Passageways Interview Series: Evan Graham

You are cordially invited to visit nine different worlds! You won’t need to pack a thing; there’s no passport or visa required, and all expenses are paid. All you need is one book to transport you.

Passageways is an anthology featuring some of the strongest independent authors writing today, happily playing in the universes they’ve each built. Running the gamut from fantasy to sci-fi to horror.

This Author Interview Series will focus on the authors featured in Passageways, exploring their individual writing process, world-building, and characters. Passageways gives you a peak into the narratives these authors weave. I aim to give you a peak at the authors themselves. 

Over the next 11 weeks, we’ll hear from authors Tahani Nelson (The Faoii Chronicles); Brian Fitzpatrick (Mechcraft); R.H. Webster (Rosebud); S.E. Soldwedel (Broken Circles); G.A. Finocchiaro (SCALES); Evan Graham (The Calling Void); Susan K. Hamilton (Shadow King); and Jane-Holly Meissner (The Fae Child Trilogy), curator Mike X Welch (Enantiodromia), and Editor/Publishing Rep extraordinaire from Writing Bloc, Cari Dubiel (How To Remember).

Evan Graham is the author of the upcoming science-fiction thrillers Tantalus Depths and Proteus, both part of The Calling Void. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Education studies from Kent State University, with a triple minor in English, Writing, and Theatre. He lives in rural Middlefield, Ohio, where his procrastination is supervised and enforced by his cat.

About The Calling Void, the world in which Graham’s short, Reliquary, is set: The Calling Void is set 200 years in humanity’s future, with the stories connected to the Corsica Event—a technological singularity caused by a rogue AI’s sudden evolution and subsequent mysterious agenda. 

After the Corsica Event, surviving humanity reached for the stars, bringing new levels of fanaticism. At the heart of their intense belief system are relics from the Event which can further change the course of humanity’s future. Reliquary follows two true believers, neither of whom will cede any ground on their crusade. 

  1. What inspired The Calling Void universe?

I’ve been a ravenous consumer of science fiction ever since I was a kid, and I’ve always been especially fascinated with stories that strike the delicate balance between a focus on scientific realism and epic storytelling.

I’m also fond of thrillers and atmospheric horror, both for the visceral excitement they can elicit from a reader and for the opportunities they offer for character exploration. Fear and mortal peril have a way of bringing a person’s true nature to the surface in a way nothing else can. When faced with a true existential threat, many people who pretend to be virtuous reveal their vice, and many who seem meek find their courage.

There is a particular flavor of dread that’s unique to science fiction. Sci-fi is always, to some degree, about exploring the unknown. Sometimes it’s about exploring unknown worlds, encountering unknown creatures, or utilizing unknown technologies. H. P. Lovecraft famously said “The oldest and strongest fear is fear of the unknown,” and that’s one of the guiding quotes that defines The Calling Void. The universe is full of unknowns. Many are beautiful, some may hold the keys to humankind’s survival, and our inherent curiosity compels us to seek these secrets out no matter what. But there’s always that chance that there may be unknowns out there that are so terrifying and so antithetical to our wellbeing that simply learning of their existence may be our undoing.

  1. Is it safe to say there is a level of real-world inspired fanaticism in Reliquary? If so, would there be a real-world lesson a reader could pull away from the story?

There definitely is. I’ve intentionally abstracted the central conflict of Reliquary to a point where it doesn’t directly correlate to any specific real-life hot-button issue, but fanaticism is definitely the core threat in this story, and fanaticism is deadly no matter what cause it attaches to.

We’ve seen an alarming uptick in fanaticism in recent years. We’ve seen what can happen when groups of people idolize flawed individuals and accept all they are told without scrutiny, how they can isolate themselves more and more from ideas that challenge their thinking, to the point where they can’t be persuaded to change their thinking even when evidence is held right in front of their eyes. 

Reliquary presents two radical groups, the Aftothysians and the Algorithmists, whose agendas are wholly at odds with one another. If either group achieves its ultimate goal, it would spell the certain doom of civilization as we know it. They both have reasons for what they’re doing. It makes sense to them. They view themselves as enlightened and their causes as just, despite the cost. They’ve lost the ability to see the end of humankind as an unacceptable price to pay, that’s how thoroughly they’ve lost perspective on their basic humanity.

I wish I could say Reliquary has some inspired message for the reader that can help deal with people who have lost their way like this, but it’s not that kind of story. If there’s any comfort to be found in Reliquary, it’s from the way these two factions (and the third we encounter later) hinder one another’s progress. They can’t all get what they want, after all. Sometimes the only way to escape from wolves is to run into a bear.

  1. How does Reliquary connect in The Calling Void?

The Calling Void is different from most other series represented in the Passageways anthology in that it is an anthology series in its own right. There isn’t one overarching plot or one core set of characters the series follows; each story is more or less its own complete narrative. All the stories are set in the same universe, roughly around the same time, but they’re spread out across the galaxy. Breach took place in deep space near the planet Samrat, Countermeasures took place on Earth in a post-apocalyptic Florida. Reliquary is set on the planet Showalter: the first planet known to be capable of sustaining human life without terraforming.

One historical incident has a tremendous impact on all the worldbuilding in The Calling Void: the Corsica Event. This was a near-apocalyptic event that occurred on Earth at the end of the 21st century. The Corsica Event’s exact nature is still uncertain most of a century later; it was simply too vast and terrible in scale for humanity to understand what was happening at the time. What is known is that a human-made AI experienced a technological singularity and began to self-evolve at an exponential rate. Its intellect grew so rapidly that its reasoning and intentions became incomprehensible to human minds, and it began developing strange new technologies that started to change fundamental laws of physics. Just as soon as it began, the Corsica Event ended, for reasons that remain unknown, but not before the Earth was left ravaged and strange remnants of the hyper-intelligent AI’s technology were left for human minds to ponder. The Corsica Event made an indelible mark on the course of human history, shaping everything from geopolitics to the role of AIs in society. The technological relics left behind gave us the secrets of faster-than-light travel, and many hope they hold still more secrets to allow humankind to make yet another quantum leap in technological development. Reliquary gives us our first look at this enigmatic and invaluable Corsica technology, and the dire things people will do to acquire it.

  1. What themes do you explore in your work?

I’ve touched on this earlier, but the central theme is certainly the fear and allure of the unknown. I’m fascinated by that paradoxical combination. There’s a french term, l’appel du vide, for the phenomenon when you’re in a high place, like a roof or a cliff’s edge, and have the inexplicable, unbidden thought “I should jump off the edge.” You don’t listen to that impulse, and your next thought is likely  “why did I just think that?” but somewhere deep down in your subconscious, there’s a part of you that’s curious what oblivion feels like. In English, “l’appel du vide” translates as “the call of the void,” hence the name of my series. There are dark, dark things in this universe. Humanity has survived for millennia in a reality where it is always a razor’s edge away from oblivion, yet through a blend of persistence and luck, life goes on. Our curiosity may lead us to annihilation one day, but it’s not as if we could stop being curious. It’s our destiny to keep flipping stones until something crawls out from under one and bites us.

  1. 2020 was a tough year, but you still managed to be productive and creative. Do you have any advice for creatives who have struggled during the pandemic?

I’m one of the worst possible role models when it comes to healthy writing habits, but I’ve found a few techniques that help me keep my disordered brain on track. One of the best things you can do is set aside a designated space for creating.Your mind forms certain connections with certain spaces, so if you try writing in the same room where you watch TV or browse the internet in your downtime, you become much more tempted to do those things instead of staying on track and being productive. If you have a laptop or don’t mind writing with pen and paper, find a specific room or corner of your home that’s free of distractions and make that your designated creative space. Don’t use that space for anything else: go there when you want to write and leave that space when you’re done. Eventually, if you’re diligent, you can train your brain to associate that space with the act of creating, to the point where just going there can help you find motivation and focus.

The downside to this is technique is that you can get so used to it that it becomes difficult to ever be creative anywhere else, which is why I now have to banish myself to my bathroom every time I want to write anything, but hey. It gets the job done. 

Follow Graham on TwitterFacebook, and Goodreads. Be sure to add his book, Tantalus Depths to your list!

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