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Michael Flynn

interviewed by Hilary Williamson, February 2012

Michael Flynn is the author of the Firestar and Spiral Arm series of novels, and is an Analog magazine alumnus whose fiction now appears regularly in all the major SF magazines. He lives in Easton, Pennsylvania.

His Spiral Arm series is space opera set in a fascinating far future universe, rich in masterfully laid out cultures and conflicts, in particular the Long Game between the Confederation of Central Worlds and the United League of the Periphery. The latest adventure, In the Lion's Mouth, continues (from The January Dancer and Up Jim River) to tell of how the scarred man, Donavan buigh, was kidnapped and taken into the midst of civil war in the Lion's Mouth.

Q: Although I've unfortunately missed many of your books, those I've read ( Eifelheim, the Firestar series, and the Spiral Arm series) vary from settings back in the Middle Ages to the near future and far future. What led to such a range?

A: I suppose it would be eclectic interests. Perhaps even a disinclination to "do another one just like the last one." How does that set with two series? Firestar was conceived originally as a single book. It just got too long. But the Spiral Arm series did come to me as separate books. Except for book III and IV. Eifelheim came from an interest in things medieval, stemming from a novella many years ago that forms the frame of the novel. Firestar came about because a publisher lamented the absence of good old fashioned near-future, high-tech, optimistic SF. The Spiral Arm started with an early novel I wrote in high school and college.

Q: Your writing is very lyrical (unusual in SF) - do you have a literary background or write poetry as well as science fiction?

A: My background is in Mathematics and Statistics, although I was the co-editor of the high school literary magazine. I have written some poetry in college. Some day I will see if I can read it without cringing. And I have written three poems that were published, all comic. "There's a Bimbo on the Cover," "The Engineer Discourses Upon His Love," and "Has Poetry a Place in Science Fiction." All three appear in the new ARC Manor edition of my collection, The Forest of Time. The rest of it might be only because I'm Irish on my father's side.

Q: Aside from being far future SF, I find that your Spiral Arm stories read like rousing old Irish sagas - what prompted the strong Celtic flavor?

A: It started long ago, after I had read Dune in ANALOG magazine. I had the notion of writing a galaxy spanning saga, but with an Irish flavor instead of an Arab flavor. The result was mostly hideous. I was in high school, and then college, and did not yet know how to rite gud. But otherwise, the ancestry led me to it.

Q: I appreciated Donavan buigh's harper daughter Mearana's strong role in the series as I play the harp - do you have a musical background?

A: Yes, way in the background. I once played clarinet, bass clarinet, and oboe in the school band; but I never became as proficient as my kids or granddaughter became. I also composed some very bad symphonic music, and in college took courses in Harmony and Counterpoint.

Q: The Long Game between the Confederation of Central Worlds and the League of the Periphery (enacted through their Hounds and Shadows) reminded me of Kipling's Great Game - was that deliberate?

A: Yes, the name "the Long Game" was quite deliberate.

Q: You tend to include huge casts of characters in your novels/series; do you like to challenge your readers?

A: I suppose the question ought to be do my readers like it. Too small a cast makes the world seem small.

Q: Indeed your lead, Donavan buigh, in the Spiral Arm books is a cast of characters all by himself - did you enjoy developing his multiple personalities? They are certainly a pleasure to watch interacting!

A: Absolutely. That was another idea from high school days. I wrote a couple pages about an agent with multiple personalities - named Donovan as it happens - and he was imagined as the same Donovan as in The January Dancer, another high school special. Don't let anything go to waste.

Q: It's hard to find much about you online - why such a minimal Internet presence?

A: I hadn't thought about it much. I have a FB page, and run a blog; but not really much else. Too busy most of the time, I guess. Until the past couple years I was on the road a lot on my day job.

Q: It looks like the next in the Spiral Arm series will take Donavan buigh (and those on his trail) back to Terra; can you tell us anything about it yet, or about anything else in the works?

A: The title is On the Razor's Edge and it involves the logical third "hunt" after Up Jim River and In the Lion's Mouth. It also follows directly on the end of the third book. In fact, it was once the second half of the third book. I'm waiting right now on a contract.

After that, Something Completely Different.

Find out more about Michael Flynn, his novels and series at, and read his Journal.
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