Friday, October 31, 2014

An interview with fellow writer Brandon Engel on all things science fiction

Brandon and I met through the blogosphere and have been corresponding via email about science fiction for a little while now. He already wrote one post for my blog regarding the "Deans of Science Fiction" and you can find that post HERE. I intend to post his next article on Monday. However, I thought all of you might like to know a little more about Mr. Engel, and you're all in luck because he allowed me to interview him.

So if you have twitter, please follow @BrandonEngel2 and without further ado, let's get started.

Q: Brandon, please share with us that special moment in your life when a story really grabbed you and you had that "this is really cool" moment.
Brandon being inspired by The Cask of
Amontillado is just in time for Halloween.
Oh the horror of being buried alive!

A: One of the defining moments of my childhood was picking up an Edgar Allan Poe anthology and reading The Cask of Amontillado. I was spellbound. That book (along with One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish) made me recognize the escapist value of literature. Conan the Barbarian comics, and the work of Robert E. Howard, were also hugely significant to me early on.

Q: What kinds of things do you write? Someone as creative as you must have a pretty wild imagination.

A:  I write mostly non-fiction these days; typically analyses of vintage speculative fiction or films. I'm working on a few scripts for comic books now (with the goal of ultimately handing them over to friends who are trained illustrators) and I've also written a few plays. Ultimately, I'd love to tap out a novel, but it will be a few years before that happens.

Q: If someone were to ask you if Star Wars were science fiction or fantasy, how would you answer and why?

A: That is an excellent question. It's only science-fiction superficially. Science-fiction tropes and textures are integrated, but I've always had the sense that the primary focus of Lucas with this film is the mythology and his treatment of archetypes. Hard science, or musings about sciences in the future, seem to be largely absent or intellectually pedestrian when you measure that aspect of Lucas's work against say, Arthur C. Clarke's work. So much of his mythology is also so metaphysical, that it's hard to think of it as true science-fiction.

I was thinking of World War Z when I
asked the question about movies being
adapted from books. But there are many
others out there. Last Airbender anyone?
Q: If a movie is adapted from a book, how do you feel about the film maker taking liberties with the source material and changing the ending or altering the story significantly?

A: With film and literature you are dealing with two completely different forms. And what's more, because film integrates virtually every known artistic discipline there are more devices that can be employed. Music and imagery go a long way towards providing the tone that a reader might have to otherwise infer for themselves. The problem with film is that everything is basically being handed to you, having already been per-interpreted.  But with that being said, a filmmaker, who has an understanding of how to employ cinematic devices, is perhaps best equipped to understand what works on the screen as opposed to what works on the page, and should, therefore, have artistic input. I'm okay with it, so long as it serves the story.

Q: What is your opinion regarding young adult dystopian fiction (examples being The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner)?
Actor Reeve Carney plays my favorite Dorian
Gray in the Showtime series, Penny Dreadful.

A: Children will always have grim/macabre fantasies, and I don't have any issue on principle with contemporary authors pandering to that. That's one of the true values of escapist literature, in my opinion it enables us to confront real-world anxieties in a safe way. This is especially important for kids. With that said, though, I think younger readers would be better off reading something like Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room!

Q:What is your favorite story of all time (film or book) and why?

A: My all time favorite has to be The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. It's sharp, quotable, self-reflexive, and really calls into question both the role of art in modern society, and the struggle that creative people face to reconcile their ideas and perversions with the (often hypocritical and counterproductive) puritanical mores of modern society.


  1. The Cask of Amantillado is awesome.

  2. Brandon's creativity does seem to extend in several directions. Cool stuff. The non-fiction would not be so thrilling for me, but it has to be done, right?

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Awesome interview; nice to get to know your creative insights Brandon.

    Happy Halloween to both of you.

  5. Very interesting. Lots of ideas to now ponder...