Welcome to Barren Island Books, an interview show in no way related to a popular music-based radio programme. Every Thursday, I will be exiling my latest guest to a remote island with only five books for company, selected from the categories I give them. It’s up to them to make sure they choose wisely, because they’re going to be stuck with these books for a long, long time …
My interviewee this week is Sorin Suciu, author of The Scriptlings. When he's not being banished to a desert island, Sorin can be found at www.sorinsuciu.com and www.facebook.com/SorinSuciuAuthor.
Sorin, thanks for joining us. First of all, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself – just so we know who it is we’re sending into exile. Illogical fears, unusual birthmarks, whether you’d rather wrestle a bear or punch a shark, that kind of thing.
Thank you for having me.
I think it’s safe to say I’m a gamer trapped in a programmer’s body. I spend most of my time trying to reconcile my jaunty, creative nature with my detail-oriented, analytical streak. I believe most IT people are like that, and that’s why we make such lovable geeks.
I don’t have a birthmark, let alone an unusual one, but I was told by my amateur psychoanalyst parents that I was a very ugly newborn. I’ve changed since then; I’m certainly older.
I would go with the shark-punching option, but only if it were a particularly rude shark, you know, the kind who beats his wife and doesn’t signal when he changes lanes. As for my fears, they are all perfectly justifiable and thoroughly rational, thank you very much.
Glad to hear it :-) And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
The Scriptlings has existed in a potential state for quite a while, fuelled continuously by my desire to give something back to the wonderful world of humorous fantasy. I guess the thing that burst the bubble, as it were, and converted all that potential energy into a novel, was a quote from Richard Dawkins’ River Out Of Eden: “The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like.”
The backbone of my story – the idea that syntax, as understood in object-oriented programming, can be used to cast spells – was inspired by this quote. If a concept is worthy of being the subject of convergent evolution, then why should this convergence be limited to DNA and computer programming? Why not magic?
I would argue that bringing The Scriptlings along into exile would improve one’s chances of survival. This holds true even though there are no survival tips in the book. Indeed, Buggeroff, one of the main characters, is so hopelessly bad at it that, if left alone in the wilderness, he might even attempt to make fire by rubbing two snakes together. However, I count on the humorous content of The Scriptlings to keep one’s spirits up, which is very important in a survival situation.
Definitely! And as a mathematician-slash-fantasy-author myself, I find your combination of computer programming and magic very appealing. (As those who know me will testify, one of my long-standing ambitions is to save the world with differential equations.)
So now let’s move on to the books you’re going to take to the island with you. First up, it’s your favourite childhood book – perhaps the one that got you interested in reading in the first place, or the one you read over and over when you were young. Which will you choose, and why?
My parents had a large book collection, at least by communist Romania standards. It was made up of what random books they could find at that time, books that passed censorship, and some carefully hidden books that didn’t.
If I had to choose, I would go with Children of Captain Grant, by Jules Verne. Jules Verne’s books were the staple YA adventure books for my generation, and I don’t think I could have asked for more. Children of Captain Grant is still one of my favourites, closely followed by Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.
Next, the book that made the greatest impact on your life. This could be one that inspired you to become a writer, or one that made you look at the world in a whole new way – maybe even one that resulted in real-life romance or adventure.
Any Terry Pratchett book qualifies. I’m going to go with Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
I remember being in a book store in Toronto, buying Good Omens for a friend’s birthday. The shopping assistant eyed it in my hands and she started telling me how much I would love it. She was very excited. I said that I already loved it and that I was buying it for a friend; to which she replied, nodding emphatically, that my friend was lucky to have me as a friend.
I may not be such a praiseworthy friend, but the book is ridiculously good.
Oh, I agree: you can't do much better for your friends than buy them a copy of Good Omens! For your third book – and you’re probably going to need this one, all alone on a remote island – I’d like you to choose your greatest comfort read. You know, the one you turn to when you’re sad or ill or just need a little pick-me-up.
All right, so this is not the happiest book in the world, but reading it does bring me comfort. It’s East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. Not one word is out of place in this mammoth of a book, and I think few stories can rival it in terms of scope and depth.
The reason I find comfort in it is because it shows people for what they are, rather than for what they ought to be. There is great comfort in accepting this.
Fourthly, it’s your unexpected treasure: a book you didn’t expect to like but did, maybe one outside your usual genre or that you picked up with low expectations but were pleasantly surprised …
Without a doubt, this must be The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. I picked up this book because Amazon.com recommended it to me, and I don’t remember ever being so quickly and irremediably immersed in a story.
I’ve even written a short fan blurb for it, which actually made it to the back cover of the UK edition. So, yeah, I’ve been sort of published by Random House – parasite style.
I must admit, I haven't read The Night Circus. I'll have to look out a copy. And since I'm in the UK, it will have the added bonus of your blurb on the back ;-)
Finally, I’d like you to choose your instant classic – the book you think most deserves to be read and reread by future generations. It’s up to you whether this book is already considered a classic or is something more obscure.
This book is not well known, and it is the sort of book that can make you laugh and cry within the span of a single page. It’s called Last Chance To See, and it was written by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine.
I think future generations should read it, if only to see how we, the people of the 21st century, have mucked about with our chance to save so many wonderful animals from extinction. I hope they will look at our failure with the same eyes we today look upon slavery.
Right. We’ll get those five books packaged up ready for your journey. Since we’re not completely heartless here at Barren Island Books, we’ll also let you take one song/piece of music, one film and one other item of your choice into exile with you …
That’s very kind of you!
If I may be allowed, I will choose Atom Heart Mother, from Pink Floyd, and Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings. As for the item, I’m pretty sure I’ll pick my trusted matter transmutation device – I never leave home without it, and nor should you.
Good choices all round: a man after my own heart! Now, before we whisk you away, you have one last decision to make: where you want your remote island to be located. You can choose anywhere you like for your exile, in this world or another.
If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, I would like to be exiled on the great Anhondo Plains of the planet Lamuella, where I would get to witness the perfectly normal beast migration twice a year. If I’m lucky, I might even meet my hero – Arthur Dent, the Sandwich Maker.
Nothing is too much trouble here at Barren Island Books, particularly where Douglas Adams fans are concerned! So that’s it – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
Farewell. Do write!
If you are an author and would like to take part in a future edition of Barren Island Books, please get in touch with me via the Contact page.