Cool Sci-Fi's 10 Questions With... Anderson Gentry

The Crider Chronicles by Anderson Gentry

We speak to Anderson Gentry who's first novel The Crider Chronicles is out in both print and e-book, with a plan to carry on his story over four volumes spanning almost 500 years of exploration, colonial enterprises and fighting criminals and aliens alike in mankind's quest for a future in the galaxy.

Q1: How did you find yourself choosing your path in writing science fiction?

A: I’ve been influenced by science-fiction from a very early age. Writers are always readers, and I taught myself to read at age three. My Dad was a science-fiction reader, and much of my early reading involved thumbing through copies of Dad’s old pulp sci-fi magazines in the early Sixties. I read Asimov’s Foundation series when I was junior high school, and moved from there into writing my own material when I was fifteen or so. Writing is an obsession for me; I can’t not write, and sci-fi is my favorite genre to read or write.

Q2: Where do your writing skills come from?

A: I make most of my living in commercial writing; I develop user instructions, manufacturing and quality systems documentations for companies in the biotech industry. Fiction writing is my first love, but right now, commercial work pays my mortgage. I’ve written short stories on a wide variety of subjects, some I’ve made public, and some I haven’t. In 2001, I wrote a non-fiction book that deconstructed and debunked the anti-science claims of the various radical animal rights groups, and I’m considering doing another on the anti-science “Intelligent Design” movement. At the moment, I’m also ghost-writing a book on post-Civil War American history. Yes, I am an incorrigible workaholic.

Q3: Can you name a few of your literary influences?

A: There’s quite a variety. John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Tom Clancy, to name a few. The Crider Chronicles is really a Clancy-style political-military thriller, it’s just set a few hundred years in the future.

Q4: How do you base your governments and societies in The Crider Chronicles?

A: American history. It’s not a perfect comparison, but it’s certainly there; the forming of an armed citizen’s militia to repel the invasion on Forest, for example, and much of the debate in the Constitutional Convention mirrors some of the debate that went into the forming of the US Constitution. I think that the expansion of human society into space will in many ways mirror the expansion of Western civilization into the New World. In the beginning, travel will take months, communications will be difficult, conditions will be harsh. As technology advances, travel will become more efficient, and new ways of transmitting information will make communication easier and faster.

Q5: Are any of the characters in The Crider Chronicles based on real people?

A: Mike Crider is kind of a composite of several people I’ve known. A couple of old Army buddies and my own father make up a great deal of Mike’s personality.

Q6: Whilst not being completely human, the alien antagonists in your novel are close to the human image. How much science did you put into creating the races history and social mores?

A: We know, of course, that it’s highly improbable that any intelligent alien race will look very much like us, or that they’ll even communicate in any way that we could comprehend. This is where I took a little bit of literary license; the Grugell are roughly humanoid in shape, and speak verbally like humans. They evolved from an exclusively predatory ancestor, unlike our omnivorous ancestors, and they come from a low-gravity, Mars-sized planet, so they’re taller, thinner, and physically weaker. The alien race had to be close enough in form and society to humans to make some level of social interaction possible, or else there just wouldn’t be any competition develop that would make for an interesting story. So, that’s how they turned out.

Q7: The human characters out on the front line in your world are focused round the Grunts, the working man rather than the privileged officer class in his neat uniform with shiny buttons and face to launch a thousand ships. The men who do the work rather make the orders. How does this style turn into good storyline for the reader?

A: I loved the original Star Trek without reservation, but there is a major flaw in the organization of Star Trek’s Starfleet and in much of the military structures I’ve seen in various sci-fi, and that is that the writers tend not to understand how a military is organized. Any military organization runs on the strength of its non-commissioned officers. That was the single most important thing I learned in my own Army service. Most sci-fi crews consist of various officer grades and generic “crewman,” which is completely untenable. My Confederate Navy has non-commissioned officers, technical grades, and even long-service Chief Petty Officers that form the rock-solid basis on which the Confederate Navy is built. As the series progresses, you’ll see the Navy’s NCO corps developed even more.

Q8: Your primary character comes to a new world as a hunter and pioneer. Why did you place him in that occupation that is lost in todays fully explored world?

A: Two reasons. First, any development of a new, life-bearing world will require explorers to get out on the ground and break trails, as it were, into the wilderness. These people will be required to be capable and self-reliant, exactly as Idaho mountain boy Mike Crider is. Second, I’ve been an outdoorsman myself all my life; hunting, fishing, camping and trapping occupied much of my spare time when I was a kid, so it’s something I’m intimately familiar with.

Q9: Given the opportunity, would you go to a new world yourself the way your main character did, as a hunter and pioneer in an undeveloped wilderness where mistakes can be swift and final?

A: In a split-second. I can’t think of anything that would be more exciting. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will become possible in my lifetime, so I’ll have to settle for retiring in Alaska in a few more years.

Q10: Tell us a little bit about the rest of the series, and when we can expect the next book.

A: I’ve planned three more books in the series; the next installment, A Sky of Diamonds, is about three-fourths complete. The next book explores the post-war era, including more of the Confederacy’s expansion, the trouble they have with some of the unaffiliated worlds along the border, and – biggest of all – the revelation of an ancient, guiding influence that has been subtly manipulating human history for over a thousand years. I’m afraid that’s all I can tell you about that for now, but I promise it will be quite a twist in the overall story.

I’m also working on a series of novellas based on the post war adventure of Jean Barrett, who captained the privateer starship Shade Tree during the Grugell War in The Crider Chronicles. The series will be called Barrett’s Privateers.

These novellas will follow the Shade Tree, her Captain and crew as they look for ways to make a living in the post-war years. The first and second novellas, Plague Ship and Unrepentant Sinner, are nearing completion now.

Anderson Gentry

UPDATE 2020-10-08: Crider Chronicles is available on Amazon
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