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Member Spotlight: Rob Baird

1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

I’ve been working on a short story cycle that follows the residents of a fictional small town on the Oregon coast. Cannon Shoals is typical of such towns, intimate but clannish, full of people who are trying to balance their dreams against the reality of economic depression and the sense that the world is passing them by. I was inspired by my summers spent in the Santiam Valley, and all the little towns you drive through on winding, lonely highways — places where the water dried up or the railroad left or the mill closed and things just, as the poem goes, “fell apart.” Yeats was talking about the cataclysm of the Great War, but I think that for many places the apocalypse is more subtle and more drab. There are a lot of interesting stories to tell there.

2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?

I believe in outlines. I say “believe” because it is something like faith! Generally when I start I try to know roughly where I’m going, even if I don’t end up getting there. I find it hard to begin writing with an empty page.

3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

My favorite kind of story is the kind where world-curious, upbeat animal-folk learn that there are few problems one cannot solve through the twin powers of good-natured optimism and clever banter. A lot of my stories are ones where I count it as a success if my readers come away with a smile, a lifted mood, and knowing some obscure bit of trivia that they didn’t know before.

4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?

Teobas Franklyn starts my story An Iron Road Running as a starry-eyed, irrepressible kid on his first day of his dream job working on a railroad. Over the course of the novel, the work becomes more trying and he finds himself well out of his depth, but by keeping his wits about him he matures into someone people look to for help, guidance, and solutions to difficult problems. Teo, who ends the story still excited and optimistic, but with his optimism guided by world-wisdom, is the kind of person I’d like to grow up and become.

5. Which authors or books have most influenced your work?

Robert Heinlein and Rudyard Kipling, for the knack they have at celebrating and lauding individuals with indomitable spirits. Other golden-age SF writers, too: Leiber and Asimov and Cordwainer Smith. I know they seem archaic and even naïve now but I feel like that sense of optimism and grand adventure needs to be recaptured. That we should look with wonder and excitement to every new horizon; that frontiers still await us, be they physical or technological or scientific or philosophical — and that, moreover, through ingenuity and dedication and willpower and intellect, such frontiers are our birthright. Furry is such a singularity of great writers that it’s hard to name specific ones in fandom, but pretty much every time I sit down at a keyboard I wish I could write like Huskyteer and Cinnamon, or that I had the same honed gift for ideas as Rechan and Kyell Gold. Those are really the furry authors I look up to and who influence me.

6. What’s the last book you read that you really loved?

It’s a bit older now, but I finally finished Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August on a long plane flight and it’s absolutely spellbinding. It describes the process by which Europe fell, with equal parts inevitability and stupidity, into the Great War. Her ability to distill the competing factions that conspired to destroy the continent is masterful! Even if you’re not historically inclined, it’s the kind of timeless book that still makes for great reading. And, quite probably, it’s still instructive — the way something that now seems inevitable was shocking and incomprehensible at the time is likely to have some parallels for future historians of our present day.

7. Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

Photography and cycling, particularly as the weather gets warmer and it’s more pleasant to be outside. In Berlin, the summer evenings last forever and there’s plenty of soft, golden light drenching every tree and building and park. It’s a great time to just be out in the world.

8. Advice for other writers?

Write now, worry later. I firmly believe this world is better with more stories in it. Tell them. My advice is that if you come to a fork in the road, and one path leads to putting down words on a page, take that one. Don’t worry if it’s been written before, or if your readers won’t like it, or if you’re doing something wrong — those are problems for Future You. And ignore anyone else trying to do your worrying for you. Every so often articles get passed around about the Things You Shouldn’t Do: the characters you shouldn’t write, the plot devices that are tired, the settings that are overdone, and so on. I say that’s also a problem for Future You: write now, worry later.

For some writers, writing comes easily. For others, and I’m one of them, writing is a constant, unending, and quixotic battle against all the forces arrayed against my keyboard. You can always edit out the things you don’t like later — but the words need to get written first. So when you read or hear or feel something that purports to be advice or guidance but actually keeps you from writing, recognize it for the traitor it is and ignore the impulse to listen. Write now, worry later.

9. Where can readers find your work?

SoFurry. I’ve been a resident there long enough to claim citizenship!

10. What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom?

I love how creative it is, and — as a consequence — how its creativity seems to beget creativity. I tend to write for furries, and in online venues like SoFurry, which means I’m writing to, for, and with other writers. There’s a direct feedback loop that means that I know when my readers like a particular plotline or have ideas about how it should be developed — an intimate link between creators, co-creators and consumers that wasn’t really possible in the past and seems particularly strong here. I know in the past it was more common to be downbeat on furry writing, and that’s very unfortunate because the fandom has a wealth of tremendously talented individuals in it. It is simply not possible to look at the creative spark at the very core of furry and not come away inspired. 🙂

 

Check out Rob Baird’s member bio here!

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