Mar 24, 2011

Miguel Conner - Interview and Contest

Please welcome Miguel Conner who visits PVN to discuss his recently published SF/vampire adventure Stargazer (The Dark Instinct Series).


Here is a description: Before The Matrix Trilogy, True Blood, Twilight, Daybreakers, Morrigan's Cross, and Blade there was only Stargazer-- the fountainhead of so many modern vampire and science fiction epics. Originally published as The Queen of Darkness, the classic saga has been rebooted, revamped and rewritten in its second edition to further take its place among the greatest vampire tales ever written.

Five hundred years ago the Stargazers, let by their immortal MoonQueen, sparked global nuclear war, blotted out the sun, conquered the world, and rewrote history. Now humans are cattle whose blood feeds the master race, the glorious rulers of high-tech cities. And no one calls Stargazers by their true name. Vampires. Yet some impulse is stirring in the slave farms, an echo of a forgotten pride. Byron, a rebellious young Stargazer, is assigned to investigate the 'Warm One's--in other words, destroy any threat. But when a beautiful human shaman shows him unbelievable truths about his past, his origin, and his destiny, a vampire will discover that his immortal enemy is his living Goddess, The MoonQueen. 



Miguel is offering a copy of this book to two lucky readers. 
[See contest details at the end of the post.]




Thanks for stopping by, Miguel!



Explain how your novel The Queen of Darkness (published in 1998) relates to the recently released Stargazer.

It’s the second edition, almost identical except for added modifications and scenes that further set the grander and bloodier stage for the rest of The Dark Instinct Series. When The Queen of Darkness came out, it was heavily lauded by critics and even nominated for Best New Novel by the Horror Writers Association. Unfortunately, two negative events never allowed the novel to blossom commercially:

--Warner Books decided that its Aspect division would no longer publish or promote the vampire genre, only traditional science fiction and fantasy. This left the recently-released novel out in the cold and with no warm prey.
--I gained my sanity and abandoned writing to lose myself in the real world. In the last few years, I have lost my mind again and decided to become an author for a second incarnation.

It’s more complicated than that, as with anything, but even with virtually no marketing The Queen of Darkness sold its initial 20,000 print run. Now that it has been rebooted into Stargazer, hopefully it will reach its full potential. We can finally find out what happens in the ongoing, Ragnarok battle of man against vampire against god and against God knows who else wants to stay atop the food and soul chain.

Stargazer is book 1 in The Dark Instinct series. What is the central theme of the series?

There are many important themes, but I think this book is more relevant than when it first was published. One of Stargazer’s major themes is about how dripping doses of fear, complacency and ignorance can turn into the perfect narcotic for a fascist society. In a nuclear dystopia sometime in the near future, Stargazers (vampires) rule humans with an iron hand; yet the vampires themselves are also oppressed by their own elite, especially their eccentric and amoral goddess, The MoonQueen. It’s the perfect police state where the waterboarding of commercialism and political propaganda leave both vampire and human always looking over their shoulder, always uncertain about the future, and always ready to sell their own values or neighbors for another meal. In a sense, our civilization is almost a mirror of the Stargazer plight.

Hell is paved with good intentions, but when vampires have good intentions it’s Hell on Earth. The Stargazers caused a nuclear war to usher an apocalyptical brave new world. They crowned themselves as the honorable stewards of the planet after thousands of years of human abuse; yet they had to break a lot eggs to make their Utopian omelet, one of the eggs being the entire ecosystem. But now that the revolution is long over, Earth screams out for life under a radioactive tarp and even the vampire population wonders if what they did was right (in silence, of course). Meet the new lifeless boss, same as the old lifeless boss you complain about at work. The only confident immortal is The MoonQueen, who sees destruction and mass trauma as part of her vengeance against the Mad God who threw her out of a distant Heaven once upon a Creation. To The Queen of Darkness, this is only the beginning of making reality itself in her own image.

The other central theme to Stargazer is about remembering who were before we sold our innocence, individuality and innate heroism to become pack and hunter animals for the cruel masters of our lives. This is conveyed mainly through the central character, Byron Solsbury, favorite of the MoonQueen since he happens to be just as destructive and mercurial. The MoonQueen is rebelling against Creation; Byron has been steadily rebelling against She who made him into a god. Byron finds not only redemption but his knightly destiny because he eventually cannot accept a counterfeit reality and his infernal curiosity plunges him into the truth regardless of the consequences (something all of us have to start doing before it’s too late).

Byron’s dual metamorphosis into hero and antihero is accelerated on a mission to one of The Farms, where humans are bred for chattel purposes. He is charged to dismantle a possible human insurrection. By interacting intimately with humans and researching the past of his kind, something virtuous begins to stir within his dead heart. He realizes there is a synthetic history concerning the rise of his race to the top of the evolutionary ladder. Byron’s transformation culminates with his deepening relationship with the leader of the humans, the Shaman Medea.

 The human eventually becomes both his nemesis and great love after the revolution unfolds that certainly echoes what is occurring right now in the Middle East. All this inner and outer conflict sparks a remembrance in Byron of what it means to be truly alive and truly divine beyond the canard of brute power. Ironically, Bryon also finds himself being the mortal nemesis and great love of the MoonQueen. Thus, he is caught between two kinds of desire, between the living and the undead, the awakened and the ignorant, the holy and the unholy, and in a sense becoming a cosmic Messiah that has to bring balance at the cost of being despised by all sides. And perhaps the cost of another global destruction.

Like all insurrections, this is a messy affair. And vampires, especially volatile ones like Byron, make this one very messy. Even after he is defeated and rebooted several times, understands that his loyalty is with freedom and thus against the Stargazer governments, Bryon must take extremely drastic measures and make costly decisions.

Recalling who you truly were before they sold your individuality to the highest bidder, truth without veils or boundaries, and freedom from the illusion of freedom are the novel’s main motifs. This includes the price we all have to pay for these things, whether we’re the monsters, humans or gods in the grand theater. Oh, and love too is a theme…in all its strange, warped, emancipating, crucifying and Orpheus ways. There is an eternity of hatred from the MoonQueen that must be steadied by the small, infinite moments of love between the various characters who challenge her rule.

What are the characteristics of your vampires?

The Stargazers are fueled by the unholy spark of the MoonQueen, which is called the Dark Instinct. Although making them godlike, regulation after regulation limits their potential to being the basic vampire you see in most stories. Byron is in a league of his own, and learns to cheat or more like loves to cheat to get his way. The other difference is that the Stargazer population’s ability to create other vampires has been deleted from their memories. They believe only The MoonQueen can bear new Stargazers. Beyond population control, this makes it easy for Stargazers to feel little empathy towards humans (or Warm Ones), who they regard as primitive beasts or non-divine entities.

Vampires, in essence, seem themselves as the next stage in evolution. It’s the same recipe so many totalitarian regimes have used, like the Nazis and many religions, who dominate minorities once they view themselves as completely distinct and superior. Without empathy, one can create the perfect police state. At the same time, like with the Nazis or Communists, The MoonQueen and her inner circle eliminate Stargazers deemed too weak or too strong, too dependent or too independent, or just to make an example. No one is safe. Average is controllable.

Certainly the most obvious symbol of the novel on what the Stargazers represent happens in the scene at the Slaughterhouses, when Bryon takes Medea to expose to her to the truth of what ultimately happens to her race. Like modern cattle, chosen Warm Ones are placed in assembly lines to be cruelly tortured, butchered, and drained, their remains then taken to the Stargazer city. But who cares about animals when work will set them free, right?

Vampires in Stargazer can also have sexual relationships as in other novels and movies, but that is forbidden by the government because it is considered an act only primitive animals indulge in. Instilling a puritanical society also keeps that sense of oppression lingering over the population.

How many books are planned for the series?

At this point, two more. The second one will be titled Heretic or Centurion. It also serves as a prequel of the vampire history long before they took the reins of power from humanity. Stargazer ends with a cliffhanger, the fates of many protagonists and antagonists uncertain, including Bryon. In Heretic the revolution continues but against the last remaining Stargazer metropolis, where the reader is presented to different species of vampires that make the traditional ones look like mall cops.

 In other words, matters only get harder for those fighting to vanquish the Orwellian empire of the immortals. In fact, if you thought the MoonQueen was formidable, in the second book we are introduced to The Centurion—a very old Stargazer who curiously dipped his tongue under the feet of a certain messiah on a cross…and instead of God and man at once he became God and vampire at once. That’s just one of the bosses! And again, there is a tour of the rise of The MoonQueen in human times, as well as other characters from Stargazer. I’m sure Byron and Medea are hoping right now they didn’t survive the first novel.

The third book, without a title as of yet, really brings the ultimate Armageddon not just on Earth but all of Creation. The battle lines are drawn between seemingly-omnipotent vampires and other entities returned to this dimension; and it seems even the Mad God who created this universe charges in to aid what is left of humanity. It’s going to be surreal, unreal, and a carnage of not only blood but also souls.

I guess I should mention now that many people have told me that they could never finish The Queen of Darkness/Stargazer. Heretic and the third novel will be even harder to digest.

What attracts you to vampires?

Probably the same reasons it attracts most people—their sensuality, dark romantic flare, immortality, cursed and blessed gifts, and how cool they can look with the right wardrobe. I do take mine to the extremes—like The MoonQueen being a nearly all-powerful orphan of the cosmos while possessing an alien morality none of us could ever understand, to Byron who is an infernal Renaissance Man, a fool of fate, yet in the end one of those rare existences that would rather create his own flawed system than be ruled by the safe systems of others.

Intimately, I relate to vampires because I’m an ex-addict and dealer. I understand what it feels like to be in a state of perpetual hunger, never satisfied in between fixes, and ultimately losing your humanity with each passing night of hunting and exploitation. Byron’s story is very autobiographical, and most of what happens to him in the novel happened to me after I wrote the novel, some details eerily exact. I hope I can survive to the second and third book.

Tell us about Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio.

I think my homepage says it best: Aeon Byte is an initiation-by-conversation into the dark corners of myth, magic and meaning; a crash course in cult, culture and conspiracy; a virtuous virus invoking and informing history, holiness and heresy. Each week your host Miguel Conner commandeers your connection to bring the the most accepted and rejected scholars and provocateurs to your attention.

Fun, compelling, and deeply weird, this is the blow-your-mind cocktail party conversation you always wanted to listen in on.

Free weekly podcasts; archive episodes available dirt-cheap on iTunes.

Ready? (read less)
Aeon Byte is an initiation-by-conversation into the dark corners of myth, magic and meaning; a crash course in cult, culture and conspiracy; a virtuous virus invoking and informing history, holiness and heresy. Each week your host Miguel Conner (or Abraxas) commandeers your connection to bring the most accepted and rejected scholars and provocateurs to your attention.

It truly is one of the best online resources on the internet on the occult, mysticism, comparative religion, mythology, conspiracy theories, freethought and plenty more…including and especially the ancient magician heretics known as the Gnostics.

I’ve done over 200 episodes with over 80 guests that include today’s greatest scholars, mystics and theologians of the forbidden, fringe movie and documentary directors, various celebrities, and probably a vampire or two. Check it out and check out of mundane reality for a moment to spell at http://www.thegodabovegod.com.


What other projects are you working on?

I’m editing Heretic and finishing the touches on a fantasy novel with very Gnostic themes (although The Dark Instinct Series is pregnant with them, very Philip K. Dick but with Red Bull ultraviolence). Also soldiering on with the usual shorts stories, scholarly articles, and my eternal quest to finally get my cats to do as I say! I can create futuristic worlds with epic champions, why can’t they learn to stay out of the trash!

What is your writing environment like?

I just mentioned cats. I love it when they jump on the printer and somehow literally create a time machine by stepping on the perfect sequence of buttons. Other than that, it’s filling my veins with enough nicotine and caffeine to kill a Balrog and off to agonize before the oracle that is my computer screen.

Which books or authors have inspired you? Why?

I love the pulp sci-fi/fantasy authors of the sixties and seventies because they were more philosophical and speculative. These days sci-fi/fantasy is too much about entertaining and not so much about understanding the human condition and breaking down the walls of imposed reality. I am very influenced by Philip K. Dick, Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny, Orson Scott Card, Ursula K. Le Guin, and their generation. Even with horror I prefer the writers who dive deep into the recesses of cosmic existentialism like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman or Clive Barker.

And it’s very hard to top HP Lovecraft, Franz Kafka, Edgar Alan Poe or the local news, so I’ll never bother going into traditional horror. All of the authors mentioned have certainly used Gnostic themes in their works, probably because the Gnostics were the first group to look at the universe as a living horror that fed on our very souls. When the Smashing Pumpkins sand “the world is a vampire” they didn’t go far enough. As for vampire fiction, I can honestly say I haven’t read any work that has scared, touched, or transformed me as of yet. There’s an author called Poppy Z. Brite who came close. I’m both afraid and intrigued at one day meeting her.

Anything else you would like to add?

Two things I always say on my shows:

--Follow your bliss, live for you bliss, and ultimately die for you bliss.
--Write your own Gospel and live your own Myth.

If you do these two things, there’s a small chance you might get out of here with your soul intact. But I’d rather face annihilation as a free person than an eternal slave of a Mad God and his abused daughters. I guess I am like Byron, except without the cool wardrobe.


Contest

* Miguel is offering a copy of  Stargazer  to two lucky reader.
 
* Leave a comment about this post for a chance to win. 
 
* If you are an email subscriber to PVN please note this in the comment section for an extra chance.
 
* Be sure contact information is included with your comment. 
 
* Contest ends April 27, 2011 at 11:59pm EST
 
* Contest is international.


13 comments:

Jess Haines said...

Interesting. I'd like to give this one a shot.

<3,
-J

Dragonsally said...

I love the sound of Miguel's books - definitely going to look for them right now

Julie S said...

Sounds really interesting. I'd love to read it.

I think follow your bliss is good advice.

juliecookies(at)gmail.com

SandyG265 said...

Sounds good. I'd like to give it a try.

sgiden at verizon.net

Tore said...

I am a follower and email subscriber. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book. Tore923@aol.com

catslady said...

I find the interview extremely fascinating and enjoyed his comments. Very compelling too. Would love to win this one!

I believe I am a subscriber.

catslady5(at)aol.com

Diana said...

Book sounds very interesting. Thanks for the giveaway!
email subscriber

artgiote at gmail dot com

Kulsuma said...

I'd love to enter this! Great contest.
k_anon[at]hotmail[dot]co[dot]uk
I'm a follower.

Pam S (pams00) said...

This looks like an interesting one - liked the sound of the plot. Will be looking up.

subscriber - pams00 @ aol

pams00 @ aol.com

buddyt said...

I hve never read the original but I think it would be quite interesting to see how it stands up to the modern types.

Please enter me in the giveaway.

I am a Follower via GFC.

Carol T

buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

booklover0226 said...

Hi, Miguel.

You're a new author for me but not for long. I enjoyed reading the interview and look forward in learning more about you and your works.

Thanks,
Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

Heidi V said...

I thought my cat only did the printer trick go to know!

Great interview...thanks for a chance to win!

Heidivargas at live dot com

madwoman-in-the-attic said...

It's interesting that you mention Ursula K. Le Guin as I was born and raised in the town she calls home (Portland) and then there is Poppy Z Brite who OMG scared the dickens out of me with Exquisite Corpse. Unrelenting horror and chills--I agree she came close to giving me a heart attack from fear. Would love to win a copy of your book!

bookcat1010 at gmail dot com

Email subscriber to PVN