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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Chandrian Smythe (of Books & Bone, by Victoria Corva)

Dear readers, tonight we speak with an historian freshly returned from a frankly astounding field study. He is here to tell us a little about his findings and a little bit about himself. Some parts have been redacted for our safety.


We’ve read that you’ve achieved the station of Third Rank Historian at the Grand University at the young age of nineteen! Did you come from a family of scholars?

The youngest ever to achieve that rank, don’t forget! I’m not one to cry my own news, as they say, but I did make history by attaining such a high level of scholarship so young — even though my role is to study history!

[summarised for brevity: he goes on for some time about the difficulty of being so intelligent and underappreciated before we steer him back to the question.]

Ah, yes! I was just about to get to that. Though it may seem hard to believe, I wasn’t raised in a very scholarly home. As the third child of a lowly house seventh removed from the throne — we’re distantly descended from common knights, you see, though my mother likes me to keep that hushed up — I was faced with much hardship. Often excluded from events of import as my older sister or older sibling would get the invitations before I. Always the recipient of hand-me-down clothes, if you’ll believe it, so often the Antherian silk would be fraying at the seams! Always of the least import, and the Regent hardly knows who I am.

But! And I’m jolly proud of this — I turned my misfortune into an advantage. I threw myself into my education, though my tutors were barely adequate and had a reputation for serving merchant families, if you’ll believe it. It quickly became clear that I had a gift for research and the kind of passion for history that money can’t buy. So mother sent the Grand University a modest donation and within a few months I was accepted into the University on full scholarship!

I consider this a testament to the rewards of hard work and scholarly fervour — even the humblest among us can make history! When you think about all I’ve been through —

Moving on — did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Well, I suppose you’ll consider this twee, but when I was six I read about the bodies preserved in peat under the Elakkat marsh and I went out into the grounds with my little silver bucket and trowel to exhume a body myself.

Of course, I didn’t find anything — our grounds span a modest 260 acres and nobody of interest has ever been buried there — but my tutors were so enamoured of my behaviour that they implored my mother to have a sandpit dug for me.

They used to hide little dolls for me in there which I would have to dig up ever so carefully so as not to damage them. I like to think that’s where my passion for the history of burial rites first began.

[Interviewer’s Note: we were written by one Usther the Acolyte and threatened with black magic should we reveal Mr Smythe’s current whereabouts. Parts of the rest of the interview are therefore redacted for our own safety.]

Where have your studies taken you?

Why, very far indeed! It must be said that for years I wasn’t cleared for field work — jealousy is an ugly thing among scholars — but showing the same resolve and self-starting mindset that got me into the Grand University in the first place, I took matters into my own hands!

This took me all the way to [redacted] — and yes, it may be hard to believe that a secret community of [redacted] exists — on the bones of [redacted] no less! Truthfully, I hadn’t intended to leave it for some time, but when word reached me of your journalistic prowess, I simply had to meet you and have you tell my story.

Continue reading “Chandrian Smythe (of Books & Bone, by Victoria Corva)”
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Benjamin Salazar, Esq. (of Monster City, by Kevin Wright)

Dear readers, tonight we reprint an interview held at a coffee shop with a homeless, disbarred lawyer, living on the streets of a city filled with monsters. Here’s here to tell us about the problems he faces, from drugs to werewolves.


-I’m here with Benjamin Salazar, Esq.

Mister Salazar, could you please tell us a little about where you grew up. Paint a picture. What was it like there?

Well. I grew up in the old mill city of Colton Falls, Massachusetts during the 1960’s, and what I erroneously believed, at the time, was the Golden Age of recreational drug abuse.

Little did I know my childhood experimentation with heroin and horse tranquilizers would pale in comparison to the shit the kids are pushing up their arms today.

-Ah…?

I know, I know. You see it, too. Jesus.

These kids today. Am I right?

Practically have drugs handed to them. Have everything handed to them. Don’t even have to work for it, that’s the problem. Have it prescribed by their doc or delivered by some kid named Tad who drives an Acura and lives in an old Victorian on Main Street in uptown USA.

The good shit, too. The hard shit. Synthetics straight out of China. Fentanyl. Carfentanyl. Pure. Uncut.

Man oh man…

And when they inevitably OD?

Jesus, everyone’s packing Narcan these days. Everyone. They’re literally giving it away. (Salazar digs into his briefcase and slaps a fistful of blister packs of Narcan on the table.)

See…?

But me? My day?

I had to trudge uphill through sleet and rain to score my overdose. Both ways. Into rough neighborhoods. Lawrence. Lowell. Downtown Colton Falls.

Black kids beat me up. Hispanic. White. Vietnamese. Everyone.

Jesus, even Jewish kids beat me up. My own people. And do you know how many Jews live in the Merrimack Valley?

-Uh … no. (The waitress brings us our coffees.)

About five. Really. Counting me. And they all beat me up.

Every. Single. One.

I mean, they’d take turns. Crazy, right? And one of them was my first cousin.

And … she was a girl.

-Okay, that’s … kind of sad, I guess. Maybe we should just move on. I notice you have esquire appended to your name.

Appended—?!

 Just what the hell are you getting at? (Salazar rips his glasses off.)

-It means ‘attached.’ I think.

Oh. Well. (He fixes his tie and sits back down.) Sorry about that.

Yeah. Yeah. I used to be a lawyer. A trial lawyer. Damn good one, too. That’s why I had the ‘esquire,’ ahem, appended … to my name.

Now though? I just keep it there cause I’m used to it and, truth be told, I’m a bit of a douche bag.

-A what? Oh. Never mind. Uh … so you retired from practicing law?

Retired? With the fat 401k and vacation home in the Berkshires? (Salazar takes a sip of coffee, waves a hand.)

Naw. I wish.

I was disbarred, y’see?

It’s that same old story. Perjury. Kickbacks. Abusing power. Clients. Drugs. Attempted murder.

-Wow. What a … a colorful career.

Career? Hell no, that was just my first trial.

During the opening statements.

Man, I’d gobbled down a fist full of magic mushrooms this dirty old hippy traded me for a ’63 Impala. I thought my hair was on fire!

Continue reading “Benjamin Salazar, Esq. (of Monster City, by Kevin Wright)”

Cassidy and Torr (of Moon Deeds, by Palmer Pickering)

Dear readers, tonight with us are fraternal twins, a sister and brother, from Earth’s future. At least, a future where science and magic clash, the best defense against rampant alien technology is magic, and the only hope for humankind rests in the hands of the legendary Star Children.


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

Cassidy: Well, we’re twins, in case you can’t tell.

Torr: We’re identical.

Cassidy: Haha. You wish you looked like me.

Torr: I do, actually. Your eyes, anyway.

Cassidy: Awww, that’s sweet.

Torr: We grew up in Mt. Shasta, in California.

Cassidy: Land of the crazy shamans. We got out just in time.

Torr: Or, we left too soon. Depends on how you look at it.

Cassidy: True. The shamans protected us from the Tegs. If we were in Shasta right now, we’d be safe on Earth, instead of on this god-forsaken rock.

Torr: The moon’s not so bad.

Cassidy: [eye roll] It sucks. Just sayin’. So, what questions do you want to ask us?

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

Cassidy: My favorite toy was Grandma Leann’s mirror.

Torr: A dangerous weapon.

Cassidy: [Laughs] I used to be able to move things with it. It was awesome.

Torr: I saw the flaming monster woman in it once when I was a kid. I wouldn’t go near that thing for years afterward.

What do you do now?

Torr: We’re refugees on the moon. I feel kind of useless. There’s not much to do here.

Cassidy: We’re supposed to save the world. Earth, that is. And the other planets too, I guess. Seems kinda ridiculous.

Torr: People think we’re the Star Children, and we’re supposed to find our ancestors on a lost planet across the galaxy. The golden Star People. But nobody knows where the home planet is. It’s kind of stressful having everybody look at you with this burning hope in their eyes. I mean, you’d think we were magical saviors or something.

Cassidy: We need to learn magic.

Torr: Yeah. We need to go to the planet Muria.

Cassidy: But then we’d have to leave here.

Torr: I thought you wanted to leave.

Cassidy: I do. I don’t.

Torr: Errgh.

Continue reading “Cassidy and Torr (of Moon Deeds, by Palmer Pickering)”

Nenn (of River of Thieves, by Clayton Snyder)

Dear readers, tonight with us a thief, a knife-fighter who robs from the rich and gives (some of it, at least) to the poor. She is here to tell us about the biggest heist — to steal the heart of a saint and punish a tyrant — and about her partner who keeps dying.


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

The Veldt? The river dominates it. Men with money and religion on their side keeping the ones without down. And the rest of us, we do what we can. Cord n’ me, we make our own luck though. Better to be free on the road than tied to a post.

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

I had a knife. It was shiny. I named it Knifey.

My parents dumped me at Our Lady of Perpetual Weeping and Moaning. I don’t know if they were too poor to afford me, or too weak to raise me, but in the end, the nuns got me. No. I don’t think nuns is the right word. They were temporary guardians. We tended the grounds, and sometimes were rented out for work—not like that. They were rarely kind, but they also weren’t lunatics. I don’t think religion ever entered into it. OLOPWAM was a business, and they ran it like one.

When I turned seventeen, they released me, and I made my own way. Sometimes honestly, busting my back at the mill. Other times, not so honestly, busting teeth and heads in the alleys for a little money.

What do you do now?

I rob people. And sometimes stick knives in the assholes who deserve it. Oh, we don’t keep it all. Cord says that’s selfish. You gotta give. There are people even smaller than you, and no one deserves to be on the bottom rung. I guess he’s right, but I’d sure like a new pair of boots and something to eat that isn’t dried fish.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Cord’s got a plan. We’re getting his old gang back together. This big mountain named Rek, a really pretty, but a bit cracked lady, named Lux. There’s enough suffering in this world and seeing men like Anaxos Mane take more—well that doesn’t sit right with any of us.

Continue reading “Nenn (of River of Thieves, by Clayton Snyder)”

Em 19 (of Guardian Blood, by Nicholas Hoy)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a smuggler from a world where magic and technology interact freely. She is here to tell us about living in the shadows of the underworld, about high-rise conspiracies, and about the times humans still ruled the world.


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

Crescent City’s been called paradise on Earth, as you well know, with Mage-grown skyscrapers that climb for miles, all connected by breathtaking, nature-encrusted skywalks. But that’s not exactly where I grew up. Throw yourself over the edge of any one of those buildings and eventually you’ll end up in Low-Town, a red stain on darkened streets, if you don’t smash into one of the countless sun-blotting skywalks first. Low-Town, a place of perpetual darkness, if not for the neon glow of a million signs, will slit your throat just to watch you bleed out. It’s a hard place to grow up, but I’d rather be forged in Low-Town than pampered in paradise with the rest of the sheep.   

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

Favorite toy? Not so much. Cherished possession? Yeah, my retractable palm blade. You see, Black Leaves, one of the more ruthless gangs, get off by preying on helpless girls. They would often loiter outside the orphanage, waiting for one or two of us to head to the store. Their mutilated victims almost always ended up dead or wishing they were. I can’t tell you how many times that old piece of steel saved my life.

What do you do for a living?

Dealing in Magical Technologies (Tech) is one of the more lucrative businesses on the planet. However, as all Tech is required by order of the Administration to be licensed, and all licenses are traceable, it falls to me to find buyers willing to pay for the anonymity unlicensed Tech affords them. Does that make me a Tech smuggler? Sure. Could it get me killed? Sure. But they gotta catch me first.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Breaking about six separate border laws, I bypassed security and portaled up to the world above for what was supposed to be an easy score. Have I mentioned how much I hate going topside? Well, I do—a lot. It rarely goes well, but the payoff is almost always worth it. Fleeing the authorities in Low-Town is a simple thing, given the intense overpopulation and cramped spaces, but up there, where the corporations create laws and machinations to subjugate the weak, the Aquilae have a much easier time of snuffing out crime and either arresting or executing criminals right there on the spot, especially some illegal Townie no one would miss.

A society contact from up there got word to me that a low-level engineer for Corporate Technologies (CorTex) found out that he was about to get the axe, and decided to be proactive by squirrelling away several pieces of high-end Tech before they could let him go. The plan was simple; meet the engineer, inspect the stolen Tech, offer him half of whatever he was hoping to get, secure the Tech, and get my happy-ass back to Low-Town. Well, like every other arrogant topsider, he screwed me over. An entire squadron of Aquilae were waiting when I got there. Overkill, if you ask me. Even one Aquilae is usually more than enough to contend with a Prime Mage, let alone some Townie smuggler like me. It’s a rare thing to catch me off guard, though, and so I unloaded everything I had on ‘em and was barely able to slip through a portal. The only reason I’m still alive at all was because I was wearing a Prime Infernal Ring. Watching half a dozen Administration enforcers turned into so much ash was almost worth all the Tech I had to use up just to save my own neck. To this day, I still don’t know who sold me out, but I never heard from that contact again. Is that what you meant by adventure? For me, it was just another day at the office.

Continue reading “Em 19 (of Guardian Blood, by Nicholas Hoy)”

Giulia Degarno (of Up To The Throne, by Toby Frost)

Dear readers, tonight with us is an ex-criminal on a mission of revenge. She is here to tell us about a world of magically-enhanced Renaissance: a dangerous world of assassins, alchemists and flying machines, a world where artists and scholars cross paths with feuding nobles and clockwork monsters – and death is never far away.


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

I grew up in a city-state called Pagalia, in the north of the Astalian Peninsula. Pagalia is the site of the rebirth of man: the greatest flourishing of art and knowledge for a thousand years. It’s produced painters, scholars, authors, inventors… and people like me. All the stuff about the art is true – but there’s plenty of thieves, robbers, forgers and every other type of criminal there.

Did you have any cherished memories of childhood?

Memories, eh? I don’t have many. Sometimes I think it’s best that I didn’t know much about my parents, what they must have done to make ends meet. There is one memory, though, that always comes back to me. It was during the War of Faith, so I must have been five or six. This column of Inquisition soldiers marched through town on the way to fighting the heretics in the north. They wore black cloaks and silver breastplates, and their boots were so shiny. Everyone had to go outside and cheer. But you could tell that people were scared of them. Even then I knew that. Sometimes I wonder if the New Churchers had to go out and cheer for their soldiers, and whether, deep down, they were frightened, too.

What do you do now?

These days, well, some would call me a thief-catcher, but it’s more complicated than that… Let’s just say that I get things done. Sometimes, it’s finding something that’s been stolen, other times people want me to steal it back… and other times, I just plain steal. When I get some time to myself, I train. You see, I’ve been away from Pagalia for a little while, and when I go back, I’ll need all the practice I can get.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, this is just between you and me, understand? You see my face, these scars? A man called Publius Severra put them there. It was a long time ago, and I was – well, I was a criminal. But I was much less of a criminal than he was, and he wanted me out of the way. His men got me out of the way all right, but they didn’t get the chance to finish me off. So now I’m going back to the place where Severra lives. And I’m going to finish him.

Continue reading “Giulia Degarno (of Up To The Throne, by Toby Frost)”

Talon (of the Catalyst Moon series, by Lauren L. Garcia)

Dear readers, tonight we eavesdrop on an antagonist interview, held in a tavern in a world where magic is real and mages battle priests.


[A tall, solidly-built woman strides into the tavern and approaches your table. Chips of a dark gray stone, hematite, embedded in her leather armor, glint in the lamplight, and her gaze sweeps across the seated man from head to toe. Her brown eyes narrow, but only a fraction, and she lifts her chin, her annoyed expression smoothing into one of forced politeness. She shifts her sword and daggers, and sits across from him.]

Please forgive my lateness. There were pressing matters to attend at the mage bastion, as I’m sure you can understand. But of course, if the Circle clergy want you to interview me in order to gain a greater understanding of my role in the One god’s world, I shall oblige. Shall we begin?

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

Surely you know of the capital city, Lasath? Well, I saw little of it, save on training runs. I was born in the bastion there, but since I have no magic, I was taken to live with the sentinels. I became one of them from an early age.

You were born in a bastion? Were your parents mages?

My parents are gone.

[An uncomfortable silence stretches before the interview continues]

Did you have any cherished memories of your childhood?

[Talon shifts in her seat, her gaze going distant before she catches herself.] Sentinel initiates are not given many chances to be “children,” but we were cared for when no one else would have done so. Food and shelter were enough. They had to be.

What’s it like to live so close to mages?

Mages are human, after all, albeit with…extraordinary abilities. Living near them is unremarkable, most of the time.

Most of the time?

Talon: How do you feel about folks who can turn into crows? Or shoot fire from their fingertips? Or spin sand into glass?

[Another long, uncomfortable silence]

What can you tell me about the other sentinels who serve under you?

[The stiff set of her shoulders eases, as does the stern tone of her voice] They’re a good lot. My second, Captain Cobalt, is a gifted warrior, loyal beyond measure. He’s been offered his own command several times, but has turned it down. I don’t imagine he’ll do so forever, but for now, I’m grateful the gods have kept him near.

Continue reading “Talon (of the Catalyst Moon series, by Lauren L. Garcia)”

Kade Traskel (of The Brightest Light, by Scott J. Robinson)

Dear readers, tonight on the interview couch is a man back from a decade of exile. He’s here to tell us about a world of death, corruption, shady deals and dirty deeds — just like old times — and of the Skyway Men that set him up.


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

I was born on the skyland of Hassan but I can’t remember much about that because, when I was five years old, my parents sold me to the Skyway Men and I moved to Girindult. I guess they needed to money but I don’t know for sure.

Girindult is a tiny skyland that’s been part of the Last Chance Archipelago for fifty years or more, moving between Rookery Reef, High Plain and Wind Haven. It’s known for metalworking. Up top is foundries and smithies and silversmiths and what-not. It’s hot. It stinks. It’s noisy. There’s smoke and acid and a constant clatter. Endless, deafening clatter. It keeps away the tourists, I suppose, which means the real purpose of the skyland is easier to hide. Down below, in the tunnels, it the main training center for the skyway men. With all the noise above the tourists couldn’t hear the gunshots and the screams even if they were paid to.

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

Favourite toy? The skyway men teach recruits to make their own weapons for some reason; I was quite fond of the first throwing knife I made. I lost that when an older boy fell off the side of the skyland with it still stuck in his throat.

What do you do now?

I screwed up a mission. I mean, it wasn’t my fault. I was young and had too many people telling me what to do and I couldn’t please everyone. But I took the blame and they shipped me off to rot on Whiparill, an insignificant farming skyland where, funnily enough, I ended up doing metalwork. I guess the training paid off after all. I waited ten years before they finally came looking for me for another mission.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I really wasn’t expecting to be given another job. I thought if the Skyway Men ever came looking for me it would be to make sure they wouldn’t have to worry about me ever again. But when I got the chance to get back in I was not going to screw it up. It seemed to be a pretty simple job. Break into a laboratory, steal an experimental crystal-machine and post it to the local Operations Manager. Of course, if it had been simple I wouldn’t be here.

Continue reading “Kade Traskel (of The Brightest Light, by Scott J. Robinson)”

Alex Orlov (of Twin Time, by Olga Werby)

Dear readers, tonight we print a police interview, together with the detective’s notes and observations about the interviewee — a young woman, who claims the disappearance of her autistic sister is due to magic and time-travel.


From the closed files relating to the Ms. Orlova’s house fire and the disappearance of Sasha Orlov: Transcript of Alex Orlov interview with Hillsborough police department’s Detective Hendle. (Additional observations were added after the interview by Officer Tony Davids.)

Notes & Observations: Ms. Orlov appears young for her age. She is very thin, but it is hard to tell just how thin—she is hiding underneath a gray sweatshirt with a UC Berkeley logo that is several sizes too big on her. She has shoulder-length dirty blond hair, which looks unwashed and unbrushed. The girl’s overall appearance is a bit bedraggled. Given what her family is going through, I suppose it’s understandable.

Detective: Tell us, Alex, a little about your sister. How you grew up? What was it like?

Alex: As you know, this is a very difficult question to answer.

Notes & Observations: As she talks, Ms. Orlov continuously fidgets with the extra-long sleeves of her sweatshirt, picking at the unraveling fabric at the hem. She is obviously very upset. She avoids meeting the eyes of the detective and other officers in the room.

Detective: You mean so soon after your twin’s…we know it must be very difficult—

Alex: No, it’s not what I mean. And it’s not even like Sasha died recently. It’s been almost three decades now.

Detective: But you are only nineteen…

Alex: Right.

Detective: Can you explain what you mean, please?

Alex: I guess I should start at the beginning…or as much of the beginning as it’s really possible given…well, given that time is not really linear for my sister and me. We were born at the turn of the century.

Detective: 2000?

Alex: Does it really matter?

Notes & Observations: I’m noting this as a classic avoidance behavior. I assume Ms. Orlov is lying to us. She is not a very practiced liar.

Alex: Sasha, as I’m sure you know, was…is…was severely autistic. Of course when we were babies, I didn’t know that. So we played together like other sisters, I guess. Only it was different. I usually ran around and got into all sorts of mischief, but Sasha toyed with things that were right next to her—a rocks, a pinch of sand, a flower petal, a spoon, her toes. Basically, whatever was within her reach. She wasn’t really into baby toys. She didn’t like clothes much either.

Detective: You were just babies.

Alex: Exactly.

Detective: Please go on.

Alex: We were born in Brooklyn, New York. But when Sasha was formally diagnosed, we moved out to California. There are more resources for kids like Sasha out here. And Aunt Nana was out here and she helped the family a lot in the beginning. Nana helped us buy a home and helped with finding Dad a job out here… Nana babysat us. But she was…

Notes & Observations: Ms. Orlov’s face flashes every time she mentions her great aunt—Ms. Nadezhda Orlova. “Aunt Nana” or “Nana,” as the girl refers to her. Note the variation of the family name spelling—something to do with Russian language.

Continue reading “Alex Orlov (of Twin Time, by Olga Werby)”

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