Spat Oktan is well known for his work on the sci-fi/comic book convention circuit, and in his roles as costume, prop-maker, and practical special effects man on low-budget films such as Bad Kids Go to Hell and its sequel, as well as videos and TV shows in the New York and Atlanta area, where he now resides. What no one knew until late last year is he is a novelist, but it turns out he put his quarantine to good use, just like Shakespeare would have done, and wrote both his first novel, MOBCon, a light crime novel involving shenanigans on the convention circuit, and his newest, Proxima One, about a series of murders that shatters an idyllic existence for the young people who have been raised on a colony ship — Proxima One — forcing them to wake the Elder, a wise, ancient figure…that sleeps in a distant part of the ship…
Available as a paperback or as an eBook, Proxima One is an ambitious effort by Oktan that is planned to be the first in a series. I spoke to Oktan about his new novel:
What inspired you to write PROXIMA-1?
It started off as a background idea for my first novel, MOBCon. In it, I had actors making appearances at comic conventions and I needed to make up fake movies and TV shows for them to star in. In the process, Proxima One was born.
It must be hard/weird/intriguing (pick your adjective) to create a “Sci-Fi universe” – it isn’t just about human emotion and behavior, where the reader assumes the normal rules of gravity and social mores apply. How much did you think about this? How self-conscious were you in trying to get the audience to “understand” the universe your story takes place in quickly? Any surprises/frustrations you found in creating “your own future world”?
The way I see it, there are 2 types of sci-fi universes – Star Wars and Star Trek. In a Trek– style universe, all the science has to be as realistic as possible and based on as much real physics as you can reasonably research. While in the Wars style universe, you never explain how things work because, in theory, the characters understand it and don’t need it explained. Everyone wants to be the next Lucas or Roddenberry, but both require huge amounts of world building, and for my story, the way the ship operates and how gravity exists were secondary to the story. Most of the people in the book have no idea how gravity works, and the others are too busy trying to stay alive to explain it.
What would you say were some of your direct influences in writing this novel? Previous books, movies, etc.?
I think it’s obviously got a bit of Alien in it, mixed with some Battlestar Galactica, and even some Star Trek. There’s no dearth of stories about ships moving through deep space!
Do you outline first or do you just sort of write and hope the characters lead you somewhere interesting?
I take notes as I think about the book for the weeks or months before I start writing it. I never try and put any order or sense to it, and a lot of the notes contradict each other, but I’m using it as a way to let the concept evolve. Then, I wing it for the first few chapters, just trying to lay down a basic intro for the characters and the universe. Once I’m about halfway through and I know I have certain points that need to be hit in a certain order, that’s when I start creating a basic framework, so I know which path I need to follow.
You’ve written two novels in two years. What did you learn in completing the first that helped you in writing the second?
Grammarly helped A LOT. Not only correcting my mistakes, but even teaching me how to think about grammar more gooder. Also, don’t expect to sell a million books in your first week of publishing it! Now, I’m basically just writing for myself, and if anyone wants to read my stuff, that’s awesome!
Was there ever a moment in writing your two novels that you put something on the page that actually surprised yourself? Where you said “wow, I didn’t know my characters would do that, but they just kinda took over?” or something like that?
I definitely saw that with the ending of Proxima One. Without giving away spoilers, what Anber does at the end shocked me as I was writing it, because that was not what I had originally planned.
What’s up in the future of Spat?
Working on a sequel for my first novel, MOBCon, right now. With the pandemic winding down, I hope to do start doing some personal appearances again.
I had a friend who offered to paint a cover for Proxima One, he’s becoming a big-named artist these days and while I was waiting for the artwork, I decided to paint something myself to use for teasers for the book. The cover on the novel right now is just acrylic paint poured onto a canvas and then hit with a hairdryer to make it splash around. It came out really well. Though, when the deadline came and went, my artist friend apologized, and I had to publish the book with my painting on the cover instead. When he does get me the art, I’ll probably release a second edition of the book.
You can pick up a hard copy or e-reader version of Proxima One at Amazon, but Spat is selling autographed copies himself at the link below: