On a clear night you can gaze up at the stars and gape in wonder at the multitude of beauty to behold. Even among the millions of stars, each one is unique and incredible in its own right. Together they make up something magical and inspiring.
It is my belief that this is also true of people. This belief is what gave rise to the “Slices of Life” portion of this blog and all the personal interviews with the incredible people featured there. This latest interview is no exception.
Today’s interview features one of my favorite science fiction authors, Thomas Watson! Thomas is one of those lucky people who seems to be in touch with the Earth and attuned to the skies. His written works include: “The Luck of Han’anga”; “Founders’ Effect”; “Mr. Olcott’s Skies”; “Long Time Passing”; and “Second Chance”.
KL: Thomas, you describe yourself as an amateur astronomer; and as I understand it, your book “Mr. Olcott’s Skies: An Old Book and A Youthful Obsession” was born from your love of astronomy. So I have to ask the obvious question, how did your fascination with astronomy get started?
TW: As I tell it in Mr. Olcott’s Skies, there isn’t a single thing or event I can point to that explains how I became a stargazer. It was an accidental confluence of many events and experiences that, over a number of years, turned my eyes to the Moon and stars. I was fascinated by all of science and nature as a youngster, but somehow the night sky caught my imagination, and held it most firmly. It never really let go, although I stepped away from star gazing for a regrettable number of years.
KL: I love that you took your passion for the stars and turned it into written form so you could share it with the world. Since then you have written a number of other projects as well. Of all your writing projects, which one are you most proud?
TW: That’s too much like deciding which of our four cats I like best! But if I had to pick, it would be the big guy, Linus. No, wait, you were talking about writing. In that case, I’d have to pick Mr. Olcott’s Skies, my brief memoir regarding star gazing. It was intended for the amateur astronomy niche market but has found a readership beyond that niche. That pleases me to no end!
KL: Rightly so. It’s an incredible feeling to have your heartfelt work appreciated by others. In a similar track as the previous question, please think for a moment about the characters you have written. If you could ‘walk in the shoes’ of one of them for a day, who would it be?
TW: Probably Robert MacGregor, the POV character of The Luck of Han’anga and one of the POV’s in Founders’ Effect. We share a love of horticulture and music, though unlike Robert, I’m no musician. Of course, in a way I’ve lived every day of his life, when you think about it.
KL: Being a science fiction fan as you are, what is your favorite sci-fi book, movie, or tv show?
TW: Its an answer given by many, but I’d pick The Lord of the Rings. Its message of hope when things seem most hopeless has brought me through some dark times. I’m not a big movie-goer, but the film made from Sagan’s novel Contact immediately comes to mind. The scenes at the end where faith and science prove themselves compatible were amazing. I don’t watch a lot of television, outside of the baseball season, but I did enjoy Stargate SG-1. The ability of that show to depict a plausible alternate reality was simply outstanding.
KL: Excellent choices! What about authors? Are there any authors you have a soft spot or special respect for?
TW: Isaac Asimov, for one. His anthology The Early Asimov or Eleven Years of Trying made me take short story writing seriously, and inspired me to try to write science fiction of my own. After that, well, this could quickly become an intimidating list! C.J. Cherryh, Ray Bradbury, and Kim Stanley Robinson stand out for science fiction, with Annie Dillard, Edwin Way Teale, and John McPhee as authors I follow in the realm of nonfiction.
KL: If you could go back in time and give advice to your younger self, what would it be?
TW: Ignore the practical advice of your elders and write. Write a lot. And when you aren’t writing, live. Take chances. Travel. Risk getting your feelings hurt. Life sometimes sucks, but you absolutely must take the risks that come of being fully alive. And I’m not talking thrill-seeking, here (I’ll never be a skydiver!), but real-life matters such as relationships, jobs, and the like. I was far too timid in my younger days, when it came to life experiences. So much easier to hide behind books and, later, a typewriter. And having just written that, I wonder if I would listen to myself giving that advice? The younger man I used to be eh, probably not.
KL: Let’s lighten the mood here with one of my favorite interview questions, what is one little known fact about you?
TW: All facts about me are little known. Okay, I was once thoroughly buffaloed in the middle of the night by a bullfrog. It was, however, a very large bullfrog.
KL: I would love to expand on that a bit (as I sense an interesting story in the making), but we are running out of time. So one last question, just for fun. If you could have any superpower, which one would it be?
TW: I’d go for the ability to fly. Just to be able to get away from it all, from time to time.
KL: Nice! I like the way you think.
Well, there you have it, the low-down on Thomas Watson (author, astronomer, and more). For more information on Thomas, please check out the links below.