Exclusive Interview: Galactic Hellcats Author Marie Vibbert
T.S. Elliot once said good writers borrow, great writers steal.” But most don’t steal from their twin sisters. That’s the crime that Marie Vibbert confesses to, among others, in the following email interview about Galactic Hellcats (paperback, Kindle), her new bikers-in-space sci-fi adventure novel.
To begin, what is Galactic Hellcats about, and when and where is it set?
Galactic Hellcats is about a female biker gang in outer space rescuing a gay prince. It’s set in a nebulous future, after mankind has spread to the stars, with mature colonies on other planets, but also not so far in the future they don’t know what a strip-mall is. The story is really an origin story for the Galactic Hellcats, how these very different people from different planets and economic backgrounds got together to form a gang, and the last member is the prince they rescue.
Where did you get the original idea for Galactic Hellcats, and how, if at all, did that idea evolve as you wrote this story?
When I was fifteen, my twin sister drew a sketch on one of the orange dividers in a spiral notebook. Three punk women. A tall, elegant figure with a mohawk, a scruffy, impish figure, and a more sedate woman with a blunt cut. I immediately fell in love with them and decided to write about them. Because my favorite thing to pretend was that my bicycle was a spaceship, I wrote about them flying space motorcycles. My dad had a lot of biker friends, and had actually been invited to join the first Hell’s Angels chapter in Ohio, but turned them down because he didn’t own a motorcycle.
Here is a quote from my twin sister’s diary from January 1, 1990: “Dear Journal, Happy New Year! Marie just took my pen, she’s working on a new book, it started off as a short story. Anyway, she started to write it in my pen and she can’t have a story in two colors so she took it and I’m writing in her pen.”
I still have the spiral notebook full of my purple pen first draft.
Clearly, Galactic Hellcats is a science fiction story. But are there any other genres at work in this story?
I wrote this to be what I wanted to read when I was fifteen. I read a lot of Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat books and also Asimov’s Caves Of Steel, I suppose those are considered noir-adjacent, but for me it was more about fun adventures and how to believably have them when you can’t afford a bus ticket. (It’s also my economic background that had me reading ’60s paperbacks from the library and not the stuff being published at the time.)
Galactic Hellcats is your first novel, but you’ve had stories published in such journals as Analog, Amazing Stories, and F&SF. Are there any writers who had a big influence on Galactic Hellcats but not on any of your short stories?
I don’t know that you can separate influences between this and my other works. I tried to write short stories about the Hellcats, but people always told me they were too dense and “should be a novel.” I’ve written lots of short fiction that’s similar to the novel, I guess I’m saying. But if there’s a side of my influences that went in here and not elsewhere, yeah, it’s the trashy pulpy cat-burglar-in-space novels I read as a kid.
When I was sixteen, I had the extreme good fortune to meet Mary Turzillo at a writer’s conference at Lakeland Community College that I begged my high school to send me to. I smugly told Mary I’d written three novels and she was naive enough to be impressed by that. You can see a lot of Mary in this book, too. I read her novella Mars Is No Place For Children in workshop before it was published and won the Nebula. There’s a bit of Nanoannie in Ki.
How about non-literary influences; was Galactic Hellcats influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
The speeder bikes in Return Of The Jedi definitely had a huge impact on kid-me. Star Wars in general. But there’s no magic in this, I never got into mystical powers. I guess because I could never see myself being the chosen anything. I wasn’t even the first born twin.
Also, there’s a bit of Bubblegum Crisis in here. I caught, like, a glimpse of the anime visiting a friend who had cable and it was like the top blew off my head. (And he was like “nah that’s a cartoon” and changed the channel! SOB!) In college I got to watch the whole thing and I adored it. A group of women with neat space mechs (including a motorcycle!)
Now, along with writing prose, you’ve also written poetry, comic books, and text adventure games. Do you think writing those in other forms had any specific impact on either what you wrote in Galactic Hellcats or how you wrote it?
I set out to learn to write poetry because poetry bothered me. I didn’t understand it. That was its own journey, but it gave me invaluable insights into the power of word choice and image which have enriched everything else I write. Comic books teach you to never forget the visual, and when you screw up the pacing in a comic, wow you can see it. Also, because I can’t draw worth anything, comics taught me a lot about collaboration. There’s nothing like writing some words and seeing someone else turn them into an image. You learn quickly what doesn’t work in description.
Galactic Hellcats always had a hint of the comic in it, for me. I imagined comic books about each character, daydreamed these visuals…and it all started with a drawing. I spent time in my youth hanging around the comic book racks, reading issues of X-men before the store clerk could chase me away. Oh, add that to the non-book influences list.
So is there a reason why you decided to write Galactic Hellcats as a novel as opposed to as a comic or text adventure or even an epic poem?
Novels are easier? I’ve been writing a novel every day since I was twelve. It’s what comes most natural to me, and most of my juvenile entertainment was consumed in novel form. My life is a pile of paperbacks.
I did write some comic scripts for Galactic Hellcats, but was unable to coerce my sister into drawing them.
Now, as you know, some sci-fi novels are stand-alone stories, while others are part of larger sagas. What is Galactic Hellcats?
You know there’s a longer saga. I’ve been daydreaming these women since I was 15! I did write this novel so it could stand on its own, but with a hint at the end that their adventures are just beginning.
So, what can you tell us about this series? Will it be an ongoing thing or is it like a trilogy…?
I will write five thousand Galactic Hellcat books if someone gives me the chance. (I can’t self-publish. It’s a thing. I can’t know if something is done if someone who isn’t me doesn’t say it’s done. I lack the self-esteem for independent publishing, and I know that.) But if Vernacular Books makes a ton of money and wants to take a chance on more, I really see these guys as the sort of episodic heroes who can go and go…that’s part of the appeal. We don’t want the adventure to end, for them to find their stable jobs and homes. But of course, eventually they will, and I hope they do, and oh I just got an idea how I’d write that book… The Galactic Hell Cats Come Home, final book of a series of X books, including The Hellcats Ride Again and Hellcats Take Manhattan.
Don’t forget Galactic Hellcats II: Electric Boogaloo, Galactic Hellcats 3: In 3D, and Son Of Galactic Hellcats. Anyway, it sounds like it’ll be an ongoing thing.
I’m not going to write some single sweeping arc that takes you through all the books. That’s not how I operate, and I find a lot of big, sweeping arcs annoying. This is a story about characters and friendships. It’s going to be very low on the ground with them. No one is ever going to be the chosen one or end up politically important, even the prince.
Also, again, I don’t know right now and have no ability to control if more books will be made, so you might be looking at the one and only book in the series, so please, please buy it. Maybe if you buy it enough there’ll be a second, and if you buy that enough there’ll be a third. And don’t you want Thane to go back to Black Dragon and spend time with his future boyfriend? Because you know those two are getting together in book three. Margot has a love interest in book two but she’s evil!
Now, along with Galactic Hellcats, you also have a story, “Juniper’s Song,” in the upcoming anthology Trouble The Waters: Tales From The Deep Blue, which is out October 19th. What is that anthology about, what is “Juniper’s Song” about, and is it connected to Galactic Hellcats?
Of all my upcoming stories, you picked the only one that actually ties in. The Ship Folk are in “Junipers Song.” (The Hellcats end up getting help from The Ship Folk in this book. The Ship Folk are generation-ship colonists who found their destination planets already populated by FTL-travelers and ended up just…staying on their ships as nomadic tradespeople.) Trouble The Waters is an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories with an oceanic or underwater theme, and “Juniper’s Song” made it in on a technicality because the Ship Folk are herding space whales. My friend Alexandra asked me to write something with Space Whales. “Only no one kills them, okay? They only harvest, like, the milk or ambergris.” So I wrote this love story about a cold-hearted spy falling for a kind-hearted space whale herdsman. But it’s totally the same universe.
Earlier I asked if it had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. I know it’s too early for anyone to express an interest in an adaptation, but do you think Galactic Hellcats could work as a movie, show, or game?
HELLS YES. ZOMG. YES PLEASE I WILL WRITE THE THINGS CALL ME.
No, no one has expressed any interest to me on adapting my work, but if they want to I am here for it. I especially think they’d be an awesome original Netflix series.
I also think a choose-your-own adventure type game would be a blast to write for these girls. Heck, I could have you choose to be Ki, Z, Margot, or Thane at the start. I will write that probably no matter what. I like writing interactive fiction.
If Galactic Hellcats was going to be adapted into a TV show, who would you want them to cast as Ki, Margot, and the other main characters?
Here’s my dream cast: Awkwafina [Crazy Rich Asians] as Ki; [Us‘] Lupita Nyong’o as Zuleikah; Margot is tough…not a lot of half-Vietnamese, half-Mexican actresses, Chrissy Teigen has the look I’d go for. Or maybe Vanessa Hudgens [Journey 2: The Mysterious Island]; Thane would be a hottie unknown, the future new Chris Hemsworth in his ingenue stage.
If it were a video game, I think I’d go with a puzzler with flight simulation bits like many Star Wars games. I really loved playing TIE Fighter back in the day. So yeah, fly your solo-flyer through dog fights and escape chases, then land and find a way to break into a bank.
Finally, if someone enjoys Galactic Hellcats, what sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you suggest they check out?
Mary Turzillo’s Mars Girls because it’s jam-packed with action, adventure, and teen girls.
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