During our recent successful Kickstarter Campaign to bring Amazing Stories back in print, one of the rewards we offered was an interview with fans, to be published on our website.
The reason we offered such a reward has historical roots. Shortly after Hugo Gernsback began publishing Amazing Stories in 1926, he offered readers a letter column to comment on past issues, to suggest improvements for future issues and also to begin forming a community of people who shared similar literary interests. In just a handful of short years, these letter writers would come to be known as FANS.
Today we rarely communicate via snailmail, preferring instead electronic wonders (often predicted within the pages of Amazing Stories) such as email, skype, messenger, social networks and who all knows what else coming over the horizon and so, today, we continue that tradition in a slightly different form. Amazing Stories now introduces you all to one such fan –
Mikko Kuch –
Amazing Stories Magazine: What is the first speculative fiction story, movie, or television show you remember experiencing? What was it about this that made you want to experience more?
Mikko Kuch: As far as the very first one I remember, that would be watching episodes of the original Star Trek with my Father when I was about three. The funny thing is, while I remember enjoying it, I actually preferred the Victorian sci-fi works of Jules Verne up until I was about thirteen. Though I greatly enjoyed both, what I really enjoyed about good science fiction that kept me coming back was how a good author will take what scientific and technical knowledge is known in the era they are writing to ground their stories in reality and balance it out with the limitless imagination to create an absolutely fantastic and still somewhat plausible story. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?*
ASM: What are the sub-genres or works of SF&F that particularly interest you? What is it about your favorite sub-genres or works that interests you? What current works would you recommend to others?
M.K.: As you might imagine, I have a great love of movies, television and of course reading; namely science fiction. My Grandmother introduced me to the legendary groundbreaker Jules Verne and his amazing Victorian science adventure stories remain some of my favorites. My Father in addition also introduced me to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars and the “Moon Maid” saga. Later on I would go on to read Asimov’s robot stories and the works of Robert Heinlein.
I naturally grew up with Star Trek and Star Wars but some “off the beaten path” stuff I like includes Leiji Matsumoto’s anime Space Battleship Yamato. In addition – perhaps I was born in the wrong decade, but I’m a huge fan of the classic Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon comics and serials. I also have a more goofy side as I greatly enjoy cartoons, comedies and dabble in fantasy too; I love playing D&D and am a big fan of the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Though I love the entire genre, my taste in science fiction tends to be more on the classic side. I just love the “We can do it” attitude of the older generation whereas more modern stuff tends to be a little bleak for my taste and it almost feels like it’s “uncool” to be upbeat or optimistic about things. This could change naturally as time marches on with new generations of writers.
That being said, there are modern authors who I do like. I like Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game which I most especially recommend to the starting science-fiction reader. I also like the very many works of William R. Forstchen such as Pillar to the Sky, One Second After and the “Star Voyager Academy” series. The most recent work of modern science fiction I read and really liked and could not recommend enough was Chinese author Liu Cixin’s Three Body Problem saga. Hard to go wrong with any of those!
ASM: How did you become involved in fandom?
M.K.: Hard to say exactly. I’m guessing my outright fandom involvement started when I was in middle school when I became aware that such things like conventions, cosplay, and the like were a reality. Even then, I didn’t get involved in the latter up until just a few years ago. Up to that point, the closest I came to science fiction cons were renaissance fairs where some folks would dress up as Star Trek characters who got time-warped to old earth; not terribly close, but I like the spirit, haha! I would say that the rise of social media platforms like Facebook really helped me become aware of such things in my area which incidentally is how I found out about this great project to bring Amazing Stories back into the hands of hungry readers.
ASM: What sort of fan activities have you been involved in? Art, writing, or just going to conventions?
M.K.: I’m presently working on my writings to become a reputable science-fiction author. My current goal is to get my stories down on paper and in the public light and eventually present my magnum opus, a space opera that I’m presently working on with my best buddy and co-author Sean Dunnigan. As I’ve stated earlier, I find a lot of modern science fiction to be very bleak, and in my own writings I’m trying to reintroduce the old “We can Do it!” attitude that our ancestors had for the genre and their optimism of technological progress, plus my own engineering perspectives. I’ve entered the convention scene a bit more recently and I cosplay as life allows me to, haha.
ASM: What would you say to other people about speculative fiction and becoming a fan?
M.K.: The one thing I would say above all else; just read what you like. Like beer or wine it can take some sampling and trying lots of stuff to find it, but when you do, just enjoy it. Take recommendations from people you trust certainly, but don’t let people judge you for what you should like or dictate to you what is good and bad. I have my own unique tastes that some people may find strange or beneath me; but there’s no shame in liking what you do. This happens surprisingly often within fandom.
When you dive into it and embrace fandom, you also shouldn’t let people who don’t like or just don’t get science fiction get into your head and say that it’s hogwash, unrealistic, or a waste of time to read such “trash” that has no basis in reality. Perhaps my inner engineer is speaking, but the generation that grew up with Flash Gordon and Amazing Stories also produced and inspired the future engineers, scientists, and technicians that built machines that broke the sound barrier, smashed the atom and landed on the moon. Inspiration, when it is paired with willing hands and a fully equipped toolbox, leads to great things.
*Editor’s Note: Mikko’s response here greatly echoes Gernsback’s first definition of the genre as it appears in the opening editorial:
“By “scientifiction” I mean the Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe type of story – a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision.”