Well, lookey what we got here. An interview of Harry Markov. In all fairness, this should've been posted on Sunday night, but an observational error on my part got us delayed. I wanted this in 2009, so here it is.
You have, in all likelihood, read Harry's various interviews over the past year or so. Harry does an excellent job in bringing us views into many of the personalities around sf&f, be they bloggers, authors or what have you. As a result, I've wondered from time to time, "Who is Harry Markov?" You're about to find out.
Harry and I have actually had plenty of decent, if brief, conversations when time permits. Recently, I asked him for an interview and he graciously agreed. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Harry Markov.
PW: 1. Please give as brief a sketch as possible of the life of Harry Markov.
Harry: Man, you couldn’t have asked for a more boring answer. I am pretty sure that there is scientific research out there trying to find the answer to which is more boring: watching paint dry or my life. So far, paint has the upswing, but you might see me steal the winning spot at the end.
Seriously though, there is not much going on in my life. I am unemployed at the moment [though hopefully that will change] and I’m a university student, second year, economics. I enjoy private gatherings with friends, because Bulgarian clubs feature some nasty music genre that I need to be drunk to barely tolerate it. Ultimately I am a total recluse with an ongoing relationship with my computer, though I cheat on it with literature as frequently as possible. Now you also know I am a man-slut as well.
People often ask the silly question: What animal describes you best? I say the sloth, I mean it and I am damn proud of it.
PW: When, and by what, was your attention captured so thoroughly by sf&f?
Harry: Being a 90’s child defined me as a TV brat. Anything that had moving pictures and sound was enough for me to watch. Even though I had no clue what the characters were talking about, I would watch English and German cartoons until I discovered German translated anime for kids. As far as I remember, I was a fan of Digimon until I was fifteen [way mature, I know] and the concept of having shape shifting and evolving monster familiars seemed the coolest thing in the universe, until I watched an episode of the animated series the X-Men, which finally sealed the deal that I was going to be a weirdo. It quickly caught on with the kids I conversed with.
PW: What inspired you to begin blogging and reviewing?
Harry: The short answer: Rachel Vincent and then Robert from the Fantasy Book Critic.
The long answer: Way back in January 2008 [after New Year’s Eve to be precise, should historical accuracy be of importance], I had stumbled across a mystifying torrent file with books that seemed to be fantasy, but weren’t quite typical. These odd books, as I learned later via my good friend Wikipedia, were called urban fantasy. I read, loved and had to learn more, so I googled Rachel Vincent and discovered her blog. It was awesome. Add the old ‘monkey see monkey do’ principle and I had my own blog about my journey as a struggling writer.
The reviews came a bit later, when I discovered Fantasy Book Critic, who happened to let it slip that reviewers got free books in exchange for reviews. Yes, I started reviewing, because I wanted free books, but the fact is that the only books bookstores sell as fantasy are from Jordan, Hobb, Martin and, as a more modern tale, King and Gaiman. No diversity whatsoever and I desperately needed a way to get the books I wanted from overseas or I would perish. [Yes, I am that dramatic] There are also the more un-materialistic aspects: connect, broaden horizons, develop a critical eye for my own fiction, feel the market.
PW: Parents say that they have no favorites. If you did have a favorite, tell us about your most favorite interview.
Harry: You have no right asking me that question. Making me think hard now, will you? In all honesty I can’t answer. I have interviewed authors, artists and reviewers. Whoever I did ask to answer my questions got the invitation for a reason. Not to say that I am so special and everybody should be honored to sit on my virtual chair. I wanted to know something; I asked and got the answers. That is all. It’s true that I have some that I enjoy a bit more than others, because I admired the people in the first place, while with others the Q&A sessions were a sort of introductory gauging of the person. I am a nosy bastard in the first place, so asking questions is how I roll.
PW: Listmania affects many of us in sf&f. In that context, can you list your top five works from 2009?
Harry: Are you seriously making me think hard on remembering my favorite reads and then rank them? Look, buddy, I don’t like how you treat me here. If I knew I had to give so many concrete examples, I would have had my memory pills. I am really bad at remembering things, but here goes:
Slights by Kaaron Warren [’cause it scared the shit out of me that I may know/become such a twisted person]
Flesh and Fire by L.A Gilman [’cause it spoke to the wine lover inside me and also had a very fresh, elegant and sophisticated magic system, which was used by a character I cared for.]
Scar Night by Allan Campbell [’cause it was plain awesome in the character and world building department and who wouldn’t want the angels to be enslaving bastards]
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami [’cause I think I would read this novel several times before my death and still discover a new aspect to it, while having just scratched the surface.]
American Gods by Neil Gaiman [I haven’t even finished this and I am completely in awe and swallowed by the story. The man knows his craft]
PW: Now, can you list the most anticipated works from 2010 you are waiting for?
Harry: Spellwright by Blake Charlton [’cause he is a chatty guy and talks to me, but he also sounds really erudite in interviews]
Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes [’cause he seems like a badass and I love that]
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce [’cause I also imagined Little Red Riding Hood as a werewolf hunter, but mine is also a hooker wielding a chainsaw]
Walking the Tree Kaaron Warren [’cause I think I am a devoted fan already and the concept for this novel is super sweet]
Again I wouldn’t mind the whole catalogues of every major English publisher, but I don’t think I can manage.
PW: Ah lists, here we go. If you had only three chances to check for a book review, prior to laying money down, which three sites do you check?
Harry: Fantasy Book Critic, Stainless Steel Droppings and Graeme’s Fantasy Book Reviews [although that last spot can be interchanged with other blogs I visit regularly aka the Book Smugglers, Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews, OF Blog of the Fallen etc. etc.]
PW: There has been an abundance of discussion of late concerning a death, or at least slow demise, of science fiction. What is your take on the debate?
Harry: I’m no authority on anything, especially science fiction. Apart from Ursula Le Guin and some Scalzi I am vastly unread in the genre, so my opinion is perhaps unsubstantial. That being said I have to agree with what Newton says about it fading [because genres can’t die] and he doesn’t mean as influence, but from a book seller’s point of view, given all the criteria such as sales, upcoming releases and new authors on the horizon opposed to the same criteria observed in fantasy as a genre.
As far as literature goes science fiction is waning [again not dying], but for that matter it is going mainstream on the big and silver screen with hit movies such as Star Trek and Avatar and then TV series like 4400, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Flash Forward and the Andromeda Strain. It’s up to literature to catch up with the movies and everybody will be happy.
PW: Do you, personally, hope to publish? If so, what’s the story you’re burning to write?
Harry: I am a writer first and a reviewer second, so yeah I hope to publish. I am a long way from getting a debut out, but I am getting there with one manuscript at a time. It’s my vocation and I can’t not write, so there goes that.
A story, eh? I am not a one trick pony, man. You should have typed ‘stories’ as I have an abundance to tell and they are diverse in characters, plots and situations, but the theme is there. I want to tell stories about good people that suffer enough to become hardened and cruel, and in their quest to fulfill their purpose almost become the things they fight against and I am sure that it’s not that compelling for readers, but I am interested in this form of metamorphosis, tarnishing the innocence and kindness as a matter of survival. Then again I also want to write about the serial killers, poisoners, arsonists and evil scientists and give them a point of view. Whether it happens or not, on a professional level, time will tell, but it’s what makes me tick. I’m genuinely attracted to urban fantasy and its different nuances from kickass heroines to more bizarre stories; traditional fantasy, steampunk and horror.
PW: One of my favorite listmania/hypothetical scenarios is the “stranded on an island.” So, if you were stranded on an island, which author/series do you pick to have with you?
Harry: Easy. I’ll pick The Wheel of Time. It is a humongous series and each book is thick as my head, so I will be having a lot to read while I stay on my desert island. I’ve to read the man, though I don’t think I would be able to unless I am on a stranded island.
PW: 11. Harry, its great conversing back and forth with you as we’ve done from time to time. In the spirit of enjoying your company, please go free-style and write/discuss whatever is currently closest to your heart.
Harry: I am in the mood to talk about life, really. It’s December, an introspective time of the year for all the obvious reasons and, whether I wish to do it or not, I evaluate what I have done with my life in the year, what I did solely for me and what I plan to do. I survived 2009, which was the toughest year in my life, learned a few life lessons and laughed out loud when everything was about to crash around me and, trust me, there were more than a few occasions when this was about to happen. Despite everything, I held to my anchors in life: my friends, my writing and my blogs [I am not including the family, because as much as they have been a support, they also featured as part of the problem] and I pushed on.
As the New Year prepares to dawn, I look forward and hope to see my writing published in respectable venues, elevate my reviewing and blog, meet new people and become a freelance writer [though to be quite frank, I have not the barest clue about how to do that one, even if a chance has already come up].
Yes, I’m being a bit up close and personal, but I’m among my people and I don’t have anything that shocking to hide in the first place.