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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Science Fiction

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)”

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)”

Keira Aurora (of Cyber Knot, by Paige Etheridge)

Dear readers, tonight on the interview couch is a tattoo artist from the near future. She is here to tell us about her dystopian future, with government-pushed drugs and the security of gangs, and about cyborgs – both human and whales.


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

2100s Seattle. Starbucks is still a thing, but I’ve never been there. Many of the buildings of the city are empty and covered in vines. Nature has been taking back the city. Where there’s room on the outside walls, art is created. The government can’t keep up with stopping these artists. They never caught up to my art either. 

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

I have a stuffed Unicorn which was my only toy as a child. I also held onto a Dreamcatcher from that time as an afterthought. But even when I was young, I was creating art on walls. I painted the walls of my room. I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time, but I always had my paint. My parents were too out of it to ever stop me. When I left for the last time, I also brought my paint with me. 

What do you do now?

I design tattoos which can glow in the dark. These express both the uniqueness of the individuals as well as fulfilling their needs in battle. I train with Infinity in ancient combat techniques while also honing in on the abilities left in my body after having the chip removed. 

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I swam with Cyborcas: Orcas with technological additions to their bodies. We don’t speak the same language, but communicate telepathically. It’s an experience unlike anything I’ve ever had with a human. It’s still unknown how Cyborcas came to be, but they are some kind of a result of the struggles Orcas faced off the Washington Coast during the 21st Century. 

Continue reading “Keira Aurora (of Cyber Knot, by Paige Etheridge)”

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)”

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