My Favorite Things with Heidi Ruby Miller

They might not be raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but that doesn’t mean that we love them any less. Welcome back to My Favorite Things, the weekly column where we grab someone in speculative circles to gab about the greatest in geek. This week, we sit down with author Heidi Ruby Miller, who just released Man of War, the sequel to Philip José Farmer’s novel Two Hawks from Earth. What does she love when she’s not writing science fiction and thrillers? Spoiler alert: positive and beautiful futures despite the grit, magic around every corner, science fiction come to life, and the latest trends in both science and fashion. Read on for more!


It wasn’t until I began my graduate work at Seton Hill University that I found my tribe, other women who were interested in — nay, obsessed with — science fiction. We were as much fans as creators, and I believe we still are.

Perhaps it isn’t obvious when you first meet me because I have never exactly worn my fandom on my sleeve, or anywhere else for that matter. I’m a bit of a fashionista and tend to go out in full hair and makeup, just like my mum taught me, professional that she is. Don’t get me wrong, more and more I’m liking the Chucks and a Star Wars or Baby Metal tee, but overall, I’m more comfortable in a dress and heels — and I learned long ago that rather than meet others’ expectations of who they think I should be, I should instead just be comfortable in my own skin.

Many have noted, with surprise, that under my very girly skin resides a techy tomboy. It wasn’t until my #SHUWPF days that I realized there was a home for these two disparate sides of Heidi Ruby Miller.

Growing up I just assumed all my friends, whether male or female, liked what I liked. It’s a conceit of youth that I admit still surfaces in me today. Back then, I figured everyone had watched MacGyver and later X-Files, that they designed lasers and read G.I. Joe comics. (You know, the usual.) Imagine my surprise when one of my best girlfriends said, “I don’t really like that sci-fi stuff.” I took her statement as anyone would — riotous laughter then sobering shock. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read my collection of Robotech books or stay up late to watch Battlestar Galactica (the original one where Muffit was a supporting character), or take a bunch of extra computer classes during the summer?

The idea of someone not liking “that scifi stuff” was absurd. But taking a page from Camus, I learned to embrace absurdity and happily pursued my interests with existential gusto. (Thankfully, I didn’t know about Sartre at the time, or this whole thing might have turned out waaaay differently.)

For instance, my teenaged experiences reading Arthur C. Clarke reassured me about growing into old age. That’s about as existential as it comes. I still take comfort in Clarke’s visions of people over 80 living meaningful, healthy lives — most of them orbiting the Earth in low gravity to lessen the strain on those aging bones and muscles, but that would just be part of the fun, wouldn’t it? Maybe it was the convincing voice of Heywood Floyd in 2010, my favorite Clarke book, or simply the positive future that I saw within the writings of a scientist/novelist. Maybe it was both.

Clarke’s view of the future isn’t the only one in my head at night when I go to sleep, I also envision the shiny, colorful worlds of Luc Besson. He manages to bring glamour to the gritty. Disparate ideals once again. (I’m consistent, if nothing else.) Besson won my heart early with The Fifth Element, one of my top five movies of all time. I was also a huge fan of District B13 and The Transporter franchise. Yes, I know that last one isn’t really speculative, but some (meaning me) might argue that Frank Martin, like Dominic Toretto from those other driving movies, is a superhero in his own right. If you’re not buying that, then maybe we could at least agree that Leeloo Multipass definitely is: perfect being, sent from the stars, saves the world? Check, check, check. It’s a beautiful thing, and Besson loves to show us beauty…alongside the beast.

Cue segue to my gushing about Walt Disney World. Yes, yes, I love Disney in general and all those intellectual properties that go with it (where do you think I got that Star Wars tee?), but I have a special association with Disney World. I’m an alum of the College Program, and I convinced my husband to skip grad school the first time to head south and work for the Mouse back in 1998. It was awesome, like an extended honeymoon, and it’s where we both really started to write. How could we not be inspired while surrounded by imaginative sights, sounds, smells, and tastes? Which is why we return every year (with a half dozen adult family members in tow) to fill up those creative reserves.

Everywhere you turn in the parks is a speculative world. Tomorrowland and Future World are obvious favorites, of course, but even back at the Boardwalk Resort, where we usually stay, you have the sense of time travel and magic. Speaking of magic, I love the concept of the Magic Band. I can see this happening in the real world, especially since we’re practically there with our phones and some wearables. It’s science fiction coming to life.

That’s a theme which has survived since Jules Verne and continues today. I see it often in the magazines I still devour in print form. The past few years I’ve been obsessed with Fast Company, WIRED, and The Red Bulletin. I even pour over the ads in these forward-thinking periodicals because there are inspirations for stories and for life everywhere.

And, of course, there’s my love affair with InStyle, which has lasted more than 20 years. The biggest life hack I ever encountered came from an issue of InStyle over a decade ago. I have two words for you: toe spreaders. Seriously, they changed everything.

All of this informs my writing, whether it be my Ambasadora space opera series or the technical thrillers I’m working on now, even in Man of War, the sequel I wrote to Philip José Farmer’s Two Hawks from Earth. (Okay, maybe the toe spreaders don’t play such a big role, but they sure help after a long day speaking to groups or signing books.) One of the key features of both of my chosen genres is technology and how that technology affects humans. That’s the crux of science fiction.

I’ve always been fascinated with technology — probably because of all those extra computer classes during the summer. Though tech may feel ubiquitous within our lives now, so much of it is still on the fringes. It is a curiosity to most people, a world they occasionally hear about, but haven’t spent much time visiting. Of course, what do I know? I get my education from re-watching episodes of Silicon Valley over and over — Erlich, why did you leave?!! But you know who does get it, who spends time in that world? My tribe. Because SF chicks rule.


Heidi Ruby Miller uses research for her stories as an excuse to roam the globe. Her books include the popular Ambasadora series, Man of War, which is a sequel to Science Fiction Grandmaster Philip José Farmer’s novel Two Hawks from Earth, and the award-winning writing guide Many Genres, One Craft. In between trips, Heidi teaches creative writing at Seton Hill University, where she graduated from their renowned Writing Popular Fiction Graduate Program the same month she appeared on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. She is a member of The Authors GuildInternational Thriller WritersPennwritersLittsburghPARSECBroad Universe, and Science Fiction Poetry Association. Follow Heidi’s adventures with her husband, Jason Jack Miller, on their travel and lifestyle channel Small Space, Big Life and find her author interview series Three Great Things About at Heidi Ruby Miller.

7 Comments

  • Heidi Ruby Miller October 9, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Thank you, Shara and Venessa and everyone at Speculative Chic, for the opportunity to geek out a bit. One of the most fun interviews I’ve ever done! #sfchicksrule

    Reply
  • Matt Betts October 9, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    Great interview! Clarke, Fifth Element, Fast and the Furious and Robotech all referenced in one interview? Awesome. Big fan, Heidi!

    Reply
    • Heidi Ruby Miller October 10, 2017 at 8:36 am

      I believe you and I would have been friends even way back in middle school, Matt. It only took us 15 years to find that out. 🙂

      Reply
  • Jason Jack Miller October 10, 2017 at 7:34 am

    I wonder if Leeloo Multipass has doors that go like this? ^ Or like this? >

    Reply
    • Heidi Ruby Miller October 10, 2017 at 2:08 pm

      I believe they go like this ^ then like this >. Russ Hanneman probably designed them.

      Reply
  • tktoppin October 10, 2017 at 8:28 am

    What an awesome post! I can agree with you wholeheartedly about being the geek girl living among the un-geeks. I’m reminded of that Blind Melon song and video (way back when) and the bumblebee girl not fitting in, until she finds all the other bumblebees and find her niche. And all those books and movies and TV shows bring back fond memories! I think I’ll go watch Fifth Element again now. Thanks, Heidi. Amazing as always!

    Reply
    • Heidi Ruby Miller October 10, 2017 at 2:10 pm

      Blind Melon…that brings back memories. Obviously, you and I were meant to become friends, T.K.

      Reply

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