Friday, July 6, 2012


Dean Lombardo, author of Vespa, discusses his book and views on science fiction writing. Visit his website.

Which parts of Vespa did you most enjoy writing?

The science parts—I spent a few years of my life as a part-time scientiststudying entomology, zoology, parasitology, and even some basic insect evolutionary theory, through books, observations, and conversations with entomologists, all of which I applied to the creatures in Vespa as well as the main characters—entomologist Thomas Goodman, and parasitologist John Hickey. I also enjoyed the challenge of planning and writing the firefight inside Devil's Den, where the wasps chew through the nylon screen that was supposed to have protected the National Guardsmen while they slept. I knew before I wrote the scene that this battle between giant insects and armed men was going to represent my biggest challenge. But almost immediately after I'd banged the scene out that one night, I felt I'd largely nailed it. One literary agent, who after some serious consideration ultimately sent me a "Dear John" letter, told me the nighttime Devil's Den firefight scene was the scene that had most impressed him.
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What would you do if you found yourself and your home under attack by the giant wasps in Vespa?

I would bolt all the doors and windows, close the chimney flue, and then surround myself with a pack of wolves—i.e., German shepherds, which in some regards are heroic in the novel, Vespa. I'd also equip myself and everyone around me with hornet-spray blasters filled with concentrated poison. As a last resort, I'd pray.
In your opinion, how important is verisimilitude to science fiction? In other words, how much should one be willing to suspend reality for the sake of the story?

In "hard" science fiction, verisimilitude is extremely important if the author wants to create a plausible what-if scenario that satisfies the reader. At the very least, the author must provide some sort of compelling rationale for the impossible. When I first posed the concept for the novel Vespa, a close friend of mine balked at the idea of giant wasps, telling me, "No, you need to make them small and just make a lot of them—swarms of them." I argued, "But that's been done dozens of times already!" So, understanding the potential opposition that might exist to my idea, I had to figure out a way to credibly explain how the parasitic wasps in Vespa had evolved to reach two feet in length and how they could manage to defy gravity, despite their size, and fly. The entomologists I interviewed informed me that oxygen intake was the key hurdle I would have to overcome. Fossil records reveal that the prehistoric dragonflies during the oxygen-rich Carboniferous period managed to get as big as seagulls, but this could never happen in today's climate. To get large and still move quickly while carrying around an armor-like exoskeleton, the insect would have to be able to process oxygen in a highly efficient manner. I looked to some large, contemporary arthropods, such as the relatively fast-moving land crab, and pondered, "what if my wasps had deviated from the less-efficient spiracles that most insects breathe through and evolved special gills that allowed them to increase their oxygen intake?"

What kinds of subjects or themes are you particularly interested in writing about?

I tend to be passionate about stories concerning threats to human survival or that contain a heavy dose of real, physical conflict. The problem I have with novels and films that are deep in internal conflict is that I usually don't relate to those emotional and often petty anxieties. I want the conflict to come from something living, breathing, lurking and ready to spring... something that makes the story move quickly and the main character run for his or her life, vs. lying in bed and wrestling with unshowable, self-centered thoughts. 

For your future projects, will you be primarily writing science fiction? Horror? Or are you planning on working in another genre entirely? 

No genre is off-limits for me as an author as long as it's driven by real, palpable conflict. I've even been toying with a comedy, but, most of all, I like to scare people or creep them out. 

Vespa is available at: Amazon US (Kindle e-book), Amazon US (paperback—very limited), Amazon UK (Kindle e-book)

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