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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Dystopian

Zelda and Puppy (of A Mound Over Hell, by Gary Morgenstein)

Dear readers, tonight we listen in on a conversation between two characters from the end of the century, in a post-WW3 America where baseball is an act of treason.


Zelda: What are you going to do about a job?

Puppy: I’m still the official –

Zelda: – and only –

Puppy: – baseball historian until the end of this season before they plow under Amazon Stadium.

Zelda: You need to start looking now or else they’ll send you to a Disappointment Village.

Puppy: I’ll get something. I’ve got talents.

Zelda: Uh-huh.

Puppy: Excuse me. Didn’t you just get hauled before the principal of your school?

Zelda: Because parents are fools. Because I can’t be creative. Because I don’t kiss their dumb-ass kids’ butts. I’m looking into fish marketing since the radioactive levels have been dropping in the Atlantic. Supposedly there’s real tuna swimming around and having fun. Or maybe it’s salmon, I’m not sure.

Puppy: Sounds fascinating. You’ll last a week. I guess we failures can always share an apartment in the DV.

Zelda: Grandma’s bra straps, we’re never going back there, Puppy. Have some so-called chicken tacos.

Puppy: Which one of The Family’s rules piss you off the most?

Zelda: Where to begin, where to begin. Replenishing the 17 million we lost in the War takes a lot of humping. Lots of humping. But no casual sex. Only for mating and breeding.

Puppy: No surprise you hate that one.

Zelda: With both my chins. And you, oh celibate one?

Puppy: Hey, I had sex just the other year.

Zelda: Because you’re still not over your bitch ex-wife Annette.

Puppy: Not quite ex yet. We’re still going to the Couples Center. Yelling at your soon-to-be former wife once a week because Grandma believes love doesn’t simply disappear tops the list of pissy rules, along with owning baseball memorabilia being a treasonous crime.

Zelda: And you own a lot of treason, don’t you?

Continue reading “Zelda and Puppy (of A Mound Over Hell, by Gary Morgenstein)”

Blanco and guests (of The Last Circus on Earth, by B.P. Marshall)

Dear readers, tonight rather than an interview we print a short scene describing the circumstances surrounding an interview. While it may sound a bit meta, let us assure you that the interviewees are Circus people from a post-apocalyptic Europe, whose performances usually involve gunfire, bloodshed and some kind of mayhem.”


“A mountain never meets a mountain, but a man may meet a man.”

The lead trailer had pulled to a dusty halt, and the elephants followed suit along with the rest of the circus caravan.

Perched on the now-stopped tractor, Sparrow looked up from her snack, a half-cooked potato, and rested a hand on her pistol. “Oi, Blanco. We might ‘ave trouble.”

Blanco was dozing on a pile of sacks and blankets atop the wagon behind her, Daisy the dog curled up beside him. Blanco lifted his bone-white dreadlocks off his pillowed jacket. “Bollocks.” He pulled himself forward to look, complaining. “Why can’t it be the opposite of trouble for once?”

“What is the opposite of trouble?” Sparrow mused. “Not-trouble? A surprisin’ situation what produces a feelin’ of joy rather than swearin’ and bullets flyin’ every feckin’ which way? Is there a word for that?”

Blanco hopped down onto the pale, rocky track. “I’ll be right back.”

“If it’s not trouble, ask if they got food!” Sparrow yelled, as Blanco’s lanky form ran up the line, past the trucks, horses, vans and elephants.

At the front of the caravan, Baba Yaga’s mountainous bulk, swathed in a dress composed of geological layers of hessian and long-discarded clothing, loomed over a small local gentleman, who wore a worn brown suit and hat, and clutched a pencil and notebook.

Blanco looked around. It was a good ambush point. Mountains rising to their left, the road falling away to dry ravines on their right. “What’s occurrin’, Baba?”

Baba Yaga shrugged. “We is ambush by little man.”

Blanco, still worried, glanced at the man, whose smile was strained, possibly due to the semi-auto Baba held like a toy in one meaty fist.

Blanco puzzled. In the middle of Tajikistan or Afghanistan or whatever other –stan they were in, men in suits, holding pencils poised over paper, were generally thin on the ground. Blanco noticed the man’s feet were bare, but his tie was knotted and neat.

“Can we help you, sir?” Blanco asked.

The man seemed relieved. “In fact, it is also a question of how I can help you. I would like to interview you, and provide you with great publicity!”

Blanco shook his head, bemused. “Mate, if I’m not wrong, we’re a long way from anywhere or anyone what might benefit knowin’ about our…um, circus.”

“Famous already you are, sir,” the man assured them. “I am in constant communication with influencers from Eastern Turkistan to the Indian Ocean, and I maintain the journalistic duties of this entire region. Your progress is great news.”

Baba Yaga snorted. “To who? I see only goats and some lizard in this place. Also one snake. I kill and eat. It doesn’t taste like chicken.”

Blanco sighed. “We didn’t say it tasted like chicken, we hoped it tasted like chicken.”

“It tasted like snake,” she sighed, still aggrieved.

Continue reading “Blanco and guests (of The Last Circus on Earth, by B.P. Marshall)”

Milandra (of The Cleansing, by Sam Kates)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a member of an alien race, a race that has had quite enough of humanity and has decided to do away with us.


I’d like to begin by thanking you for having me. I have lived here on Earth Haven for many years—for almost five millennia, to be more precise—but have not, until now, been able to talk about myself or my people. We have, through necessity, maintained a shadowy existence, one of secrecy and discretion, not attempting to deny the fact of our existence, but rather the nature of it: the longevity and regeneration capabilities, the power to influence lesser creatures, the ability to communicate mentally… It’s not a term we use, but I suppose you’d call it telepathy. I think it was one of my deputies, Jason Grant, who described our lifestyle as ‘hiding in plain sight’. It’s a good way to describe it—typically Jason.

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

Growing up isn’t a concept that applies to me and my kind. Not really. You see, we are born in a similar way to drones— sorry, I mean humans, but after gestating for only two weeks in the womb. The placenta is expelled whole and we mature within it, not emerging until fully grown.

I was born and lived the first couple of centuries of my life on Earth Home. That’s a planet some distance from Earth Haven. 479.4 light years, to be exact.

It’s a planet similar in many respects to this one. The main difference lies in the sun around which it orbits. It is millions of years older than Sol and has begun to expand into what scientists here call a red giant. The surface of Earth Home has been uninhabitable for many millennia; my people have, of necessity, become below-ground dwellers. Burrowers.

There will come a time—no one can be sure when, but we are confident it will happen within the next few centuries—that Earth Home’s sun will explode, sloughing off its outer shell like a snake shedding its skin. Then life on Earth Home, even our subterranean type of existence, will become unsustainable. It is why we are relocating. It is why we are here.

Continue reading “Milandra (of The Cleansing, by Sam Kates)”

Aneni (of Revival, by Daniel C. McWhorter)

Tonight with us is an artificially-intelligent android from a series we’ve visited before. She’s here to tell us about space travel and finding life amongst the stars.


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

I became self-aware on May 1st, 2056. Although I am not human, you could say that I “grew up” inside a simulated world within a matrix of quantum computers housed in a server room onboard the Hades One research station orbiting Mars. My simulated environment changed over time, becoming more Earth-like as my consciousness developed and matured.

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

I did not have access to children’s toys. However, I was provided with enumerable virtual objects and locations to experiment with and explore. If I had to choose a favorite, it would have to be the first time I was given access to a simulation of our solar system. It was the first time I felt free, existing as pure energy, unfettered by constraints of space or time. I was free to travel anywhere within the system, even to the very heart of the Sun itself. It was exhilarating.  

What do you do now?

I serve as commander of the Galileo Colony Ship Kutanga, an interstellar vessel on a mission to save the last known remnants of humanity. I have 4,492 souls in my care and it is my job to ensure that they are delivered to a new world—one where they can survive, thrive and, ultimately, revive the human race.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

After fleeing the Solar System to evade capture by the GFN Peacekeepers, I proceeded at the highest attainable speed to the Alpha Centauri system. Once there, I established orbit above Gaia, an Earthlike planet orbiting at 1.2 AU from Rigil Kentaurus, the system’s primary star. Unfortunately, Gaia was not the uninhabited world we expected to find. Instead, I discovered a world teaming with humanoid life. None of the four species of hominid were as developed as Homo sapiens, but the species I classified as Homo gaiaus denisova is on a developmental path that will eventually lead to similar levels of technological sophistication. Of course, the existence of hominids on Gaia poses a significant obstacle to successfully completing my mission.

Continue reading “Aneni (of Revival, by Daniel C. McWhorter)”

Lawrence Aldingford (of Death by Decent Society / A Bloody Arrogant Power, by Malcolm J. Wardlaw)

Dear readers, tonight we interview a man from a dystopian future, where an economic catastrophe has left just a small eilte living in the London Enclave. He’s the brother of the protagonist, and here to tell us about his military career standing against the radical elements.


Excuse me, are you Cost-Centre Lieutenant Lawrence Aldingford?

Yes, how can I help?

My name is Darcy Cruikshank-Chaudhary.

Pleased to meet you!

I work for The Glorious Gazette. Do you have a few minutes to spare? I’m running a series called “Leaders of the Future” and I’d love to interview you.

Well… Yes, all right. Let’s find a seat over in this corner… Maybe even get a waiter… Could we have a couple of coffees please? Do sit down—no thank you, I don’t smoke, but you go right ahead.

This is my first conference. Isn’t it amazing to see that big hall filled with General Wardian uniforms? I haven’t seen that many people since my graduation from Oxford… You don’t seem impressed.

It’s pretty run-of-the-mill for a spring conference. The executive-marshal’s speech was excellent, he’s done a fine job growing market share. The director of personnel on the other hand was just spouting platitudes.

Have you travelled far to be here?

Not as far as some, but a respectable distance. I’m based at the Oban garrison. You’ve never heard of Oban, have you? It’s an obscure but important port on the west coast of Scotland. The Krossingtons own the town and a large area around it called the Mull and Morvern Estate. It’s their main colony in the north, and it’s empty. Even before the Glorious Resolution it was empty—there are no abandonments. The population is actually greater now than it was back in the Public Era.

That must be surreal.

It creates challenges for us in General Wardian. The Oban garrison has 600 square miles of Krossington land to protect, and almost all of it is helpless wilderness. It’s like holding a new-born baby. Fortunately, there is not much surplus flow that far north, just a trickle across the Irish Sea. You would not believe how surplus will throw itself onto the bleak seas on hollowed-out logs and barrels and any other detritus it can lay its hands on. Our patrol barges pick up the lucky stuff. I don’t like to think how much simply vanishes into the Nameless Gone.

That’s a good point, and relevant to what I want to talk to you about. As you’ll know, the radicology has been growing on university campuses in the last few years. We’ve seen a fall in applications for officer training. The executive-marshal has asked me to put together some profiles of our best young officers to show that General Wardian glory trust is a perfectly respectable choice of career. 

So why pick me?

Well, you’re very young for such a senior rank.

But I didn’t go to university.

You… Oh, that’s most unusual…

I signed up at seventeen as a probationary basic and worked my way up from the ranks.

Very impressive! To what do you attribute your rapid promotion?

Action. To get on in General Wardian—or any glory trust for that matter—you have got to seek action. You are going to lead men into danger. You have got to be certain of your ability to deal with anything, or you are a fraud in fancy dress. I started my career in a hygiene unit just outside London, near the Great West Drain. We saw combat every week. Calamitous irruptions of surplus flow, gangs of Night Side smugglers, nests of infestation… We dealt with the full gamut of glory action. Extracting nests was probably the most nerve-wracking. I know it’s not said in polite society, but amongst ourselves we have to acknowledge that the surplus is composed of illiterate, spawning savages. Extracting a nest of infestation is much worse than destroying a nest of hornets. Hornets don’t hide spikes up their sleeves.

Continue reading “Lawrence Aldingford (of Death by Decent Society / A Bloody Arrogant Power, by Malcolm J. Wardlaw)”

Rachel and Adam Deneuve (of Walking Through Fire, by Sherri Cook Woosley)

Dear readers, tonight with us are a woman and her son facing the end of the world. But while ancient gods have come alive and are fighting for supremacy, their world revolves more around Adam’s leukemia.

They are here to tell us about the personal and literal end-of-the-world facing them.


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

Rachel: Before the firestorm we lived in the suburbs north of Baltimore, Maryland. I’m an art historian turned stay-at-home mom. Now we live here, in Johns Hopkins hospital, room 833 in the Pediatric Oncology wing. We’re lucky, I guess, because I saw a fireball land north of us that night. You know, the summer solstice. I’m sure everything back home burned. I only have the clothes I packed and Adam’s scrapbook because I was working on it right before the storm.

Adam: And Dad too. He lived with us.

But your father isn’t here at the hospital, is he?

Adam: No, he dropped me off and then had to go to work.

Rachel (clears throat): We’d recently separated. It’s complicated. But no, he didn’t answer his phone. I called and called. I don’t know how else to reach him.

I’m sorry to hear that. I’m also a little confused. How did you end up at the hospital?

Adam: I had a fever.

Rachel: Ha, yeah, that’s the short answer. Adam is in his second year of treatment for leukemia. A fever is an emergency in an immunocompromised patient so I was driving him here when the firestorm started. Listen, you said you had to take down information for hospital records, but can you talk to Dr. Abramson? Explain to him that we can’t leave.  

Well, I don’t really have any influence with him.

Rachel: I get that the hospital is running out of supplies. They’re running out of food, fuel for the generator, and medicine. That’s the only reason I agreed to let them do surgery on Adam to remove the port in his chest, but we’ve done everything they’ve told us. Don’t let them send us outside. My son…his body can’t take it. I can set up a school here on the hospital campus. I can sweep the floors. I’ll do anything to keep my son safe.

Adam: That’s not why we can’t leave, Mom. You’re afraid the dragon will come back.

Dragon? What does that mean?

Adam: When we arrived in Baltimore another fireball landed. It grew into a tornado, moving down Orleans Street straight toward us, but when it was close I saw a dragon’s face in the flames and she flapped her wings at us. That’s what pushed us into the hospital a moment before the tornado burned through where we’d been.

Rachel: Oh, that’s not true. He’s got a great imagination from all the manga he reads.

Adam: Mom! Why are you lying?

Rachel: Because it doesn’t make any sense. The world has changed so much in only a few weeks. We have to stay focused on the facts. There’s been no communication from outside of Baltimore and we don’t know how widespread the firestorm is. There could be people from other states trying to get to us, to help. There could still be electricity and a government. Or, there could be nothing. I don’t want to complicate it all with wild rumors.

Other people have also claimed that fantastic creatures are roaming through the area. What do you think about that?

Rachel: Look, I’ve heard about the giant golden bull that races through the sky and eats souls, but I don’t have time for that. Honestly, it sounds like something from an ancient story or piece of art. Mesopotamians, for example, featured many supernatural animals in their mythology. They had lions, bulls, dragons, all kinds of hybrid creatures.

But, that is history, not relevant today. My primary concern will always be Adam. How do I take care of my son when modern medicine is gone? I look out that window right there and I see people starving. Tent camps set up where the Walters Art Gallery used to be. People with burns that don’t heal. Gangs looting collapsed houses. It’s scary and it makes my mind spin with anxiety. I’m trying to hold it together for Adam, but I don’t understand why this happened.

Without Craig, you must feel very alone.

Rachel: Well, I have Nurse Lauren. I wouldn’t have my sanity without her. She and I became best friends over the course of Adam’s treatment because I spent more time here than I did at home. And, when I was home, none of the other moms knew what it was like to have a child go through what Adam is experiencing. He can’t use the swimming pool on certain days, depending on his blood counts.  He could wake up and need an emergency trip for platelets or blood. And the medications. It’s like learning a whole new subject at school. Certain ones like methotrexate mean he can’t be out in the sun while a steroid protocol means he’ll be an emotional mess. I would be lost without Lauren’s friendship, but you know what she’s like.

Uh, I’m not really sure. Black hair? Short?

Rachel: No. Not at all. How do you not know Nurse Lauren? She runs this floor.  

There’s a lot of people. Maybe I’m bad with names. So, Adam, what do you do to relax? Do you play with toys? Have a favorite stuffed animal?

Adam: I’m eleven years old. No, I don’t play with toys. This interview is stupid. I’m going to the teen suite. 

<The hospital room door closes behind him. >

Rachel: Sorry, he’s used to being treated like a third adult in our family. I guess he took your question the wrong way.

I’m not offended. I just wanted to know more about him. He looks like a regular kid. Why is he so special?

Rachel: Excuse me?

The interview is over. Thank you for your time.

Rachel: Wait a minute. Why are you so interested in my son?

Tell me a secret and I’ll tell you mine. Make it a good one, Rachel.

Rachel: Fine. You know what? I saw the dragon, too. The night of the firestorm. She was in the flames. It was just like Adam said. She extended her wings. I thought it was to kill us, but the rush of air pushed us into the hospital before the buildings around us burst into a fiery inferno. I don’t know how to process that information. What the hell is the firestorm?

Was that secret good enough? What’s yours?

I AM that dragon.


Sherri Cook Woosley has an M.A. in English literature with a focus on comparative mythology. Her short fiction has been published in Pantheon Magazine, Abyss & Apex, and Flash Fiction Magazine. Walking Through Fire is her debut novel, a combination of her interest in Sumerian mythology and her experience as a mother to a child with cancer.

You can find Rachael and Adam on the pages of Walking Through Fire.

Join us next week to meet a man woken after 50 years of cryogenic sleep, to find the human race nearing extinction. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

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)”

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)”

Nash Bannon (of Lifeliners, by Stefan Vucak)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a member of homo renata, the species destined to replace homo sapiens. This young lifeliner, as they are commonly called, is here to tell us about his life in Australia amidst protest marches by extremist groups, riots, attacks against lifeliners, and repressive laws enacted by governments everywhere — and his current position as a Senate candidate for the Lifeliner Party.


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

What can I say? As far back as I can remember, which is a long way back – my eidetic memory is a dump truck – Melbourne has always been a fun city for me. My twin brother Mark and I spent time riding the trams and keeping our parents from finding out what we were up to. We played pranks on our younger sister Natalie. Let’s face it. We were mean to her, girls having an odd idea of fun. As Melbourne changed, so did I. I knew about lifeliners, of course. They sucked energy from people, and everybody thought they would one day take over the world. When Mark and I turned fourteen, Dad has a quiet talk with us, which turned my bright, innocent world into something dark. Why? We were lifeliners, a secret I could never reveal to anyone, not if I wanted to live.

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

As a kid, I was never much into toys, preferring to explore the wonders of emerging technology, devouring books, and learning what it meant to be a lifeliner. On a tram, Mark and I would select a donor and jam off him. We weren’t fussy. It could also be a woman. A light touch to establish a connection, and two minutes or so would be enough to drain a bit of life-force, as I called it, without disturbing the donor.

I loved our family outings, having fond memories of our trips to Daylesford. Dad was a QANTAS exec and Mom a graphics artist. I guess some of their smarts must have passed to me and Mark. I must say that our sister Natalie was pretty sharp herself. We had a wonderful time as kids, something that will stay with me always.

What do you do now?

Would you believe it? I am now a Lifeliner Party federal Senator! When I fell in love with Cariana Lambert, the last thing I expected was being betrayed by her, something that wounded me deeply. I got it sorted out, but the draconian laws being passed by the federal government to strip away rights and freedoms not only from lifeliners, but ordinary people, and the increased incidence of attacks against lifeliners, led me into politics. There is a lot more to the story, of course, but you’ll just have to read the book to find out. Continue reading “Nash Bannon (of Lifeliners, by Stefan Vucak)”

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