AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Scott Sigler

Tell us about your latest book, The MVP, and also about Pandemic, which is coming out soon.

The MVP is part of my YA series, the Galactic Football League. It’s about a professional American football league 700 years in the future, where aliens play alongside humans and deaths on the field are commonplace. It’s book four of a seven-book series. I’m currently writing book five, due out in September 2014. The GFL series focuses on themes of racism and the integrative power of a true meritocracy. It’s the opposite of a dystopia: this is a star-spanning, scifi hero’s quest with a sports-based background.

My most-recent book is Pandemic, published by Crown Publishing. It is the conclusion to the Infected trilogy, which also includes Infected and Contagious. The series deals with the potential horrors of biologically-based smart materials and self-replicating technologies. In it, the Big Bad reprograms the human body into a kind of Von Neumann device: blood, guts and high-action ensue.

Infected looked at the tale of an alien invasion from the view of a single man who had no idea what was happening to his body. Contagious pulled back the camera to let the reader see the national response to this anatomy-morphing nightmare. In the final installment, the vector goes global—every nation in the world succumbs to this sprawling evil, governments collapse and humanity is faced with extinction as the disease truly becomes a Pandemic.

You first rose to prominence as an author as one of the pioneers of podcasting, and you’ve also done some other kinds of “new media” publishing, but now of course many of your novels are published by traditional publishers. Could you tell us a little bit about your journey from DIY podcaster to New York Times bestseller?

I published five hard-science/horror thrillers with Crown Publishing, a division of Random House, and also publish the YA space opera Galactic Football League through my own company Empty Set Entertainment. I have a new deal with Del Rey, also a Random House division, for the Generations Trilogy. The first book, ALIVE, should be out in Summer of 2015. So, I am very lucky in that I get the best of both worlds: I have the brick-and-mortar distribution of a Big Five publisher and the commercial possibilities that go with it, and I also have an outlet where I maintain total control over content. With Empty Set, I can bypass some of the barriers (like prohibitive eBook prices and long production cycles) that can prevent me from getting more quality work into the heads and hands of interested readers.

So right now, there are two versions of me. One version is thrilled to work with a stable powerhouse like Random House, that gets me a wide reach to new readers that might not discover me on the internet. The other version of me is the small-business entrepreneur with total creative freedom: my partner A Kovacs and I get to make all the decisions and do whatever we think is best for our readers.

Since my first podcast, that’s what it’s always been about: how can I get my stories out to the people who will enjoy them? That’s always been my focus.

I don’t think you’ve ever done a Kickstarter, but it seems like the kind of thing that would be right up your alley. Have you considered doing one before? And if so, what kind of project might you Kickstart?

We’re working on a Kickstarter to launch sometime in 2014 that will serve as a fundraiser for CosmoQuest, which is one of our chosen charities at Empty Set. They’re a group of astronomers dedicated to citizen science and outreach. They’ll be mapping the planets of the “Siglerverse” (that show up in my space-related stories) to the stars and planets in our actual universe. If we’re successful, we’ll end up with a poster-sized map that fans can purchase. The goal is to let readers know that the imaginary worlds and cultures they’re experiencing are located in a “real” part of space, something they can explore and learn more about—maybe this turns more people on to astronomy, and to science in general.

If you were a new writer just getting started out today, what career path do you think you’d take with all the options that are available right now?

I’d self-publish and release books through the Kindle store and through other online retailers. I would write, re-write, re-write again, then pay for a professional copyedit.  Then I’d re-write, re-copy edit, get pro cover art, pay to have the book properly formatted so it is a pleasure to read no matter what device it’s consumed on, then publish myself. The evolution and accessibility of ebooks have replaced the direct-to-audience access I leveraged with podcasting, and they’re much easier to use. Now authors can do pretty much what I did — which is using the internet to get their works to a global market while incurring zero cost of distribution—only without hundreds of hours of recording and editing audio.

What’s coming up next for you (after Pandemic)?  

As I mention above, I’m working on Book V of the GFL series, which we’re really pumped about. Our main character, a discarded orphan from a distant, religiously oppressive mining colony, has truly come into his own on the galactic stage. He’s trying to deal with the overwhelming cult of personality that has sprung up around him. All he wants to do is play football, but destiny seems to have other nasty plans in store for him.

I’m hard at work on Alive and also Alight, the second book in the Generations Trilogy. I’m very excited about working with Del Rey, home of some of the all-time greatest scifi I read as a teenager. The plot twists and reveals of Alive begin around page three, so I can’t really say what it is about other than that a group of teens wake up in coffins within an Aztec-inspired crypt, and they have no idea who put them there.

We also have multiple GFL novellas in the works. These books explore the secondary characters of this rich universe. The three on deck are The Rider, co-written with Paul Elard Cooley; The Gangster, co-written with Nathan Lowell; and The Reef, co-written with Matt Wallace. These books will add to our existing novellas, which include The Reporter, co-written with Campbell Award-winner Mur Lafferty.