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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Science Fiction

Sam Melvin (of Zombie Detective, by Andy Zach)

Dear readers, tonight we feature an ex-reporter specialising in zombie turkeys. After being fired from the newspaper, he decided to give being a detective a try — but found that people are only interested in hiring him for his experience in dealing with zombie animals


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

This’ll be short, since Midley, Illinois is a very small town (510) and there’s not much to it. I grew up on a farm, but I went to town several times a week with my parents and then every day when I started school. There’s only one street, one high school (300 students), one junior high, and one elementary school. We also have a hamburger stand, a gas station, and a post office.

People are basically the salt of the earth, in the sense they talk about fertilizer and farms and corn and bean prices.

It wasn’t bad at all. I got to drive my dad’s tractor by the time I was ten, and the grain truck by the time I was fourteen. We had a creek and swamp to play in and I could ride my bike to my school friends.

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

I loved playing with my trucks and cars in the sandbox. I played a little pickup baseball and football, but I was never any good. But I was always picked for the teams by my friends, so I had fun anyway.

I remember going to the big town of Peoria for special dinners with my family, like my parents’ anniversary. I got to see the Caterpillar Power Parade and the Heart of Illinois Fair.

What do you do now?

Until yesterday, I was a reporter for the Midley Beacon specializing in tracking and reporting on zombie turkeys. They’ve pretty much died out, that is, they’ve been ground up for sausage or whatever. They don’t really die without a LOT of encouragement.

This morning I was fired by my wife, Lisa Melvin, who’s the editor of the paper. She said the paper isn’t making enough to pay me. I’m worth more drawing unemployment. I’m going to give private investigation a try now. I’m good at asking questions and getting to the bottom of things. Lisa said she’d make it all legal, somehow.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

After chasing zombie turkeys, even investigating murders will seem tame. But my first case is from a dairy farmer whose cows keep escaping. He thinks some zombie animal is involved. Could be. I’ll find out. Can’t be any more dangerous than zombie turkeys, can it?

Continue reading “Sam Melvin (of Zombie Detective, by Andy Zach)”

Tallis Steelyard (of A Fear of Heights, by Jim Webster)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a poet, a man of inconsistent careers and a somewhat vagrant lifestyle. He’s here to tell us about his latest adventure, involving the Idiosyncratic Diaconate, night soil carts, Partannese bandit chieftains, a stylite, a large dog and some over-spiced food.


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

I’m Tallis Steelyard, Port Naain’s finest living poet. I live and practice my art in Port Naain, the greatest city on the world of Domisa, home of all that is fine and lovely. From time to time I may venture out of the city, both allow those less fortunate than our citizens to enjoy the benefit of high culture, but mainly to avoid my creditors or those who seem to think I have insulted them.

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

I am an only child, but I spent much of my childhood on the streets of Port Naain. This is where I think I sharpened my skills of observation and got to know so many people whose careers I have since chronicled.

What do you do now?

As a poet obviously I have very few formal duties. It is merely enough that I remain within the city as an ornament and thing of wonder. Still a chap has to eat and white wine does not buy itself. Thus and so, I have any number of patrons who rely upon me to raise their lives above the humdrum and tedious. Not only do I dedicate my works to patrons, I will hold a private recital in their residence. Indeed I will often organize the whole evening’s entertainment, working hand in glove with my patron. I will discuss the catering arrangements with the patron and her cook, then I will bring in other, lesser poets, painters, acrobats, and even, gods help us, musicians. I can arrange everything from the moment a guest is assisted from their sedan chair to when the patron’s domestic staff finishing cleaning up after the event.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

 As a strictly unremunerated temple warden of the Shrine of Aea in Her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm I do have some duties. It was as I assisted Maljie, the senior temple warden in ensuring that our incumbent wasn’t whisked away from us that I ended up dangling from a hot air balloon high in the mountains.

What did you first think when you first met Maljie?

Maljie is an older lady, (note I did not use the word ‘old’) and thus obviously wise. Personally, after working with her for some time I grew to have a wider appreciation of her talents. Whilst admitting to wise, I think I would have to insist on ‘redoubtable’, ‘cynical’ and ‘cunning.’

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

For somebody who has, inadvertently, had to deal with dark mages, the walking dead, and any number of musicians of dubious morals, I always felt that I was reasonably hardened to whatever the world could throw at me. Yet still, I tend to twitch when somebody says, “The ladies felt you were the perfect person to judge the beauty context.”

What is the worst thing about like as a poet?

 Frankly the penury. The long hours, the demeaning comments, the constant petty carping, I can rise above. Honestly I don’t mind doing the occasional morning as a kitchen porter. But it would be nice to achieve a modest prosperity

What is the best thing about it?

In my better moments I’d say it is those occasions when I deliver a poem that I know to be good, and people I respect will come across afterwards, hand me a glass of wine, and say, ‘Tallis, that was fine work.’

In my less charitable moments I still remember fondly the time we dropped two dog fleas down the back of the shirt of that syrupy balladeer ten minutes before he was supposed to perform.

Tell us a little about your friends.

I suppose my two oldest friends are Calina Salin and Lancet Foredecks. We were street children together. Calina is a dancer, she is the one who will die a wealthy woman. Lancet is a performance artist. His last project was to find sponsors for a poem he was going to write, one line at a time, on the buoys that mark the channel into Port Naain. He was going to tune the bells on the buoys so as the tide came in they would play a tune.

Lancet I have had to rescue a number of times, he knows nothing of fear, and very little of self-preservation. Thus when an irritated mobster is going to have him dropped in the sea attached to an anvil, it’s always Tallis who has to talk people out of what even I can see is a reasoned response to immense provocation. As for Calina, I once saw her kick the hat off the head of a tall man who was irritating her.

Any romantic involvement?

I’m a respectably and happily married man. I could wax lyrical on the beauty of my lady wife, Shena, a mud jobber and a lady whose profession pays only slightly better than mine.

Whom (or what) do you really hate?

To be honest, genuine villains aren’t a problem. They may be criminals, they made be murdering thugs, or more probably hire them, but they are not, in all candor, the people I hate. After all, many of them have families, aged mothers who dote on them, and are often generous to poets. They are flesh and blood with strong feelings. The people I dislike most are those for whom ‘it is more than my job’s worth.’ People who might well flaunt their conscience, boast of their services to the city, yet would turn a grieving widow out into a winter night ‘because that’s what the regulations say.’

What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?

Well if you’re buying, a glass of white wine please, and we can sit here and just swap anecdotes, tales of things that happened to us. Can you think of a more pleasant way to spend an evening?

What does the future hold for you?

Well there is another book on the way at some point. It’s about something that happened years ago, perhaps a darker tale at times that people expect from me.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

It has to be admitted that I may not be an entirely reliable narrator.


Jim Webster is probably still claiming to be fifty something, in spite of the evidence to the contrary. His tastes in music are eclectic, and his dress sense is rarely discussed in polite society. In spite of this he has a wife and three daughters. He has managed to make a living from a mixture of agriculture, consultancy, and freelance writing. Previously he has restricted himself to writing about agricultural and rural issues but including enough Ancient Military history to maintain his own sanity. But seemingly he has felt it necessary to branch out into writing fantasy and Sci-Fi novels. Admittedly it’s blatantly obvious from his sense of humour, but he is English, living in the North of England, pretty much where the hills come down to the sea.

You can find Tallis Steelyard on the pages of A Fear of Heights, as well as his many other books.

Join us next time to meet an ex-reporter specialising in zombies. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

Mary Carpenter Renbourn (of Return To Alpha, by Wesley Britton)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a woman from a near-future dystopia, where aliens have landed on our planet — now decimated by the effects of global warming and waves of weaponized plagues.


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

Hi everyone! You sure got me in a good mood!   I’m holding up my laughing baby and who wouldn’t be in a good mood holding up a laughing baby?

Anyway, I grew up in Dallas Texas after being conceived and born during the first Covid pandemic back in 2020-2021.  All through my childhood, I lived in a world where the human population shrank and shrank because of all the plagues released by the Everlasting Califate. Because of climate change, I was constantly hearing about how “things didn’t used to be like this.”

In many ways, I was a lucky only child as my parents were Affectionately Flirtatious every chance they got, especially at the kitchen table. As we lived through so many lock-downs and quarantines, living with so much parental love was about as good as you could get during those horrible decades.

What do you do now?

For most of my adult life, I was a special operative for Col. Ian Buell’s Dallas Infiltrator Unit before I was assigned undercover duty in the Caribbean.  Then I fell in love with Malcolm Renbourn II, the mutant half-alien from Beta-Earth. We became fugitives on the run from the Citadel prison and got married in a Pacific Northwest Native American settlement. Along with the rest of Malcolm’s alien family, we then hid in various remote sanctuaries in the Canadian wilderness where my son was born.

Right now, we’re exploring our possibilities, where it might be safe for us to live and raise our family, how public we can be, what we can contribute to Alpha as a family. I don’t want to tell you where we are now. Just not safe.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

After our relatively comfortable stay in a hidden Native American canyon city, we had to go on the run yet again as I was being pursued by vengeful Texas white terrorists who thought I should pay for destroying their murderous cell. The entire tribe was running from the president of the United States who wanted the aliens for propaganda. Add in  the governments of the Sovereign Southern Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States who wanted to lock up all the aliens fearing all the cosmic revelations they wanted to share. And me, well, I was AWOL. Strange to say, that was the least of my worries.

What did you first think when you first met and interrogated the Renbourn aliens?

At first, I thought of them as a job, my assignment to pry out secrets my superiors felt the Renbourns were suppressing. As a born again Christian, I didn’t like their talk about various deities from the multi-verse, not at all. I wanted to convert them to my beliefs. I didn’t accept Olrei’s prophetic gifts until I saw them bear fruit.

I quickly came to like , respect, and trust them all, Malcolm II in particular. Could anyone believe they’d meet their soul-mate after they jumped through universes to get here?  

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

Without question, it was when the white supremacist found us in our wilderness hideaway, killed Olrei’s husband when they burned our dwelling down, captured me, tied me to a steell wall inside a stolen Rover, and whipped every part of my back and legs while we flew away before Malcolm and a group of Sasquatch found us and, well, you’ll have to read Alpha Tales 2044 to see how everything turned out.

What is the worst thing about living as a fugitive all over the North American continent?

Fearing we’ll never find a place we can call home where we can raise our children in peace and freedom. I want my son Randy-named after my father-to have a touch or two of normalcy in his life.

What is the best thing about your present life?

Living with my husband’s family, living with Malcolm, cradling Randy.

Tell us about your family.

As both my parents are dead, I was pretty much alone in the world until the aliens touched down in Jamaica.

Two of them are from Beta-Earth—including my genetically-enhanced husband. I often wonder what of his mutant attributes will carry over to our children.

His half-sister is the dark-skinned Kalmeg Renbourn, a very strong-willed woman who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Since coming to Alpha-earth, she’s become something of a geography enthusiast.

Then there are the two teenagers from Cerapin-Earth. Olrei is the prophetess botanist widow of Akito Kawahara who was killed in the terrorist attack. She too has a newborn to protect while she’s going through a dark period of grief.  Lastly, there’s Scott Renbourn, the multi-colored typical teenage male still looking for his path in life.

Whom (or what) do you really hate?

In my experience as a special agent for several countries, I battled the Islamic terror network called the Everlasting Caliphate;   I battled a white Supremacist group called the Tex-zis; I fought a criminal organization called Hammerhead.  That doesn’t count all the small-time gangs I infiltrated back in Dallas. Let’s just say, I’ve seen a lot of the unsavory side of humanity.

What are some of your favorite things?

I wish I could have participated more in sports when I was growing up-that just wasn’t viable with all the waves of killer viruses. I can admit my one concession to vanity are my long auburn locks Malcolm loves playing with almost as much as I do. I enjoy traveling, most of the time, even when on duty. I like Caribbean and gospel music, I love dancing, I love going to church,  I love learning about  and loving my multi-versal tribe. I’ve always had a strong curiosity so I’m in the perfect situation to keep my mental skills active. To put it mildly.

What does the future hold for you?

We all wish we had a ghost of an idea what is possible for us. Will we stay together or split up? I rather doubt that, we’re so closely knit now. I know everyone would love to be able to join the human flow walking down city streets without worrying about one kind of attack or another.  I’d love to go to Pittsburgh and see the “Marivurn” spaceship the Renbourns flew to our earth in and see the museum devoted to their father who was captured in a Pittsburgh bank lobby.  I’d like to go to church or shopping without wearing disguises when I step out the door. It’s as if I’m always on duty even if I don’t report to anyone anymore.

I can tell you readers the next book in the Chronicles will be called Hammerhead and it will include thre pre-quels to Return to Alpha, meaning you’ll see me in action battling some of the enemies I mentioned above.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

I guess that would be my resentment I couldn’t attend the funerals for my parents as they passed during a quarantine while I was in training at FT. Hood and forbidden from traveling back to Dallas.  On the other hand, I know of so many other people whose experiences were so much worse than mine, even when they weren’t on the front lines like I was.

I know everyone wants to know what love-making is like with a genetically-enhanced mutant. Sorry, ain’t gonna tell ya. That’s for me to know and you to never find out.


Dr. Wesley Britton taught freshman English for over 33 years in Texas, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. As a Mark Twain scholar, his first publications were a number of articles on Twain and “Mark Twain: Cradle Skeptic,” his dissertation. He has been published numerous times in scholarly journals, online and print periodicals, encyclopedias, and essay collections. He published four books on fictional espionage and, so far, eight books in the Beta-Earth Chronicles. Retired, Wesley lives in Harrisburg, PA.

You can find Mary on the pages of Return To Alpha, and Alpha Tales 2044.

Join us next time to meet a poet, leading a strange lifestyle and encountering strange adventures. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

Angule (of Genesis – The IX Series, by Andrew P Weston)

Dear readers, tonight with us is an antagonist, a most intimidating character. This creature is here to tell us about its existence as a member of the Kresh – or as we call them, the Horde – a rampaging legion of mutated horrors that managed to overthrow an advanced space faring civilization at the height of its power.

The interview is set during the interval between the end of the prequel and the beginning of the main series itself, and reveals surprising details as to what makes these entities tick.


Who are you, and what is your role within the Horde?

My name is Angule, and I have assumed the mantle of Prime Catalyct of the Kresh. Or as you humanoids might say, I am the Field Marshal of the Horde army. Not that I have any inclinations of staying at the rear to direct things when the heat of battle is upon us. When the Kresh march, we fuel ourselves on the soul-rage that compels us to crush and dominate any and all who dare to stand in our way. That’s why puny humans and your Ardenese cousins, who, even now, hide behind the denying walls of their most prominent city, will fall. You fail to comprehend how irresistible the urge to fight and consume is.

Do you have any memories of who you were before you became the Prime Catalyct?

Such trivialities are inconsequential. All that matters is that I was chosen to emerge and feed and ascend into a higher being. Whatever or whoever it was that granted me the privilege of demonstrating my zeal for conquest, I can’t say … though my thoughts are troubled from time to time by whispers from the beyond, and fading memories of an existence prior to my elevation. Such recollections are foul indeed, for they hint of lesser things involving feelings, emotions and doubt. Or worse still, alien concepts of sorrow, remorse, mercy and love.

Emergence? Ascension? What are they, and how does feeding affect such a condition

Emergence is the act of becoming a real person. Someone who leaves ignorance behind in the never-ending quest for knowledge and truth.

Ascension is the ultimate state of being toward which all Kresh aspire.

When we first gain a measure of consciousness, we are near mindless automatons driven by berserker frenzy to feed. And to do that, we are drawn to anything containing the slightest measure of vitality: plasma conduits; computer screens; fuel cells; weaponized energy beams; explosive percussions. The more potent the better, for such exuberance brings with it an ever greater degree of self-awareness; an understanding or cognizance that promotes the generation of Jînnereth crowns – esoteric concentrations of cosmic quintessence – that purifies our wrath and boosts the range and scope of our psychic arsenal.

As for humans?

Ah, you are nothing to us but screaming electro-chemical snacks. Raw and puissant, to be sure, but snacks nonetheless.

Continue reading “Angule (of Genesis – The IX Series, by Andrew P Weston)”

Lexi (of Toxic, by Karina Kantas)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a woman from a faraway planet, craving adventure against her people’s drag existence. She is here to tell us about acid rains, desolate lives, friends, emotional scars, and independence.


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

You can’t have much of a life when you’re stuck living in a mountain, ruled under a Committee of Tyrants. Sorry for sounding bitter. But I was bullied most of my childhood because I had two very pale blue almost white eyes. My best friend, someone I cared deeply for, left our mountain to train in another. He was always there for me and when he left my world fell apart. There’s no rule about not leaving the mountain, but who would dare without the proper equipment to protect themselves from the acid rain, that could melt your body within minutes

Were you close to your family? Do you have a favourite memory as a child?

I wasn’t close to my family. We were taken away at a young age and put to work, everyone had to pull their weight to make the running and life in Mount Elta go smooth.

I was forced to move in with Aron, my boyfriend. Although I never wanted the relationship to move forwards, others did. He was a Ranger and would always brag about his explorations and adventures he’d have whilst protecting the Trackers as they searched for the Terra plant. We could not live without this plant, as scientists created a substance called Dozax. This was then used in agriculture, medicines, recreation, protective clothing and shelter, basically in all parts of our lives. As for childhood memories, the only thing that stands out for me was how Marcus, my BF would always know when I was feeling down. He taught me how to survive outside the mountain. We would go on adventures together whilst trying to track the Terra plant down ourselves. But we never strayed too far from Elta.

I never did get to meet a savage face to face. These were Maloks just like us, who used the plant in another way. Boiling the leaves, they would ingest the juice, which gave them a high. A feeling of euphoria. The Committee soon put a stop to that, and they were cast out of the mountain, with no food, shelter, nothing. They would either have their skin and bones melt to nothing from the acid rain or would meet up with a savage and be killed. Those that were lucky enough to survive and find some form of shelter, turned into the monsters that now hunt for the plant and kill Trackers and Rangers.

What do you do now?

I’m a medic. Some injuries can be horrific, especially if the Ranger or Trackers were attacked. My job is to assess the situation and put the patients in order of who needed to be treated first. Of course, Dozax is used in all treatments I just have to decide in what form, where and how much to use. Dozax in its natural form is potent and too much in ones’ body can cause the opposite effect. That‘s why we can only get a massage once a week and even then, we get tested to how much Dozax is in our body. Too much can be a VERY bad thing. What I want to do and what I’ve been secretly training for is to become a Ranger. But Aron lectures me, every time I leave the safety of the mountain. He knows how much I want this and even though there are females Rangers he’s told me plenty of times that I’m not a good fit. But he’s not going to tell me what to do. I will listen to no man except my commanding officer.  Just a while ago we lost him to a vicious attack. We couldn’t save him so now we’re waiting for another CO to come and take over the Ranger Corp. I have my exam in one week. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. But I know I can do this. Marcus taught me everything. I’m not sure if Aron has been informed about my training, being as everyone knows we are together, and although I’ve asked for it to be kept on the down-low. He asked me to marry him so we can move into the West sector where the Rangers, Trackers and Committee lived with their family. But I refused. In fact, I don’t want him to be here anymore. He’s too controlling, and I feel like he uses me for sex, never giving me any satisfaction as long as he gets his. No this is not the way I thought my life would turn out. I have to speak with Aron and kick him out of my life, for now. If I do pass the exam, then I’ll be working with him and he holds a high rank, so I’ll have to put up with him giving me orders again. And I know he’s not going to go easy, but the sacrifice I have to make if I want to leave this mountain and make something of my life.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Only a few days ago, I was out exploring when the sky turned to a glowing red, the sign that it was about to rain. I knew no matter how fast I ran I wouldn’t make it back to the Elta in time. I was wearing a protective suit made of a rubber material from Dozax. I don’t know how they made the material, but it was certainly acid-proof. This wasn’t the first time I got caught in the rain. I grabbed the tent that was folded into a pocket of my backpack, I threw it out onto the floor, and it sprung up into an oval tent, I dived in just as the first drops started to fall.  I laid down and relaxed while hearing the rain splatter on the roof of the tent, I must have fallen asleep as I was having a very good dream 😉 then I woke to a burning on my hand. I sat up and watched the acid burning into my skin. I wiped the residue off my hand using my clothing and then looked up at the roof of the tent and saw a tiny hole where the rain was coming through. I watch it hit the floor of the tent and be soaked up. I’ve never heard of a leaking tent before so I knew that once the rain stopped, I would have to take it to the scientist in the North sector, after getting treatment on my hand which was still burning and stinging, but it’s happened before so I knew what the pain was like and how bad it could get.

Continue reading “Lexi (of Toxic, by Karina Kantas)”

Aldeaith Tearshan (of The Outworlder, by Natalie J. Holden)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a young soldier who left his bucolic world to get a taste of the bigger universe. He’s here to tell us about the people of a thousand worlds, of the technomagic that binds them together, and picking sides when the rebels are people he grew up with.


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

I was born in Nes Peridion, one of the newly colonized worlds in Meon Cluster. My parents came from Tarviss—well, they were brought by their lord, but quickly realized that away from Tarviss he had no way to keep them under control and got rid of him. So we lived as free people.

My parents were simple farmers and the first people to settle in Nes Peridion. It took them a lot of work to turn it into the fruitful farming colony it is today. The beginnings were especially hard, our crops and stock needed time to adjust to local soil and climate. I was born a few cycles after they settled and I think that by that time, the worst was already over. Some years were rough, though.

What did you do as a child?

There was always something to do at the farm, and we had to help since we were old enough to stand. Not the hard stuff, just keeping an eye on zeeath birds or working in the herb garden.

‘We’?

I have a sister and two older brothers. Well, had. My brothers died as children, taken by the diseases. I don’t really remember them too well.

My sister’s fine. She lives with our mom in Nes Peridion.

Between dead siblings and constant work, that sounds like a pretty rough childhood.

It’s the one I had. Do you think Dahlsian children have it better? They may get their education and their playtime, but they spend their lives locked in. They never feel the sun on their faces, or the breeze in their hair. They never play with living animals. They don’t even eat real food, only this tubed sludge. And when they go outside, they freak out, they go down with allergies, sunburn, and their immune systems are so compromised, a light cough can kill them.

I was never sick in my life. Drop me in a new world and I can survive, I don’t even need any fancy technomagic. I know how to find shelter, make water safe to drink, find food. I could build my own house if I had to. And I’m strong enough to carry a Dahlsi person through half the world—I already did that once, when my colleague broke her leg. She was as light as a feather.

So was it really that bad for me?

Do you have any cherished memories?

Hm. Maybe the times Aeva and I ran to the river to play. I liked making patterns with colorful stones. Aeva was always better at pretending. She also learned to crochet little dolls—I think in old Tarviss they were used for some rituals, but we just used them to play. Although mom would always undo them to save the yarn. Textiles were hard to come by in Nes Peridion.

Just the two of you?

Yeah. We were never good with other people—well, Aeva was a bit better, she even had friends. But most of the time we preferred each other’s company.

It got harder as I grew older and my brothers died. The amount of work to do remained the same, but there were fewer hands to do it. We were a small community, you know, so we had to do everything by ourselves. Not just grow food, but make houses, make furniture, make tools. Travel to the lake to fish or the nearby mountains for salt and lime. Also, there was no iron anywhere nearby so if a tool broke and no trader came, we had to replace it with a flint one. 

Flint?

It’s not so uncommon. All the metals in Tarviss have been mined ages ago; iron tools have to be brought from off-world and if they break, people have to use what they have on hand.

I became quite good at this. Maybe because I could sit for hours hitting rocks until they produced something I was happy with.

What do you do now?

I left Nes Peridion to work for Mespana. It’s a Dahlsian organization, but they accept outworlders. Our primary job is exploring new worlds within Meon Cluster and assessing their usefulness to the colonists. But we also had other duties. Escorting tax collectors or helping colonists with various problems.

Continue reading “Aldeaith Tearshan (of The Outworlder, by Natalie J. Holden)”

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)”

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)”

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)”

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