Interview: David D. Levine

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

It’s about a tinkerer in the Australian Outback in 1880 who builds a suit of steam-powered armor for the famous bushranger Ned Kelly.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I always like to approach theme anthologies from the perspective of how I can write story that fits into the theme but will be completely different from the other stories in the anthology and the reader’s expectations. In this case, because the promotional copy for the anthology stressed the science-fiction aspects, I decided to set the story in the past. It’s also based on some of the things I learned in Australia during the World Science Fiction Convention that was held there last year, and on one of my other favorite historical personages.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

This one required a lot more research than my usual. Every single character in it, and most of the incidents, are based on real historical personages and occurrences. Although the story is fiction, I wanted to hew as closely as possible to actual historical facts.

Most authors say all their stories are personal. If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

Old Ike, the viewpoint character, is an engineer who deals with things and ideas a lot more easily than he does with people; in fact, his engineering instincts often steer him wrong when dealing with people.

He might be based on a certain person who’s very close to me…

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I found most of what I needed on the Internet, especially at and in Wikipedia. I also discovered some newspapers of the period online, which were useful for local color.

What is the appeal of power armor/mecha? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do you think readers/viewers/gamers love it so much?

With powered armor, you become yourself only bigger and stronger. You can do whatever the heck you want, smash what you want, take what you want, and no one can stop you. The moral dilemmas that follow from that power and the choices around how to use it, or not, make for
interesting stories.

What are some of your favorite examples of power armor/mecha (in any media), and what makes them your favorites?

I have a fondness for Macross, especially the VF-1J Valkyrie variable fighter, because it is JUST SO DAMN COOL. I have several of the fully-transformable toys of this mecha, imported from Japan in the days before Macross was translated into Robotech. As you might guess from this story, two of my other favorite mecha can be found in the short film “A Tale of Two Robots,” part of the anime anthology Robot Carnival (1987).