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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Science Fiction

Corin Mal-kin and Kett Peter-kin (of the Kalima Chronicles, by Aiki Flinthart)

Dear readers, tonight we reprint a chat we overheard, between the stoic trainer of a protagonist and spy and rogue from a planetary colony reminiscent of Asian myths and legends. It takes place during a brief interlude when the characters are in the fortress-city of Shenzhen, heading into the climax of the first book.


Corin Mal-kin: settling comfortably in a seat at the Fire Salamander inn and slurping the froth off an ale. So, what did you want to chat about, Kett? All very cloak-and-dagger, dragging me out to a tavern like this. Afraid Alere might overhear?

Kett Peter-kin: with a level look and a quick, professional survey of the room. Something like that. clears throat Look. You know I’ve been Alere’s shifu and weishi-bodyguard at Xintou House for the last ten years.

Corin: No, really? grins and sips from ale Cut the feihua, Kett. You’re worried about her. You’ve noticed she likes me. You think I’m not good enough for her? Do just ask. Much more dignified than me guessing.

Kett: Fine. I’ll lay it out. I don’t entirely trust you. I want to know you’ll take care of her. Where are you from? Who are your people?

Corin: You sound like a protective older brother. pushes aside an unveiled jiaoji-whore attempting to sit in his lap. Fine! We’ll do it your way. I’m from Asadia – nice little place west of Madina. Full of the more unpleasant branch of the Jun First, Zah-Hill family’s relatives. I was quite glad to leave. They annoyed me. After all, the Zah-Hills slaughtered my family and my fiancé. That kind of thing tends to be a tad irritating.

Kett: Scowling. Jiche, Cor, those gouri kin-child laws! I thought I’d heard the worst of it, but… I’m kin-child, too. So are Alere and Mina. And Rohne. We’re all in danger. But I don’t think the Jun First was entirely to blame. Nor any of the Zah-Hills. Hanna Zah-Hill created the laws, and she married into the family. frowns Do you remember much of Asadia?

Corin: swigs the rest of his ale Not a bad place. Lots of farmers. Not a lot of skullduggery. Boring. Until the Zah-Hill weishi started slaughtering the illegal kin-children, of course. Then it all got very interesting. sighs At one point I was considering joining the Artists House as a musician. Before it all went suilie and I came home to a burnt home full of corpses. Then a life on the road felt like a much safer option.

Continue reading “Corin Mal-kin and Kett Peter-kin (of the Kalima Chronicles, by Aiki Flinthart)”
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Origon and Rilan (of Tales of the Dissolutionverse, by William C. Tracy)

Dear readers, tonight we publish the transcript of a recorded interview from another universe.

They are adventurers, magicians, and technomancers, and we have a unique opportunity to learn about their fascinating world.


“…ing on? …about now? Alright, Ori. Now it’s working. “

A majus would see the swirl of color as Rilan adjusted the audio and visual recording system. She’d forgotten she and Ori made this interview back when the recording Systems were introduced. The Council of course thought each maji should have one, to be able to communicate with each other in an emergency. Now, they mostly sat unused in maji’s apartments.

They’d done the little mock interview back when she and Ori were a thing, at the height of their adventures across the ten homeworlds. When they’d gone separate ways, she on the Council and him trudging about wherever, the crystal containing the recording sat in the back of one of her closets. But now that he was back in her life…

Rilan sat down in a chair to enjoy the old recording.

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

O – “I am to be from Asbheriton. It is a small village in the mountains of the Syra province of Kiria. But I would rather not be talking about touchy family matters such as this. Ever since my brother departed for the ancestors, I have had little reason to be going back. The ancestral house was given to my third cousin, you know. A dreadful bore. She would talk about anything and everything that was to be coming into her head.”

R – “Not like you at all.”

Rilan tempered her retort with a smile, but Ori’s crest still spiked in aggravation. Good she was here to prick his pride.

R – Just one more question about your family home and then we’ll move on. Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

O –“Toys? No. But, I was to be having a pet wingdrake. Delphorus and I begged our father for it for most of a cycle. Father was quoting the old fright-tale that it would steal the souls of your ancestors, but even he was not so entrenched in his religion that he really believed it. Eventually he relented and was letting us have it. Delphorus and I trained the drake to be taking grubs from our hands, and to be fishing for swimmer larvae in the nearby pond. Delphorus took over care of the beast when I was to be leaving for finishing school. Eventually we had to set it free to find a mate and complete its lifecycle before joining its ancestors. Wriglifon was a good pet.”

R – “I’ve never heard that before, Ori. That was a nice story.”

Rilan cleared her throat. She didn’t imagine this would really get Ori to talk about his past.

R – So, what do you do now?

O – “You are knowing this, Rilan.”

R – “Yes, Ori. It’s for the recording. Just play along.”

O – “Ah, I am seeing now. After retiring from my philosophy position at the university, I was able to be traveling across the ten homeworlds full time. I would not be alive if you were not saving me on many occasions, Rilan.”

Rilan saw her recording blush. It would only be a few cycles after this that she joined the Council of the Maji and she and Ori went separate ways.

Continue reading “Origon and Rilan (of Tales of the Dissolutionverse, by William C. Tracy)”

Gary Karkofsky (of The Supervillainy Saga, by CT Phipps)

Dear readers, tonight with my is the supervillain Gary Karkofsky, also known as Merciless: The Supervillain without Mercy™.

Hes here to talk about super-powers, about heroes and villains, and about what separates them.


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

Hello, I am Gary Karkofsky a.k.a Merciless the Supervillain without Mercy™. Yes, I know it’s redundant. I am the world’s first anti-villain and supervillain for the common good. I lie, cheat, and I still with my magic cloak but it’s all for the greater good. Well, at least mine. I live in a world full of heroes, villains, gods, and monsters but it’s all up for grabs if you’re willing to take it.

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

I was born in New Angeles as the younger brother of Keith Karkofsky a.k.a Stingray the Underwater Assassin. Unfortunately, antiheroes gunned down my brother and I swore I’d avenge him. Then life happened and I completely forgot about that vow. It’s decades later and I’ve decided to give supervillainy a go again. My wife Mandy is less than pleased with my new career choice, especially since it brings me in contact with two of my exes. My henchwoman Cindy a.k.a Red Riding Hood and Gabrielle Anders a.k.a Ultragoddess the World’s Greatest Sueprheroine.

What do you do now?

To be a supervillain is to have great power and zero responsibility. I rob, cheat, lie, and steal in order to have as much fun as possible. It sure as hell beats my former job as a bank teller. However, I will say that I try not to hurt the regular people of the world. Unfortunately, that’s harder than it sounds since they seem to think my actions warrant sending cyborg mercenaries and killer robots after me. Other supervillains resent my robbing them as well.

Continue reading “Gary Karkofsky (of The Supervillainy Saga, by CT Phipps)”

Dr. Evan Feldman (of Restoration, by Daniel C. McWhorter)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a man recently awoken after a 50 year cryogenic sleep. A lot has changed in those five decades – the human race is dying, with birth rates declined to near zero.

He is here to tell us about the future, and about the attempts to save the human race from extinction.


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

Hmm, that’s a tricky one. My memories from that part of my life are gone…a casualty of one of the technologies that allowed me to be here in the first place.

That’s okay, just tell us what you do remember.

Well, what I can tell you is that I was born March 19, 1964 in Lincoln, Nebraska. I earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Missouri in Kansas City in 1986 and my M.D. in 1990. I don’t really remember doing any of those things, but there are records that say I did…so I accept that they happened.

So, you don’t have any childhood memories? No cherished memories from your youth?

Not really. I have dreams sometimes that might be memories, or they could just be my mind’s way of trying to fill in the blanks. We’ve tried every memory reconstruction technique available, but nothing worked. I have gotten a few memories back from my early twenties, like when Christina and I got married…and when we had Lily. But that was only because Aneni was able to use their memories of me to rebuild my memories of them. I’m afraid that my life before I met Christina is lost forever.

Alright, fair enough. At the time of your death you were a world-renowned geneticist and CEO of the largest biotech company on the planet. What are you doing these days?

I guess you could best describe my job as research assistant. My typical day is split between pouring over mountains of data and developing new simulations. We spend virtually all of our time trying to figure out the root cause of the genetic mutations that have devastated the human population. Speaking of which, how many of you are left on Mars anyway? I can’t imagine there are all that many. And do you really think they’ll care what I have to say? Last I heard, I wasn’t very popular with the survivor crowd.

Continue reading “Dr. Evan Feldman (of Restoration, by Daniel C. McWhorter)”

Cass Argent (of The Continuum: Place in Time, by Wendy Nikel)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a young student from the 22nd century. She is here to tell us about life as a waitress – and about time travel.


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

My name is Cass, and I’m just your typical 22nd century university student – or so I thought. Up until recently, I was living and attending school just a short airtrain ride from the city where my parents raised my brother and me. Like pretty much everyone else, I’ve lived in economical and eco-friendly solar-powered apartments with terraced gardens all my life – a far cry from the cities I learned about in history courses (which my parents, for reasons unknown to me at the time, insisted I take).

What do you do now?

I’m currently working as a Harvey Girl aboard the California Limited, traveling between Chicago and Los Angeles. The Harvey Girls are employees of Fred Harvey’s restaurants, which initially cropped up along train routes, where good meals were hard to come by. Us waitresses are single, young, intelligent women who are known for being “of good character” – which means minding my Ps and Qs, making sure my uniform stays tidy, and living under the ever-watchful eye of the house mother. I’ve been learning to fold napkins and fill orders for the passengers in the dining car, which, I must admit, isn’t as easy as I first thought, particularly for someone like me, who’s used to everything being automated.

Oh, did I mention? I’m in the year 1914. Yeah, it’s a long story, but basically, it looks like this is where I’ll be living now: over two hundred years in the past.

Continue reading “Cass Argent (of The Continuum: Place in Time, by Wendy Nikel)”

Caelynn Creed (of Songs of Tarros, by Kelly Phillips)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a woman whose studious life is shattered when a museum robbery exposes her father’s secrets – including that she is the key to the brutal Alfath gaining the magic and taking over the world of Thelios.


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

Physically, Thelios is much like Earth, though with some differences like the color of our vegetation, our planet is a little larger and we have two moons instead of one. We have four continents: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, and each of those are divided into regions. I grew up in a little town called Phaeneus in Region Delphi, which is one of the southern regions so it gets a little chilly at times. Since Delphi – and all of Gamma, actually, isn’t heavily populated, Phaeneus is pretty remote, but growing up there felt cozy and comfortable.

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

When I was about four, my father gave me a plushie doll with long, blonde hair. I cut the hair short, called him Inkin, and carried him with me everywhere until his head nearly fell off. Dad tried to fix it but he’s not that great at sewing, so Inkin stayed on my dresser after that.

I have a lot of good memories from childhood – mostly doing things with Dad since it was just the two of us. I guess one of my favorites is just helping him in the garden. He loves gardening even if he isn’t very good at it. We would always make a special dinner for whatever we were able to harvest.  

What do you do now?

I guess technically I’m still in the Academy records as a final year student with a primary focus in Pre-Thelian History. To put it in Earth terms, I’m just a few final exams away from a PhD in human history before we settled Thelios. I also worked at the Delphinia Museum, but they probably don’t want me back since I was arrested for robbing the place.

Continue reading “Caelynn Creed (of Songs of Tarros, by Kelly Phillips)”

Alexandra Renai (of Heroic Lies, by Stephanie O’Brien)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a spunky reporter, on the front line of an alien invasion. She’s here to tell us about her friends (and what she’d do to save them), and about alien abductions (which involve more video games than you might think).


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

It was a pretty regular neighborhood, until I grew up and it became the site of regular abductions.

Y’know, cute suburban houses, UFOs in the form of unidentified airborne birds, because those technically count, and kids banding together to try to rescue said birds after they mashed their faces into windows, with mixed results.

It was the identified flying object that ended up making things interesting, seeing as it was a spaceship.

Did you have any favourite toys or activities that made life interesting before the spaceship showed up?

Like a lot of modern kids, I was pretty attached to my smartphone. I took pictures of everything that caught my eye, and made up news stories about them, though they almost never got published.

Most of the pictures were pretty mundane, though I did get a pretty good one when a moose wandered into our yard and my friend, Alexa, tried to check its hooves for thorns.

You know the story about the lion with a thorn in its paw? It doesn’t work as well when the lion is a moose. I had to distract it while she ran inside.

That one actually did get into the local paper, and it’s one of my proudest childhood memories. My dad got interviewed along with me, and I swear he mangled his grammar just to annoy me. He did that all the time when I was a kid; I started correcting his spelling and grammar when I was eight.

Are you still taking pictures and reporting on things now?

Most of the time I’m in front of the camera, not behind it. I mostly report on what I’m told to, but I do my best to find my own stories whenever possible.

Lately I’ve been making stories by posing as the girlfriend of an alien superhero so his equally alien rival can kidnap me instead of the real girlfriend. I don’t think Alexa would take it as well as I do.

You know, at first I thought those aliens might be goofy college kids in costumes with prosthetics, but when the kidnapper crossed a huge room in less than three seconds to prevent my experimental escape attempt, that theory got a lot weaker.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I’ve mostly been teasing an alien abductor, trying to keep everyone convinced that I’m the hero’s girlfriend without actually having to kiss him, and trying to beat said aductor’s high score on the video game he made for us.

More importantly, I’m also digging for answers to some pretty weird questions, such as why Zorei and Kadian are wearing matching ornaments, and why Zorei keeps picking fights with Kadian even though he never wins. He’s pretty smart and tech-savvy, so you’d think he could find something more fun and lucrative to do with all that skill.

Continue reading “Alexandra Renai (of Heroic Lies, by Stephanie O’Brien)”

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)”

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)”

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