Charles Coleman Finlay

There arenít many genre writers in Ohio. For some odd reason it seems to be a place people come from but not a place where creative people end up. Yet there are a small contingent of really great science fiction writers in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, and Charlie is one of the Columbus crew.

Since 2000 heís seen stories out in F&SF, Argosy, Paradox, Futurismic, Marsdust, as well as others. His fiction has been on the final ballot for the Nebula, the Hugo, and the Sidewise awards, been reprinted in the yearís best, and has put Charlie on the final ballot of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Charlie keeps a website at and his first book comes out this month: The Prodigal Troll, which I encourage everyone to check out. His first short story collection is coming out soon from Subterranean Press. So without further ado, Charles Finlay:

Tobias S. Buckell is a Caribbean-born speculative fiction writer who grew up in Grenada, the British Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He now lives in Ohio.

He has published stories in various magazines and anthologies. He is a Clarion graduate, Writers of The Future winner, and Campbell Award for Best New SF Writer Finalist. His work has received Honorable Mentions in the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror and Year's Best Science Fiction.

Questions and Answers

TB: Who is Charles Coleman Finlay, really?
Charles Finlay is the colorful and outspoken former owner of the Oakland Aís, the Cuban doctor who discovered the cure for malaria, and a retired WWII Navy cook whose mail kept getting misdelivered to me for years. Thatís why, when I started writing, I decided to become Charles Coleman Finlay. Just so readers could find me on google.

TB: Why write? Videogames and TV are much more fun, aren't they?
Nah. I donít care for Videogames and TV all that much. Itís spring right now, so I was playing baseball outside with my kids until dark last night, and weíll have a couple days worth of soccer this week, and Iíd love to take them canoeing if the water goes down on the river a bit. But thereís time for all that fun and writing too.

TB: Why genre?
If you write, youíre writing in some genre, so I take this to be a euphemism for science fiction/fantasy in the same way that "urban" is a euphemism for African-Americans.

So why this genre instead of another? Itís my roots. Science fiction and fantasy stories are the stories that made me fall in love with reading. I tried writing literary fiction in college, but I didnít really fall in love with writing until I went back to where I started.

TB: If you had to do it all over again, what would you do?
Earn sixty million dollars to live off of day-to-day before I started writing fiction full-time.

TB: What warps your writing the most?

Thatís a joke for all you weavers out there.

But, as I reflect, it also neatly describes the right angle that affects writing: on the one hand, you have an entirely creative focus, and at right angles to that you have the business process you go through to get your fiction in front of readers. If you weave them together properly, they strengthen and reinforce each other, creating a more lasting structure, a support that allows you ultimately to focus more energy on writing. If you pay more attention to one over the other, and let them get out of balance, the whole thing can unravel. I see new writers who focus so much on figuring out the business side they never learn to write; and I see writers with talent so dismissive of the business side they never reach an audience.

TB: Do you have a favorite place to write?
I have a desk at home covered with books, papers, notes, and other items of interest and reference, which tumble down occasionally so that I have to shove them aside to make more room for the laptop. Itís a nice metaphor for the way my head works too. But I get most of my work done there, where "there" equals at my desk or in my head.

TB: What's the most challenging aspect of writing?
Making time to write, especially when the non-writing life gets crazy and demanding.

TB: What's the most whacked-out thing said in a review of your work?
I dunno about whacked. No piece of fiction can please every reader, and some of the readers who havenít gotten or enjoyed some of my fiction have also been reviewers. But nobodyís ever been so far off that I thought they were reading a different story entirely, although Iíve seen that happen to other writers.

The Publishers Weekly review of my novel was only lukewarm, which was a downer for me, since it was the first review. Then Ben Rosenbaum pointed out that it could be redacted into the following blurb:

"Heroic... smart... superior... both funny and moving" ó Publishers Weekly

Cheered me right up. The bookís also gotten good reviews in Kirkus and Locus, which makes things even better. But when I eventually get a really whacked out review, Iíll send it to Ben for an edit.

TB: Okay, you're going to get marooned on an island by a bunch of angry editors, what one book do you take and why?
Exactly why are the editors angry at me again?

I think the one book I take is my ibook, along with a solar-powered battery recharger and a satellite phone for internet access. I can read stuff online at SciFiction and Strange Horizons, buy novels from Fictionwise, and maybe write enough good new stories so that the editors arenít angry at me any more.

Although if it improves my productivity, they are less likely to rescue me.

Although, if itís a tropical island, hell, maybe I donít want to be rescued.

Whereís the sign-up sheet?

TB: Is there a book or story you wish you could go back in time and kill the author of so you could submit their manuscript as your own?
You know what Iíd do? Go back in time and shovel snow off the sidewalk for Cyril M. Kornbluth so he doesnít have the heart attack and die at 34. Iíd love to have given him another thirty or forty years to his career, and maybe had the chance to collaborate with him if he lived even longer. He was just starting to hit his prime, and I think his best stories stand up really well even today.

TB: When I interview you again in 10 years, what will you hope to be talking to us about?
Writing fiction! My new book coming out.

Good lord willing and the crick donít rise.

TB: What are your current plans for literary world domination?
I had someone write to me recently to apologize for not reading my stories for a while after being disappointed by one of them. The person was worried that I might be offended by that. My thought was that it made them no different from the almost six billion other people in the world that currently arenít reading my stories; if I was offended by all of them, I wouldnít have any energy left to write!

So my plans are to continue to write the best stories I can, send them to the best markets that will take them, and win over one reader at a time. Until I get to six billion.

TB: Last, but not least, if zombies were spreading throughout the land by infectious bite what would be your 5 point response?
1. Contact Kelly Link for her Zombie Contingency Plan.

2. Stop by the doctorís office for my zombie vaccination shot.

3. Plan a long vacation at sea.

4. Zombies donít scare me. Marsupials scare me. Cause theyíre fast.

5. Cut a deal with the aliens to take out the zombies.

TB: -Thanks for the interview!

Relevant Links

Charles Coleman Finlay's Main Listing
Charles Coleman Finlay Website
Tobias S. Buckell's Main Listing
Tobias S. Buckell Website