Exclusive Interview: Astro-Nuts Author Logan J. Hunder

If you’ve read any interviews with the writers of serious space operas, then you know how often they cite the influence of The Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey (the pen name of Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham). But it’s also had an impact on such light-hearted science fiction stories as writer Logan J. Hunder’s new comedic sci-fi novel Astro-Nuts (paperback, Kindle). In the follow email interview Hunder discusses what else inspired and influenced this story, as well as the kind of humor found in it.

Logan J. Hunder Astro-Nuts

Let’s start with the basics: What is Astro-Nuts about?

Astro-Nuts is a story about a spaceship crew with varying degrees of competence and the way they attempt to navigate the precarious situation the find themselves in. Its well-intentioned-if-out-of-touch captain, motivated by a thirst for adventure in a job where there is none, accidentally embroils his crew in a covert feud between a mysterious Martian government organization and the busy-bodied Earth agency trying to either undermine it, or protect the world from it. Depends who you ask.

Where did you get the idea for Astro-Nuts, and how did the story change as you wrote it?

It was partially inspired by The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey. Right from the very beginning I had the idea for a story where the main character worked the most mundane space-oriented job I could think of. In contrast to the character from my first novel, I wanted him to be a super wholesome “uncool dad” type of figure as well. The real evolution within the story structure was more based around the antagonists and the ways they hamper our hero’s journey. I’ve come to find I don’t tend to like sticking with just one really bad one. Much like in real life, problem people can be found everywhere and the methods by which they tend to cause issues are not always easy to see coming. Even for me, the guy making it up.

Astro-Nuts is a sci-fi comedy. But is the humor jokey like Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy or is it more situational like John Scalzi’s Redshirts?

I would lean more toward the situational classification. While the characters are caught up in events much larger than themselves, I like to put them in almost skit-like situations with snippy dialogue and doses of slapstick. I haven’t read Redshirts, but as far as comparisons go: a novel with a cast of characters often finding themselves in precarious situations in the line of duty sounds sound. I wouldn’t say I went as far as to pick one route over the other, but rather that’s where I tend to drift with my jokes. That’s not to say every scene culminates with someone getting an anvil dropped off their head, I dabble in a bit of cultural commentary between the pies to the face. Even if the situation itself isn’t inherently funny, the right conversation accompanying it can induce some fun spin.

So who then do you see as the big comedic influences on Astro-Nuts?

You ever see that Brendan Fraser movie, George Of The Jungle?

Yeah…

Do you remember the narrator that would periodically pop up during the movie to add a little pithy commentary to the scene at hand? I loved that guy and, as such, that kind of humor.

To pick a less ridiculously-specific-and-also-obscure answer, I watched a great deal of A Bit Of Fry And Laurie during writing. I wanted to characterize the secret agents to heavily contrast with comparatively low brow main crew and it was actually a quick process for me to settle on making them so obnoxiously British it was all I could do to avoid dressing them in those poofy black royal guard hats on top of it all.

Their skits are just so funny. They actually became a bit intoxicating after prolonged exposure. But it paid off for sure; some of the conversations between my offensively English gents are what I’d consider some of my best work.

What about the science fiction parts of Astro-Nuts; what writers or specific stories do you see as being the biggest influences on this story?

As I make moves to establish genre parodies as being my “thing,” the next logical step after fantasy was to move to sci-fi. And after moving to sci-fi the next logical step was defining just what avenue I would be taking. Unlike most of my conversations regarding my work, this one actually had parties besides myself involved. Namely my agent and my editor. It was actually the latter who turned me on to The Expanse series after a brainstorming session wherein we nailed down just what flavor of sci-fi we’d be pursuing.

The short version of that conversation was: there would be no Klingons travelling through star gates wielding lightsabers.

The Expanse takes a typically romanticized and decadent concept like a space faring society and uses it to convey the notion that transcending our earthly confines is no cure for our societal issues like corporate greed, government oppression, and organized crime.

I figured if potential like that existed then I could totally use a similar setting to point out other relatable things. Like, just because you live in space doesn’t mean you won’t have a boring job, or an annoying boss, or a desire to get away from it all only to discover that maybe it all wasn’t so bad after all. But with more blaster rifles and sex robots than Eat, Pray, Love.

How about movies, TV shows, or video games; did any of them have a particularly big impact on Astro-Nuts?

This could have been mentioned under the comedic influences as well, but part way through Astro-Nuts I started watching a few episodes of The Orville during my duty watches on the ship I work on. Having watched old episodes of the original Star Trek with my uncle, and The Next Generation and Voyager with my dad, I had a decent grasp of the format and content being satirized, and Seth Macfarlane’s taste of humor is very similar to my own — granted his execution is not always in line with my preferences.

Similar to these is also the Mass Effect trilogy of video games. While my story might not have the similar premise of meeting aliens with new, interesting cultures and then sleeping with their women, I made great effort to pay homage to — and subsequently turn on its head — the classic set up of a rag tag ship crew with conflicting personalities trying to work through the problem at hand.

Hah, I made it through all these questions without saying the word Spaceballs once.

…Shit.

Now, as you know, sci-fi novels are sometimes stand-alone stories and sometimes parts of larger sagas. What is Astro-Nuts?

While there was no series intent for Astro-Nuts, if the interest was there I have no doubt Captain Cox would be able to dredge up another misadventure for his unwitting crew. However, even if I did have an intent to stretch this into a series I firmly believe that each instalment should still work as a standalone story. Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems a little presumptuous and even arrogant to put an unfinished story out there and just expect the reader to stick around if they want the rest of it. Most great series, in my experience, are comprised of parts that still can stand up on their own. Makes more sense to do it like that anyway, since if you get a surprise cancellation part way through you can still enjoy the bits that did make the cut.

Earlier I asked if any movies, TV shows, or video games had been an influence on Astro-Nuts. But has there been any interest in adapting your book into a movie, show, or game?

Oh hell yeah; there’s a great deal of interest. Unfortunately it’s all coming from me right now.

With a show like The Orville currently on TV, I think the bumbling-crew-doing-space-stuff market is being fulfilled right now on the small screen. Personally, I see the story working better as a movie anyway, just knocking the whole plot out in one shot. As a game, not so much. None of the characters are particularly adept at small arms combat and it might be a bit much to ask a player to intentionally suck for the sake of the atmosphere. Wouldn’t exactly be the same story if Captain Cox just strolled through every foreign vessel 360-no-scoping any hostiles who appear.

Logan J. Hunder Astro-Nuts

Finally, if someone enjoys Astro-Nuts, what funny sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read next? And to keep things interesting, no Douglas Adams, please.

Whoa now, I think it might be a contravention of some kind of British law to disallow the mention of their iconic works of comedy. They tend to be quite proud of those things.

But alright, this actually gives me the opportunity to plug a friend of mine who just happened to write a very funny book in the sci fi genre. It is called The Grande Scheme Of Things by Ian Strang. It’s not as spacey as mine, but rather an interdimensional sort of dealio where the Earth is the setting for a story being written by a higher form of intelligence. A somewhat jaded and washed up higher form of intelligence. It’s a pretty funny and thoughtful story with a distinct style to it. And for those who might see this as some low form of veiled nepotism, I will point out that I read and liked the story before I had even met Ian.

 

 

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