The Trophy, fiction, Issue 28, September 1, 2014
Birthday? August 9, 1959
When did you start writing? I must have at least been dreaming about writing, as I went back to school in 1983 to study radio, TV and journalism. I was 25 years old when I did that. It seemed to me that if really I wanted to do it, I had better get started. Otherwise I was just a guy with big arms and bad teeth on some construction site. There's nothing wrong with that, but I had other dreams.
When and what and where did you first get published? I worked briefly for a community weekly newspaper as sports editor. The job paid $190.00 a week, but more importantly got me out of my home town. To discover that I might actually be good at it was a kind of revelation. I never really wanted to anchor the evening news or anything like that. Even back then, I wanted to write fiction.
What themes do you like to write about? I would rather write about love, acceptance and compromise than anger, judgement and retribution. I would say I am fairly merciful to the characters. I've never written about a truly 'evil' character, only human beings facing a challenge.
What books and/or stories have most resonated with you as an author? The sort of political wisdom in Dune resonated with me. I can only speculate as to Frank Herbert's political philosophy, but it must be similar to mine. That doesn't prove I'm not a dummy, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't.
I like history and read a lot of non-fiction. William L. Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich resonates, because too many people knew what was happening, and stood by rather than take a risk and speak out. Yet in modern terms, how, when and where is it appropriate to intervene 'unilaterally?' It seems very presumptuous to make a choice that affects so many others without some kind of perfect information. To say that someone should have killed Hitler in 1933 is simplistic and is to misunderstand history. Hitler wasn't the only anti-Semite in Germany at that time. He understood and manipulated the prejudices of his time and place a little too well. There are lessons to be learned from that.
Why? In terms of fiction, I like stories that take me somewhere I've never been. I like stories with a bit of wit and humour in them. The fact that the author has a point of view rarely escapes the notice of an experienced reader. The temptation to preach can be very strong. The best stories really don't do that, but every story has some kind of moral component. It would be very difficult to write one otherwise. It would be a story that said nothing.
How do these stories and their characters find expression in your work? In my science fiction, authority and its heavy hand are often part of the conflict. In my mysteries, I recognize the need for authority, or even just some form of justice for all. It's both sides of the same coin. That's why it's good to flip from one genre to another. But it seems to me that power stems from the mass of the people. Authority either serves as the proxy of the people or it is merely tyranny. How that works out in the face of divided opinion is what we call a society; the net result of a lot of decisions taken on our behalf a long time ago. We tend to take our society for granted. But it turned out a certain way for many reasons, and of course that process continues today.
Louis Shalako began writing for community newspapers and industrial magazines. His stories appear in publications including Perihelion Science Fiction, Bewildering Stories, Aurora Wolf, Ennea, Wonderwaan, Algernon, Nova Fantasia, and Danse Macabre. He lives in southern Ontario and writes full time.