Lawrence M. Schoen is an American author, publisher, psychologist, hypnotist, and expert in the Klingon language.
JMW: Hello this is Jean Marie Ward for Buzzy Magazine. With me today is Lawrence M. Schoen, author, psychologist and one of the world’s greatest experts in the Klingon language, as well as his friend Barry Mantelo. Welcome Lawrence.
Lawrence M. Schoen: Thank you and Barry has taken a vow of silence for the convention so.
JMW: Oh, no.
Lawrence M. Schoen: So you’re not going to be hearing much from him sadly.
JMW: Oh, no, because my first question actually concerns him. You know when it comes to fiction, you’re probably most famous for your stories about the space traveling hypnotist, ‘The Amazing Conroy and his buffalito, Reggie’, here played by Barry. Including your latest nebula nominated novela ‘Calendrical,’ am I saying that right? ‘Calendrical Regression’?
Lawrence M. Schoen: Calendrical Regression, that’s absolutely correct.
JMW: It’s a fun novela but one thing I want to know, and I’m sure our viewers do as well, what the heck is a buffalito?
Lawrence M. Schoen: You know I get this a lot as you might imagine and people often conflate Reggie with Barry and I have to correct them that Reggie is a fictional character and Barry is a plush toy. And that got further complicated a couple of years ago when I wrote the novela ‘Barry’s tale’, which is about a plush toy in the Conroy universe. So Barrry got his own book, his own novela and a Nebula Nominee pin because he was the eponymous character in that novela.
JMW: The only plush toy to get a Nebula pin.
Lawrence M. Schoen: I think so, I think so. Although, I don’t think he officially got the pin but you know. He knew people on the committee so they slipped him one. Anyway, to actually answer your question. And I should try to make a concerted effort to answer at least one of your questions in this interview.
Lawrence M. Schoen: Picture if you will the American bison scaled down to about the size of a bread box but with the sort of QC cartoony eyes that you see in your better paintings on velvet. And to take this further these creatures can eat anything and they fart oxygen.
JMW: Good for the environment.
Lawrence M. Schoen: Good for the environment… And coming and going. And that was the original conception of them long, long ago and then people started reading the stories and pointing out some inconsistencies or at least some concerns like, if they can eat anything… Literally anything can go in, heavy metal, you know, whatever. And it comes out as oxygen, there’s gotta be some sort of nuclear furnace inside these creatures to account for this. So obviously that’s what’s going on. So yes, they are doing both fission and fusion inside this little organic creature and more details of course are revealed in various stories and the two novels and the three novelas and on and on and on.
They’re a lot of fun because they afford an opportunity to do comedic science fiction. And I didn’t know this when I wrote the first stories and it took years for this to be pointed out to me by somebody else. There’s a scene in one of the novels that every time I read it, I well up. I would ask people, when they get to that scene, do they cry? And everyone said no, no, no, no, and finally a colleague of mine who is both a science fiction fan and a dog lover and a psychologist and she read the book. I said, “did you cry when you got to this point?” and she said, ‘No, Lawrence, but it wasn’t my dog.’ That’s when I realized I’d been mourning the loss of my dog in about half a million words of print for over a decade.
JMW: Oh my goodness.
Lawrence M. Schoen: And I didn’t see it. As soon as I realized that, shortly after that… The dog had been gone for over 13 years by that point. Shortly after that, my wife and I went down to the Delaware puppy rescue center and got a new dog. I should have done it long before but it… This was the unconscious mind trying to keep that dog live. And what it came down to was in the first novel, my protagonist gets to keep his dog against all odds. If he gets to… If ‘The Amazing Conroy’ gets to keep his dog then I should get a dog back too. It’s weird, you hear stories about the author doesn’t know what he or she has put into the book and some literary critic, some grad student somewhere is going to figure it all out and explain to the author. And I always poo pooed that idea and then I realized, well no–
JMW: It worked. There are certain similarities between you and ‘The Amazing Conroy’. You’ve gotten into hypnotism, you also share with ‘The Amazing Conroy’, a love of fine dining. I believe you have a blog related to that?
Lawrence M. Schoen: I do. So and I blame a lot of this on my wife. My wife, Valerie, trained as a chef.
Lawrence M. Schoen: She never cooks much for me, it’s only if we have people over that she really breaks out the skills, otherwise we pretty much fend for ourselves at home. But when we go to conventions, it’s so much more expensive going to conventions with her because we’re in a new city for the World Con and I’m there for the convention and Valerie is there to make reservations at super fine dining restaurants every single night. And so we put together different dinner parties every night. It’s just amazing and it’s even better because it’s in the context of a convention and these are people that I see maybe once a year if that. And it’s just marvelous.
Conroy is a bit of a gourmand. Every time you invent any kind of character it’s always nice to have a quirk. And Conroy is kind of a lovable rogue, he will… he’s a bit of a charlatan, a fraud and a confidence man at times and he is gonna take advantage of the situation but he’s still a nice guy. We see some of that when he goes looking for food, while his animal companion can eat anything, and there’s times when he feeds him ball bearings, if he goes to a fancy restaurant, he takes the buffalito along and orders off the menu for the buffalito as well. He doesn’t say you can eat garbage and you’d be happy.
So they eat wonderful things together and it’s a running gag in the stories, and it also allows me to talk about alien cuisine, which is a lot of fun too, intuitive and other things. The blog came about as a consequence to that. For about three and half years now, every Monday, I have a different author show up and I ask them one question and it’s, ‘What’s your most memorable meal?” And I like doing this because I mean I’m a reader and a writer… and then there’s a story and there’s the author and often the two… It’s really hard to tell where does the author end and where does the character take over. And I like going to conventions so I can hear authors do readings and this is a bit of that where you get into the author’s head, you get to find out something personal and add to that connection that you have with the author.
JMW: I wanted to get into something that’s really close to your heart even closer the food. And that is your upcoming novel “Barsk.”
Lawrence M. Schoen: Well, as he said reaching for the cover art.
Lawrence M. Schoen: So this is Barsk. And one of the things I’m really excited about is, I’ve been writing for more than 20 years. I’ve only been published in books in small press and this is coming out from TOR in mid-December. It’s my overnight success after over 20 years in the business. As the story goes I’m very excited about it and I have this wonderful artwork by Victo Ngai, an amazing, award-winning member of the Society of Illustrators. I couldn’t have asked for a better cover. I have a brilliant editor in Marco Palmieri. He is championed this book, he has pursued this book and he has helped me to make it a better book which is what an editor is supposed to do but you know they don’t get enough credit for it.
It is very different from ‘The Amazing Conroy’ stories. It is not light humor. There is some lightness to it but it is very serious. It deals with o wow heavy issues like racism and economics and clairvoyance and talking to the dead on a galactic scale. It’s all about anthropomorphic animals, it’s ‘Elephants in space’ in a lot of ways.
JMW: Oh, cool.
Lawrence M. Schoen: I just love it, obviously I’m biased. This is the first novel I ever wrote. I started this book about 28 years ago. I wrote the whole thing and it was so bad because I didn’t know how to write. And I tried to sell it because I didn’t know how bad it was. Fortunately, I didn’t and I eventually put it in the drawer. I realized that I needed to set it aside until such a time as I had the skills to tell the story I wanted to tell. I like to think I’m there now. I’m very very excited about the book and I can’t wait for your viewers to get a chance to pick it up and read it and write to me about how it changed their lives.
JMW: Once you finished changing folks’ lives, what are you working on now? Obviously, you’re doing proofs as far as I can tell but other than that what can we look forward to in the future?
Lawrence M. Schoen: I’m working on a number of different projects. I have a YA novel about a group of three teenagers who are the descendants of a collection of people who were lifted off of Earth in what we used to say the Bronze Age in Australia but Australia did not have a Bronze Age. They had no access to copper but I didn’t know that when I wrote it so I had to fix that. They were then returned and they have heightened powers but their abilities are all things that normal humans can do just sort of taken to some extremes. There’s very much the cognitive psychologist in me showing up in that book.
I have a new series I’m working on the first book of which I don’t want to give much away about. I will say that the tag line is ‘It puts the urban back in urban fantasy’. It involves lost cities and the idea that everybody who’s lived in a city, something of their essence is sampled and recycled into the population. This is how mankind advances in civilization. It’s part of a theme that shows up in a lot of my fiction that death is not the end of us.
JMW: Anything you want to say about your Klingon experiences and how they feed into this or do they?
Lawrence M. Schoen: Klingon came around at an odd time for me and an odd time for the world just as the internet was taking off and just before the world wide web had even began. It afforded me opportunities to meet people and travel places to talk about the language that weren’t coming my way otherwise. So that’s all been very cool. It’s been an amazing experience that Star Trek and science fiction fans would kill for but at the same time it’s been a hindrance because I can write whatever I write but to some people I’ll always be that Klingon guy. So it’s the proverbial double-edged batlev as they say. Actually, nobody says that. It is reflected in my work in the sense that I am fond of language and foreign languages and constructive languages. I am not very good at it, you know. I’ve studied more than a dozen languages but I’m terrible at languages. I just love the idea, the concepts so I just keep throwing myself at that wall.
JMW: So we’re coming to the end.
Lawrence M. Schoen: Thank God.
JMW: Is there anything you would like to add?
Lawrence M. Schoen: Yes but we don’t have another two hours so I would say to your readers, read as much as you can, read as widely as you can and read what you love because I can’t speak for all writers but I think we all love what we do. or why would we do it? There are better ways to make a living than that.
JMW: Ain’t that the truth. Anyway thank you for that Lawrence and thank you for BuzzyMag.com
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.