National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo if you’re into the whole brevity thing, began yesterday. Writers throughout the country go on something of a creative crash diet to do the one thing everybody needs to do to become a writer: write. Sure, some writers get to live the glamorous dream seen in films, but there are a lot of frustrated would-be Tolkiens out there who can’t grind out the word count needed to finish that Great American Novel. It can be hard to find time during the day (or nights and weekends, oh god the weekends) to do it, but some folks get it done with a little bit of flourish. Patrick Tomlinson is such a case. Not only has he made a name for himself as a stand-up comic, but he’s now entering the world of published science-fiction author with his book The Ark.
Patrick is most famous locally for being the mastermind behind the Cthulhu Comedy Collective.
He sees Milwaukee as an incubator for a very strong scene. “We’ve taken the Collective to other cities and done shows at conventions. We can go to a comedy club in that city, ask for a little bit of time on stage, and walk away with a slot for the weekend,” Tomlinson says. There are a lot of good small venues and big concert halls in Milwaukee that can book national acts, but not much in the middle ground where comics truly can develop a local following. “Most of what we do is still underground shit,” he says.
The same can be said for Milwaukee’s nerd scene. Even though Gen Con left 13 years ago, a city this size should have built up something to replace it by now. The leading contender is the Midwest Gaming Classic, but Patrick’s blog has a discussion with organizers that shows surprising resistance to the idea. “The nerds have the money,” he says. “Milwaukee is ready for a show. We need to get the businesses caught up to that fact.”
Nerdy causes are close to Patrick’s heart. The rise of nerd culture has been a boon, but hasn’t been without challenges. “I don’t get the gatekeeper mentality among the old guard nerds,” Tomlinson says. “All the people who complain about fake geek girls. These cosplaying women spend thousands of hours and thousands of dollars on their costumes. There’s nothing fake about that.”
Patrick considers his comedy and his writing to be interchangable parts of the same discipline. “Writing jokes and writing books aren’t that different. They’re both a performance that requires mastery of words,” he says. “My process is pretty random, but generally I like to sit down with a tea or a beer and try to put out 1,500 to 2,000 words per day, however long that takes. Characters are like children, despite your best efforts, they never turn out to be quite who you planned for. Otherwise, the plot was pretty straightforward and stuck close to the outline.”
When asked if it was difficult to get published, he said “Fuck, no, it’s super easy!” And then he laughed for a minute. “My agent is like a human shark. My work was recommended to him by another client. Networking is important.”
His first book, The Ark, is a murder mystery set on a generation ship. A generation ship is a hypothetical way to colonize other worlds, where generations of colonists live and die on the ship while it travels the billions of miles in between stars, or as he succinctly puts it, “Think Murder On The Orient Express in space.”
He was also not afraid to suggest some casting should Hollywood come calling. “I would like Olivia Wilde to play every role, including the men. Failing that, I guess I could settle for Jason Momoa as the main character, Bryan Benson, who I see as blended ancestry, physically fit, and tough while still being charming. Also, I would kill to get Daniel Simon on board as the hardware designer. His work on the movies Tron: Legacy and Oblivion were simply breathtaking. That and if I do get stupid Hollywood money, the first thing I’m buying is a Lotus C-01 motorcycle, which he designed.”
The Ark is the first book in a series that will continue with Trident’s Forge next April. Patrick is hoping to capitalize on the success of these books to explore a space within science fiction that he sees as underdeveloped. “There aren’t that many books that are good fiction and funny,” he says. “I started out writing a novel that was a continuation of a Douglas Adams book. The people I showed it to liked it a lot. So I stripped out everything and made it my own. It’s my first novel written but hopefully my next one sold.”
The Ark by Patrick Tomlinson will be released on November 3. It can be purchased at Amazon and Audible. He will be signing copies of The Ark at Boswell Book Company on Friday, November 6th at 7 p.m. before an 8:30 after party at 42 Lounge.