A few years back I interviewed a self-published author by the name of Rob J. Hayes over at SF Signal. Shortly after the interview, Hayes’ series was picked up and published by Ragnarok Publications, a genre fiction publisher that I hadn’t really heard too much about. I began looking into them a bit, and what I found really impressed me. These folks have been putting out some amazing work in the realm of science fiction and fantasy.
Aside from the regular selection of published novels, Ragnarok has used Kickstarter to release some fantastic anthologies (Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues; Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place) and, most notably, Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters. Almost doubling their intended goal of $10,000, Ragnarok knew they needed to eventually release a companion anthology series — an answer to their Kaiju menace. Thus, Mech: Age of Steel was born.
Mech is currently running on Kickstarter with 16 days to go, and a little over $2,000 left to reach its goal. With a powerhouse lineup of writers (Kevin J. Anderson, Peter Clines, Gini Koch, Martha Wells, and more), I knew I had to not only support this awesome endeavor, but I had to learn more about the book from one of its creators.
I was able to chat with Nick Sharps, one half of the editing team for Mech, about the process of creating the book, and man does he have some great things to say! So go ahead and check out the interview and then head on over to the Kickstarter page to back this project!
Geeks of Doom: Nick, I first want to welcome you to Geeks of Doom, and thank you for taking the time to chat a bit about your Kickstarter anthology, Mech: Age of Steel.
Nick Sharps: Thank you for inviting me, I appreciate the opportunity! I’ve been a fan of Geeks of Doom for sometime now so this is really cool.
GoD: Okay, let’s get this one out of the way — why mechs? Why do you think genre lovers have such a fascination with massive mechanical suits of armor — and the beasts they battle?
NS: Humans are fragile, squishy, bags of meat and water. Our brains allow us to overcome our limitations and over the course of history we’ve developed better ways to survive. I feel as though mechs are the ultimate goal in that battle for survival — encasing our bodies in a suit of armor that not only protects us but unlocks the potential to be something greater than ourselves. I love this quote from Pacific Rim because I think it sums up the appeal of mechs perfectly…
“There are things you can’t fight – acts of God. You see a hurricane coming, you get out of the way. But when you’re in a Jaeger, suddenly you can finally fight the hurricane. You can win.” – Raleigh Beckett
GoD: Great movie. Great quote. Great answer! The first book in your series of anthologies from Ragnarok — Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters — had incredible success with Kickstarter back in 2013, raising almost double its original goal. What was the planning and implementation process like this time around? Have you followed the same steps with Mech to ensure success?
NS: I think that Kaiju Rising’s success was a surprise, even to us. We believed in our project and we knew that we had assembled an unstoppable roster of talent but I don’t think any of us expected it to be such a hit. I think a big part of Kaiju Rising’s success could be attributed to the recent release of Pacific Rim (the movie that inspired the project) and the announcement of a new American Godzilla film. It was the perfect time to launch a project like Kaiju Rising. Planning MECH: Age of Steel was the easy part. After Kaiju Rising, Ragnarok Publications launched a fantasy anthology on Kickstarter called Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues. We followed that up with Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place. We’ve gained a lot of experience in the couple of years since Kaiju Rising. The key to funding your project on Kickstarter is offering backers unique incentives for pledges and that’s something we strive to do with every new campaign we launch.
GoD: What steps do you take in choosing authors for an anthology like this? Do you have a “wish list” to begin with, and does your final roster typically look the same as your original?
NS: Getting started we had a few authors featured in Kaiju Rising that were interested in contributing to MECH. We had several more authors that hadn’t been involved with the project but were impressed with the anthology and requested to join the lineup. From there we developed a wish list of authors we would love to work with and believe me when I say, it’s quite the extensive list. We knew that a lot of the authors we approached were way out of our league but it doesn’t hurt to dream right? And a few of those authors even accepted the invite…
GoD: Intriguing! Aside from the mech theme, what were the guidelines you gave the authors for their individual stories?
NS: As with Kaiju Rising we were pretty light on the guidelines. I’ve always felt that the strength of Kaiju Rising is the diversity of the authors and stories. I’ve read some reviews complaining that not all of the stories in our giant monster anthology are about giant monsters stomping around cities and wreaking havoc. I’m sure there are people who want to read story after story of mayhem and destruction but I’m not one of them. I love all of that but I think the best monster stories delve deeper than surface level destruction. The same goes for MECH. We’ve got action, adventure, horror, comedy, alternate history, and more.
GoD: I love short stories as much as the next person. In fact, the “anthology” sub-section under “publishing” on Kickstarter is one that I frequent; but sometimes a short story is so good, standing way above the rest, that you can’t help but think, “Man, I wish I could read more about this [particular] universe.” Are there any plans in the works for any of the stories from either Kaiju Rising or Mech to expand into full-length novels?
NS: That’s always been my problem with short stories—too often I’m left wanting more. I can tell you that several of the stories in MECH are tied-in with stories in Kaiju Rising. I can also tell you that if you liked Paul Genesse and Patrick Tracy’s Kaiju Rising story the eBook edition of MECH will be featuring two additional novellas set in the same world. I’ll also state that while there are no current plans to develop any Kaiju Rising or MECH novels it’s definitely an idea that’s been floated around a time or two. I wouldn’t rule anything out.
GoD: Can you give us any hints as to what’s next after Mech for you and Ragnarok?
NS: I don’t know how much I’m allowed to divulge about Ragnarok’s next project but I think it’s safe to tell you the title is Hath No Fury, it’s being edited by Melanie Meadors and Joe Martin, and I’ve seen the work-in-progress cover and it is going to be AWESOME! As for me, I’m helping develop a Kickstarter campaign for a card game created by a New York Times bestselling author and his friend. The game doesn’t have a home yet but I’ve played a prototype and it’s an absolute blast.
Thank you so much for the opportunity!
N.X. Sharps is the co-editor of Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters as well as the upcoming MECH: Age of Steel. His short fiction has appeared in Manifesto UF, That Hoodoo Voodoo That You Do, and SNAFU: Hunters. He graduated cum laude from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA and he works as the Membership Development Manager for the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife Tasha live in Western Maryland with their two dogs, “Captain” Jack and “Ellen” Ripley. They are expecting a baby Sharps in summer ’16.