Sean Vivier says he doesn’t have time to write down all of the story ideas rattling around in his brain, but, here at Analog, we’re grateful he found some hours between his web app development and dance instruction to give us his newest, “News from an Alien World,” in our current issue [on sale now]. We think you’ll be grateful too.
Analog Editors: Do you particularly relate to any of the characters in this story?
Sean Vivier: The way the Tanakas want to talk about every slightest detail of their obsession but have to stop somewhere because nobody else cares that much? That’s my entire life.
AE: What is your history with Analog?
SV: I’ve been fortunate enough to have two other stories in Analog. “Marduk’s Folly” is about a Super Earth seeking exoplanets and the debate it causes. “Fallacious” is about a man who performs brain surgery on himself in order to prevent the possibility of logical fallacy.
AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?
SV: Probably too much. I’ll often have ideas for polemics. They’re never very good, since they become more about making a point than telling a moving story with interesting characters. I write them to get them out of my system then concentrate on stories with more emotional resonance.
AE: What is your process?
SV: I start with a story plotted before I ever write a single word. I decide who the characters are before I determine their demographics—such as race and gender and class—with a randomizer app of my own creation. (Unless the setting limits demographic options. For example, in a story set in Japan, almost everyone will be Japanese.)
Then, after a day of writing code and teaching ballroom dance, I make sure to write a scene a day while I listen to an instrumental playlist so the words don’t get in the way.
AE: How do you deal with writers’ block?
SV: I don’t get writers’ block much. I always have some kind of idea in my head. If I’m not quite sure, I put myself in the viewpoint character’s head and write something, anything, from their perspective. I can always change it later.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
SV: Sometimes I feel like that scene in Sandman where the Muse curses a man to have so many ideas that he can never write them all.
I have a couple hundred unwritten short story ideas in the planning stages, and I write them one by one. I also somehow find time to proofread and edit as well as plan new stories.
Ars longa, vita brevis.
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
SV: Aboard a ship (a living ship!) in the Uncharted Territories. By which I mean Farscape. A weird and wonderful place out of reach of Peacekeeper authority.
AE: What SFnal prediction would you like to see come true?
SV: Automation of every menial task. It has such a power to bring greater prosperity to everyone and allow everyone to do more meaningful and rewarding work with their time.
AE: What careers have you had and how do they affect your writing?
SV: I began my career as a high school Spanish teacher. When I need some linguistics or developmental psychology in my story, that background really helps. It also helped me learn to appreciate all the varied cultures that solve the same problems only in different ways.
I spent a long time after that working at a Sudbury school, a kind of democratic school. Since then, my writing often explores unofficial alternatives to the accepted structure.
While a Spanish teacher, I helped run the Drama Club, and I also later worked part time for a local youth theater while I worked at that Sudbury school. It really helped me think more about character and the structure of stories.
As for teaching dance—first as a line dance instructor and now as a ballroom instructor—I’m not sure it has affected my writing beyond keeping the blood flow to my brain. Though, I do meet some characters . . .
Nowadays, I work as a web developer and it has been a big help when it comes to technological ideas.
Moreover, I think the need to move between walks of life as I’ve changed careers has grown my perspective of the world.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
SV: I have a hand-coded website, seanvivier.com, designed like an illuminated manuscript, where I list all my published stories and give more information about myself. I also have a contact form and some text RPGs for good measure. Even some writing in the marginalia to sweeten the pot.