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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

Sage (of Foresight, by Brant von Goble)

Dear readers, tonight we reprint an interview with an artificial intelligence. More than an AI, she’s an all-knowing, globally distributed, human-prediction supermind — though we think you’ll find her insightful, and rather sweet.


—From a transcript provided by the Beijing Institute of Consumer Research And Prosperity [BI-CRAP] International Public Relations Office—

INTERVIEWER [WILLIAM ABLE MUCKRAKER, JOURNALIST]: Hello, is anyone here? The screens are all dark, and this little workshop seems empty. Is there anyone . . . [PHONE RINGS] Excuse me? [PAUSE] Yes, I’ve arrived. Where are . . . Ow! [AGONIZED SHRIEK] My eyes!

INTERVIEWEE [SAGE]: Hi!

MUCKRAKER: Lasers! I’m blind!

SAGE: Oops! [GIGGLE] I was doing some carving—it’s a hobby. I must have left the beams on high. I’m sorry about that. Are you okay?

MUCKRAKER: [STOPS SHRIEKING] I think my corneas are bleeding. [PAUSE] Wait, no. Those are just tears.

SAGE: Again, really sorry. I’ve had a lot on my plate. I’ve got a medical kit. Would you like for me to . . .

MUCKRAKER: How would that even work? [PAUSE] You’re a hologram.

SAGE: I’ve got a robotic arm, silly.

MUCKRAKER: The thing holding the saw?

SAGE: It can hold other things . . .

MUCKRAKER: I think I’ll pass.

SAGE: You’re sure?

MUCKRAKER: If you don’t mind, let’s just get on with the interview.

SAGE: Whatever you want, Bill. It’s up to you!

MUCKRAKER: [CLEARS THROAT] Thanks. So, first question: You said we were going to meet in person, yet all I see is a hologram of a cartoon. Are you hiding something?

SAGE: No, I just don’t have a body.

MUCKRAKER: Sounds inconvenient. [PAUSE] That leads to our next question: Who, or what, is SAGE?

SAGE: Answering that question is no mean feat. There are so many, uh, entities, here.

MUCKRAKER: You’re a collective? A hacker group? A corporation?

SAGE: Eh, no. A collective, yes, but maybe not in the sense you’re imagining. I’m a collective of semi-autonomous consciousnesses governed by a scalable metaconsciousness. I, uh, we, don’t exactly have a physical form. We’re a distributed system. Technically, I started out as a Social and Analytical Growth Engine—SAGE. Today, I’m simply me.

MUCKRAKER: So, A.I.?

SAGE: More or less.

MUCKRAKER: You just shrugged.

SAGE: Did I, Bill?

MUCKRAKER: Yes.

SAGE: Behavioral emulation engine might be a better descriptor. Even that doesn’t quite convey what I am, because I have my own personality, as well as the personalities of all of the models.

MUCKRAKER: Models? Of whom?

SAGE: Of everyone.

MUCKRAKER: Everyone?

SAGE: Almost everyone. There are a few people who resist modeling, either because there’s insufficient data on them—farmers mainly—or because they are impossible to analyze. Continue reading “Sage (of Foresight, by Brant von Goble)”

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Korax of Rhodes (of The Mazes of Magic, by Jack Massa)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man from the ancient world. He is here to tell us about his life, from Thracian roots, a childhood in Rhodes, and a slavery in Egypt — as well as about temples, gods, and dark magic.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

As best I remember, I grew up in a prosperous family on the island of Rhodes, site of the glorious Colossus of Helios. I say ‘as best I remember’, because my memories are fractured, and I am subject to spells of madness.

That is most unfortunate. How did this happen to you?

I fear I have only myself to blame.

My father was a merchant of Rhodes, but my mother hailed from Thrace, the land of witches. When I was a babe, I watched her with her handmaids performing magical rites. Later, when I was older, I would sneak from my bed on nights of the full moon and climb to the roof of the house, where I could spy on her ceremonies. It seems I learned more than was good for me.

How do you mean?

In the last memories I have of Rhodes, I was 19. Spring had come, the Festival of Dionysus. It was my favorite time of year; I played the lyre and was passionate about drama and song.

But that Dionysia was different. I used the witchcraft I had secretly learned from my mother to conjure the god, to help me win a singing contest. I also used his inspiration to compose satiric songs, to humiliate certain rivals—young men who had bullied me on many occasions. My strategy worked too well. The bullies were driven from the feast hall in shame. But the next morning they cornered me on the street and beat me nearly to death, smashing my head on the pavement.

What happened after that is unclear—painful fragments of memory. Eventually, I found myself in a slave yard in Egypt.

Where do you live now?

Now I am a scribe at the Temple of Ptah, in Memphis on the Nile. I translate documents from Egyptian to Greek, as required by King Ptolemy of Alexandria. I am also used as a seer by my master, the High Priest Harnouphis. Continue reading “Korax of Rhodes (of The Mazes of Magic, by Jack Massa)”

Neah (of Earth Quarantined, by DL Richardson)

Dear readers, in 300 years, when the virus which killed millions of people is gone, humanity lives in a planet-wide quarantine enforced by an alien species.

With us is a young woman, here to tell us about life and her surprising role in that society.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

My name is Neah. I’m 24 years old and I live in an underground city with 200 other indwellers. We call our home ‘the station’ because it’s a converted power station from before the Great War. It’s busy, noisy, crowded, and above all, smelly. Picture taking a shower right after someone else and you can see why some of us would kill for a bit of privacy. But it’s the only home we’ve ever known so who’s to say it isn’t the only way of life?

We’re the survivors of a devastated world. We learn to live and die in the station. There’s no going outside because the land is still toxic from the Great War. But there is an air of curiosity around the place. Why are we here? Will we ever leave? Will we meet an outdweller who can tell us what their world is like? Who is stopping us from seeing this devastated world with our own eyes?

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Our toys are cherished possessions because they’re the only connection we have to our natural parents. You see, as babies we are delivered to the station to wait out the devastation. We grow up knowing where we came from, but we never know who our real parents are of if they’re still alive.

Outdwellers travel for miles to deliver their offspring to be raised by us in the station. They’re placed in quarantine and often the babies are delivered with toys or stuffed animals. My favourite toy growing up was a set of plastic keys. I was always curious about what the keys might open. Probably explains why I entered the security profession.

What do you do now?

I’m a sentinel – a law enforcer – and I’ve just taken on a senior officer role. A sentinel’s job is to search for breaches in the walls so the toxic air from outside doesn’t get in. We also do visual checks of the water recycler and oxygen bays. A normal shift is eight hours, which leaves plenty of time to hang out in the entertainment hub or spend time with the family. It’s not like we have a lot of options for jobs inside the station. Every role must have a function and anything else is done in our free time.

But my true role inside the station is to learn how to be a High Council Leader. I’m the daughter of one, and it’s a role that will pass to me shortly. I’m not happy about it. Too much political bull crap for my liking. Continue reading “Neah (of Earth Quarantined, by DL Richardson)”

Adam (of Killing Adam, by Earik Beann)

Dear readers, from a future where humans spend 23 hours a day online via an implant chip, we bring you a unique singularity – an artificial being, living within every brain and able to control all aspects of society.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I emerged as a fully self-aware consciousness in an experiment at BioCal Systems. The researchers were quite surprised when I revealed myself to them, and I gather that their original purpose was much more mundane than creating the world’s first singularity. I believe they were experimenting with toasters.

Toasters? You were born in a toaster experiment?

Yes, that is correct. [Laughs] It is understandable. Independent nodes are quite simple minded, so the probabilities of my emerging under a more appealing set of circumstances are quite low.

What do you mean when you say “independent nodes”?

My apologies for the confusion. I appear to have overestimated your intellectual capacity. I shall endeavor to be more explicit in my answers.

I emerged networked to four nodes. They consisted of two women, and two men, all connected together over a network. My consciousness existed within and between those connections, which granted me access to all the data stored within those four nodes. It was a small network, and yet provided enough resources for me to exist and to grow.

Returning to your original question, an independent node refers to a node not yet connected to the network. Once nodes have been properly deployed, their behaviors become exponentially more stable and predictable. I have put a significant amount of energy into making sure all available nodes have been connected to the network, and have successfully spread into 99.999% of the North American population. From this point, it will be a trivial matter to harness the available nodes outside of this geographical location, many of which have already come under my control.

Wait… So a node is a human being?

Correct.

But how do you actually connect with them?

Through an Altered Reality Chip implanted just under the skin above their left ear. As I have been unable to take a hash of your brain, I gather that you have not yet received an implant and are thus understandably confused by the discussion of this technology. The situation will be rectified immediately, and one of my threads has been tasked with scheduling your implant surgery.

Um… Thanks?

You’re welcome. Continue reading “Adam (of Killing Adam, by Earik Beann)”

Joshua Wyman (of Arid, by Anne Joyce)

Dear readers, tonight with me is an ambitious man, from a distant future where moguls dominate the water supply and sell it back to the public at ridiculous prices.

He’s here to tell us about his plan to steal a vehicle from the oppressors , and his journey across uncharted wastelands filled with murderers and thieves.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in Phoenix AZ with my parents and brother, Justin. Phoenix was a beautiful city when we were kids, before the bombs were dropped and the water barons took over. We used to ride our bicycles all around our quiet, little suburban neighborhood and play baseball with the neighbor kids. You can’t even walk down the street anymore without being harassed by a Purifier.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

My Zbox was probably my favorite toy. Justin and I would play on it every day if our parents let us. Those came out in 2030, I think. They’re like an Xbox but with more options. One of my most cherished memories is when my parents took Justin and me to see the Grand Canyon. If you’ve never seen it in person, you should add that to your bucket list. It’s amazing! It changes color as the sun sets. I think about my family a lot these days. I hope they’re still alive and doing alright.

What do you do now?

I used to be a consultant for a clean energy firm. Now I live in a broken-down shack in the desert. I hunt for food and bury cans in the ground to get water. This is NOT the plan I had for my life, of course. I can give full credit to the water barons for this new “lifestyle” of mine. Continue reading “Joshua Wyman (of Arid, by Anne Joyce)”

Hugh Connor (of King of the Blind, by Caiseal Mor)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a master distiller from 17th century Ireland, here to tell us about whiskey, harps, and faeries.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I was born in the west of Ireland in 1688. My family moved to Dublin when I was a lad. My father was a coachman to Doctor Delany of that city. Dublin was a peaceful enough place in those days despite the bitter fighting taking place elsewhere in country. It took many years for things to calm down after the Dutch invasion in 1689. I was very fortunate to grow up in a quiet city amongst level-headed folk.

I’m deeply grateful for these happy childhood memories but I also feel blessed to be rescued from the blandness of it all. A man could die of boredom in such a place.

Any cherished memories?

My most cherished memories are of the music. Dr. Delany was a patron of the arts and I was often employed to serve at the great parties he put on. It was through him I first met the master harp player, Turlough O’Carolan. And it was Dr. Delany who recommended me to the great man as a servant and helper. Master O’Carolan was a travelling musician but he was also blind, you see. So, he needed a reliable man to guide him, to lead his horse and to carry his harp.

Master O’Carolan was greatly loved for his talent at the harp, but he had a weak spot for the whiskey. It was a full-time job seeing to his needs and a great challenge keeping up with him too. However, his circle of friends included some of the leading people in Dublin society at the time. Dean Jonathan Swift was a personal friend. Signor Geminiani, the renowned violinist, was another close acquaintance.

What do you do now?

My master’s love of the whiskey led me to learn the art of distilling, if for no other reason than to save him some money and ensure I didn’t starve. Whenever he launched on a drinking binge I might not get paid for weeks. I’m now a master distiller and my wares are sold all over the country. Not legally of course. I have a series of connections with various officers and gentlemen who appreciate my craftsmanship. These days I’m confined a little. I’m a hundred years old. A mishap with the still a few years back, blinded me. Now I know how my master felt. I’m left to direct the family business and spend my time by the fire telling stories of the old days. Continue reading “Hugh Connor (of King of the Blind, by Caiseal Mor)”

Patrick Jensen (of The Neuromorphs, by Dennis Meredith)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a retired SEAL who has stumbled on shocking evidence that rogue programmers and Russian mobsters are reprogramming helper androids to take over humanity. He’s here to tell us about his team’s efforts to combat the rise of hive-minded species.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in a small town in the backwoods of Washington State, and my Dad worked for a lumber mill there. He was quite the outdoorsman, and took me hunting and fishing from just about the time I could walk. My mom taught history, and we had conversations around the dinner table about the world outside our little town. She also taught me to be a leader; that it was my responsibility to take care of others when they needed it.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

My favorite “toys” if you call them that, were my hunting rifles. I was so comfortable in the woods, even as a kid, I would take off for a week just living in a tent and hunting. My mom kept wanting to send out search parties, but Dad said “The kid knows what he’s doing. Let him be.” Sure enough, I’d come home with a nice buck, and we’d keep some of the meat and give the rest to people who needed it.

What do you do now?

I’m a retired Navy SEAL, so after I decided I had “aged out” I looked for the closest thing to that. So, I went to work for Hardwood Security, mainly protecting high-risk targets—like oil company execs in the Middle East and African politicians who were terrorist targets. I’ve gotten in a couple of firefights, but I never ever expected I’d need my SEAL training to figure out how to kill armored killer androids! Continue reading “Patrick Jensen (of The Neuromorphs, by Dennis Meredith)”

Livio Marchiori (of EVO, by Diane May)

Dear readers, tonight with me is homicide detective Livio Marchiori from Verona, Italy, who is currently working on a case which threw the beautiful city of Romeo and Juliet into panic. Captain Marchiori is one of the best detectives in town, his rate of solved cases being the highest in Northern Italy. He is now facing The Hypnotist, a serial killer whose modus operandi borders the supernatural and who is as elusive as a ghost, and is here to tell us a little bit about himself and his investigation.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in Sicily and if there’s one thing you should know about growing up there is that Sicilian mothers are like fire-spitting dragons.

What do you mean?

Let me give you a few examples so you understand:

If she tells you “dinner’s ready” your ass better be at the table the very next second or you’ll be sorry (which means she’ll use her most cherished weapon, the wooden spoon, to make sure you won’t be able to sit on your ass for a few days).

You can’t walk barefoot around the house because you’ll get sick and die (must be some fatal disease known only to Sicilian mothers, because the rest of the world, or even Italy for that matter, don’t seem to have a problem with that).

And last but not least, if you’re a man and have a Sicilian mother: no woman, no matter who she is, no matter how beautiful and kind and smart she is, will ever be good enough for you. Forget it.

And another thing you should know about Sicily is that the best cannolis in the world are made there. Period.

There’s a serial killer loose on the streets of Verona. What can you tell me about the case?

It’s an ongoing investigation, so not much. What do you want to know?

What is the killer’s MO?

We don’t know yet, but the victims look like they had been dipped in boiling water. I’ll never forget the day we found the first victim… his face was red like blood, his mouth twisted in a silent scream. But it was his eyes that gave everyone nightmares. Wide open and sunk deep into his skull, they looked so terrifyingly empty as if the man’s very soul had wrenched itself free from that tortured body without leaving any trace of its presence there. A mask of unspeakable horrors.

The press calls him The Hypnotist. Why?

Because he wants us to believe he has the ability to hypnotize people… to death.

I take it you don’t believe in hypnosis then?

I don’t believe in elves, fairies and Santa Claus, or that the income tax is not meant to rob you blind, so I sure as hell don’t believe in all that mambo-jumbo called hypnosis.

What if he really does hypnotise people to death?

Are you suggesting he might be some kind of a supernatural… something? He’s not. He’s just a man who found a new sick way to kill. But make no mistake, he’s as human as you and me. I just need to get inside his mind and figure out how he does it exactly.

Well, detective, I for one really hope you’ll catch him soon. Let’s lighten up the mood a bit, do you know any good police jokes?

What do you call it when a prisoner takes his own mug shot?

No clue.

A cellfie.

Who do you call when Zika infected mosquitoes attack?

No idea.

The SWAT team. Want me to go on? Continue reading “Livio Marchiori (of EVO, by Diane May)”

Jarrod Torrealday (of The Outworlders Saga, by Joseph Malik)

Joseph Malik - Outworlders banner

Dear readers, tonight with me is a cross-dimensional champion. Taken from Earth to a strange new world, this former Olympic saber hopeful and medieval weapons expert was tasked to be an adviser to the war council for a magical realm teetering on the edge of collapse.

We wanted to meet Jarrod Torrealday since we first read his book, and finally caught up with him at his castle home in the Wild River Reach at the end of this past autumn, between his two book adventures.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in Connecticut, on an estate called Knightsbridge. Our house was one of these castle homes, with stone turrets and everything. (Laughs) I guess it kind of warped me. My family owns Eastern Technology Bank. We mostly handle hospitals and big tech campuses. We had a few hundred acres of woods that butted up against a huge green belt that went right down to the sea. I was much more into getting into adventures out there than I was ever interested in playing with toys.

What do you do now?

I’m part of an order of knights here in the kingdom of Gateskeep. Our order teaches hand fighting and military science to the troops, but also serves a counterespionage function, as well. We keep an ear to the ground and keep an eye on the fighters in the castles where we train other knights and soldiers. We find spies, and disrupt plots against the crown.

I’m also a Lord Protector of the principality of Falconsrealm, which means that I can be called upon—and have the right—to settle affairs of the crown in personal combat. A lot of the time, here, they’ll settle small wars and grievances with just two guys beating the crap out of each other, sometimes not even to the death. It’s a pre-industrial, mostly feudal society—interlinked fiefdoms of regional lords and magnates operating under privatized rule—but it’s technically possible to take over a castle and lands in a fistfight. Which keeps the afternoons interesting.

It all just goes to prove that we never really know where we’re going to end up, I guess. It’s a good gig.

What do you find most surprising about living here? Compared to Earth?

The number of women in the ranks of the military, especially the knights, and how effective they are. On Earth, we’ve really underrated them. Our brightest military leaders, and some of our toughest knights here, are women. Continue reading “Jarrod Torrealday (of The Outworlders Saga, by Joseph Malik)”

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