Raymund Eich’s first dinosaur veterinarian story appears in our current issue on sale now. Here he talks the origin of “Riddlepigs and the Cryla” and teases a possible patent law SF story for the future….
Analog Editor: How did this story germinate?
RE: One day, when my daughter was about four years old, I found her in her room, playing with a mix of toy farm animals and dinosaurs while wearing a plastic stethoscope from a veterinarian dress up kit. The phrase of her name plus “dinosaur veterinarian” popped into my head. The mix of farm animals and dinosaurs she was playing with helped inspire the conflict between farmers and the dinosaur company you see in the story.
Because my family’s privacy matters a lot to me, I changed the main character’s name. Portia was in consideration when my wife and I were expecting a girl, and our family name comes from the German word for oak. From there, Portia Oakeshott sounds British, the planet name New New South Wales tickled my fancy, and my family lived in Australia for a couple of years when I was very young. The world of the story grew from there.
AE: Is this piece part of a greater universe of stories?
RE: Yes. Trevor recently acquired the rights to publish a second Portia Oakeshott story, “Minnie and the Trekker,” which I presume will come out sometime in 2021. I have other stories about her and the dinosaur preserve in the works. It’s loosely set in the same universe as my novel The Reincarnation Run, but the two stories are set centuries and hundreds of light-years apart.
AE: What is your history with Analog?
RE: One day as a young teen, I hung out by the magazine rack at our small town grocery store while my mom went shopping, and the July or August 1984 issue of Analog caught my eye. I remember it included part four of Vernor Vinge’s The Peace War. From there I was hooked, and have been a reader ever since.
As a writer, I submitted plenty of stories to Analog over the years, from my earliest really bad teenage works to Stan Schmidt to more skillful and mature work to Trevor, before getting over the hump with this one.
AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?
RE: Very little. The seeds of stories generally float around in my subconscious for years before enough of them come together to make a story want to come out of my fingers and into my computer.
Another reason I don’t consciously engage with current events is that it’s tough for the writer to play fair for both sides. To make your bad guys really chilling, you really need to understand where they’re coming from and what motivates them. Otherwise, you run the risk of a mustache-twirling melodrama villain who does evil for the sake of the plot.
It’s much easier to understand what motivates your bad guy if he comes from history instead of today’s online news sources. Today’s news has a lot of emotional heat—“S/he did X? What a monster!” or “How can any reasonable person believe Y?”—which makes it tougher to imagine oneself making the same choices as that person.
AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing?
RE: I’ve been thinking a lot in recent years about religion, not economics, being the driving force behind space colonization. “Religion” as a shorthand term, encompassing spiritual, cultural, and ideological motives. It might sound outlandish, but consider that about half the original thirteen U.S. states, plus Utah, were founded as havens for minority religious movements. In fact, the more uneconomical space colonization is, the greater the motivation for fringe movements that eschew our fallen world to go out there, because money-grubbing materialists are less likely to follow them.
That theme is hinted at in this story, but shows up a lot more in many of my novels, such as the military SF Confederated Worlds series, the SF espionage/adventure Stone Chalmers series, and my most recent novel, The Reincarnation Run.
I’ve been thinking a lot in recent years about religion, not economics, being the driving force behind space colonization. “Religion” as a shorthand term, encompassing spiritual, cultural, and ideological motives. It might sound outlandish, but consider that about half the original thirteen U.S. states, plus Utah, were founded as havens for minority religious movements.
AE: What is your process?
RE: I get up at 5:00 a.m., write for an hour before we get the kids to school, and aim to write more over my lunch hour. I don’t outline beyond vague thoughts of “I’m starting here and I think this story’s going to end there.” I try to follow Heinlein’s Rules, especially about rewriting.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
RE: In addition to other Portia Oakeshott stories, I have several short stories in the works, and I’m writing my next novel. It’s somewhere on the hard SF/space opera divide. There’s no FTL and ships don’t go whoosh on banking turns, so I’ll call it hard SF.
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
RE: Tough question! I’m torn between Larry Niven’s Known Space after the Man-Kzin Wars, e.g., the era of the Beowulf Shaeffer stories, and the Thousand Worlds setting of much of George R. R. Martin’s SF from the ’70s and ’80s. Both have room for adventures, while having numerous worlds where people can live productive lives under peace, order, and good-enough government.
AE: Many of our Analog authors are interested in science. Do you have any scientific background, and does it impact your fiction?
RE: I earned a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. in biochemistry. My dissertation work focused on reactions of myoglobin, which is a protein that stores oxygen in animal muscle, with nitric oxide. My work had relevance to efforts to develop solutions of modified hemoglobin as substitutes for whole blood in situations like trauma care, battlefield medicine, and the like.
I’ve written one story where my Ph.D. work came into play, a near future mystery story called “The Everpink Slaughter,” in which someone kills a herd of pigs that have been genetically engineered to yield ham with slower spoilage than conventional pigs. Other than that, genetic engineering and other biotechnology often show up in my work, but usually in the background.
AE: What careers have you had and how do they affect your writing?
RE: After finishing my Ph.D., I started a career in patent law. I knew I had good writing and logical thinking skills, which led me to think the field would be a good fit. That original thought panned out: I’ve been working as a patent agent for over two decades now. (“Patent agent” means I’m not an attorney but I can represent clients in U.S. patent proceedings).
I’m not the first SF writer to work in patent law. Early in my career, I had the good fortune to meet Charles Harness, an Analog author in the ’80s who first broke in during the John W. Campbell era, who worked as a patent attorney.
Many people get the idea that getting a patent is a license to print money. One of the biggest things I learned in my patent law career is that even if you have a great invention, a patent is just one of many blocks you need to put together to make a splash in the marketplace.
For example, early in my career I did work for a chemical company that came up with a plastic that consumed oxygen and didn’t yield any byproducts. The technology would have been great for plastic wine and beer bottles. The company did great R&D work as reflected in the patents, but somewhere along the line, anywhere from scaling up production, managing manufacturing costs, marketing to bottlers, or encouraging consumer acceptance, the company couldn’t get the market breakthrough I expected.
Dealing with large corporate clients, small startups, and Federal bureaucracies has given me a sense of how these entities work.
I’ve never written a patent law science fiction story, but there’s an idea that’s been kicking around my head for decades. If it ever comes out, the first place I’ll send it is Trevor’s desk.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
RE: The best place to learn more about me is my website: https://raymundeich.com. All my previously published titles are there, broken out by genre, length, and series.
Members of my Readers Club get a free ebook copy of one of my novels for signing up, and bimonthly emails about new releases, backlist novels, cover reveals, the “Patently Curious” feature, and occasionally a free short story. Readers can signup at https://raymundeich.com/mailing-list.
Finally, typing “Raymund Eich” (note spelling) in the search bar at most online ebook, print book, or audiobook stores should return numerous books for purchase. I’m not exclusive to any one bookstore or region. I firmly believe in giving readers worldwide as much choice as I can.