It’s Sunday and Brunch is back! This week continues my series of SPSFC features with Dim Stars author Brian P. Rubin!
Dim Stars was one of our team’s semifinalist reads and we generally agreed that it is a solidly entertaining read, with good themes and the cutest octopus. Unfortunately Brian told me that we can’t adopt the little guy 🤣
Anyway, read on for our chat about sci-fi themes, nerdy things, writing books that everyone can enjoy, and tons more! P.S. the book is .99 on Kindle right now so go go! Link at the bottom!
🥞Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! Can you tell everyone something about yourself that’s not in your author bio?
🎤Thanks for the welcome! One thing I don’t mention in my bio — or at least one thing I don’t mention with much detail — is that I’ve been in several bands throughout my life as a drummer. When I first moved to the Twin Cities here in Minnesota, I met some cool guys and formed a bluesy bar band called The Lost Wheels. We wrote and released our own album independently, and we even won a contest for the Twin Cities’ best blues band — though, the contest was put on by a local barbecue restaurant chain, so I’m not sure it was the major accomplishment it might seem.
🥞What’s your brunch order today?
🎤I am pathetically addicted to the sausage, egg, and biscuit sandwich at McDonald’s. It’s bad for me, but I love it. So whatever the closest, non-Mcdonald’s equivalent of that might be. Plus a hash brown and a black coffee, of course.
🥞Congrats on making the SPSFC semifinalists! How do you feel about the competition overall?
🎤Thank you! It’s been really cool to watch the contest unfold, and I’ve been exposed to a lot of extremely cool books. I’m currently reading fellow semi-finalist Dito Abbot’s “Debunked”! I’m really enjoying it, and I’ve got a ton of other great additions to my Kindle library as a result of the contest that I’m looking forward to diving into eventually.
That said, I have felt a bit of confusion throughout the contest about scoring, like when and where written reviews of the entrants would be published…things like that. It feels a bit more opaque than I’d have liked in some spots, you know?
We do know 🤷♀️ it was up to each team to decide when and how much review content to release, if they publish any at all, and everyone took a wildly different approach.
🥞What originally drew you into writing science fiction?
🎤I’ve always been geared towards sci-fi in one way or another — superheroes and comic books have held a lot of space in my brain for my whole life. Star Trek, likewise, was seemingly always on in the background of my house as I was growing up. So when I finally started writing this book, I just felt naturally attracted to the genre. It also freed me to get silly or strange with things. Dim Stars is definitely not hard science fiction, so whenever I wanted something strange or funny to happen, I didn’t feel too restricted by the constraints of reality — I just went for it and said, “it’s science fiction, it’s fine” when I didn’t have full explanations for things.
Even still, I did try hard to make sure that if I needed to rely on physics or biology for various plot developments, that I did as much research as I could to make sure it would work. I wanted what I was writing to at least be plausible and not fall apart immediately if it was held up to any scrutiny. I hope I succeeded!
🥞Was the goal to write for a younger audience or did Dim Stars just take that course naturally?
🎤I don’t think I necessarily set out to do YA or Middle Grade as much as I just wanted to do something for general audiences. I wanted as many people as possible to be able to read it and enjoy it, and I do feel as though I’ve managed to do that. To me, Dim Stars isn’t necessarily mature or juvenile — I was just targeting the same vibe in terms of subject matter that the average network sitcom might also hit without anyone batting an eye.
A show like, say, Abbott Elementary is the kind of thing the whole family could enjoy in different ways, but it neither talks down to its audience, nor talks over anyone’s head. It seems that Middle Grade and YA is where that kind of book lives for the most part, so that’s just generally where I go whenever I write.
🥞I love the theme of dealing with the fallout of heroes not being everything you’ve idolized them to be! What themes and topics do you think are important within Dim Stars?
🎤This is a tough one — one of the main ideas I really wanted to hit on in this book is that of truth vs. deception, and how important it is to not only see others for who they are, but also to see yourself truthfully and honestly. I think Dim Stars’ main characters struggle with that a lot, but by the end they each see each other and themselves a lot more truthfully, and that leads to greater understanding and teamwork between them.
🥞Will you be offended if we adopt Squix and take him home with us? I just love such a unique crew member. What drew you to an octopus character?
🎤I’m sorry: You can’t take Squix home with you unless you can fill an entire room with salt water or build him the proper exo-suit. As for what drew me to making one of the supporting characters an octopus, it’s tough to say, but I have a guess.
Many years ago I worked on a comic book with a friend of mine, Collin David (who, along with his amazing fiancee Beckie Hermans, created Dim Stars’ cover). It was called Coptopus, which is exactly what it sounds like: an octopus who’s also a cop. We didn’t get as far with it as we would’ve liked, but it was a lot of fun. So I think the idea of an octopus participating in our society has always just seemed funny to me. Not only that, but from what I’ve read, they’re amazingly intelligent creatures. It seemed like a fun idea for a story set in space — that someday in the future, if we could all figure out a way to bridge the communication gap, that we’d discover they’re as smart as humans (or, let’s be real, smarter).
🥞What are your favorite scifi topics and tropes in general?
🎤There’s something I’ve always loved about the idea of crewing a spaceship, and all the horrible things that go wrong when you’re stuck on what amounts to a flying house in the middle of the void. Like I said, Star Trek has been a huge influence on what I love about sci-fi, and that includes all the kooky ways characters have to cope with huge disasters in space.
Spaceships, big lasers, goofy robots, colorful personalities — that’s the stuff I like most in my sci-fi. If I’d have figured out a way to include a giant mech fight, I’m sure that would’ve shown up in the book at some point, too.
🥞What’s the last amazing book that you’ve read?
🎤The aforementioned Debunked by Dito Abbott is really enjoyable, and I see a lot of similarities with Dim Stars. It’s fun, broad sci-fi that blends over-the-top science adventure and pure, goofy comedy. It’s great stuff.
Before that, I think the last book that really hooked me hard was Leviathan Falls, by James S.A. Corey. It’s the last book in the Expanse series. Those books were a huge inspiration to me when I was thinking of writing Dim Stars. Again, spaceships, heroism — all that good stuff. And while the Expanse series is much harder in terms of its science, the bonds between the crew and the schlubby heroics of the lead character, Jim Holden, pushed all my buttons.
🥞What other generally nerdy things are you into?
🎤As a recovering comic book reader, I’m still pretty into the MCU movies and shows, not to mention the slate of DC films that are on the way. I also play board games regularly, and I enjoy a good fantasy yarn if it’s a good fit for my particular tastes. Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames and A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by Ursula Vernon are two of my favorite fantasy books from the last few years; they’re both quirky, clever, and a ton of fun.
But the nerdiest thing I’ve been into lately is this: My kid is three-and-a-half, and we’ve recently gotten really into Transformers: Rescue Bots, which is the line of Transformers toys and cartoons that Hasbro made just for preschoolers. The show and toys have been more or less out of production for years already, but we watch it on Netflix and YouTube. So since they’re not really carried in stores anymore, I’ve become strangely obsessed with tracking down as many of them as I can find via used marketplaces while also trying to get good deals on them. Heroic robots, goofy action — what’s cooler than a fire truck or bulldozer that a three year old can easily turn into a robot? Literally nothing.
🥞What can we look for next from you?
🎤I’ve started and stopped a number of projects since I finished Dim Stars — including a sequel, which is back in the drawer for the moment. But recently I was able to get some really good traction on a couple of projects I still like very much. The one I’ve gotten furthest on is tentatively titled Fools’ Errand, and I like to describe it as “Galaxy Quest meets Dungeons and Dragons.” It’s been a lot of fun so far, and I’m hoping I can keep the momentum going and actually finish the damn thing.
🥞Thanks so much for taking the time to interview! The last question is an open forum, so please use this space to talk about anything else you’d like to!
🎤Buy my book, please! And don’t be a jerk to anyone! Support marginalized people, support LGBTIQA+ people, support BIPOC, support women!
There you have it! You can find Brian P. Rubin and Dim Stars online at: