INTERVIEW: L. E. Modesitt, Jr., author of “A More Perfect Union”

L. E. Modesitt, Jr. is the bestselling author of the Saga of Recluse, the Spellsong Cycle, the Corean Chronicles, and several other series, as well as a number of standalone novels, such as The Eternity Artifact and The Elysium Commission. His most recent books include Haze, Arms-Commander, Empress of Eternity, and the Imager Portfolio series. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies—including John Joseph Adams’s Federations—and was recently collected in Viewpoints Critical.


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

It’s the story about a mad political scientist who uses his expertise to change the United States and the world. It also extrapolates some current trends which I find disturbing, and even more so in light of the recent election.

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

The story grew out of the events that led to my becoming the legislative director for a U.S. Congressman and later political positions and spending nearly twenty years in politics, government, and Washington, D.C.

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

The greatest challenge was making the truth semi-believable, because what really happens in politics is often so far from what most people believe, as I discovered when Bruce Levinson and I wrote The Green Progression, a book that was praised as being highly realistic and one which many readers found unbelievable.

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

As noted above, it comes from years of experience in the political world.

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

None; I lived the research.

What is the appeal of mad scientist fiction? Why do writers–or you yourself–write about it? What do you think readers like about it?

There’s an all-too-human fascination with evil genius, particularly when it’s associated with conquest, politics, or domination, whether historical, such as with Hitler, the Borgias, Rasputin, Cromwell, or Huey Long, or fictional, such as Professor Moriarty, Dr. No, Saruman, or others.

What are some of your favorite examples of mad scientists in fiction (or perhaps in fact!), and what makes them your favorites?

Actually, I still think the prototype of the mad scientists is hard to beat, and that’s Victor Frankenstein. Perhaps my next favorite is Yama, from Zelazny’s Lord of Light, since he’s definitely “mad”, if not in the traditional way.