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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Sci-Fi

Tardi Mack (of Doomed?, by Rita de Heer)

Dear readers, tonight we have a truck-driver from 22nd century Australia, who in a freak surfing accident got infected with a sentient alien substance. We caught him talking to Trucker & Jockey magazine, describing life post-infection while trying to avoid a rather persistent ex-girlfriend.


Tardi: You’re from the Trucker & Jockey magazine? Well met! I was a trucker once, with TLC, a family company. My dad and brother ran the workshop, and I drove our old Mack and jockeyed our live-mind freighter. Hope you’re recording all this? I also surfed for Virtual Surfing. Check me out on their website, they still have me in the sensor-suit surfing the actual waves and voice-overing the rides. My pay from them allowed me to rent in Watego’s Wall on Byron Cape, still a hot-shot tourist destination. Yes, formerly Byron Bay.

Me in the past? Oh, my name. My parents intended to register me as ‘Trader.’ The old man can’t spell and neither can I. Learning to write my name, I transformed it into ‘Tardi.’ They did an about-face on names when my brother Steve was born five years later. But Steve. Oh man. My brother and my burden. He drowned and I couldn’t save him. And Herm wouldn’t let him go. Don’t ask me more about Steve, mate. I’ll be tearing-up for the rest of the day. The landscape? Look outside. Boat-ways instead of streets. Major roads on stilts. Get up on one of them and in the distance you’ll see Wollumbin, a world-famous volcanic plug. Nearer at hand is the pimple called Chincogan. The Koonyum Ranges hunker at the back of the valley. And there are the trees, more than ever.

My kid-sized surfboard was absolutely my favourite thing when I was a kid. My dad taught me the basics. And there’s my cherished memory, him waist deep in the sea, pushing me off. Fishing me out when I fell. He’d plonk me back up on the board half-drowned, and push me off again. Remembering him then—like that—makes me feel warm in my heart, you know? You’re asking what I do now? Good question that I don’t know the answer to. On we go to one of my latest adventures.

Rowan: “Mph. You? Adventuring? I wish.”

Tardi: “Rowan, for Pete’s sake. Give it a rest. We broke up months ago. Hey Cy, good to see you’re still in charge.”

Cy, publican: “Seeing as we’re all holed up together in the Gondola, one of the premier eating and drinking places in town, we might as well wet our whistles. Ale for you, Tardi my man?”

Tardi: “Thanks be to you, Cy. Adventuring is thirsty work.”

Ben: “What’s with serving the Tree-man first? We should shoot him and all the rest like him.”

Cy: “Nothing for you until you put the gun down, son. (Grrr-grrrr-grrrr) And drat it, boy. You’re aggravating Tardi’s dog. Easy. Easy. Be a good dog and I’ll find you a bone.”

Tardi: “He’s not mine. He decided to come along. I call him Argie.”

Trucker & Jockey: “A cyborg dog?”

Tardi: “He’ll have had alien input, I suspect, because of that silvering. Argie and I were up on the ranges yesterday. As we came up to the Loreno Picnic place, we heard an almighty stoush of barking and growling, a woman shouting, and a little kid wailing. I dropped my pack and grabbed up a knobby tree-branch, ran into the fray, Argie beside me. The animals were the baskervilles, six of the critters. The woman and child were Del and Lilly Loreno. Del had held them off, but was tiring. Six of the critters. Argie and I turned up in the nick of time to help Del see them off. Seeing his product worse for wear, their damned inventor will hopefully keep better control. Those dogs are the cyborgs. Argie is flesh and blood.”

Continue reading “Tardi Mack (of Doomed?, by Rita de Heer)”

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)”

Ishali (of Mara’s Awakening, by Leo Flynn)

Dear reader, tonight with us is a prisoner from the far future, one who claims his imprisonment is for good deeds.


It’s very unusual for a person so young to be in such a high-security prison. What did you do?

Never one to be subtle, are you? I suppose all interviewers always cut to the chase. There was a famine crisis in the neutral world of Livina, and the Council refused to give aid, despite it being in their constitution to always offer such help.

We decided to teach them a lesson. So we hijacked their cargo ship carrying supplies to the latest ball for the dignitaries and sent them to Livina instead.

The people got their food, but I was careless and ended up arrested. With the mounting charges to my name, I was thrown in jail for misconduct, hijacking, and thievery.

You’ve been in trouble with the Council before?

Many times, I’m afraid. I would have thought my actions would be enough to change their minds, but alas, they remain as stubborn as ever.

What brought you into the world of crime?

Crime? I would hardly say the things I do are criminal. I admit some of my methods are more… erring on the grey area of the law, but they function well. I only have one purpose, which is to help end the suffering of the innocent in any way I can.

What inspired you to help others?

My home planet, Anguini, is a neutral world. So I suppose I am fortunate I grew up on a planet with relatively unbiased approaches to the galactic political proceedings. Some years ago, before I was born, our planet was ripped apart by civil war.

The High Council stepped in and sent their most elite peacekeeping forces, the Star Corps, to settle the matter. After a few years of a bitter struggle, they finally did, and they helped us recover and flourish as a planet.

I very clearly remember one Star Corps member, then retired, came to our school to talk about the conflict. It was difficult for her to talk about, but she did regardless. I couldn’t help but admire her.

I asked her why she’d risked her life for people she didn’t even know. She said, “The Star Corps is about helping everyone, in any way we can, because it’s the right thing to do, and it makes the galaxy a better place.”

Their selfless assistance for my people inspired me to do the same.

Continue reading “Ishali (of Mara’s Awakening, by Leo Flynn)”

Beryl (of Viridia, by Tim Frankovich)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man leading a revolution. He’s here to talk about cybernetic implants and fighting immortal dragons.


Beryl? Can you hear me, Beryl?

What? Ow. Where am I? The last thing I remember was being on a train. I used my implant, and… I don’t remember. Ow. My head.

It’s all right. The confusion will pass. It’s normal in these situations.

I don’t know normal. And what is this situation?  Who are you?

Just the one asking the questions. You want to answer my questions, don’t you?

I… for some reason, I do. That’s weird. Will you answer my questions?

Not really. Tell us a little about the city of Viridia. What is it like there?

I hate it. I’ve hated it all my life. No one’s really happy here. The green dragon rules over everything. His soldiers and draconics impose his will. If you’re not useful to him, you’re dead. I know that better than most.

Sounds like you really hate the dragon.

Of course I do! I want to kill him. And the other five dragons. They’ve ruled over the cities for too long.

Do you have any cherished memories from childhood? Surely something must have been worthwhile in your early life.

I… don’t like to talk about my childhood. My parents. I didn’t have a good relationship with them after… No, I’m not talking about that. You can’t make me. And they’re dead now, anyway.

Dead? What happened?

An accident. The same one that crippled me. I wouldn’t be able to even walk now if my friend Loden hadn’t given me a cybernetic implant to control my legs.

Interesting. Does this implant do anything else?

I can use it to give extra boosts of energy to my legs. Run faster, jump higher. Wait. Why am I telling you this? It’s forbidden technology!

Continue reading “Beryl (of Viridia, by Tim Frankovich)”

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)”

Mayor Jack (of Buku, by Jennifer Anderson)

Dear readers, tonight with us is the antagonist from a dystopian adventure. He’s here to give us a different perspective on his world and the protagonists.


Tell us a little about you and your family.

My name is Mayor Jack Oldham. You can just call me Mayor, if you wish, because that’s who I am to the people of Camp Five and that’s who I will forever be. This is my village. My domain.
Now, it’s true I was born Brantley Oldham. Can you believe that? Brantley? My oldest brother was Robert the Third. Everyone called him Bobby and slapped him on the back. Our other brother was Richard. Folks called him Richie and shook his hand. I was Brantley. Just Brantley. So when the world collapsed and Bobby and Richie lay crushed under the rubble, I climbed out and decided to be Jack. And I slapped people on the back and shook their hands until they thought I was the smilin’ Texan my brothers always pretended to be. Brantley died with Bobby and Richie. I am Mayor Jack now. And I am in charge here.

Do you have any cherished memories from your childhood?

I remember my father in the boardroom. He could encourage someone to speak just by giving them a smile. And he could make them shut up with his silence. They knew. They knew when he looked at them that they’d better sit down and be quiet now. I learned from my father. Who he was when he smiled, and who he was when he made people shut up. He was fierce. Brutal. A leader of fearful men.

How did you come to be Mayor of Camp Five?

Mayor. (scoffs) I made myself Mayor because I thought they might balk at King. (chuckle) But make no mistake, that’s what I am. I have no intention of giving up my title. Or ever letting anyone else lay hold of it.  Others – namely Iris’ grandfather Ralph – they thought Camp Five should be a democracy. They thought they could have a council and let people rule themselves. But the world as we knew it has ended. We cling to the top of a mountain so the buku don’t eat us. We can’t feed everybody. We can’t keep everybody safe. These people need someone who isn’t afraid to do what needs to be done, to sacrifice who needs to be sacrificed.

Continue reading “Mayor Jack (of Buku, by Jennifer Anderson)”

Sunita Kumar (of Murder Planet, by Adam Carpenter)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a security officer from a merchant spaceship. She is here to tell us about rebels, inhospitable planets, murder teddies, and tyrannical governments.


Good morning Mrs Kumar, so, let’s start with an easy one. Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up on a space station orbiting the planet Kilkenny in the Union of Irish Stars, part of a family of Spacers. Being part of a nomadic people meant that there was a lot of travelling in my youth, although pretty much all within the Hyades Sector. Stations are safe and predictable in some regards, but boring in others. It’s always 20 or so degrees Celsius and dry…

Did you have any favourite toys as a child?

Yes, I had a lovely playset of the Mir space station from the 20th century, with seven little space figures, various docking craft and extendable solar arrays that really worked. I passed it onto a niece.

What do you do now?

I’m the Security and Safety Officer on board the fast merchant ship Tulyar, based out of New London. We’re a container vessel shipping agricultural goods from that particular Garden Planet and industrial goods back.

As Security and Safety Officer, my job there is to look after the guns, make sure that the escape pods are functioning and ensure that no-one smuggles their cat on board. We do not want another biosecurity breach, no thanks.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I would hardly call it an ‘adventure’. It involved us taking a trip to a prison planet filled with deadly jungle things, run by the particularly nasty regime that runs Bangla. They decided that instead of executing people, they’d send them on this planet where the environment or the wildlife would get them. We were being paid to rescue a rebel leader and things didn’t exactly go to plan. For one thing, we didn’t think they’d actually do to the prisoners what they said that they’d done… and it had some rather messy consequences. Then we found out another rather dark secret.

Continue reading “Sunita Kumar (of Murder Planet, by Adam Carpenter)”

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)”

Nick Walker (of the United Federation Marshal series, by John Bowers)

Dear readers, tonight with us a is law-enforcement officer on a visit between his interstellar travels. He is here to tell us about space travel and gun-fights among the asteroids.


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

I was born and raised in Chowchilla, a farming community that became the capital of CentCal when the old California was split into six states. It’s not a large city, only a million people, and it’s still an idyllic place to grow up. My family lived just outside the city, so I was a country kid. We were surrounded by cotton and alfalfa fields.

A neighbor had horses and we rode them sometimes; we also raced our hoversleds, usually at night so my parents didn’t find out.

What made you the person you are today?

Oh, Jesus, what a loaded question!

First off, my dad was a Protestant minister and my mother was Catholic. My dad raised me Protestant and my mom raised my sister Catholic. That’s how they compromised. But I’m an avid reader and I love history. In the course of my studies, I came to have serious reservations about religion, and eventually I quit going to church…which didn’t make my dad happy.

Then I joined the Star Marines. Everything that happened afterward pretty much started with that.

Were you ever in combat?

Yes. A year after I finished boot camp, the revolution exploded on Alpha Centauri 2 and my unit, the 33rd Star Marine Division, was deployed. The next two years were the worst of my life; I was convinced I would never come out of it alive, but somehow I did.

Weren’t you awarded the Galaxy Cross? Tell us about that.

I’d rather not, actually. I lost too many good friends, saw too many innocent people die. What happened in that church tower…well, I didn’t have much of a choice. We were surrounded, cut off, and outnumbered nearly ten to one. The Freaks were cutting us to pieces, and I was the only surviving Star Marine who was qualified on that sniper rifle, so…

Sorry. Next question, please.

What do you do now?

I’m a U.F. Marshal. Retired…I think.

What does that mean?

Well, I’ve been doing this for almost ten years. Lots of close calls. That was okay when I was single, but I have a family now, and I’d like to live long enough to enjoy them. Maybe, when the kids are grown, I’ll go back to it. Right now…I’m not sure.

Continue reading “Nick Walker (of the United Federation Marshal series, by John Bowers)”

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