Rhett C. Bruno is the author of Titanborn, the story of a morally conflicted troubleshooter whose work takes him to a rebellious colony on the moon of Titan. It’s a gritty tale that fans of works like Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Total Recall are going to love. In the following short interview, Bruno and I discuss the inevitability of rebellion among the stars, and the similarities he’s found between his work as an author and his career as an architect.
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UNBOUND WORLDS: How did you get into writing science-fiction? You’ve got a degree in architecture, right? Have you given that up?
RHETT C. BRUNO: I’ve been into writing my entire life. Since I was in middle school I wrote short fantasy stories and stuff like that. There was a point when I started reading a lot more and found myself drawn to the scifi classics, that I decided to try out writing scifi and that’s when I think I hit my groove. I had more confidence in it. As far as Architecture, I haven’t given that up at all! It’s my day job and one of my other passions, and it puts food on the table. I try to maintain a careful balance between both.
UW: Are there any similarities between writing a story and working on an architectural project?
RCB: There can be, depending on the project. There’s an element of problem solving in both. Like, how do I make this story work or this building address the client and programmatic needs. I’ve always believed that a properly designed building should draw you through it, just like how a great narrative will. And there’s also plenty of room for critique in both. They’re as similar as any creative professions are I guess.
UW: Most writers don’t just walk into their craft. There’s years and years of trial and error hidden behind every book. What was your experience like as a newbie writer?
RCB: Yeah for sure. I started out writing epic fantasy that really didn’t go anywhere. Had some bad experiences with publishers, all that. Then I had a fantasy manuscript absolutely torn apart by someone critiquing it for me. Like brutal to a point where it was unreasonable, but it also opened my eyes to work harder. That was when I turned to science fiction and reading to really find my voice.
UW: Your protagonist, Malcolm Graves, isn’t exactly a good guy. I mean, he’s not a bad guy, either, but there’s a shade of gray. Is it harder to write about a person like that? You really don’t have to wonder too hard about what a “hero” is going to do in any given situation; or a villain for that matter.
RCB: That’s about right with him! I personally don’t find it any harder because my turn to scifi has really inspired me to focus on the gray. Even in my other scifi series The Circuit, it’s hard to pinpoint good and evil. Everybody has their own perspective, and I think getting into Malcolm’s head with the first person perspective really let me show that.
UW: Graves envisions himself as being a neutral party in the conflicts that he involves himself in, but he finds that perspective hard to maintain as time goes by. Is his supposed neutrality something he deeply feels, or a position of convenience for a guy looking for his next paycheck?
RCB: For him I think it’s more convenience and also there’s a sense of safety in it. What he does for a living is all he has, and involving himself more than what he’s asked to invites his employers to kick him to the curb, so to speak. At the point in his life where Titanborn takes places, he’s aging and fears that his time as a Collector is limited anyway. He doesn’t want to do anything to mess that up. Of course that all goes haywire when he starts to see things he’s never seen before.
UW: Eventually, we are going to become a multi-planet species. Do you think that a rebellion of this is particularly likely?
RCB: I definitely think so. I think similar things have happened throughout history so there’s no counting it out in the future. The people of Titan are oppressed through their monetary status and with sickness. It’s a situation that could easily inspire revolution – a foreign conqueror coming and taking complete control. Add to it the fact that being secluded from Earth for three centuries has made them almost appear like a different species. There’s a terrible amount of racism and disdain on both sides.
UW: What’s next for you? Do you want to continue exploring this universe?
RCB: Absolutely! There will be other stories coming set in the Titanborn universe. Some might already be finished being written! And there’s also completely separate story ideas that I want to explore. There are so many opportunities in science fiction that it’s hard to settle on a single setting.