Tullio Pontecorvo is an aspiring science fiction author. He studies political science and international relations, and is currently working on a near-future sci-fi novel that explores the relationship between the individual and the ideological in a complex geopolitical environment. He’s also a freelance journalist. Tullio believes the greatest virtue of speculative fiction is the Socratic exercise. Suppose blank: what are your choices, and your beliefs? A good speculative story can tell you more about yourself as a reader than about the author who crafted it, because it doesn’t beat you on the head with a stick: It confronts you with a complex situation akin to those we face in every day real life. That’s what goes into his writing. You can follow him on his blog and Facebook page. You can also check out the article he wrote for Earth Island Journal under a different name.
Q: Considering the stuff you write about, how much research do you do?
A: Hello Christina, so nice of you to have me here! Well, I have to say a lot, but it doesn’t weigh me down so much because it’s relatable to the stuff I’m interested in anyway. Studying contemporary history, and following modern commentary of international relations, is essential if you want to craft a believable setting, with believable conflicts, for the characters to interact in.
Q: Do you work with an outline or do you prefer to wing it?
A: I’m a full-time pantser, or as George R. R. Martin would say, a gardener. I plant the seed and let it grow over time. The story has grown in the telling, as Tolkien used to say, and the scope has widened so much that sometimes I wonder if I’m being overambitious. Multiple POVs with different ideologies deeply rooted in their upbringing, a complicated political and military setting, factions that operate in the shadows. It’s hard to keep on top of it sometimes. Outlines would help, but they would also take out the joy, for me.
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
A: I read less than I used to, but some authors have heavily influenced my work. George R. R. Martin was probably the one that made me decide what I wanted to do within my own genre, but Lovecraft also plays a part. John Lumpkin’s The Human Reach was a great lesson in writing believable geopolitics into a space opera. Kim Stanley Robinson defines modern sci-fi from a leftist perspective and his latest novel, Aurora, is a beautiful exercise at hard sci-fi mingled with social commentary. My high school classical studies have also provided a humanist foundation on which to build. I have other influences that come from other media, and the single biggest one is probably the Mass Effect video game trilogy.
Q: Any tips for dealing with writer’s block?
A: The answer to this isn’t new – in fact, it’s very old. Jack London said it best: you can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with an axe. When you have the time, sit down and write, regardless of how bored or uninspired you feel. Even if it’s two hundred words a day. The more you do it, the stronger your literary muscles become, and inspiration will come easily, and more often, on its own. Besides, even utter crap can be edited into brilliance. So the job of a first draft is just to get the words on the page.
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: Writing is harder than you think it is, and it has a social and political responsibility. Approach it with the professionalism you would expect from someone else in that position.
Featured Writers is a series dedicated to discovering the talents, motivations, and strategies of writers all the world over. I don’t care how experienced you are, whether you’ve published anything, or what you’re writing about: If you’ve got a story to tell, I want to hear about it! To share your process or project with my readers, contact me with a brief bio and a little bit of information about what you’d like to talk about.