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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