Buzz Dixon appears in our pages for the first time with his short story, “While You Sleep, Computer Mice Earn Their Keep” [in the current issue on sale now]. Here he talks about what inspires his most eccentric ideas and how they become fully developed stories.
Analog Editor: What is the story behind “While You Sleep, Computer Mice Earn Their Keep”?
Buzz Dixon: Often I’ll hear an idiom or phrase and think to myself, “What does that mean literally?” In this case, the phrase was “computer mouse,” and I asked myself how mice could actually interact with a computer. Immediately the old fairy tale of “The Cobbler and the Elves” popped into mind.
AE: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?
BD: If the Computer Mice represent the force of order, then the wild female rat represents the force of chaos. I remember reading Robert Chilson’s “Ecological Niche” in the December 1970 issue of Analog when I was in high school and was struck with his portrayal of wildlife finding a way to be both wild and alive even in the middle of an extremely complex technology. Once I had my opposing points of view, the actual writing went very quickly.
AE: What inspired you to start writing?
BD: Like many young children, I was interested in dinosaurs, and dinosaurs led me to monster movies, and monster movies led me to science fiction in general, and science fiction opened the doors of literature and writing for me.
I remember my first “a-ha!” moment: I was probably five at the time, too young to actually read the Buck Rogers comic strip but capable of following the story through the illustrations. Buck and his friends were playing water polo against some aquatic aliens that looked like first cousins to the Creature From The Black Lagoon; Buck’s human team wore scuba gear while playing. When the game ended the aliens climbed out of the tank and put fishbowl helmets full of water over their heads so they could breathe on land, and even as a little kid I went, “Yeah! Of course they would!” and ever since that moment I began looking at the world through slightly cockeyed lens.
AE: How did you break into writing?
BD: I was always interested in writing (I “wrote” my first book before I could actually read by drawing pictures of dinosaurs, carefully copying their names underneath, then stapling everything together in book form). I started writing and submitting stories somewhere between 13 and 16 years of age, with Analog being at the top of the submissions list. I never sold anything at the time (though John W. Campbell did send me a lengthy rejection letter for one story that thoughtfully pointed out areas I needed to work on, and probably helped me more than a year of trial and effort would have). It took me 50 years to crack Analog with “. . . Computer Mice™ . . .” and I hope it won’t take another 50 for my next sale!
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
BD: The only real universal advice for creators is “Don’t bore your audience.” Past that there’s no one way that will work 100% of the time for everybody.
AE: Who or what are your greatest influences and inspirations?
BD: I’m a sponge. For me, creativity in writing consists of synthesizing a myriad of ideas, interests, images, and influences. A little of this, a little of that, then bingo! you have something new.
I will say that if there’s one dictum I personally follow, it’s “Embrace the absurdity.” Computer Mice™come out at night and clean your house? That’s absurd! But if they did, how would that work? Where would they live? How would they be fed? Would the homeowners have to take care of them? Or would the homeowners even be aware they exist?
You figure out what it would take for Computer Mice to actually function, then you throw a monkey wrench into that in the form of a wild rat, and the next thing you know the story has pretty much written itself.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing? (IE: Social media handles, website URL . . .)
BD: My blog is www.BuzzDixon.com on which I discuss everything from comic books to Christianity, films to philosophy as well as post short-short fiction and other writings. I make a pest of myself on Facebook at www.facebook.com/buzzdixon, on Twitter @buzzdixonwriter, on Instagram at www.instagram.com/buzz_dixon_writer/, and my Tumblr page, Things I Do When I Should Be Working (https://buzzdixonwriter.tumblr.com).
Buzz Dixon is a writer/editor/publisher-packager with a career spanning from the animation classics of the 1970s and 80s (THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN, G.I. JOE, TRANSFORMERS, BATMAN, TINY TOONS) to comics (TALES OF TERROR, SHE-HULK) to feature films (DARK PLANET, TERROR IN PARADISE, G.I. JOE: THE MOVIE) to video games (TERMINATOR III) to graphic novels (HITS & MISSES and the SERENITY Christian manga series). More currently he has written two novels, THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN THE WORLD: THE LOST CLASSIC G.I. JOE EPISODE and the upcoming POOR BANISHED CHILDREN OF EVE, a YA adventure.