Lawrence M. Schoen
Today we welcome Lawrence Schoen, author of the Amazing Conroy series and a noted expert in the Klingon language. (Yes, Klingon.) Lawrence will be GoH at this year's LunaCon, along with the cover artist for Buffalito Contingency.
Thank you for joining us, Lawrence!
The protagonist of the Amazing Conroy series is a stage hypnotist. Does that have anything to do with your Ph.D. in cognitive psychology?
Yes and no. I became interested in hypnosis when I was thirteen years old and attending my first convention. There was a guy at one of the evening parties who was hypnotizing people. I thought it was pretty cool. He did simple tricks like having his subjects forget that the number seven existed, or asking a guitarist to play an H chord for him, and so forth. A few years later, when I was a sophomore in college, I hypnotized a few people in my dorm. Then years and years went by, and I never really thought much about hypnosis until I started writing the Conroy stories. My work in cognitive psychology focused on issues of language and memory, not on anything directly related to hypnosis. On the other hand, theories and concepts from all over psychology do trickle into my fiction on a very regular basis. Also, I suspect part of the Conroy's character comes from the ten years I spent as a college professor; I've always believed that lectures should be entertaining as well as instructive. Anyone who's ever been in my classroom or seen me on a panel at a convention knows that I'm loud, demonstrative, and comfortable being in the spotlight. That aspect of "performance" doubtless contributes to how I write Conroy.
This is the second book in the Amazing Conroy series. How many books do you think there will be overall?
The quick answer is of course, "as many as my publisher will buy!"
The thoughtful answer requires, well, a bit more thought. I know there are a number of other stories I want to tell, but prior to last June, I hadn't given it much serious consideration. Then, as part of a workshop I was participating in, I had occasion to listen to Carrie Vaughn talking about series arcs. Somewhere in the midst of her lecture, I began seeing a much larger arc unfold than I'd ever imagined before. I started tying in ideas I had for other books that were loosely related to Conroy (i.e., taking place in the same universe -- what I call the Conroyverse -- but with different characters and markedly different tone). That insight in turn led me to modify book two, slipping in some elements and character arcs that will show up and contribute to other books, both within the Amazing Conroy series and not.
The next phase of the Conroy storyline includes a two-book arc that sets up Conroy as a key element in a war between three major powers for shaping the direction of our galaxy. One of these is The Hat, a character from the first novel, and another is the race of beings known as the Celestial (one of whom figures prominently in the new book). There's a third group vying for control, and the Kraken, a race of temporally-challenged cephalopods who, among other strategies in this war, develop an agent to counter Conroy: a sort of anti-Conroy. She's going to get her own book, and I expect it will be very dark and different from the light and humorous tone of Conroy's novels. After Conroy emerges from the two-book arc I have in mind for him, he'll run into his nemesis and we'll begin seeing some effects of the war. Then there's a book after that where Conroy will confront The Hat again. And another where he must defeat and/or resolve the differences between what the Celestials think is best for the galaxy and what the Kraken want. Finally, Conroy will have to confront his nemesis, the anti-Conroy, and that will be its own book. So, at least five more novels as things stand now. Plus, there are several stories and novelettes I have in mind to tie up some loose ends too. I'm hoping that the next Conroy book will actually be a collection of shorter works, reprinting what's already come out (including one that's currently only available at AnthologyBuilder.com) as well as three or four new works that I'll write just for the collection, some of which will focus on supporting characters and won't have Conroy in them at all. Hey, is my publisher reading this?
What's the weirdest thing that happens to Conroy during this book?
Weird is such a subjective thing that I'm not sure how to answer that. And too, I don't want to give away plot elements that might qualify as spoilers. So, let me turn the question sideways a bit and tell you instead about a new character that is joining the cast. In the new book, Conroy gets an agent, a Pelk named Billi, who looks sort of like a Thark from Edgar Rice Burroughs's classic Mars books. Except that instead of being fifteen feet tall, Billi is about three feet high. So, yeah, six limbs, protruding eyes, tusks, and a lot of attitude. He also has a speech impediment that causes him to substitute B sounds for N or M sounds when they begin a word, but he received this problem from the Pelk gods in exchange for massive amounts of knowledge about contemporary Earth. This results in Billi showing up and saying things like "Conroy, I have good booze and bad booze" on a fairly regular basis, and wacky hijinx ensue.
What is a buffalito, anyway?
Picture an American bison in your mind. Now scale it down to about the size of a breadbox. Give it big, big, liquid anime eyes, and cute it up a bit. That's what a buffalito (or buffalo dog) looks like. Now add in the facts that it can eat anything at all, from toxic waste to solid steel, and that it somehow uses some kind of internal atomic furnace to transform all this matter into oxygen, which it then expels by farting. As you can imagine, buffalitos can be used for a wide range of very useful tasks. Originally, they were only available from the Arconi, an alien race that had the market cornered. Conroy broke their monopoly and set up his own company, Buffalogic, Inc., and began training his buffalitos using the techniques of behavioral psychology so that their abilities could be used for a wider range of services (e.g., delicately excavating archeological artifacts by only eating the minerals they're buried in but leaving other substances unconsumed). As you might imagine, this upset the Arconi, and that figures into one of the subplots of the first novel, BUFFALITO DESTINY. Bottom line, buffalitos are a lot of fun and highly valuable. Also cute cute cute. As far as we know, Conroy is the only person to ever have one as a pet, though to be fair, Reggie is more of a companion animal than a pet. He does know a few tricks, and even demonstrates one in the new novel. He also picks up a new talent, as a consequence of ingesting some liquid gravity, but I shouldn't say anything more on that front, and just leave that as a teaser.