer, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t doing this professionally, you mean? I’d still be writing. That’s the great thing about a calling—it stays with you.
Are you still involved with writing today, and what role do you play?
I should be editing my next novel right now, rather than answering this interview!
What are your favorite type of books and why?
My taste in books is eclectic, as Dolores Van Cartier says about her taste in music in Sister Act 2. I like a lot of different kinds of books in a lot of different registers.
What are your favorite hobbies today?
I’m enjoying learning the piano. It’s like learning a side scrolling platformer, but without visuals, and you’re making something beautiful for someone else, and you get to sing along.
How has your involvement in the writing profession been important to you?
I’ve met a bunch of great people, and hopefully helped a few. That’s so much of what we want in the world, isn’t it? To help people.
What does it take to be a professional writer today?
Same thing it takes to get to Carnegie Hall. Practice. And cab fare. Maybe a train ticket. Probably don’t go to Carnegie Hall until we’ve got the vaccine. Sorry, what was the question?
What do you think about electronic books that you can download versus the actual physical hard copy?
Personally, I’d always rather read a good hard copy. You remember the book better, you orient yourself inside it, and in the event you’re in a gunfight in the old west, there’s always the chance that the bullet ends up buried halfway through Moby Dick.
What are your favorite books past and present?
Too many to count, and in different ways. I’ve probably read The Hero and the Crown and Lord of Light more than any other books. But there are plenty of books I’ve read only once that have moved me deeply and changed the way I thought about what books could do. Right now, I’m most wowed by Sarah Caudwell’s mysteries, starting with Thus Was Adonis Murdered. I haven’t laughed this hard at a book since I first discovered Terry Pratchett or started getting the jokes in Douglas Adams.
How were you involved in the TV industry?
I’ve written for interactive television and the normal, non-interactive sort. Right now, Amal El-Mohtar and I are trying to get our novella This is How You Lose the Time War made into a series. Fingers crossed!
How important was being in martial arts and what did it do for you?
Still important to this day. I think in this world where it’s so easy to buy into the lie that our minds and bodies are separate, that we’re just weird internet ghosts with fleshy human shells, it’s vital to cultivate a practice that connects them.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a trading card?
Not after my disastrous foray into tee-ball! If I’d known there were such a thing as science fiction trading cards, I might have been more optimistic.
Who is your favorite celebrity and what makes that person special?
Don’t really do celebrity culture. Does Bobby Burke from Queer Eye count? I love his design sense, and I think he works extremely hard.
Did you play video games growing up and what were some of your favorites?
I spent far too many hours on Myst, and also Diablo 2. And Chrono Trigger. And MUDS.
If you can design your own video game, what would it be about and who would be the main character?
I have designed a few of my own video games! Mostly works of interactive fiction—Choice of the Deathless and Deathless: The City’s Thirst focus on young professional wizards in my Craft Sequence universe, and the interactive TV series Wizard School Dropout follows a young woman from a Harry Potter-esque magic school trying to make it in the Real World. Not MTV’s Real World, just the world where people have to pay rent.
What do you see yourself doing in the next 10 years?
Still writing. Who knows what else?