I had the opportunity to interview Ben Michael Stevens, B. Michael Stevens on Amazon. As a science fiction author, he has written a number of horror, fantasy and science fiction works.

 

Tamara Wilhite: Would you consider The Goddess Gambit a science fiction or modern fantasy work?

Ben Stevens: Good question! The Goddess Gambit has actually been very difficult to market correctly, because it’s so cross-genre!  It has many elements of science fiction: Robots, Mecha, laser guns, futuristic cites, etc. But It’s really more fantasy. It has a lot in common with Urban Fantasy, except, the setting is in the future. The question I ask a potential reader is this: In Urban Fantasy, we have magical elements mixed in with our current, modern world right? Yes. And our current, modern world is going to someday look like something from science fiction, say Blade Runner, or Ghost in the Shell, right? Yes. So what would the world look like if the magical elements that exist in a modern world in fantasy look like in that future version of our modern world.

That is the setting of Goddess Gambit. A cyberpunk Final Fantasy, with a splash of Robotech.

 

Tamara Wilhite: The Goddess Gambit is the first book in the No Gods, No Masters series. Book 2 is To Rule in Hell. Will there be a third?

Ben Stevens: Yes! And a fourth. As well as some spin-offs. Book Three should be out shortly after the New Year. No date yet for the fourth and final installment.

 

Tamara Wilhite: Bardo of the Unquiet Mind came out this October. Did you write every story in the anthology Bardo of the Unquiet Mind? And what does the title mean?

Ben Stevens: I did write every story in Bardo. Most of the stories in it were previously published in various horror anthologies and magazines between 2016 and 2018. A few of them have never been released. Once all the rights to my older stories were returned to me, I decided to publish them all together in a collection. Hence, this current collection. Nearly all of the stories in Bardo are my ‘tip-o-the-hat’ to the H.P. Lovecraft Mythos. Fans of those stories will find much to like here. I put my own twist on each of them, but stayed true to the ‘Purist’ spirit and style. Before each tale, I write a little essay, giving the background and genesis of each story, as well as a good long rant about the current state of Mythos fiction, and what it means to be ‘Lovecraftian.’

What does the title mean? Well, a Bardo is a realm between our world and the nest life in Tibetan Buddhist Theology. Similar to Purgatory, mixed with Dante’s levels of hell. Both the word Bardo, and ‘the unquiet mind’ are nods to my own state of mind when penning these tales, as well as a bit of an Easter Egg to a scene in NoGods 2, To Rule in Hell.

 

Tamara Wilhite: What story in the collection was the most fun to write? 

Ben Stevens:  Wooo! That’s a tough question. I would have to say the opening act – “Breaking Ahab.” It was the fastest story I ever wrote and I’m quite proud of it. It has been accepted to 3 different publications, and it was the first story I wrote where a reader penned me to tell me that they cried while reading it. It was quite fun, and therapeutic to write.

 

Tamara Wilhite: And which stories came out differently than you expected?

Ben Stevens: Funny you should ask. One of the tales in Bardo was part one of two. There was a call out, back in 2016, for two anthologies. One was a pro-Trump collection, and one was an anti-Trump collection. Both were horror. Not wanting to mix my writing with politics, but having been invited by the editors to contribute, I vowed that I wouldn’t let one story be published in a collection, unless the other story was also accepted in the other collection. Rather than make some kind of message-fiction political statement, I would have fun and write two stories based on the craziest, most paranoid fears from both sides of the spectrum, whether Trump won or lost.
All seemed great at first. Both of my stories were accepted in to both anthologies. Then, just before we went live, the publisher cancelled the pro-Trump one. Another publisher picked it up and I thought for a minute I was out of the woods, but then a little ways into it’s development, the new editor contacted me and asked if I would be okay with them not including my story in the collection because they found it a tad too disturbing! LOL! So, yeah, that one did not turn out the way I thought it would.

 

Tamara Wilhite: What other collections have you contributed to?

Ben Stevens: Well, most of the stories in Bardo, say 60-70% of them have been previously published in collections such as: Pluto Planetary Anthology from Tuscany Bay Books, Fanatasia Divinity Magazine, Lovecraftaina Magazine, Monsters Among Us by Bloody Kisses Press, Shopping List by Hellbound Books, Bronies Gone Wild by Horrified Press, Trumpacalypse by Horrified Press, Hammer of the Gods by Rogue Planet Press, and more.

 

Tamara Wilhite: You’re an out and proud pagan. How does that affect your fiction?

Ben Stevens: Well, this is a tad embarrassing, but I’m actually not. I converted to Catholicism back in 2017. And was baptized a year later on Easter. I am now a Knight of Columbus and discerning joining the Third Order Dominicans. This has affected my writing in a major way. It was the big reason I was drawn to Superversive Press (The Publishing Company that published The Goddess Gambit and its sequels) and will play a major role in phase two of my writing career after I finish the fourth NoGods book. Can’t give too much away just yet. <Spoilers!> But let’s just say things are going to be quite different!

 

Tamara Wilhite: What are you currently working on? What do you have planned?

Ben Stevens: I am putting the last touches on No Gods 3: The Morning Star, and will be starting No Gods 4 Prelude to Infinity the right way by trying my hand at NaNoWriMo for the first time. I’m very excited and looking forward to seeing if I can write 60,000 words in one month or not.

 

Tamara Wilhite: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Ben Stevens: First I’d like to tell you thank you for interviewing me! Second, I’d like to encourage any interested readers of your blog to go to my website: bmichaelstevens.com  and subscribe to my newsletter. If they do, I’ll not only keep them abreast of all my latest releases and cool, fun geeky scifi-fantasy- and horror bits, but I will give them two free short stories set in the No Gods No Masters Universe (the setting for The Goddess Gambit).

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