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Interview: StarCraft: Heaven's Devils author William C Dietz

With the release later tonight of StarCraft II, the fans of Blizzard's sci-fi RTS game will soon have a new part of the vast StarCraft lore to chew on. However fans of the game series have already had a number of expansions of the back story via a series of novels published by Simon and Schuster. The latest such novel is StarCraft Heaven's Devils by veteran sci-fi author William C. Dietz. It's not only the first hardcover StarCraft novel ever released but it also serves as a kind of introduced to some of the new characters in StarCraft II.

Big Download got a chance to ask Dietz some questions about the novel along with other topics (including, as we first reported last week, his future plans to write a Mass Effect novel).
First can you tell us a little about your background and how you became a science fiction author?

I was raised in Seattle where I attended public schools and was a mediocre student at best. So lacking both the grades and the money required to attend college, and not wanting to be a burden on my mother, I joined the Navy. And in a rare moment of brilliance I took advantage of a program that guaranteed admittance to a training program (assuming you passed all the tests.) The idea being that I would learn a skill I could use to work my way through college after I got out.

So being aware of the fact that there isn't much call for machine gunners in civilian life I chose to be a medic and that turned out to be a very good decision in the long run. What I didn't realize however was that the Marine Corps uses all Navy medics. Nor did I anticipate the Viet Nam war--which began to heat up while I was in boot camp. The upshot being that after graduating from Hospital Corps school, and working at a Navy hospital in South Carolina, I was sent off to be part of the Marine Corps. But as luck and happenstance would have it I wasn't sent to Viet Nam. Something I feel both grateful and guilty about.

After receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy I was able to put myself through college using the Veteran's Bill plus money earned as a surgical technician (the plan worked) and graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Communications. Soon thereafter I was fortunate enough to get a job as a news writer at KOMO TV in Seattle, and eventually became a director and producer. Later I worked at Rockwell International, and what was Qwest, in a variety of PR/Marketing Communications jobs until retiring to accept a position as Director of Public and Relations for an international telephone company.

That company went under in the dot com bust. But, having written science fiction novels for almost twenty years at that point, I was able to begin a full time writing career. At this point I have published more than thirty novels some of which have been translated into German, French, Russian, Japanese, and Korean.

I am a member of the Writer's Guild, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, and the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers.

I guess my career began in grade school when I discovered the science fiction section of the local library, fell in love with the genre, and continued to read SF from that point on. I knew I wanted to be a writer at age twenty or so, but never really got around to it until I was thirty-nine, which was one year shy of my self imposed deadline of forty. Why forty? I have no idea.

In any case I wrote what was WAR WORLD (now Galactic Bounty) in 1984 and it sold the first time I sent it in. And did reasonably well. So from that point I continued to write a book a year while working full time until roughly 2002 when the start-up mentioned earlier tanked.

You have written a number of original science fiction novels, many of which would be called military science fiction. Why do you like writing stories about this particular sub-genre of science fiction?

I have a deep and abiding respect for the military-- I think that's where a lot of our idealists are these days. I write about war because it's a crucible in which people are forced to make very difficult decisions, there's often a great deal at stake, and there are endless opportunities to tell exciting stories.

You have also written a number of novels based on games including Star Wars: Dark Forces/Jedi Knight, Halo, Resistance and Hitman. First we have to ask if you play games regularly and if so what titles are you enjoying at the moment?

I do play games regularly, and was busy working my way through the latest Call Of Duty game, when I was hired to write a Mass Effect tie-in. So I had to switch and play all of the ME games. Full time. For a week. It's tough to be me:)

Second some people might look down on "tie-in" novels like the ones you have written based on games. Why do you think that there is some snobbery towards tie-in novels and do you think writing such novels is just as legitimate as writing original science fiction.

Yeah, that's true. Some people do look down on tie-in writers. Yet few if any of them look down on screenwriters. What's the difference? Most screenwriters are hired to write a story set in somebody else's universe (Lethal Weapon 48) and like tie-in writers are part (at least temporarily) of a large team of people all working on a common project. Plus tie-in writing requires a very diverse set of skills (if I do say so myself) which many writers don't have. So I don't get it.


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