Next in our series of interviews with authors from our second issue is David X. Wiggin. He wrote the wonderful ‘The Apollo Mission’ for Alt Hist Issue 2.
1. Can you tell us a bit about the mythology behind this story: Apollo and the links with NASA’s space programme?
Apollo, being the Greek & Roman deity of the sun and archery (not to mention a symbol of the triumph of rational civilization over nature), is really the most logical choice for a program that involves shooting giant arrows into the sky. Originally this story was going to be about the moon landing hoax conspiracy theory (not something I believe in but I think there’s some wonderful potential there) and in the course of doing research on space travel I came across the story of Wan Hu, a minor Ming Dynasty official who tried to fly into space using rockets attached to his chair. Immediately this turned to thoughts about earlier civilizations starting up space programs and a program for Rome – with its expanding empire, advanced technology, loyal soldiers, and actual worship of Apollo – suddenly made way too much sense. I’m surprised we don’t see more ideas for flying machines or lunar travel in ancient texts, frankly, but I guess that was seen as pretty far fetched for even those advanced civilizations.
2. What do you think might have been the historical implications if Romans had ventured into space?
I can’t even imagine. But since you asked, I’ll try.
Well, contrary to the legionnaire’s good feelings before he starts to plummet, I suspect Rome probably would have gone bankrupt and fallen all the same before it could have done anything meaningful with the program. The knowledge involved probably would have been forgotten for centuries until the sparkling minds of the Renaissance rediscovered it. Imagine: the V-2 rocket, invented by Leonardo almost half a millennia early! Imagine that power in the hands of an Italian city-state or the Catholic Church, the power to strike with the wrath of God from hundreds of miles away at your command. Now, imagine the same technology in the hands of the no-less brilliant Islamic world, a religiously-inspired Cold War heating up centuries early with Jerusalem or Constantinople caught in the middle. Hmmm… I think I smell sequel!
3. Tell our readers a bit about your background as a writer and what you’re currently working on.
I’ve been writing stories since I came in 3rd at a Halloween writing competition in 3rd grade. I wrote the same sorts of godawful poems and stories everyone did up through high school and then got into Sarah Lawrence College where I studied under and alongside some pretty amazing writers. I was fortunate to have the experience of growing up in places like Japan and Russia thanks to my parents work in the State Department, so I draw a lot from those experiences.
I tend to be pretty ADD and am a horrible commitaphobe so I usually have 4-5 projects going simultaneously and take years to finish any of them. Mostly I’m working on short stories these days and I’m doing research for two different books: a fantasy-comedy set in 1930’s China and a horror-mystery set in ’20’s Japan that’s basically an Edogawa Rampo homage. I’ll probably have them done in 10 years or so!
4. What are your favourite fiction genres and why?
Fantasy and horror would be my favorites, though they’re only ahead of the pack by a nose. Really I enjoy all kinds of literature and most of my favorite books in recent years have actually been more journalistic and autobiographical than anything else but I love the freedom of style that fantasy and horror provide. I mean, which would you rather read if given a choice? A book that dissects class and race in America, the beauty and torment of what it means to be human; or a book that discusses those things and has NAZI WEREWOLF NINJAS? The answer seems pretty clear to me.
David doesn’t have a website at the moment, but here’s some links to where his other work can be found online:
“A Fabulous Junkyard”
Steampunk Magazine #4
“The Burden of Proof”
Theaker’s Quarterly #36
“Chess Stories #1-5”
Don’t forget to read a free sample of David’s ‘The Apollo Mission’ from the second issue of Alt Hist. We think you’ll like it.