Steampunk & Synthesizers

The books and music of Ren Cummins

The official site of author Ren Cummins, information about his books and music, a place to find questions, answers, and more questions for those. Links and other internety things, in a sort of one-stop shop.  


One of the most common and perhaps cliched bit of writing wisdom takes the form of “write what you know”. This is usually misinterpreted to mean ‘write about the things you know’, which, as a science fiction and fantasy author, would really tie my hands.

But the phrase means more than it seems to mean. Because if you are limited to telling stories about things that happened to you…. well, that is really bound to cut most authors careers pretty damn short. Plus, then it turns writing into more a process of just finding good words and a clever way to string events in a narrative form. Don’t color outside the lines. Don’t imagine. Don’t dream.

No, writing what you know means in part that you draw upon your own experiences, yes, but it also often means draping your emotional remembrances in other people, other places, other times, other realities.

An interesting neuroscience (science? Theory? I don’t care. Whichever.) I came across some years back is called “pseudobiography”, which implies that every story written is really about the author - that you can draw connections to every aspect of a story - no matter how incredible - back to a founding emotional moment in the author’s life.

And this, to me, really does reflect the idea that writers should write what they know. Now, granted, I’ve written quite a few books now on a fantastical world which has seen the wildest evolution of retrofuturist science rise to herculean altitudes, alongside the more ephemeral aspects of magic, and tried my best to balance them out in as much of a sense of reality as I could. My goal was not just to tell a wonderful story, but also to embed a touch of reality in it. Something to tap into that sense of history and “this world” to let the other wonders be seen as credible, if not slightly familiar.

On the one hand, a lot of my friends are in these characters. My late cat friend Karma is and always shall be Mulligan, for example, and many of the other characters aspects - a bit of personality here, a touch of mannerisms there - come from the amazing people who have been for however long a part of my life. And of course, there’s Favo Carr, who is too much a fragment of my own unbridled Id, and don’t think it doesn’t worry me a great deal, that.

This is probably why these novels have always meant so much to me. They are me. They’re as much a diary as any I could have kept. When the characters suffer, they are crying my own tears shed for one anguished moment or another. When they are victorious, I cheer right along with them.

Their stories are my stories. And that’s why I’m both nervous but joyous to share them with you.