Hold on tight! It’s time for a journey into the mind of Pat Scaramuzza.
Tamago: When do you remember wanting to become a writer? Do you remember the first thing that you wrote?
Pat: The first fiction I wrote was for an English class back in 7th grade. It was based on a D&D campaign. The teacher was impressed although she didn’t like my handwriting or swearing.
I wrote stories for fun for years. I joined alt.devilbunnies — a shared universe about evil, toe-eating rabbits — in 1994, and that lead to dozens of great stories and collaborations.
But the first story that got me on the road to publishing was a Magic: The Gathering story I wrote for fun, titled _Starfish Wars_. I posted it to the MTG newsgroup on Usenet. An editor at Inquest magazine saw it, liked it, and paid me 10 cents a word to publish it, adding great artwork! That’s the moment that convinced me to write professionally, because obviously publishing these stories of mine would be easy. HAHAHAHA.
As a side note, that editor offered to hire me to write an ongoing column in Inquest. Because I was young and naive and going through a divorce at the time, I turned him down. That was probably the third worst mistake I’ve ever made in my life. (My marriage being the second worst.) The lesson I learned there was when an opportunity comes up, grab it.
Tamago: Who are your writing influences?
Pat: I really don’t know. As a child I read widely, but as an adult with too much knowledge about how books are made I read sporadically and am too harsh a critic. If I look at my bookshelves and give you author’s names, they would be Heinlein, Vernor Vinge, Alfred Bester, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven and so on. But I also read a lot of comic books, and should put Gaiman, Ellis, Chris Claremont and Reed Waller on the list as well. It’s all jumbled together in my brain, now.
Tamago: As a writer, you play around in many genres. Do you have a favorite? Why or why not?
Pat: I never stray too far from science fiction. I’ve dabbled in magic realism (_Indefensible Positions_) and paranatural horror (_Chipper_), but I like explaining how the world works, so even my magic systems have strict rules and a full history. Because I am a scientist in my day job, I tend to look at the rules of the universe and how they can be bent to achieve an effect. That perspective lends itself to speculative science.
I do like to vary how ‘hard’ — or realistic — my science fiction stories are. _Genocide Man_ is pretty hard sci-fi, and while I’m working on that I also have a prose novel in progress that’s soft, squishy, fun science fiction.
Tamago: You also publish a web cartoon. Tell us about that.
Pat: I have two webcomics, both of which I write and draw. One comic is finished Indefensible Positions. It’s a magical realism story that examines the value and role of myth in the modern world, with a superhero slant.
My current webcomic is Genocide Man. It’s a hard-science look at issues coming up in the 21st century, especially genetic engineering and biowarfare. It’s also funny. Yes, I’m writing and drawing a humorous comic about genocide and global pandemics. That’s the kind of challenge which I like, and which has kept me out of the really good magazines.
Tamago: Why did you apply to Taos Toolbox? What did you take away from the workshop?
Pat: That’s a long story. The distilled version is that I needed a better statistical sample of opinions about my work. (Scientist, remember?)
The long story is…I agonized over applying to Taos Toolbox. I had already been to Viable Paradise and I had concerns over how helpful they were. Of the four instructors who read my stories there, two of them returned the manuscript with no markings — they said that there was nothing to correct. I walked out of VP thinking that I was on the cusp, that I had real talent, that my ascension into true published author status was imminent and inevitable.