Attack of the Killer B’s… catching up with the creator, 25 years later.

In a previous blog post, I spoke of a public access television show I used to watch called Attack of the Killer B’s.

Back in 1992, my Friday night ritual was to run to the gas station just off base and grab a pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk and a can of Cheezums.  I’d then get back just in time to settle in and watch the most glorious Public Access Television show ever created… Attack of the Killer B’s.  It was like some kind of mad experiment resulting from a twisted tryst between Elvira, Svenghouli, and a voyeuristic MST3K poking its head in and seeing just what the hell was going on.

I ended up with about 8 VHS tapes filled with static’y episodes (all I had was rabbit ears and tin foil!), but I’d watch those tapes over and over again for the next decade.

Dr. Reek Amortis and Skelvis, circa 1992.

Let’s flash forward 25 years… a friend and fellow classic sci-fi/horror fan, @CultCredentials , sent me a message that he may have well found the man himself… Dr. Reek Amortis, Bryan Sisson.  I immediately got in contact with Mr. Sisson and lo-and-behold, Mr. Credentials was right.  I now know how Chewbacca felt.  Thanks Mr. Credentials for your black belt Google-Fu.  I am forever in your debt!  If you are a fan of cult and horror media, please check out his blog full of reviews of movies, TV, comics, and books.  You can also find him on Twitter at @CultCredentials.
So now… two and half decades later, I am finally able to bring you the man himself… the Mad Scientist of the Macabre, the Hero of Horror, the Champion of Camp!  Let’s give it up for DR. REEK AMORTIS!!!!

… er, BRYAN SISSON!!!!

Bryan Sisson, aka Dr. Reek Amortis, and Skelvis. Circa 2017.


First off, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me, Bryan.  It’s been 25 years since I watched your television show on Pueblo Public Access.  Could you tell me a bit about your passion for classic horror and why it appeals to you so much?

I have had a deep and consistent horror/sci-fi obsession for as long as I can remember. I have tried to figure out exactly when and why this happened… I think I liked the thrill of “safely” being scared; the excitement of being scared yet knowing that everything was going to be OK… the monsters will not win and goodness will triumph.

When I was growing up I would scour the TV guide looking for every horror, science fiction, and fantasy movie and marking it so I could try to watch it.  If you missed a movie then you never knew if you would ever see it again! The Classic horror movies were from a time where kids could watch and not be bombarded with realistic ultra-violence or nudity like most of the modern era relies on. There was a good scare, creative monsters, and they usually had the morale of good win out, which was comforting. Today’s movies are much more mean-spirited and rely on the one-upping of gore and cruelty. Not really what kids should watch.

One of my favorite memories was sitting with my mom on the couch watching Invisible Invaders during a huge thunder storm! I was watching torrents of water flow down the street with lightning flashing, all while the invisible dead tried to break into the underground laboratory!!! Exhilarating!!!!

 

Wow, very interesting!  I really appreciate how you feel about the effects of today’s horror on children.  I see that you’ve met some very well-known and amazing folks that have worked in the Horror genre. Care to let us know who they were? What was it like meeting them?

My brief venture into film making, while leaving me “underemployed”, did give me some experiences I will never forget! I and the director of our first feature film, “Curse of the Blue Lights”, were out in California trying to find a distributor for our completed film. We sent promotional materials out to every studio and distributor, big and small. We had meetings with 20th Century Fox and Universal even!

They would all eventually say “too bad, you didn’t have a big name talent involved that could sell it”.  Truth is it was way too small for them and frankly not good enough!! Thank god for the then huge VHS direct to video market as we would eventually get worldwide distribution with Media Home Entertainment.

Well, during this month-long trip to Hollywood, we were able to go into Amblin Studios after following up on an invitation from Steven Spielberg’s personal assistant!  Amblin is buried deep in the Universal studios lot.  After going through the second set of security gates, we pull up in the Amblin lot right in front of the building.  Mark Marshall, who was Spielberg’s assistant, is standing outside to meet us when the two kids, Short Round and Chunk from the Goonies, come running up to greet Mark as they also just arrived on a visit. It was a very surreal experience indeed!

We got to tour the entire Amblin studio, including a meeting room with TV’s that would rise out of the tables and saw the theater he had set up to watch any format of film possible.  As we walked down a hallway in the Mexican style compound, we passed an indoor paseo area where only 10 feet from us a photographer was taking pictures of Spielberg for a magazine. While we did not meet him, he did turn and smile at us as we passed!  Again exhilarating!

On this same trip I called up “Uncle” Forry Ackerman, whose name and number were listed in the phone book.  I was bummed out that I only got the voice mail as he was off at a convention. Two days later, my phone rings and I can’t believe it but on the other end is Forry inviting me to the Ackermansion that weekend! We pull up and I can see the submarine from Atlantis the Lost Continent just sitting in his backyard! He gave us a wonderful tour of his house when Ron Borst (huge movie poster collector and expert) stopped by, so they invited us to eat lunch at Forry’s favorite place, Sizzler!  Well, I was in heaven as any horror fan can understand.  I treasure my pictures with him in front of Maria the Metropolis robot.

I have since become an avid convention attendee and have had the pleasure to meet and talk to many of my heroes like Barbara Steele, Stuart Gordon, Clive Barker, Bert Gordon, Lamberto Bava, Ruggero Deodato, Dick Smith, Rick Baker, and many others.  I really like getting original posters signed by the cast and crew!  One of which is a Godzilla Vs The Thing one-sheet signed by Godzilla actor Haruo Nakajima!

 

You got to meet Forry and see Short Round, Chunk, and Spielberg?!  That must’ve been a Holy Grail moment!  I’d really like to know about the genesis of Attack of the Killer B’s (AotKB’s).  What was your motivation to create it and was it difficult to get on television?  What was it like to film an episode?  I’ve got an ongoing wager with myself that your name was Dr. Reek A. Mortis, and not Dr. Reek Amortis.  Who wins?  Who ends up being the one who was wrong for two and a half decades?

After trying my hand at film making and finding myself rather unemployed, I went back to the University in Pueblo to get an engineering degree.  I got a work study job at the University’s PBS station editing commercials and TV spots.  One day I was talking to the station manager, Greg Sinn, and found out he was a monster kid too!  He even still had some of the Famous Monsters paperback books from when he was a kid.  I asked him if he ever thought about using the station equipment to make a low budget movie.  That must have gotten his mind going because a month later he called me into his office and said he would be able to get a package of old B horror/sci-fi movies and asked if I was interested in coming up with an idea for a horror host to introduce them. That was all I needed to hear!  I immediately told him that I would and that I wanted to bring a friend of mine, Sonny Theis, in so we could incorporate silly songs into the sketches.

The University had a fairly large TV studio where they would film fund raising events and some student game shows. They had professional grade cameras, editing equipment, and could do large scale green screen effects shots.  I was a kid in a video candy store! This was very small scale… like really small scale… no one was paid and no money was spent.  I had to come up with everything that would be on camera.  The first thing I did was build a small dungeon-like set complete with a small window that we could look out of or just have fog roll in from.

I spent a few days carving,  gluing, and painting styrofoam to give the look.  Next, I had to think of a way I would start each movie, so I built a large switch that I could pull down.  Now Sonny was up for being my side kick and was for doing the music with me, but he was not really one to act very silly, so I knew we would be a little straight man/funny man, Abbott and Costello like.

I was working in the pharmacy at a local hospital so I had access to medical gowns and stuff of that nature so the good doctor was born!  And you lose and win… the name was Dr. Reek Amortis but I have to say I really like the Reek A. Mortis also!

Every Thursday night I would go over to Sonny’s house where he had every instrument and recording device you could imagine. He would start laying down drums, then bass, then keyboard and build a song.  He went over and over it, adding all the instruments to the music I was writing down, the lyrics that would go with the movie.  By the time he was done with the music, the lyrics would be complete and we would then sing and record the song.  Great songs such as Attack of the Giant Leeches, Teenage Caveman, and Atom Age Vampire were born.

I would then have to rummage around my house and find props and go down to Betty’s Costumes for any costumes we would need for the skits.  I would also have to write down a rough script that we would do the very next day!  So right after school every Friday, Sonny and I and whoever else we could coax into helping, would go into the study and in one take we would play the prerecorded music and lip sync to the song.

I still find it odd how hard it was to get people to be involved in something that was so much fun. I always knew I had my family that would come through in a pinch and I was always in a pinch. My son Zachary would play young Dr. Reek and my mom would play one of the Sisters of the Immaculate Constipation.  My girlfriend at the time would play a number of characters, including a cave woman and a car crash victim in one of my favorites… Atom Age Vampire.

We did this every day for a year for a total of 23 episodes (I think).

 

So, I’m a loser and a winner… I’ll take it!  You worked with two other main cast members (well, one alive and one not-so-alive), Sonny and Skelvis.  Can you tell me about working with Sonny?  How did you two meet?  He was a seriously cool cat… did he ever take off his sunglasses?  I remember that you and Sonny would perform a song based on the movie that was to be shown.  It was amazing just how good those songs were!  What was the process involved in that?  Was Skelvis as difficult off-screen as he was on?

Sonny Theis and I met at a number of parties where he would play amazing lead guitar while we all drank massive quantities of beer.  Oh the 70’s!  Sonny was/is an amazing musician and I had played rhythm guitar with him a few times in a band.  Sonny was also attending the University at the time and he was equally anxious to try out this unusual adventure.  Sonny was a cool cat and now that you mention it I don’t think I have ever seen him with his sun glasses off… hmmm.  Did you ever see Not of This Earth??

Being a dungeon setting I thought about what I could do to spice the set up a bit. The music and horror made me think it would be cool to have a dead Elvis as a smartass side kick hanging on the wall to give the good doctor grief.  I had a number of zombie bodies lying around in my basement from the Curse of the Blue Lights film, so I picked one out and made him up as Elvis.  I incorporated a glove in the back of his mouth so it could be manipulated from a hole in the wall.  I tried to find someone that would be committed to doing the voice of Skelvis and someone else to stand on a ladder behind the wall to manipulate the arms, but more often than not we were ready to film with no one to help. This is why in many of the episodes you see Skelvis with his mouth taped shut “so he couldn’t taunt us”

Skelvis is living the life, or is it death, down in my basement and pondering a comeback tour.  I just don’t think he has the guts to actually pull it off though…

 

So you’re saying that Sonny might have egg-white eyes… interesting!  And Skelvis doesn’t have the guts… wait… I see what you did there!   Are you a musician in “real life” and do you still perform?  Any chance on there being an AotKB’s album one day?

I am a middle-of-the-road, wanna-be rock-star musician.  I currently play in a 3 piece band called Playing With Fire.  Interestingly, we all got together when we played in a band with Sonny.  Geniuses’ get tired with things and so Sonny bowed out and we continued on our own.  Sonny and I had often discussed if we should try to do a return of Dr. Reek, but honestly I think it was lightning in a bottle… the time was just right and we were up to the challenge.   

 

Well, I ain’t gonna lie… I’m just gonna pretend that one day there’ll be a reunion and I’ll be ready with the New York Super Fudge Chunk and a can of Pringles.  How many episodes did AotKB’s have?  How long did you plan on running the show?

We really had no idea how it would go over with people and didn’t have much in the way of feedback if people were even watching…. We ended up filming for one year (basically one show for each movie in the Attack of the Killer B’s package he purchased).  They had the right to show it for 2 years, so the second year was re-runs.

 

The first (few? I can’t recall how many) episodes were in black and white.  At some point they became color.  Why did you decide to change it to a color program?  Did that create any headaches?

We really didn’t know what we wanted it to look like at first. We went with black and white since the movies were black and white.  Then we got a knob that I could use to change us to color.  Eventually we just liked the color better and stayed with that.  I also want to mention our cameraman, Ron Weekes.  Ron was a full time employee at the station and really added a lot to the look of the show.  I wanted the cameras locked down on dollies because they had all this cool equipment and I thought that would be better, but Ron chose to grab the camera and move about free style. This really added a lot to the look of the show and really added to its zaniness!

 

I remember that camera work!  Y’all were decades ahead of today’s “queasy cam” stuff!

Any chance that there is some archival footage of the show?  I’ve got two healthy children… they may be small, but they’re strong!  I could maybe trade one for a DVD box set?  Both for the BluRay?

Sadly, I only had some crappy VHS copies but all of the surviving songs are out on YouTube. I had the full broadcasts transferred to DVD, but they’re really bad copies… Arrghh!!!

I did experiments with children on TV.  I could get away with it because it was “educational”, now they frown on it.

 

I totally understand… I probably would’ve chickened out on the the deal and offered up my autographed copy of Damnation Alley in lieu of my kinder anyway…

You wrote a movie, “Curse of the Blue Lights”.  Would you mind talking about that?  Any other horror projects in the works?  Any plans on an AotKB’s revival someday?

Curse of the Blue Lights was another adventure where we were too stupid to know we shouldn’t be doing this.  This was pre-Dr. Reek.  I  dropped out of the University to help a guy raise money to make a low budget mystery/horror movie.  In the meantime we ended up making a documentary on Zebulon Pike called Zebulon Pike and the Blue Mountain.  Pretty cool little film narrated by Burgess Meredith!

We did not raise the $1 million we needed, but we did raise about $175,000.  Instead of giving up, I convinced them that we should make a low budget horror movie with lots of makeup effects.  I had been doing a lot of foam latex monster make up and knew I could pull enough off enough to have good effects. Very long story short, we made the movie and got it distributed worldwide!  We made the money back, but it was too slow for investors to reinvest in something more.  Hollywood low-balled us and really didn’t give a $h!t if we made another movie or not.  I worked on a few more locally produced films like ROBO C.H.I.C. (Assistant Director) and Elves where I got to work with up-and-coming effects guru, Vincent Guastini.

I am always conspiring something … right now I’m spending time with my band.  There is nothing better that playing on stage and everything just blends.

 

Holy crap, I had no idea you had been involved in so many projects!  Did you ever think that a fan of your public access show would contact you 25 years later?  Is this kind of a cool thing or does is make you freak out just a little bit?

That someone remembers our work from so far back is one of the most awesome and humbling things that has happened.  When we made these, we really never knew if anyone watched, let alone liked what we did.  We did what we did because we had to have a creative outlet.  I was going to school for engineering and then going to the set to be a horror host… How cool was that!?  

I wish I had taken the time to document what we did, but we were so wrapped up in trying to pull off something funny for nothing that we just didn’t even think about preservation.  I had someone from Blood Central just contact me about Curse of the Blue Lights, so it is strange that I would also be asked about Killer B’s in the same month.

Things I did 25–30 years ago and people remember them fondly… It makes me very proud and should be a lesson for anyone that you should go for the impossible… you want to make a movie?  You want to be a horror host?  You want to be a rock star?  What the hell are you waiting for?!

I am so happy you enjoyed our show and took the time to seek out Dr. Reek!

I can dig it.  One last question… You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down and see a tortoise. It’s crawling toward you… You reach down and flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lies on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over. But it can’t. Not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that?

Because I know this tortoise… he has stalked me since childhood. The first time I remember seeing him I was in my crib, unable to utter anything intelligible, I lay in a filthy diaper.  While just outside of my peripheral vision sat the tortoise smirking, planting frightening tortoise visions in my weak mind.  I still remember his taunts as I stood in front of my first grade class unable to solve the equation the instructor had written on the board… and all the while the tortoise, probing, planting false variables and erroneous theorems.  And good god… how can I ever forget our wedding night… my beloved lying disheveled in our bridal bed, the foul stench of tortoise rising from her ivory skin.

I feel him even now in my mind… I feel the shell growing on my back… I lay down next to …it.

My legs flounder in the air as the desert sun bakes down upon my naked flesh…


And there you have it my friends, quite possibly the coolest interview I will have ever done.  This really was a trip down memory lane.  I feel like I want to relate to how Bryan felt when he met Forry.  This really was an exciting experience for me.  I swear I can smell the Cheezums and taste the ice cream.  A megaton of thanks to Mr. Sisson for allowing me to pick his brain (with anesthetic of course) and discover the magic behind Attack of the Killer B’s!

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Post-Apocalyptic audio goodness for your earholes…. an interview with Ryan Law of Ash Tales.

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I first discovered Ash Tales a few months ago on Twitter (or maybe it was longer than that… time in the Wastes can be subjective).  In any case, this quickly became one of my favorite accounts to follow.  I happen to love audiobooks and post-apocalyptic fiction (um, duh!) and this was the best of both worlds!  Ash Tales is a podcast that is a reading (complete with sound effects) of a postapoc short story.  Really… it’s like a star was actually listening when I wished upon it!

I recently decided that an interview was in order… I simply had to know more about Ash Tales and the man who created it.  So, with no further ado, here he is… and as always, please click the pics for a taste of Ryan’s fabulous work…

 


 

First off, tell me a little about yourself.  What makes Ryan tick?

  I guess I’m motivated by two core beliefs: Post apocalyptic fiction is more important than most people give it credit for, and it deserves greater awareness.  Writers get a raw deal, and deserve a better way to share their stories with people.

Aside from that, I’m 25, I play a mean guitar, and I have a crippling love affair with dark beer.

 

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What sparked your interest in postapoc fiction?  What is your first memory of something telling you “This is it… this is what I love”?

   About a decade ago I was given a dog-eared copy of The Postman to read. There was something in that story that fascinated me: seeing society crumble down brought out a bit of the frontier spirit in me, and I damn near packed-up my bag to go and live in the woods.  I looked for a few books that captured a similar vibe, and that was how I found The Road – and that magic phrase “post apocalyptic fiction”. Cue the light bulb and angelic chorus.

 

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Is there a certain type of Apocalypse that you favor?  Nuclear Armageddon?  Social Breakdown?  Ecological Disaster?  Dare-I-say-it…. Zombies?

   It’s gotta be the classic nuclear apocalypse scenario – that feeling of living under the gun is just so relateable. Books like Alas, Babylon and On the Beach really hit home for me, seeing how close we’ve come to a real-life cataclysm, and how close we could come again.

 

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Are you a fan of “fantasy” apocalypses or ones based more in reality (Fury Road vs. The Road)? 

  Don’t make me choose man! I guess if I had to come down on a single side, I’d favor realism. I think post apocalyptic fiction can be a powerful form of social commentary, letting you strip away society’s veneer and see what life’s really like at its core. I studied Economics and Sociology, so I’m fascinated by the unspoken rules that govern our world, and I love anything that explores what life would look like without society around to guide us.

 

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Are you a writer yourself?

   Absolutely! Writing was the only thing I was ever good at, so I’ve spent the last decade finding ways to make a living from it. I’m the co-founder of a marketing agency here in the UK, and before that, I was a freelance copywriter. I’ve written all kinds of weird and wonderful things (I’ve even been a beer reviewer – that was pretty sweet), and I’m now turning my hand to writing fiction. I’ve published a few short stories and a novel is in the works (new-found respect for serial authors –  novels are hard work!).

 

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I absolutely love what you’re doing with your Ash Tales project… seriously,  this is a an amazing blending of audio and postapoc fiction.  Would you tell me more about Ash Tales?  How did you come up with the idea?  What would you like people to know about it?

   A couple of years ago, I decided to write a roundup of awesome post apocalypse books – the kind of guide I was looking for when I first discovered the genre. A few thousand words and a dozen cups of coffee later, and I’d written The 50 Best Post Apocalyptic Books. I set up Ash Tales, hit publish – and promptly forget I’d ever written it. I stumbled upon the site a year later, and saw that the post was getting hundreds of visits a month. Now, it’s just crossed 20,000 views (insane!), and as it turns out, my weird little end-of-the-world fascination wasn’t that weird or little.

   The rest of the site grew out of that realization. I’ve had first-hand experiences with literary journals, and I was sick and tired of waiting months just to get a templated rejection letter. So I took matters into my own hands, and created a writer-friendly space to share new post apocalyptic fiction  – no agenda, no qualifications, just great storytelling. The podcast was a natural extension: I had great stories to share, and podcasting felt like the purest form of storytelling imaginable.

Are you a “one man band” when it comes to Ash Tales, or is it a team effort?

   Total one-man band! I count myself really lucky that my day job gives me the skills to run the site, letting me focus on the stuff I love doing: reading and writing post apocalyptic fiction! 

It’s also important to say that Ash Tales wouldn’t exist without the support of our awesome readers and writers. I’ve been blown away with the response I’ve had from people, and I’m always humbled by talented authors that are willing to take a chance on me, and share their work with the site.

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Is postapoc fiction popular in England?  If so, why do you think that is?  If not, why not?

   It’s always struck me as a pretty American phenomenon, and most of the genre’s classics have their roots firmly in US soil. At a guess, I’d say we have the Cold War to thank for popularizing the genre, and the US was more directly involved than our quiet little backwater. With that said, there are a couple of books my native country has contributed to the cause, including The Children of Men, The Day of the Triffids, and the super underrated The Death of Grass.

 

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I’m not going to ask you the old standby of “What is your favorite postapoc movie and book?”.  So, what are your THREE favorite postapoc movies and books?

Awesome question: 

Movies
1) The Road
2) Children of Men
3) 28 Days Later
Books
1) The Stand
2) The Death of Grass
3) The Road
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Impressive…. most impressive (in my best, yet totally pathetic Vader voice).  I’m going to suppress my elation that you are the only person I’ve ever spoken to who was familiar with The Death of Grass… only because it would be both embarrassing and perhaps a skosh messy.

Ryan, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to ask you these questions and letting our fellow wanderers of the wastes learn more about you and your project.

If any of you writers are interested in submitting your work to Ash Tales, you can submit your tale here… Ash Tales Short Story Submissions.

Ash Tales can be found on Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, and YouTube.

 

 

An interview with Arthur H. Walker – Identity Extensive Technology and “Going Delta”…

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EC: Welcome to the Wastes, Arthur! Hey, real quick before we get started… I understand you like to “poke pixels into proper shape”.  I’m a bit of a video game nerd, could you tell me about the game developer thing?

AW: A friend I’ve known for 25 years, asked me to help him build games. He loves games, but isn’t super creative. I design, write, and render, while my friend writes the code. I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to try indie dev at all, but when a friend like that asks me for a favor, I don’t say no. 🙂  I’ve grown to like it since our first game.  And, of course, I wanted to do a post-apocalyptic RPG after that.  I’ve had to reach out to all sorts of skills, and the indie dev community.  There are lots of great people there.

 

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EC: I recently finished the first book in your Uroboros Saga series and compared it to Bladerunner. First off, I gotta say that it has been an extremely long time since I’ve read a book that’s grabbed me by the throat and not let go from the first page.  Secondly, there’s a whole lot more going on than what I had initially thought. I was intrigued by the “idea of technology that extends and expands the modern notion of identity, and the sort of dystopia that such technology could create.”

AW: In the books I refer to it identity extensive technologies. It is what I expect will eventually arise from current cognitive technologies like IBM’s Watson.

 

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EC: Identity extensive technologies? Oh man, you gotta talk to me like I’m four years old sometimes. What exactly is that?

AW: In the present day, it is very limited, and amount to services that are not fully autonomous just yet. Amazon and Google can merely suggest products and web sites based on your previous search and buying habits. Facebook can push advertising you might like, based on information you’ve provided. Pandora comes a little closer, playing music for you based on your previous choices, automatically. I use an extreme example in my books.

A nanotechnological replica, with an imprinted neural construct that acts essentially the same way as your brain. It is a machine that looks and thinks like you, with implied legal (a thing I don’t touch on) ability to act as you. It could buy things it knows you like, enter into contractual agreements, and contribute to your works and desires, autonomously.  Basically, a technological redundancy for a person, acting as they would act. There are cognitive technologies (IBM’s Watson) and data holds (the Internet) that could give rise to such in the future.

 

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Automating human agency is one of the darkest and most dangerous things, done incorrectly. Apocalyptic in the extreme. Instead of a wasteland of burnt buildings and radioactive zombies, you’d have an intellectual wasteland, and a cognitive disparity in the population. People who could afford the technology, employing it ethically or otherwise, would have extreme advantages over others. I could write a book, while I was editing, while I was illustrating the cover, two books ahead, outpacing other independent authors. This, provided the technology worked flawlessly. And, it didn’t assume identity markers outside my own (constituting a separate being with its own desires). 

 

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 In my books, replicas do just this, “going delta” and becoming their own distinct folks, with varying consequences. Some of the Deltas are murderous psychopaths, while others are staunch protectors of humanity. I see machines of this type as reaching polarizing conclusions about morality, but not necessarily the “rise of the machines” scenario that Hollywood constantly puts on display. Still, Deltas would not possess the same anthropological imperatives as humans, so they’d likely reach slightly different conclusions.

 

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Cognitive technologies have real world commercial applications, but not for the average consumer just yet. I’d like to be able to take a picture of my closet, send it to a service that could examine my purchasing habits and buy me clothes at an appropriate interval, based collected biometric data, without me having to lift a finger. It would be eerie at first. Especially if the service was dead on, mostly buying stuff I liked, with the few regretful purchases I inevitably would have made anyway.

I wonder how society would grapple with such technology. Also, how it would treat redundant identity systems that go “delta”, and so forth.

 

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Arthur H. Walker likes to write about identity extensive technologies, fiscal/economic collapse, Intelligent Agents and A.I.s, Compliance Implants, and genetic engineering. You can find him on twitter at https://twitter.com/ArthurHWalker.

An interview with Brian Dorsey – Draxius Lost

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EC:  Welcome back Brian!  First off, for those who may not have read Gateway yet, can you give us a brief synopsis?

BD:  Gateway is a military space opera that examines how our perspectives on the truth, and to some degree our reality, are formed by the civilization and culture in which we are raised. The protagonist, Major Tyler Stone, is a highly decorated officer in the Humani Elite Guard. Despite frustrations with the class-oriented nature of his society, puffed-up political officers, and abuses of the commoners at the hands of the elite, Tyler believes in the value of his society and its rules. All of this is challenged, however, when a series of events forces him to look at his society through the eyes of his enemy—in this case, a beautiful Terillian Scout Ranger named Mori Skye. What follows is a roller-coaster ride of deception, action, and revelation as Stone must determine if honor is more important than duty.

 

EC:  I understand that you spent some time in the Navy.  I would imagine that you draw from this experience in order to write so effectively.  Can you tell us about something outside of your military service that influences your writing?

BD:  I did spend a little time in the Navy…23 years. 😉   Although I did draw a lot from my military experience, I also draw from my academic background. I have B.S. degrees in History and Radiation Physics from Oregon State University and a Master of Social Science from Syracuse University. Although that sounds like an odd combo, the Radiation Physics and my military experience with nuclear power give me insight into the tech using in military scifi and my history and social science background were invaluable in world-building.

 

EC:  There seems to be a fine line between Military Science Fiction and Space Opera.  How would you classify your writing?

BD:  I would classify it as both.  In my opinion, I think it has the dramatic and epic elements that space opera fans can identify with while at the same time I definitely don’t shy away from the military/combat elements of the story—the lead and almost all supporting characters are in the military so it would be hard not to focus on that element.  Maybe military space opera would be the best descriptor.  Some readers have, however, stated they enjoyed the character development and interaction as much the action and military aspects of the story.


 

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EC:  You have a novella that was just published this week, Draxius Lost, which is a prequel of sorts involving one of the main characters.  Could you tell us a little about it? 

BD:  Draxius Lost, and a follow-up novella Draxius Redeemed (which I hope to have released before the end of this year), follows Captain Emily Martin from the Gateway main series as a young lieutenant learning how to be a leader. When a mission goes bad, she is thrust into command and must deal with old enemies, some new ones, and her own demons to save herself and her men.

 

EC:  Emily Martin has become quite a popular character, is this why you decided to make her the subject of Draxius Lost? 

BD:  The short answer is yes. When I started Gateway, my plan was for her to be an important, but secondary character.  Over the process of writing Gateway, however, she kind of took on a life of her own…at times I think the character was actually telling me what she was going to do next, as if I didn’t have a choice. In fact, she basically shares the stage with Tyler Stone as the main characters in the upcoming second book in the main Gateway series, which is titled Saint and will be out this fall. She quickly became my favorite character to write and I received a lot of positive feedback about her, so it made sense to dig deeper into her character.

 

EC:  Can we expect to see more side stories based on other characters in the Gateway universe? 

BD:  There is a bit of a plan forming. It is still tentative, but I actually spoke with my publisher about increasing the novellas supporting the Gateway Universe. Following Draxius Lost will be Draxius Redeemed which will close out the storyline of Martin’s first mission in command. After that, I think I’ll go after the story of the wolf clan from Gateway.

 

EC:  One last question, if Gateway were to be made into a movie, who would you like to see play the character of Emily Martin? 

BD:  That’s a tough one, and one I’ve thought about a little. Right now, I’m thinking either Gina Carano or Rachel Nichols.

An Interview With Brian Dorsey. Author of the military science fiction novel, Gateway…

I came across Brian Dorsey quite by accident.  In my early days of twitter, I was checking out the followers of another science fiction writer and happened to see his profile.  After looking at his website and reading a sample of Gateway, I knew that this was a writer I wanted to engage with.  He is one of those writers that honestly likes to talk with his fans, even if it is just about ordinary, everyday topics.

 

One of the exciting things that Brian has done is to develop a website that is a virtual Gateway encyclopedia.  There you can find specs, lineage, personnel records and government data as it pertains to his books.  Plus, it has really, really cool pictures!  It is one of the better websites I have come across for a book series and he’s done it all by himself.  You can find the link at the end of the interview.

 

EC:  I noticed that you created a very in-depth website for your books.  I love it when an author provides behind-the-scenes goodies for their stories.  Could you tell us about it?

BD:  Thanks.  At first I started the website because my publisher wanted me to start one.  I am by no means tech savvy when it comes to social media and IT so I did a little research (and asked an IT guru at the company I was working for at the time) and decided to go with wix.com for the platform.  Luckily, it’s fairly user-friendly so it didn’t give me too many headaches.

As for the content, it was (and still is) a work in progress. My idea of a website is that it should be a place where readers/fans can interact with the writer, learn more about the universe in which the story lives, and find out what the author is working on next.  I added the basic pages I think you would expect to see on an author site such as links to buy, cover photos, and reviews.  After that, I tried to think of things I would want to see if I were a reader that really ‘got into’ the storyline.  I think from that perspective, three things have been very successful.

1.  Concept Art: Although my publisher handles the cover art and other aspects of marketing, I went out on my own to have some additional concept art done.  I was lucky enough to find Jed Tarkowski and he and I have worked pretty well together developing concept pieces for the Gateway Universe.  I think the concept art helps people in two ways: First, it shows people a little bit of what I think things should look like (with some input from Jed) and secondly, some people are more stimulated by visual information and it can actually draw them into the story more than providing excerpts.

2.  Excerpts: I added links to some samples of my writing to give people an idea of the story and the characters in case they aren’t sure Gateway is for them but want to at least check it out. I also occasionally include extra ‘stuff’ that I have written as character development that may not be part of the main storyline.

3.  Wiki/Gateway Universe:  This is my favorite part.  I wanted to provide a way for people who enjoy reading Gateway to be able to dig deeper into the society, the military, and the characters.  If you really like a character, some of them have military records that you can access.  If you like the ships, some have their specs available.   Jed Tarkowski and the concept art came in pretty handy in this area too; he did several ‘schematic’ drawings to go along with some of the ships.  Also available are government structures and some family lineages.  This page will always be a work in process for two reasons:  First, as I continue to develop the series, I will also continue to develop and intertwine the underlying frameworks of civilizations and people involved.  Secondly, I have more information ready to post, but I also try to balance the release so that people have a chance to read the next book in the series and let some of the information be delivered more naturally through the storyline.  What that means is that when Saint (Book 2) releases, there will be another spike in information available on wiki.

 

EC:  Brian, what kind of research do you employ to base your battles, ships, and maneuvers on?  Do you use military experience or gathered information from other sources?  Both?

BD:  It’s a combination of experience, interviews, and research.

I retired from the Navy after 23 years of service, both enlisted and as an officer, so some of that can be seen in my writing although I purposely change some things slightly such as names of compartments and equipment.  (You won’t see a Combat Information Center in the Gateway series; it would more likely be called Combat Center and instead of the ship establishing Material Condition Zebra for combat, it might set Combat Containment).  My plan was to write it in a way that a novice would get the idea but still be close to technically correct. So if there are vets out there that read a line and say “that’s not exactly right,” it’s on purpose to be more inclusive.

For ground combat research, I spoke with some friends with infantry experience as well as utilized my own research (in addition to sci-fi, I have also published historical nonfiction, mostly military history).  An example of interviews is the use of a PLIC (Personnel Clearing Line Charge) which I adapted from discussion with Marines about MICLIC (Mine Clearing Line Charges) and their adapted uses in the recent wars.

In addition to my military experience and academic work in history, I also have a degree in Radiation Physics and have worked in Navy’s nuclear propulsion program throughout my military career and currently as a civilian Navy employee.  This technical background also helps with some of the science in the series.

 

EC:  Are any of your characters based on yourself?  People you know?

BD:  Not really.  Some of the main characters have names (or part of them) based on friends or family members but not their characteristics or personalities.

Of particular note, however, is the Tyler Stone character.  You may notice the character does not use his more formal name (Venarius).  This is for two reasons.  First, if you check out the family lineage tab in the Gateway Universe tab on my website (www.briandorseybooks.com) you can see the reason that fits the plot line.  Secondly, the character is named after a close family friend (and best friend of one of my kids) that lost his battle with cancer a few years back at the age of 14 (his father was a Navy friend of mine that was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2008).  Before Tyler passed, I made a promise to him I would name a character after him and it just seemed right for it to be the lead character.  In support of the continuing fight against cancer, 10% of my 1st year’s profits from Gateway will go to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life program under Tyler’s name and my publisher has graciously agreed to match that amount.

As for the other characters, Cataline Tacitus was based on two of the worst leaders I met in the Navy but I’m not naming names.  Likewise, some characteristics of other characters such a Captain Emily Martin, Captain Hugh Jackson, Captain Mori Skye, and Major Tyler Stone are based on a combination of traits from some of the best (or at least most interesting) personalities I have met along the way.

 

EC:  Of these characters, have you ever received an unexpected review of them?

BD:  I would say it has to be the Emily Martin character.  At first, I added her as a supporting character because I wanted show a female in a leadership role in the book.  After a while, however, the character seemed to just write itself as if she was telling me what the character would do next.  From the feedback I have received so far, she has become several readers’ favorite.  Besides seeing her in book 2 of the series (Saint) due out in summer 2015, I am developing a novella based on her as a young lieutenant which should hopefully be available by fall 2015.

 

EC:  Do you classify Saint as space opera?  Military SciFi?  Both?  Neither?

BD:  I would classify it as both.  In my opinion, I think it has the dramatic and epic elements that space opera fans can identify with while at the same time I definitely don’t shy away from the military/combat elements of the story—the lead and almost all supporting characters are in the military so it would be hard not to focus on that element.  Maybe military space opera would be the best descriptor.

Some readers have, however, stated they enjoyed the character development and interaction as much the action and military aspects of the story.

 

EC:  What makes Saint different from other books in the genre?

BD:  I think (or at least hope) two things make Saint, and for that matter the Gateway series, stand out from the rest.

First, I attempt to write the storyline on three levels.  The first level is the typical shoot ‘em up military science fiction with battles, spaceships, and even a little swordplay.  With the second level I attempt to develop the characters in a way that people understand why and how they interact with people around them and why they react the way they do in the situations in which they are placed.  One of my best moments as a writer was when I saw two readers having a ‘discussion’ about why Emily Martin would or wouldn’t have done something in a scene.  Finally, at the lowest, underlying, level I try to look a societal element.  In Gateway, I try to show how society, cultures, and government actually shape our perception of reality and what happens when that reality is challenged.  In Saint, that third-level aspect will look at religion used as a weapon.

Secondly, the main character will not reach full development until the fourth or fifth book in the series.  The Tyler Stone character is one that ‘thought’ he understood his purpose when Gateway begins but eventually has his perception of his universe shattered.  He wants desperately for the world to be black and white and has used codes and principles to guide him and help him to categorized things to fit that mindset.  Once his reality is destroyed, he now has to struggle with a world that is much grayer than he likes.  To help, or maybe make things worse, he has two very strong-minded women (Emily Martin & Mori Skye) pulling him in two directions (which you really begin to see toward the end of Saint).  Both believe what they are doing is right but pull Stone in two different directions. Eventually he will need to choose and the choice will have significant ramifications not only for Stone and his friends but for entire civilizations.

 

EC:  I’d like to hear about your writing that is not in this genre.  

BD:  Although I had the basic storyline for Gateway in my head for about 15 years before I actually wrote it, the Gateway series is my first foray into fiction.  Before that, I wrote academic nonfiction historical works.  In addition to journal articles, I have published two nonfiction books.  They are:

A Call to Arms: The Realities of Military Service for African Americans during the Civil War.  This book examines the factors impacting recruitment of African Americans during the Civil War from a regional perspective.

Southern West Virginia and the Struggle for Modernity.  This was my final project from my graduate program at Syracuse which I developed as a book.  It looks at the social, economic, cultural, and political history of Southern West Virginia (as part of greater Appalachia) from post-Civil War through the present.

 

EC:  What would you like your readers to learn from Saint?

BD:  First, I hope they are entertained and connect with the characters.  The series is meant primarily to entertain and tell (hopefully) a good story.  From a social perspective (as mentioned earlier) Saint has an underlying tone that is a cautionary tale for religion gone wrong.

 

EC:  What impact would you like to give readers so they will remember Saint, long after they are finished reading it?

BD:  First, don’t piss off Emily Martin.   But seriously I guess the takeaway is that we are created by the environment in which we are raised and live and in turn form our opinions of other people and cultures based on our created ‘self.’   We should strive to learn more about people different from us even though it may complicate things and challenge long-standing beliefs.

 

Brian’s second book in the Gateway series is titled Saint and will be released summer of 2015…

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You can find Brian Dorsey at…

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