We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.1 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!
Benjamin Gorman is an award-winning high school English teacher, political activist, author, poet, and co-publisher at Not a Pipe Publishing. He lives in Independence, Oregon with bibliophile and guillotine aficionado Chrystal, his favorite son, Noah, and his dog, E.V. (External Validation).
His novels are The Sum of Our Gods, Corporate High School, The Digital Storm: A Science Fiction Reimagining of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Don’t Read This Book. His first book of poetry, When She Leaves Me, was published in November of 2020, and his second, This Uneven Universe, will be released in November of 2021. He believes in his students and the future they’ll create if given the chance.
Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.
I’ve been reading some great novels about aliens and the ways alien intelligences might view our universe very differently from the way we perceive things. I wanted to play with the idea that a confession of a murder could be complicated by inter-species cross-cultural misunderstanding.
What was the inspiration behind this story?
I started a story about a character trapped on a spaceship during a pandemic, and it turned into a murder mystery. I haven’t finished that novel, but when you asked me to write a sci-fi mystery, I already had the character of my consulting detective in mind. So I skipped ahead and imagined him taking on this case later in his career.
If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?
For comfort’s sake, I’d love to live in the utopia of Star Trek. I’d see if I could get a gig traveling around with Starfleet or maybe hanging out on a space station like DS9, collecting the stories of fellow travelers and then fictionalizing them into novels that could be beamed around the galaxy and read by people looking for entertainment during their long interstellar journeys.
What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?
I’m a big Star Wars fan (not a universe I’d want to live in, but one I love to visit), and both Solo (heist story) and much of The Mandalorian (bounty hunter in a space Western) are crime stories that fill me with joy.
What authors have inspired your writing?
This particular story was most inspired by Anne Lecke’s Imperial Radch series, specifically the character of Dlique, translator for the alien Presger in the second book, Ancillary Sword, and Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary, specifically the alien Rocky. These alien characters forced me to wrap my head around new ways aliens could comprehend our species from the outside. Liu Cixin’s The Dark Forest, the second book in his Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, made me think about the ways species that are far more or less advanced than one another might interact. And Jessi Kwak’s Bulari Saga and Durga System series showed how well a complex and enthralling crime drama could thrive in a sci-fi universe. You really should check them all out. Excellent.
What are you working on next?
I have a book of poetry coming out in November titled This Uneven Universe, and I’m still hard at work on the second book of my The Convention of Fiends paranormal trilogy that started with Don’t Read This Book. When I finish that, I’m excited about trying my hand at an epic high fantasy novel, but this story was so fun to write, maybe I’ll go back to that half-written murder-mystery-on-a-colony-ship-during-a-pandemic. Hopefully we’ll be a bit further from our own pandemic by then, and people will be interested in a story like that one without it feeling quite so close to home!