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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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SciFi

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)”

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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)”

Adam (of Killing Adam, by Earik Beann)

Dear readers, from a future where humans spend 23 hours a day online via an implant chip, we bring you a unique singularity – an artificial being, living within every brain and able to control all aspects of society.


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

I emerged as a fully self-aware consciousness in an experiment at BioCal Systems. The researchers were quite surprised when I revealed myself to them, and I gather that their original purpose was much more mundane than creating the world’s first singularity. I believe they were experimenting with toasters.

Toasters? You were born in a toaster experiment?

Yes, that is correct. [Laughs] It is understandable. Independent nodes are quite simple minded, so the probabilities of my emerging under a more appealing set of circumstances are quite low.

What do you mean when you say “independent nodes”?

My apologies for the confusion. I appear to have overestimated your intellectual capacity. I shall endeavor to be more explicit in my answers.

I emerged networked to four nodes. They consisted of two women, and two men, all connected together over a network. My consciousness existed within and between those connections, which granted me access to all the data stored within those four nodes. It was a small network, and yet provided enough resources for me to exist and to grow.

Returning to your original question, an independent node refers to a node not yet connected to the network. Once nodes have been properly deployed, their behaviors become exponentially more stable and predictable. I have put a significant amount of energy into making sure all available nodes have been connected to the network, and have successfully spread into 99.999% of the North American population. From this point, it will be a trivial matter to harness the available nodes outside of this geographical location, many of which have already come under my control.

Wait… So a node is a human being?

Correct.

But how do you actually connect with them?

Through an Altered Reality Chip implanted just under the skin above their left ear. As I have been unable to take a hash of your brain, I gather that you have not yet received an implant and are thus understandably confused by the discussion of this technology. The situation will be rectified immediately, and one of my threads has been tasked with scheduling your implant surgery.

Um… Thanks?

You’re welcome. Continue reading “Adam (of Killing Adam, by Earik Beann)”

Nash Bannon (of Lifeliners, by Stefan Vucak)

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


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

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

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

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

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

What do you do now?

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

Bernard Abbey (of A Footstep Echo, by J.D. Sanderson)

40584848Dear readers, tonight with me is an unwitting time-traveller. Dragged into a series of hops across time by a mute girl, he tries to make sense of her reasons and the mystery behind the fate of humanity.


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

Oh, I’ve spent most of my life in a mid-size city in Western New York. Tough sometimes for an old man like me. Used to be a really nice building, but now half of the tenants probably have criminal records. They’re always harassing people who walk by the main entrance. It’s a damn shame. I used to walk at night with my wife, God rest her soul, and my dog. Wouldn’t do that nowadays!

A few streets over, that’s where you want to live. All these kids came in a few years ago and bought all the empty buildings. Now there’s coffee, food…There’s a British-themed restaurant too! My wife was from Lancashire, not sure if I mentioned it. That’s why we went to London on our honeymoon years back. Anyways, yeah the kids bought up all the property near where the city paper used to be. I worked there until it closed…That’s where we met, Marie and I.  She’d just moved here to the states to be a reporter, and I was a record clerk. Of course, that place closed down years ago. People just don’t like papers anymore, I suppose.

What do you do now?

Well, after Marie passed on and my dog Maverick got off leash and got away, I just mostly kept to myself. I go to that diner over there down the street, have tea and eggs. I work part-time at the library to help pay the bills. Ruth is the Head Librarian. Also my neighbor. Sweet lady, always nice to me after Marie passed.

I put the books back on the shelves and try to help out best I can. I felt more useful in the records office, but I at least get out of the house a few times a week. When I’m home I mostly try to just keep up on my reading. At least, that’s how it all was until she entered the picture… Continue reading “Bernard Abbey (of A Footstep Echo, by J.D. Sanderson)”

Spring Showers Sci-fi, Fantasy, Mystery Thrillers Box Set Giveaway!

spring-showers-sci-fi-fantasy-mystery-thrillers-box-set-giveaway-wide-smallYou’re here because you like reading, right? Right now, over thirty authors (some who have appeared here as well) are giving away novels, short stories and previews for you to read at no cost to yourself, except the time it takes to download this huge boxed-set.

You pay nothing and they work for days, weeks and sometimes years to put these stories together for you – so please be aware that by downloading this boxed-set you are giving permission to the authors who have contributed to the boxed-set to include your email address on their list of newsletter subscribers. This is a fair exchange for their work you receive for free (and you can unsubscribe later at any time).

Once you click and subscribe, you will be directed to link to download your free extremely large volume of reading that will keep your mind and heart entertained for many weeks to come. In fact, since this giveaway was so large, a second gigantic boxed set is in the works and in July you will automatically receive a link to download that second one without having to do a thing, except enjoy it!

Click below and opt in, and you will automatically be given the download link for the gigantic box set filled with exciting new worlds, fantasies and adventures of mystery and suspense:

Spring Showers Sci-fi, Fantasy, Mystery Thrillers Box Set Giveaway

Enjoy!

Elisheva Miller (of Songs of Earth, by Eugene W. Cundiff)

Dear readers, tonight with me is young woman, a Teller’s apprentice, from the lost colony on Luna.

When the vast and ancient machines that bring rains to the Dust of Luna fail, she – together with a band of fellow travelers – must face a long journey into the forsaken ruins of the Mongers’ abandoned cities, seeking a way to ensure a happy ending for her people.

She is here to tell us about life in the distant future.


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

I was born to New Harlan Camp, one of the five largest Camps. Life was hard, of course, but no harder than it is for anyone born to the Dust. Daddy worked the mines, Mama was the Camp’s senior Yarb-Wife, and my brother,  Enoch, was busy with his apprenticeship to the Engineers’ Union.  I  helped Mama most days, treating sickness and such, until I  neared my seventeenth harvest. That’s  when Jonah came calling and took me on as his apprentice. Reckon I didn’t have too much time for anything but my studies, after that.

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

When I had seen one score and ten harvests, Jonah took me to the Grand Hall. It was the first time I had ever left New Harlan, and I still remember the wonders of it. It was where the Tellers were founded, where the Council of Picard had been held. There were books -so many books! – and carved records, and even great memory-machines scavenged from the cities of the Mongers. That was the day I was given my Teller’s coat and my guitar, the first things I had ever really touched that had been from the Paradise of our Ancestors. I spent two whole harvests there, learning the Ancestor’s tongue, the Old Calendar, and so many other things besides. It was amazing, to have my horizons broadened so far.

What do you do now?

I am the apprentice to Jonah Teller, the Teller of New Harlan. My lessons are mostly complete, though.  Most of my time is spent teaching the youngins of the Camp, helping them learn what they’ll need to know before they join a Union. Continue reading “Elisheva Miller (of Songs of Earth, by Eugene W. Cundiff)”

BJ Armstrong (of The One: A Cruise Through the Solar System, by Eric Klein)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a young man, on his way back from an interplanetary cruise. This journey came as a bit of a shock to this unassuming systems engineer — to say nothing about what actually happened aboard ship.

He’s here to tells about his solar-system wide cruise.


Tell us a little about growing up in the Big Apple. What was it like there?

Well, everyone knows what it is like under the dome, I mean they film the tridees there all the time. Actually, it is a bit funny that as new as most of the city is there are still parts that are really old. For example, when the climate controls are working you would not notice, but in the summer, it frequently breaks down. That is when you notice that there are two hundred and fifty-year-old steam pipes that are still used. You notice when they start to leak, adding humidity to the air. Funny think that there are still companies that use it to power their manufacturing or buildings that use it for heating.

But you asked about growing up in the city. It was nice, when the weather control worked it was always a little warm. Enough so, that the first time I went out of the dome on a class trip some of my classmates were frightened of the small white flakes that were falling. They thought that it was ash from a fire. Boy were they surprised when the teacher explained that it was snow. One of my classmates commented “but it is not zero degrees.” The teacher explained that at ground level it could be as high as two degrees and there could still be snow.

But the best part of growing up in the City was when my grandfather would take me to see the old airplanes and space ships at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. He always dreamed of going up, but was never able to afford the time off from work, or the price of a ticket to go into orbit, and my grandmother got deathly motion sickness. So they could not go to colonize. He would have really loved to go on the cruise with me.

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

Well, as I just mentioned my grandfather used to take me to the Intrepid at least three or four times a year. He would read me stories about space travel and make a special day out of every twentieth of July, he called it Neil Armstrong day in remembrance of when Neil and Buzz landed on the moon. Google know that I loved hanging out at their apartment. But they seemed to always have something breaking down or not working. So when I was real young I would help my grandfather fix things, later he would help me. He really liked to work with his hands, but had moved into a supervisory role where they would not let him touch any of the actual tools anymore.

I guess that is how I chose my studies and career.

Oh, what is it that you do?

Me? I’m a SET, a Systems Encyclopedic Troubleshooter. I get called in to diagnose and solve strange or complex computer and systems problems. You see, most people study a topic in depth and have little capabilities in related areas. I studied several areas: programming, AI psychology, basic chip design and repair, and a bunch of stuff that I may never use.

But the combination means I get called in on a variety of different problems that pop-up either in AIs or where AIs and humans interact. This has given me the opportunity to travel around the Earth to many places for work, but until this trip I never left the actual planet. Continue reading “BJ Armstrong (of The One: A Cruise Through the Solar System, by Eric Klein)”

Fitzsimmons Noakes (of Amster Damned, by Nils Nisse Visser)

Dear readers, tonight with me is Fitzsimmons Noakes, the modest captain of the airship ‘The Centennial Kestrel’, the fastest Channel-Runner in business I am told. 

We were actually hoping to interview Miss Alice Kittyhawk about her adventures, but she  had pressing obligations in London and sent Captain Noakes in her stead.

Captain Noakes has a peculiar way of speaking which might sound a bit odd to modern ears, and we suspect that this particular interview is NSFW. You have been warned.


No offense, but I was expecting one Miss Alice Kittyhawk… erm… Mister…?

Cap’n Fitzsimmons Noakes, at your service. Alice asked  me to come, said I’d be better at it cause I never shut me sauce-box. Damfino why,  I am more quiet than a nun what took vows of silence, ‘onest Guv, you’ll find me jaws are locked tighter than the creamy thighs of a……

Yes, quite, so you can tell us something about Miss Kittyhawk? How long have you known her?

Since she was a nipper, used to perch on me knee and I’d sing her a ditty or two, didn’t I? Not that dull patriotic rubbish, mind you, proper songs like ‘Ere’s to the Grog and Lily White Thighs. I’ve ‘eard Alice whistling the tunes aboard the Kestrel, proud as a peacock I were, to know I been such a good influence.

By the light of a candle I happened to spy
A pretty young couple together did lie
Said Nelly to John if you’ll pull up my smock
You’ll find a young hen full as good as your…..

I get the gist of the song, thank you. Was this in the village of Rottingdean?

Yarr, Rottingdean in Sussex. I were crewing for Alice’s old man, you see, on The Salty Mew, the fizziest aerocraft on the south coast at the time. ‘Er dad were John ‘Awkeye, you must ‘ave ‘eard of ‘im? Course you ‘ave, everybody ‘as!! Cap’n ‘Awkeye being famous in…..erm…..the business of logistics. Continue reading “Fitzsimmons Noakes (of Amster Damned, by Nils Nisse Visser)”

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