An Interview with Wil Magness… Creator of the post-apocalyptic indie film, The Manual.

The Manual – a film by Wil Magness

 

I was recently contacted by filmmaker Wil Magness, asking me to check out his post-apocalyptic film project, The Manual.  After watching it (and getting a pretty bad case of “leaky eyes” more than once), I just had to talk to him about it.  Here is that conversation…

 


 

Wil, thanks for taking the time and talking to me today.  Let me start off by asking, who are you? Where do you come from? What was life like as a child? Have you always been a fan of science/postapocalyptic fiction?

My parents were paranoid about the public school system so I was home-schooled. We moved every three to four years as my dad got different jobs so I didn’t grow up with any long-term friends and spent most of my childhood doing things that didn’t require a lot of people, so reading books, playing video games, watching movies. My mother had us focus on art as much as possible I think because she loves it herself. So school ended up being a lot of painting, drawing or playing music.

I credit my dad for planting the seeds of sci-fi. Mondays were “Star Trek” night at the Magness household and he was always ready to see the next Star Wars. Though I think my interest in sci-fi surpassed his early on.

 

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The Machine reads from The Manual

 

Very interesting!  How long have you been telling stories?  Is film the only medium with which you’ve done so?

Does staging fight scenes with ninja turtles count? That would be the earliest I think. I remember focusing a lot on painting and getting bored with it so I shifted to writing, then getting bored with that and playing music, then back to painting, etc. I think I love film so much because all varieties of artistic expression go into it. Writing and directing a project lets you wade into so many different realms of craft and I’ve been lucky to work with so many talented people. I’ve fallen in love with the aspect of world-building and creating intricate backstories and working with actors to get the right performances for the story. It’s something I’d never considered as a viewer but it makes a huge difference.

 

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What sparked your decision to create The Manual?  What are you hoping to bring to fans of the genre and does The Manual give something to everyone?

Since it isn’t out yet, we probably need to explain what it’s all about. The Manual is the story of the last human on Earth. His parents die when he’s very young and he spends his childhood being raised by the family robot. The robot has a handheld device called The Manual that contains the sacred text of a composite religion combining a lot of religions we have in our world today, with a new spiritual twist in that robots also have souls and will join humans in the afterlife.

I think one of the greatest opportunities in science fiction is the ability to place a character in a world that purposefully emphasizes and punctuates an aspect of the human condition. In modern society, people struggle with loneliness and isolation while being surrounded by devices ironically meant as means of connection.  We took these feelings to a literal place by making our character the only person left on Earth struggling to connect with his origins through a machine.

In this environment, The Manual explores the transition that many of us make from a worldview shaped by parents and religion to a worldview of our own construction, based on personal experience. This perspective shift in my own life involved an existential struggle that completely changed me and it felt important enough and relate-able enough to translate it into my favorite genre.

In The Manual there isn’t a lot of the classic post apocalyptic tropes like zombies or human vs. human survival. I think we’ve made something refreshing that the genre hasn’t seen before.

 

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Indeed, it really is a new and refreshing take on the apocalypse.  How long have you been working on The Manual?  What has the process been like?

I’ve been working on it for three to four years now, I think. It started as an animated project and evolved along the way. It’s been really fun for me because this is what I love to do, and from the beginning I’d wanted to build a world from scratch. My wife, Sara Magness, has been my film-making partner for a long time. We sort of took a hiatus to get our professional careers off the ground and start a family, so it was really good to get back to our roots with this film.

 

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An animated film?  I’m always amazed at how projects evolve over the course of their creation. What is the one thing you remember from making the film? Anything you’d rather forget?

The first thing that pops into my head is on our second day of shooting. Our plan had been to shoot all of our indoor stuff on day one, then outdoor stuff on day two and it rained all day long. It was cold and it was just pouring rain. We were shooting in an area where we’d dug out two huge holes and it was so muddy and wet that you’d lose your boot if you stepped in the wrong spot.

I was working with J.J. on probably the most difficult scene of the film, where he really had to go to a dark place and I think we were on the fifth take. He took his sweater off and wrung maybe a gallon of water out of it and he was shivering. I looked around at the whole setup and I was just struck by the dedication and passion of all of these filmmakers that surrounded me. I felt like we were really making something amazing.

 

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JJ Johnston as “James”

 

I can tell you that as a viewer, the pain and sorrow of those scenes were palpable.  I completely lost my cool more than once.  JJ really was amazing!  What plans do you have for The Manual?  Will you be entering it into any festivals?  When do you plan on releasing the film to a general audience?

We had our U.S. premiere at the Rome International Film Festival in Georgia. I wasn’t able to attend, but people have contacted me that saw it and they say it was well received! We’ve also been nominated for nine awards at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival and I will be able to attend that because my parents live around there so it’s an excuse to visit with them. We have just started the festival game so we have a large amount that we are waiting to hear back on.

After festivals we are planning on releasing it online for a dollar or something. It’s half an hour long, so I kind of want a commitment from viewers to just relax and watch it for the full half hour. I think with a dollar on the line I can get that commitment!

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Nominated for nine awards at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival.

 

If you could give one piece of advice to independent filmmakers, what would it be?

What everyone says is “make movies”, which is good advice. I’ll get more specific and say that if you are just starting out, do not spend a lot of money on your movies because most likely they will be bad. Write a ton of scripts, shoot them on your phone and get all of your bad movies out of you for cheap. When you have a script that you think is going to be fucking amazing, give it to your harshest critics and have them pick it apart. Please do not rush your script, take your time and make it perfect. It’s a real shame to spend a ton of time and money on a script that isn’t worth it.

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Wil Magness directs The Machine (Lauren Emery)


 

Wil, that is some great, straightforward advice!  I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your film.  I very much look forward to seeing its release and I’m excited to see something different in the post-apocalypse genre.

Where can folks go to stay up-to-date on The Manual’s progress?

We’ve got a website (http://themanualfilm.com), a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/themanualfilm), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/themanualfilm) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/themanualfilm).

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An Interview with Nathan Riddle, Director of Acid Reign and Enter the Fringe…

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I recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Nathan Riddle, director of the Acid Reign Series and the short film, Enter the Fringe.  For those not familiar with these film projects, sit tight… it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Just about three years ago, I stumbled upon an indiefilm project called Acid Reign.  I followed them on twitter and was anxious to see where it was going.  Shortly after, they seemed to go radio silent.  I thought “Damn… another cool postapoc project that won’t happen.”

Flash forward about a year and here it comes… like a thirsty V8 screaming across the wasteland.  There was a short film produced, Enter the Fringe, and it looked like this project was back up and running.

After seeing the trailer and short film, I just had to scavenge Nathan’s brain and get the wordstuff on this.  What follows is that conversation…

 


 

Acid Reign Series – Enter the Fringe

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Nathan, it’s a pleasure to talk to you today.  Please, tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you? Where do you come from?

My name is Nathan Riddle. I’m the director and co-creator of Acid Reign. I grew up in the small western town of Kanab Utah, which was once known as Little Hollywood, because during the golden age of cinema, many of the classic western films and TV series were shot there. So growing up with the stories from all the locals who had worked as crew or extras really inspired me and put me on the course I’m on today. In addition to film making, I also work as the lead animator for a video game company in Salt Lake City, UT, making the popular kids game, Animal Jam: Play Wild. And I’m an accomplished Actor on both stage and screen.

Nathan Riddle directing.

 

Film maker, animator, actor… dang, that’s amazing!  So tell me, what is Acid Reign?  What’s the story behind it? Tell us about the genesis of the project.

How did Acid Reign begin? Several years ago, I had a desire to make a quick turn around film, so I looked to see what resources I had available to me. Another film making friend of mine had an old mustang he was restoring that he said I could use and I started thinking about what I could do and of course Mad Max came to mind. At this time there hadn’t been a Mad Max film for a while, and the new one hadn’t been announced yet. So I started brainstorming ideas that were very Mad Max-like and came up with some initial concepts that I was really liking.

Then they announced the new Mad Max, Fury Road… I about fell out of my chair. The whole look and feel of that film was what I was imagining for Acid Reign. I felt the wind leave my wings. So I took a look at my story and changed some of the world elements from being such a direct mirror of Mad Max to a more hybrid concept that incorporated a lot more sci-fi/cyberpunk elements, but still kept the overall feel of the Wasteland that had initially captured my imagination.

Once I had that film outlined I reached out to my good friend and screen writer, Ben Wray, to see if he would be interested in helping me with the screenplay. Again, expecting to do a low-budget, stand-alone film. He was completely on board and we started fleshing things out.  It wasn’t long as we were world building and making sure the story was interesting, that we realized the story was one that was too big to tell in one film, so it soon became three features, and then with more story to tell we chose to make it into a series where we could really dig our teeth into this interesting world we were creating.

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I understand that you’ve released a short film that takes place in the world of Acid Reign, titled Enter the Fringe. Tell us about that.

The Fringe! Beyond the city of Nucrea is a holocaustic, irradiated wasteland where nothing can survive. But along the edge, between the life of the city and the death out beyond, is the Fringe. A place where men are sent in exile or escape seeking refuge from an oppressive regime. But in either case, they don’t last long as the radiation eats at their minds, turning them into feral creatures, running and hunting in packs.

In Early October, the head of the Red Giant Film Festival invited me to participate in his 10 minute film making competition. At first I wasn’t interested until he said I should do something from Acid Reign. Then I’m like “YES”! This is exactly the kick in the pants and hard deadline I need to get something produced that actually moves the series forward.

The short film script was a compilation of a couple scenes that Ben and I had developed for the series but in the end had cut for various story reasons. So the script came together very quickly. We reached out to cast and crew and put a team together that we were confident could pull of what years of testing had taught us.

We only had 10 days to make the film, and all of our cast and crew had limited availability. The stars aligned and everyone’s schedule opened up just in time for the first day of the competition. In fact, D.L. Walker who play’s Gus was nearly written out because of a scheduling conflict which miraculously changed only day’s before shooting, which allowed him to come on set for the one day we had planned for production. We were so lucky. I can’t imagine that this film would have been so successful with the loss of D.L, or any of our cast or crew for that matter. We filmed all the scenes in one day. Then over the next 9 days, I edited in the evenings, created all the VFX and worked with our composer, Cody Crabb on music to finish the film. All the while getting feedback from Ben and the rest of the team.

We submitted with time to spare, but then I immediately went to work on the film prepping it to show to a world wide audience. The version we submitted didn’t have any of the color correction done and the editing was a little sloppy. So I polished that up, and worked with my composer again to take another pass at music and sound effects that were missing. And now I’m excited to release to the world, the finished version we have today.

This short film, Enter the Fringe, is both literal and metaphoric. A man who is being experimented on is trying to escape to the Fringe. Ripp, Lilly and Gus, enter the fringe as paid bounty hunters to bring him back. And we finally entered the fringe in order to give Acid Reign the Series some momentum.

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Gus, Lilly, and Ripp. Click above to watch the trailer.

 

I saw that it recently won some awards… tell me about that.

I can’t tell you how nerve racking it is to sit in a dark room surrounded by an audience made up mostly of your peers, who can be the most critical of your work, and watch your film premiered for the first time. Then only to watch all the competitor’s films, and wonder how your film is being received and hoping you did enough to stand out. Well stand out we did and with the exception of only three categories (which mostly didn’t relate to us anyway) we walked away with nominations in all categories. “Holy Crap” is what our composer said! It was truly an honor. But winning would have to wait another week until the award ceremony.

Having been nominated more than any of the other films gave me some early confidence, but at the award ceremony I began remembering the other films we were up against. I said to Ben and the others, that I had a feeling that all these nominations would be like a hand full of sand, that just slips through our fingers.

Right out of the gate we won Best Makeup and Wardrobe. This was important to me because my daughter, Mikaylee, not only played Lilly in the film, but is also the head of our make up FX and did a lot to help with wardrobe. So as a Dad, I was super proud of that.

Mikaylee Riddle as “Lilly”.

But then the losses started rolling in. An under dog film I hadn’t even thought was competition started to get the early awards. A few other films picked up an award here and there. And I just sat there. Happy for the others, but nervous. Just watching the sand slip from my fingers. Then it happened and things started turning around. Best Cinematography? Enter the Fringe! Yes! Finally. Then, bam, bam, bam; Best Director, Best Film and the honored Audience Choice Award.

It was a relief and an honor to have won these particular awards. But for me this wasn’t just a film festival win. It was validation.

For the previous years of development we’d been producing a series of short test films. None of which were turning out very well. They were teaching us a lot about how we wanted to shoot and what style we wanted to used to tell our story. But for all our fans who were excited about the project, we really didn’t have much to show for ourselves. And I really couldn’t bear to show something that wasn’t at least good content. The property and our viewers deserved more than that.

But now I feel confident moving forward. We have a film; a story and characters that people want to watch and that looks great. And we are now award winning film makers with an award winning property.

 

Have you been involved in other projects?

As an actor, I’ve had varying roles in lots of other short films, theatrical stage productions and television shows. I’ve produced (directed, shot and edited… etc) several ultra low budget documentaries. And I have an off-road adventure show called KrawlZone that has taken me across the U.S. filming extreme off-road and rock sports events.

I’ve also directed, animated and edited short animated stories for Animal Jam and a hand full of commercial projects. But Acid Reign is by far the largest and most robust project I’ve been a part of and best of all, I get to do it all, from prop and set building, to wardrobe and lighting, to editing and VFX.

I must admit though, building the mustang has probably been my favorite task. I find the balance between working with my hands and working digitally on the computer is really nice. Too much of either gives my A.D.D. a stroke.

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Nathan Riddle is Mr. KrawlZone.

 

The car…. You’ve gotta tell me about that car!

I call her Azrael. The angle of Death. We wanted her to be a character in her own right. And Unique. I was creating what could potentially become the next famous movie car. To join the ranks of the General Lee, Kit, the Delorean, Elanor and of course the Mad Max Interceptor. So my goal was to create something truly iconic. I think I’m close, but There are still a few things I’d like to finish if budget allows.

A 1966 Mustang coupe, Azrael was rescued from a junk yard when I realized that all the modifications I’d want to do to my buddies car was out of the question. She really is a rust bucket though. Otherwise I’d have felt too bad about just not restoring the old thing.

Her name is Azrael.

Luckily the body work it needed really worked in our favor of making a Dystopian Hot Rod. The car came complete and with a little tuning and cleaning, she fired right up. I knew it couldn’t be a road and track car to drive in the Fringe. It needed tires that made it feel capable of going off-road. To my surprise, I discovered that 14′ tires off of a UTV/Razor fit the wheels perfectly. That gave the traction the Fringe would require. I scavenged about to find elements to make it look armored, yet remain somewhat sleek, which will be in contrast to the other vehicles we’ll be introducing in the series.

The Armor is made from compressed masonite, I cut out the wood for the side and back windows to look like armored plating. With some creative painting It looks like rusted steel. I’m a bit scared that it won’t last long, and in the future I’d like to replace this with something more durable long term.

Having really no budget I was trying to modify the hood to look mean, but I couldn’t find anything that would work. Then I was visiting a friend who builds off-road buggies, and he had this old hood from a newer mustang, just sitting in the corner. We’ll after a little negotiating, I brought the hood home. It took some serious trimming, but I got it to kinda fit the original hood. I did a little fiberglass work to finish the seams. After adding a few rivets and some paint and I was happy with how iconic it turned out.

Another stroke of luck was the under bumper. My little brother had just upgraded to off-road steel bumpers on his Toyota Tacoma. After standing there staring blankly a light bulb went off. I scavenged the parts he took of of his truck and went to work. I cut up the old Tacoma Bumper cover to create the current under bumper on the mustang. The side steps on the car are also from his Tacoma.

Then it was down the details. The chains, the straps, the spoiler. Those were just things I either had laying about or found at the local thrift store.

Though there is still a lot to be done I’m happy with how the ol’ car looks and how it’s turning out. And it seems others are too. I get a lot of complement every time we post images on our social media pages.

 

What does the future hold for Acid Reign?  I noticed that it’s the Acid Reign Series… will there be more films?

Acid Reign was originally conceived as a stand alone film, but as the story developed, it out grew being just a film or a trilogy for that matter. To truly engage with this story and world we were creating, it really needs to be done episodically. So yes, it is now Acid Reign the Series. We have the first season written with eight episodes that will range from 25 to 45 minutes. We have three additional seasons outlined (we know where we’re going), but the season finally for season one is still written as the original stand alone film.

We haven’t yet decided whether to break it up into two to three more episodes, or push it hard and release the finally as a feature film and celebrate with a theatrical debut. That will depend on budget and what our fans help us decide. 

 

Gotta admit, Gus is my favorite… what was it like working with D. L. Walker and Dave Bresnahan?

Both D.L. and Dave were wonderful to work with. Both are extremely talented actors and bring so much to Acid Reign that really doesn’t exist without them.
I had a good idea about what kind of character I wanted Gus to be while we were writing. As we held auditions early on, D.L.Walker’s resume and reel came in. He had a link to a comedic barbecue commercial he worked on where he was on hands and knees like a dog, licking up some spilled BBQ sauce. It sounds silly, but his characterization sold me. In such a desolate world like that of Acid Reign, we need a level of lightheartedness mixed with the solemnity of their situation, to give the show balance, and I knew D.L. could handle it. He has exceeded my expectations. And he’s really fun on set as well.

D.L. Walker as “Gus” and Jared Morgan as “Ripp”.

Dave Bresnahan was another actor that had originally auditioned for another character. He didn’t fit that role, but we liked what he was bringing so well, that we wrote in a bit part for him. That bit part has expanded to be a substantial part of the show and plot. Dave has also been a huge help on and off set. When not in front of the camera, he took on BTS photography, and has been helping with our marketing, write press-releases and distributing them nationally. He’s a really great guy.

Both have also been great supporters of the project from the beginning and are really fun to work with. We’ve been at it for a while now and have had a couple of false starts, and they have supported us and stuck with us all the way. Which say’s a lot about them. In fact our cast and crew all fit that mold. Salt of the Earth, wonderful, passionate and talented individuals that have come together to support us and help us bring this story to life.

Dave Bresnahan as “Nun”.

 

You may not be aware, but I’ve been following this project since very early on.  Can you tell me about the time when you went radio silent?  What happened in 2016?

I do remember you being one of our early followers. Our radio silence was a result of creating a world that was ever expanding and soon became more than we could chew. Also, it took longer to get the car, wardrobe, props and sets together than we had initially anticipated.
As I mentioned earlier, our early attempts at filming didn’t turn out so well either. That was disheartening. Those failures, along with the daunting task of finding the funds to produce such a big project almost put the project on a shelf. What had started to be a quick turn around project had become a beast.

We are still not out of the woods in that regard. We are still actively seeking investors to help us fully realize the potential of Acid Reign. But that said. We have some contingency plans to produce the series one way or another.  We are in the process of getting our Patreon set up and we will be launching a crowd funding campaign soon. But don’t have exact dates yet.

 

Is there anything else you‘d like folks to know?  Where can they find you and more information about your film?

Thank you for wanting to know more about Acid Reign and for asking me to share all of this with you. We have a new website in development that should be on-line soon at http://www.AcidReignFilms.com.  Enter the Fringe will be available there as well as on Amazon.
You’ll also be able to enjoy the books. The first book which covers the first three episodes, is currently going through a final edit and should be available relatively soon.

We are excited about this project and look forward to sharing it with everyone that not only likes the dystopian/post apocalyptic genre’, but those that love a good story! Because this is a great story, and we think it will surprise everyone to find out where it takes you.

Ben Wray, D.L. Walker, Mikaylee Riddle, Jared Morgan, and Nathan Riddle.

 

Books?  Did you say BOOKS?!?!  That’s fantastic news!!!  Alright Nathan, I want to thank you for talking with me today and I look forward to watching the film(s) and reading the books.


You can find Acid Reign on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  As soon as their website is up and running, I will update this post.  Stat tuned to Amazon for the short film, Enter the Fringe.

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!

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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