Mock Interview With Wisewirx/Emporium of Imagination Founder, Tim Wise:
What is Wisewirx Media?
It’s one of the publishing imprints of my studio, Professor Theophilus’ Emporium of Imagination.
Why did you name it that?
I came up with the name when I was dreaming about starting a steampunk-themed store that would sell comics, movies, memorabilia, costumes, and other things of that nature. The name Theophilus actually comes from the Bible and means “friend of God” but there was also a character by that name in the old Buck Rogers TV series that came on when I was in ninth grade. When I decided to start a studio, I thought it made a good studio name. Some of those are pretty whimsical. J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot studio is a good example.
How would you describe your business?
It’s a writing and art studio, a creative laboratory, and the culmination of a dream. It is the company I wanted to work for but couldn’t find. I wanted to write science fiction and fantasy novels, but struggled to find a publisher in a field that is increasingly driven by stars. I wanted to write and design graphic novels, but wanted to create my own characters. I wanted to dabble in animation and filmmaking, but didn’t want to fight my way through Hollywood. I wanted to work for a company with pro family, pro-church values, but found little place for science fiction, fantasy, and comics in family and religious publishing.
Who are you?
My name is Timothy D. Wise. I’m the president and founder of the Emporium of Imagination. I have a doctorate in management and a lifelong love of writing and art. I’m also a part-time seminary student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I’m studying apologetics. That’s a good place for intense spiritual seekers who love to ponder intellectual puzzles and spend their time exploring the gray areas. Some people see apologetics primarily as argumentation, but I treat it more as exploration and comparing notes on the journey.
What about Emporium Press?
Emporium Press is my original publishing imprint. I released Intrepid Force, my first novel, back in 2003. Since then, I’ve released an Intrepid Force sequel and three other books under that label. I used the Wisewirx Media label for Haunted Summer and Genesis and the Thoughtful Christian because they were written more specifically for people who shop in Christian bookstores.
Is Emporium Press a religious publisher?
Not exclusively. It is a mainstream company with Christian founders. I’ve joked that we use the Little House on the Prairie approach to religion. I really see the Emporium Press titles as being geared more for a crossover audience, not only for Christians but for spiritual explorers who haven’t really settled. They’re a “clean place to play,” so to speak, for a hopefully broad spectrum of people.
Little House on the Prairie?
Yes. The old television series based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. The show wasn’t exclusively religious, but it was clear that faith was important in the lives of the characters. You had a pastor as a regular character and some of the episodes had religious messages, but it appealed to a mainstream audience. I’m concerned that evangelicals have separated themselves too much from mainstream culture. We’ve got our own stores, our own TV channels, our own universities, our own publishing organizations. All those things are good in many respects, but I worry about the withdrawal of religious people from culture when Jesus told his followers to be “salt and light” to preserve and brighten the world.
Maybe I should have said I use the Fyodor Dostoyevsky approach because it sounds more sophisticated. Religious fiction got more respect in his day, and it wasn’t limited to a small niche of the audience. I don’t claim to write at his level, but that’s something to aspire to. I’ve bought two of his books to read, but I’ve been procrastinating because of the length.
Tell us about Intrepid Force.
It’s a futuristic action series about a team of young men and women with extraordinary talents and high-tech weapons.
You say it’s futuristic. How far in the future are we?
We’re in 2084. I picked that date arbitrarily because I started writing Intrepid Force in the early 1980s. I wanted to move the story far enough into the future to allow for advances in technology that would make a lot of the stuff we read about in comic books possible, but I didn’t want the people to be that different culturally than we are today. We’ve got space ships traveling around the solar system, but none visiting other stars. We haven’t discovered any aliens yet.
You mentioned comic books. Is Intrepid Force a superhero story?
It was definitely inspired by superhero team comics like the X-Men, the Teen Titans, the Legion of Superheroes, and the Justice League. The powers are more rooted to real advances in science though. No one gets struck by lightning, rolls in chemicals, and develops super speed. (I understand DC has developed a more sophisticated version of the Flash’s origin involving a “speed force” now.)
So X-Men and Avengers fans should love it.
Are there any other projects in the works?
My two big projects now are a third Intrepid Force novel and an Intrepid Force graphic novel. I’ve had those projects in the works for years but other duties have kept me from wrapping them up. My goal for the year is to finally get them finished up and released. I also have some other projects in the planning stages.
What is a graphic novel?
It’s an illustrated novel. It’s like a comic book, but a comic book is a magazine, a periodical. A graphic novel is a book. It’s thicker, printed on nicer paper, and given a heavier cover with a spine. It also has a shelf life of more than a month and can be purchased any time.
Will you ever publish the work of other authors?
About ten years ago, I published a supernatural thriller called Chinchuba for Mike Casey. The story is set in the region between Biloxi, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s based on an Indian legend and on the unexplained disappearance of the Biloxi Indian tribe. Since some of my stories take place in the same area, I’ve wondered if people thought K. Michael Casey was one of my pen names, but he’s really a different person. (We met in graduate school. He teaches finance at the University of Central Arkansas.) I’m trying to get him to re-release Chinchuba on CreateSpace and Kindle.
When you do cooperative work with other authors, what kind of standards will you hold them to?
We will avoid work that is blatantly violent or pornographic. We like action and romance but avoid the darker expressions of both.
What kind of darker expressions?
Some books are filled with scenes of people getting arms and legs ripped off, being blasted apart by machine guns, having their throats torn out, etc. Action stories are going to contain some violence, but some authors are clearly in it for the shock value. I realize there’s not an exact spot where you can draw a line and say, “This is too much,” but there are questions of taste and ethics here. Sexuality poses similar challenges. A girl in a bikini may represent healthy adolescent beauty or sultry sexuality depending entirely on the way the subject is presented, so it’s hard to establish exact boundaries of what is and isn’t good taste. It’s a judgement call. Personally I’d rather view these issues in a positive way and say we value nobility, chivalry, and respect rather than laying down a series of rules. The noble knight fights fairly and bravely, sacrifices himself for the woman he loves, and so on. That’s not to say that everybody in a Christian novel or film has to be noble and heroic though. Some stories about deeply flawed characters teach powerful lessons, but there’s a difference in the way a Christian would tell that kind of story though.
What about profanity?
It can be useful in establishing character, but can exceed the bounds of good taste. I’d generally avoid it in youth-oriented projects. Personally I try not to use it at all–especially in projects I might want to market in religious bookstores.
What about religious authors? Is there anything you avoid there?
I avoid Christian projects that are negative, defamatory, or derogatory in their treatment of people with other belief systems. I want my friends from other religious backgrounds to feel welcome any time even if we don’t agree on everything.
What about time travel, aliens, and mythical creatures?
Bring them on! I know some religious publishers may be wary of fantasy because of perceived New Age connections, but the Bible is filled with wild imagery. Sometimes colorful metaphors are the best way to illustrate spiritual realities.
What’s your view on science?
I’m in favor of it. You couldn’t have science fiction without it.
What about evolution and the Big Bang theory?
I believe God created the universe using a combination of natural and supernatural methods, but I’m not sure where to draw the line there. I certainly don’t use evolution as a way of writing God out of the script, but I wouldn’t ban Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series from Christian schools (which was done in some places) because it mentions evolution–especially since it also mentions God and angels. I don’t believe scientists are the antichrist. Some science professors may use science as an excuse to bully the Christians in their classes, but that kind of hostility is usually rooted in unresolved issues from the teacher’s past.
What about life on other planets?
If we found intelligent life on other planets, agnostics would say that it proves evolution because life evolved elsewhere. Christians would say it proves that there’s a God because beings like us could not have developed without a common creator. From a writer’s standpoint, alien civilizations (and alternate universes, for that matter) offer writers with boundless opportunities to explore the question what if…? and that’s what good literature is all about.
Are there any writers who strongly influenced you? (Authors are always asked that question.)
Ray Bradbury was an early favorite. I checked one of his short story collections (S is for Space) out of the library when I was in the fourth grade, and I’ve liked him ever since. His book Zen and the Art of Writing was so influential to me that I wrote to him about it. He wrote me back, and I still have the letter (of course). I was able to meet him about two years later when he spoke in Shreveport. I read some of Stephen King’s novels when I was in my late teens and early twenties. I liked his “stream of consciousness” writing style. The Stand is my favorite King novel. C.S. Lewis was a spiritual mentor to me. Most Christians who write science fiction list C.S. Lewis as an influence and he certainly was one for me. One classic science fiction writer that few people I know have ever heard of is Clifford Simak. He published a book called Special Deliverance in the early 1980s that I’ve read twice. I like David Brin’s work, but haven’t read much of it. The Postman was fantastic. The Kevin Costner movie wasn’t bad, but they cut out some of my favorite parts of the book. There was a scene involving a minor character called Powhatan that was probably my favorite in the whole book, and it wasn’t in the film. I’ve been a huge Dean Koontz fan since college. Odd Thomas is my favorite Koontz character, though he has had some other good ones. Two favorite nonfiction authors are Philip Yancey and Lee Strobel in the Christian realm. I’ve listened to their audiobooks repeatedly. Naturally, I’ve been influenced by other media too. I’ve been a huge comic book fan since childhood. For some reason, the super team books were always my favorites. The Legion of Superheroes, the Fantastic Four, the Teen Titans, and the X-Men definitely made their mark. The Star Trek shows, Babylon 5, and Firefly are among my favorite TV series. I listed some of my other favorites in the acknowledgements pages of Intrepid Force. Since it was my first book, I think I thanked everybody.