I am happy to have longtime friend Jennifer A. Miller as February 2016’s guest for this monthly feature. I met this creative and kind lady on the Star Wars roleplaying board I joined back in 2008. You would also be familiar with her name as she designed most of my book covers!
Jennifer A. Miller is a graphic designer by trade and writer by calling. Her design experience is based in advertising, identity and print design, with novice and expanding capabilities in web development and photography. You can find more about her work on her website.
NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?
MILLER: I grew up in a Western watching family. My mother liked science fiction and fantasy, but I never remember her introducing me to it (she might say otherwise…I have a terrible memory). I have a collection of defining moments when I was a kid, but they’re kind of jumbled and I don’t remember what came first. I was living in Oregon, so this would have been younger than eight. I remember going through the satellite channels and finding the tail end of a movie that just captivated me. I don’t think I knew how to see what the movie was called at that time because I remember agonizing over figuring it out so that I could rent it. Trying to describe it to my parents was frustrating (for all involved). Turns out it was Star Wars Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. It also turns out it was part of a trilogy. Fast forward a couple years when we were in Wyoming I remember going to Albertson’s as a family on our usual Wednesday run when they had 99 cent rentals and trying desperately to find them all. They never seemed to have all of them at once, so it took a couple rentals, but I was completely hooked.
NG: What are your top 3 favorites for Science Fiction books, TV shows and movies?
I only get 3?! These aren’t in any particular order, just the ones that first come to mind.
- I, Jedi – Michael A. Stackpole
- The Starlight Crystal – Christopher Pike (it took me forever to find the name of this…I’ve been searching for years!)
- Shapechangers – Jennifer Roberson (this is technically Fantasy and I love the whole series)
- Stargate SG-1
- Battlestar Galactica
- Return of the Jedi (because it was my first)
- Back to the Future
- Fifth Element
NG: Which Science Fiction characters have had the greatest influence on you?
- Samantha Carter (Stargate SG-1)
- Leloo Dallas (Fifth Element)
- Princess Leia (Star Wars)
NG: How has your roleplaying experience affected your creative endeavors?
MILLER: When I am actively roleplaying (and reading), my wordsmithing/sentence creativity is the first thing affected, although I tend not to notice until I’m absent awhile and read what I’ve written in the past. I’m always pleasantly shocked at how good I was compared to the current. Funny how you lose skill when habits aren’t exercised regularly.
I am a print graphic designer and I will be the first to say that my creativity has been completely lacking the past several years. I’ve also just fallen out of love with the profession. When I look back at projects and times in my life that I felt my most creative, they were times that I was constantly writing/roleplaying and surrounding myself with people that had similar passion. My brain was always thinking about characters and scenes and influenced by literally everything in my physical environment. I lived in movies trailers for my characters. It definitely makes me think about carving time out to do it again. Perhaps I’d get my actual writing projects more than partially finished!
NG: Can you tell us a bit more about your writing projects?
MILLER: I have quite a few that I’ve started… I tend to get really hyped about them around NaNoWriMo season, but sadly none have developed much further than that month.
I have a trilogy that I started in middle and high school based off a dream I had. It involved all of my favorite people (and crushes). I loosely based the characters off of them. I finished the first and most of the second. Unfortunately the documents were saved on some floppy disk (this dates me…) that was corrupt. I don’t mind TOO much because I still have most of it printed out and honestly it needs to be rewritten. I’ve been trying to figure out how best to do that. It originally started as a group of kids having a sleep over and getting sucked into a fantasy/sci-fi world in which the lead character actually hailed. The first book was a big long adventure figuring out her past and getting introduced to the villains. The next two involved defeating the villains with the help of her best friends and then figuring out her future (whether she’d stay there or on Earth). It was fun to write as a kid, but a little hokey for my tastes now.
I started a series a couple years ago that involves a lonely kid that lives in a not too distant future where natural disasters are happening on an epic level all over the globe. He soon discovers that there are invisible fissures/rifts in his town and he might be the only one that can see them. After testing what happens to a baseball when thrown through one, he adventures through and gets sucked into another plane of existence… There’s much more to it, but I don’t want to give anything away! I realize that most first novels tend to be horrible, but I’m hoping it turns out decent because I really love the concept, story, and characters I’ve developed!
NG: What is your favorite type of character to write in a Science Fiction setting?
MILLER: The accidental hero. And this goes for all genres, really. I just love characters that aren’t setting out to be a hero, lead ordinary lives, and somehow get pulled into a situation that tests their mental strength and moral compass. I love the complicated types, the lessons they learn, and the inevitable roller coaster ride of their journey.
NG: Do you believe that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to complex female characters?
MILLER: Definitely! My favorite movies, shows, and books are great examples of such complex female characters. I think anyone would be hard pressed to find Sci-Fi media that doesn’t have at least one.
NG: What is Science Fiction’s responsibility in diverse and inclusive representation?
MILLER: I think it’s every genres responsibility to be diverse. Our world is not just one type of person or another—whether a certain skin color, culture, or gender—at its core, it’s a collection of human beings all trying to live. We’ve been experiencing gender division and overall bigotry for centuries, which is why I love that most Sci-Fi is futuristic and depicts the human race having accepted all skin colors and genders as equal (usually). I can’t wait to see that in real time!
NG: Do you think that Fangirls are an expression of Feminism?
MILLER: I rewrote this answer twice. I’m not big on putting labels on people. The terms fangirl and feminism get such a bad rap because the definitions mean something different to everyone. Fangirl makes me think of a teenager obsessing over a pop idol. I would probably only use fangirl and fanboy in that reference. But that doesn’t mean I’m not considered a fangirl by someone else for loving Star Wars and Firefly. I use the term fan because dividing it out into gender does just that; divides.
That said, I think fans (girls or boys) are an expression of self (at least that’s the idea…).
As for Feminism, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t share the same passion for women’s equality. I am most certainly an advocate.
So, I guess my answer is not really. You can certainly be both, but I don’t think one is necessarily an expression of the other. I think it’s an expression of yourself, your individuality, and your passions.
NG: How do you think fangirls can change media industries?
MILLER: Yes! Anyone can! As long as they have passion for what they love and do, they can most definitely impact the media industries. If you take a closer look at the people behind books, television shows, and movies, you’ll find both men and women that have positively influenced the media because of their passion for it. Passion is the basis behind any fan and with it we can create incredible things that shape and influence all sorts of industries and like minds.
NG: Thank you so much for accepting to be part of this interview series! I am certain my readers will enjoy reading your answers.