I had the pleasure of interviewing Martin Berman-Gorvine, the author of Monsters of Venus, which is the sequel to Seven Against Mars. This tale is a mix of realism and science fiction for YA readers. I had previously read his stand alone novel Heroes of Earth, a tale of teens who battle the evil empire.
Martin is a seasoned writer, both professionally and personally. He writes intelligent science fiction that weaves in historical events. An interesting combination that is sure to intrigue many young readers.
ALL ABOUT MARTIN
Martin Berman-Gorvine is the author of six science fiction novels: Heroes of Earth (Wildside Press, 2015), Ziona (as Marty Armon, Amazon/CreateSpace, 2014), Save the Dragons! (Wildside Press, 2013), Seven Against Mars (Wildside Press, 2013), 36 (Livingston Press, 2012), and The Severed Wing (as Martin Gidron, Livingston Press, 2002), which received the 2002 Sidewise Award for Alternate History (Long Form) at the International Science Fiction Convention in Toronto in 2003.
His short stories include “Of Cats’ Whiskers and Klutzes,” which is appearing in the forthcoming anthology Brave New Girls, “Palestina,” which was published in Interzone magazine’s May/June 2006 issue, and was a finalist for the Sidewise Award (Short Form), and “The Tallis,” which appeared in Jewish Currents magazine, May 2002.
He is a professional journalist, currently serving as a reporter for the Bureau of National Affairs newsletter Human Resources Report.
1. What was the inspiration for this story?
It started with a horrid bully of teacher I had in junior high school (as we called it back then, in the late Pleistocene). My father, God bless him, is also a teacher, and he has said to me many times he can’t understand why anyone would become a teacher just to be mean to kids. Well, that’s the answer right there–sadists like that enjoy it. And just in case you imagine that teachers like that went extinct when the ice sheets melted, the other day a friend with a daughter in third grade told us her teacher had informed the class that her purpose for the year was to make them cry. I hate bullies and sadists of all kinds and want to show them up for what they are.
2. Many of your stories tie back to the Holocaust. What draws you to always weave it into your novels?
One current cosmological theory is that there is an enormous black hole in the heart of every galaxy that holds it together with its incredible gravity. It’s true that the Holocaust seems to perform something like that function in my fiction. It’s difficult for me to articulate why. Although my family is Eastern European Jewish in origin, all of my great grandparents left the Czarist Russian Empire long before World War I, so I lost no close relatives in the Holocaust. I’ve been married twice, though, and both my wives lost great grandparents in the Holocaust. I was also deeply affected when I read Elie Wiesel’s autobiographical Auschwitz novel Night, when I was fourteen. To me, those events cast a pall over the world that is impossible to escape, and my reaction to what is now going on in America and Europe is that it is all shocking and appalling, yes, but after Auschwitz, nobody has any business being surprised at what mass man is capable of.
In Seven Against Mars
, the predecessor novel to Monsters of Venus
, the Martian Princess Anya and Rachel Zilber, my teenage Warsaw Ghetto escapee, are condemned to death and led through an enormous jeering mob in the Martian capital city. They cheat death, but that glimpse into the dark heart of humanity… Look, long before the Holocaust our deepest thinkers feared that terrifying potential in mass man. It’s the fundamental reason why the American constitutional framers put all those “checks and balances” in place. I refer you to the near-lynching scene in Huckleberry Finn
and the scornful speech by Sherburn, the shotgun-wielding man who refuses to be a victim. (http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/21/the-adventures-of-huckleberry-finn/171/chapter-22/
) We must always be vigilant.
3. Why science fiction and dark historical reality? Why that combination?
Science fiction has been haunted from its beginnings by what Kipling called “the gods of the copybook headings.” (http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_copybook.htm
) Think of the eerie prophecy of what aerial bombing would do to great cities, in H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds
. And yet by a paradox that I’m hardly the first to notice, the bright, shiny space fantasy worlds have been overtaken by the tragic historical reality of what humans actually use our space-going technology for. The subject is almost unavoidable.
4. What kind of research did you do for this novel?
Basic planetary facts about Venus I looked up online. For the Aramaic that my “Malchussei” tribe of Venusians speak, I consulted with Naomi Jacobs, a friend I’ve had since college who is a scholar of the ancient Middle East.
5. Your stories seem to be written for a more intellectual reader. Given that your audience is meant to be younger, why did you make this choice?
The adult world grievously underestimates adolescents. I was talking to a teenage friend of my youngest son recently, and I told him that I like writing YA novels that pose real moral quandaries because I think teenagers are able to approach these issues with open minds, much more so than adults who have often stopped thinking about them. He told me that was the first time he had ever heard teenagers described as thoughtful. How sad is that?
6. What is one wacky/unique thing about you as a person/author?
I seem to get some of my best writing done in conditions that others would find very distracting. One favorite, for example, is using my iPad mini on the subway. Even better is screaming kids everywhere! It’s as though peace and quiet are disturbing to me.
7. If you lived in the world you created, who would Martin be? What role would you serve?
I hope I would be the wise sage, guiding the heroes with patience and love through their trials to make the world a better place. My cave in the mountains would be book-lined and climate-controlled, though.
8. What is one story you want to tell, but have yet to?
“The Double,” a series of books about doppelgängers who started life as the same people but then split when their worlds split and and now live parallel lives in parallel versions of Earth. They can physically cross over to the other version of Earth through secret tunnels, changing places with their doppelgänger. Lots of fun complications ensue!
9. What can we expect from you next?
10. What is one piece of advice you wish you could give to your younger (writer) self?
When you write the first draft a novel, find a way to turn off the inner censor and just let your imagination flow. You’ll have plenty of time on subsequent drafts to cut, revise, and rewrite. Also, if you do research for a book, you don’t have to and in fact shouldn’t cram all the fruits of that research into the novel.
11. Who is your favorite character in the book? Why?
Katie, because she is a loyal friend and fiercely brave in fighting for the people she cares about. Also, she is smart and resourceful and self-educated, which in the final analysis is the only kind of education that really counts.
Monsters of Venus from the Wildside Press website: Life is never dull when you’ve created a new world or two! After restoring Princess Anya to her throne on Mars, Rachel, Katie, and Jack return to Venus to rescue Sonia, Katie’s adopted sister, from the clutches of Da Mayor. With the help of Jack’s brother and his friends, they also fight to free the inhabitants of the oppressed city. But Da Mayor can change the future and even erase Rachel from the world she created! Can Rachel and her friends survive long enough to overcome Da Mayor’s evil plot and save the lives of everyone on Venus? Or is the planet doomed to return to a scorching, sulfur-filled death-trap, killing all who live there? (http://wildsidepress.com/monsters-of-venus-by-martin-berman-gorvine-paperback/) Also, see my website at http://martinbermangorvine.com/literary/mov.html
Trapped in the Warsaw ghetto in 1942, teenager Rachel Zilber escaped the horror by writing about the adventures of Princess Anya of Mars… and was transported into her own make-believe world, along with Katie, a girl from the future. No sooner did our heroines defeat the dastardly King Ares III of Mars and help the good princess ascend to the Sandstone Throne, an adventure recounted in Seven Against Mars, than they must face an even more dangerous enemy: Da Mayor of Venus “Beppo” Bellissini, a cruel tyrant who has kidnapped Katie’s sister Sonya! Can they save her and avert the insidious threat this sinister new villain poses to the fragile fabric of the reality they have created?
Those jerks from Venus were going to be good and sorry they’d kidnapped Sonya Goldberg-Webb. Sonya herself had told them so, several times an hour, for the past three weeks, ever since they’d grabbed her on the way home from school on Mars and stuffed her in this rocketship. That meant, by rough reckoning, and even allowing time off for sleeping and eating, she had told them so more than three thousand times. But far from getting tired of it, she was enjoying it more and more all the time.
She loved watching the face of the tall kidnapper, the one she called Fatso because he had a slight paunch, bunch up and freeze as if his jaw muscles were developing a cramp from being clamped down so hard and so often, while his nostrils flared out so wide they looked like garden hoses. She loved even more making the short kidnapper, the one she called Spazzo, jump about a mile by reminding him suddenly just how sorry he was going to be, right when he was least expecting it.