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This interview follows an earlier one with Liza Groen Trombi and Mark R. Kelly.
There’s nothing more depressing than seeing your universes being expanded, one after the other, and being alternated between them without a chance to rest. The experience with Liza and Mark had been scary enough, and there was nothing I wanted more than a few days off. Falling on a pile of wooden boxes and seeing them break under my weight was unpleasant. Well, at least it was better than a high-altitude free fall with no chance of survival.
When my balance was restored, I paid more attention to the scene around me. I realized in surprise that some men were pointing guns at me. All of them looked shocked, alternating glances between me and the ceiling, wondering where I had come from.
I tried to get up but two of them stepped forward, pushed me with their feet and forced me to lie down, resigned. The last thing I wanted was to get shot. My head was spinning and I didn’t know where I was or with whom I was going to meet.
The quantic watch on my wrist was nothing more than an accessory.
Two individuals with shoulder epaulets arrived, probably officers. They pulled me up and searched me. Apparently satisfied – since I carried no weapons – they released me, allowing me to breathe easier.
“Who are you?” Asked the man whose epaulettes exhibited a fluorescent blue color.
I gulped and took a quick look at the place. It was a gigantic hangar. The arched ceiling climbed at least three hundred feet up and the closest wall wasn’t less than a thousand feet away. The whole place seemed to be taken up by forklifts, metal and wooden boxes of various sizes, and people: a lot of people working.
For a while I lost myself trying to remember who I really was.
“Tibor Moricz,” I said after a moment.
“Where do you come from?” The second question was quick as a shot. They looked at me with a mixture of curiosity and caution.
“From SkyHolm,” I answered without hesitation.
They looked at each other, startled. Two men positioned themselves next to me and, holding my arms, led me through corridors that were sometimes narrow, sometimes wide. I had a good view of the place: the blocks full of boxes, the large objects that didn’t fit in a box and were covered by wide blankets.I also saw sad men, heads down, defeated expressions, working hard.
We went through an automatic door and left the hangar. I was soon left alone in a room with a table and four chairs. I was still picking a chair to sit on when the door opened again and another officer, one with red phosphorescent epaulettes, entered the room.
“SkyHolm, you said …” began the man, as he pulled up a chair and sat down. I did the same.
“Yes,” I answered.
“As far as we know, SkyHolm was destroyed two hundred years ago by a group of saboteurs. There are records of a certain Tibor Moricz, as well as a Roberto de Sousa Causo, a Christopher Kastensmidt and a Luis Filipe Silva among those men. You claim to be Tibor Moricz, right?”
I stared at him in obvious astonishment. Two hundred years, he said? Two hundred years have gone by? I was livid when I realized it had been that long since I last peed.
“Yes, I am Tibor Moricz. But I ain’t no saboteur. I’m just an interviewer.”
“SkyHolm was one of the enemies of the Matsushita conglomerate, which is still the conglomerate that protects us. Power usually moves from hand to hand easily but Matsushita has lingered at the top since then, without bowing to political tensions.”
Those were comforting words. Despite being considered a potential saboteur, I was not an enemy.
“How did you end up here?” The man asked as he thumbed through some seemingly old reports.
I was about to explain everything about the quantic watch, the several parallel realities, the alternate universes, about travelling through all of them searching for the interviewees, and about the From Bar to Bar website, when he interrupted me.
“Oh, yes. Parallel realities, alternate universes, a quantic watch. Curious. A very sui generis way of travelling, isn’t it? It explains why you aren’t old,” he dropped the reports, closed them and looked at me, “or dead. The boss will want to meet you.”
“The boss? Who’s the Boss?” I was worried, since the last boss who wanted to meet me also wanted to kill me.
It was a stupid joke, I know. And completely out of place. The officer looked at me like as if I was an imbecile and shrugged. He got up and motioned me to follow him. I followed him for several corridors, we walked up steep, narrow stairs; we passed through rooms full of people and trash. That place seemed like a huge deposit. After what seemed a long time crossing that maze, we reached a small room, which was dusty and full of papers. Behind a desk as messy as the room around itwas the big boss. Apparently a simple man, hidden behind round glasses, with a tired look on his face. I sat before him while the officer with the red epaulettes left without a word. The man before me removed his glasses.
“Resting glasses. One gets tired easily here. I also have great eye drops to moisten your eyes. Lots of dust, cobwebs and dirt. I’ve thought of ventilating the place, but it would be unrecognizable. When I want luxury, I go to one of the Martian colonies. Women, drinks and fun. It’s everything a wealthy man needs.”
I listened to him in silence. He studied me for a moment, looked at my outfit – a gift from Jeff VanderMeer – and put the glasses back on.
“That outfit is very outdated. You know who I am, don’t you?” He changed the course of the conversation.
“Al,” I answered.
“Al … Who?”
I made a huge effort. I closed my eyes and concentrated. I knew the answer was within me. I was there for an interview … Who was I going to interview? Who?
“Alastair Reynolds,” I said all of a sudden. His name popped into my mind as if someone had just placed it there.
“And now, do you know where you are?”
“In a room,” I swear that was the only thing I was able say. I couldn’t think of any other answer.
Big Al moved away from his desk a little and pressed a button on the wall. It was amazing. What was initially a narrow and dirty room began to widen. Its walls, apparently retractable, began to move away, the roof to expand, and translucent panels were opened, revealing outer space. The desk plunged into the ground, replaced by a command panel. The taciturn man who was talking to me became a sort of space hero in an amazing outfit, weapons hanging from his shoulders and a dangerous look that worried me.
“Hey, isn’t that National Kid’s uniform you are wearing?” I asked perplexed.
“You don’t know what a little power is capable of,” he said. His eyes gleamed with satisfaction. The mask on his face, the cape on his back, a fancy belt, the costume displaying a red giant “N”… An indecently appealing old-fashioned display.
Big Al opened his arms as if he was about to fly across the room and then sat down. He looked like a boy.
I thought I’d better take a look outside. The panel allowed an exuberant view of what looked like a giant canyon surrounding us. There were still launchers, rockets, spaceships of different shapes, oblong, circular, flat … Some of them were so big they rivaled the nearby hills. Some of the distant hills seemed to smoke.
“What is this place?” I asked, appalled.
“Io. We are at the south pole of the Jupiter’s moon, hidden in a mountain range.”
“We’re a huge deposit. There is nothing that has been manufactured on this side of the galaxy that we don’t have at least a few copies. The market is intense and we have customers spread all over the Milky Way. If we are here it’s because our activities are not welcomed by some conglomerates. You know… Some of the artifacts we possess have neither been bought nor found.”
“Are you pirates?”
“’Merchants’ is a better word. But whenever we want something really bad, we get it. No matter how.”
“Smugglers,” I figured.
“Nothing against this activity, right?” Big Al asked me that question while two armed men entered the room and stood beside me, hands on the butts of their guns.
I felt intimidated by their presence.
“We know that everywhere you’ve been, there was trouble. People died, facilities were destroyed … Your presence is not exactly a good omen. Therefore, if any weird things happen during our conversation, these men have orders to shoot.”
“At me?” I asked scared.
“No! At me, you fool!
Just as his name popped into my mind as the one to be interviewed this time, the questions popped up as easily.
“One of the most important characteristics of your work, especially in the Revelation Space universe, is your loyalty to the laws of physics (e.g., keeping interstellar travel within the limit of the speed of light). Your readers usually relate that to your background as a scientist. In your opinion, does the fact that you worked for such a long time as a scientist make you a better SF writer? Why?”
“Not in the slightest, although I do think that it’s made me slightly more marketable, from a promotional standpoint. Obviously I enjoy SF that plays with scientific ideas in an imaginative and original fashion, but you absolutely don’t need a scientific background to be able to do that. You just need to be interested in science, which I think is a completely different thing, and an option for anyone.
That said, I suppose that I’ve seen the scientific process at work from the inside, so to speak, and I know the way scientists think and interact. But that kind of thing has only ever formed a small strand to my fiction, I think.”
I listened to his answer, watching him move his head as he spoke, the extension on the helmet swinging.
“The Revelation Space books mention the Dawn War, an important event that took place early in the history of the Galaxy. Do you have any plans for a novel or trilogy specifically about the Dawn War? Such a trilogy would make the “galactic history” complete, wouldn’t it?”
Big Al frowned and rubbed his eyes under the mask before answering.
“I wouldn’t be interested in writing it, since there wouldn’t be humans involved. The point, in a sense, is that it’s something I can be purposefully vague and mysterious about, because it happened millions and billions of years ago. Having to nail down the facts about it would be totally against the spirit of inventing it in the first place. Anyway, I’m not really interested in completeness,on any level. I’m definitely not the go-to guy for that!”
I was getting ready for the third question when a quake shook the base. Some rocks rolled down the mountain slopes. Big Al and his men were alarmed. One of them drew his pistol and pointed it at my head. I held my breath. Once the quake stopped, they calmed down.
“Did you use to get any kind of feedback from your fellow scientists? Do scientists who work in important institutions like CERN respect SF as literature? Are they interested in SF at all?”
“Does this tremor have anything to do with you? Does it?” Big Al asked.
“I know nothing about earthquakes. I know nothing about any kind of quakes.”
“You’d better be telling the truth. I’d hate to be forced to take drastic measures.”
Big Al frowned again and cleared his throat.
“Don’t know about CERN as I’ve never been there. It’s one of those odd factoids that seems to have taken on a life of its own, even though I never worked for or at CERN! I’ve also read that I used to work in Norway, which was news to me. My experience with scientists and SF has been pretty positive, though. Most of my colleagues were supportive of my writing, even to the point of structuring my workload so that I didn’t have to do a lot of midweek business trips. I’ve encountered the occasional negative reaction to SF, but not to me or my work specifically. On the plus side, being an SF writer has opened some amazing doors, getting me a chance to meet space shuttle crews and so on. That’s been amazingly rewarding, especially when career astronauts tell me they read my stuff. But it’s also getting opportunities to hang out at bioscience conferences, stuff I’d never get to do as a working astronomer.”
I looked at my quantic watch and its immobility exasperated me. The hands were stopped, the quantum revolutions which indicated present time, estimated time and no-time were inoperative since the interview with Ekaterina Sedia. Being at the will of luck and some unknown mechanism that threw me from one place to another was terrifying.
The ground shook again. This time with more intensity, followed by a thunder. I heard the walls crack. The guns were drawn and pointed at me. Big Al rose from his chair and looked outside just in time to see a huge shadow starting to cover the hemisphere.
“What is it?” What is it?” He shouted.
Fearing for the worst, I shrunk down in my chair. In a clumsy attempt to save my life, I risked an argument.
“The interview doesn’t end until I ask you all the questions. There are forces far greater than the ones we know that will prevent interviewee and interviewer to either split or harm each other!”
Big Al looked at me angrily. Then he looked outside again. An internal communication system cracked with a hoarse voice: someone who seemed to have just woken up.
“A combat cruiser from the Mittal-Arcelor conglomerate hangs over our heads. Eight-hundred and forty-five cannons pointed in our direction.”
I couldn’t help thinking that the Venusian Incas were attacking us.
“How many left?” He asked me.
“Ask the next one.”
“Let me ask you a hard and imaginative question. It is quite possible that you think some of the most famous universes in SF are poorly built. If you could change one of them, at your choice, which one would it be and what would you change in it?”
“That’s an excellent question. Most TV and film universes contain so many contradictions and daft premises that it’s almost impossible to know where to begin fixing them. I’d probably get rid of all humanoid aliens, for a start – I just don’t believe in them. That takes care of the Star Trek universe, and while we’re at it I don’t believe in the transporters either – at least not as they’re portrayed. Maybe as a means of ship to ship transportation, or for beaming down to a receiving station, but not for just beaming down anywhere, even to a previously unexplored planet. In terms of fictional SF, I’d take all the psi-power stuff out of Larry Niven’s Known Space, as it’s clearly bollocks. But, to be fair, it was very much in vogue at the time the books and stories were written. And, doubtless, I’ve written my share of stuff that will seem similarly bollocks in forty years. If I’m lucky… Ask the next one!”
I felt that my time was up, but I needed to ask the last question. The men next to me were still pointing the guns at me, sharing their attention between me and the warship that hung over our heads.
“Is it necessary that SF take itself so seriously? Or are approaches like Douglas Adams’s welcome?”
At that time, Mel Brooks’ image came to my mind. Big Al, dressed in that bizarre National Kid’s costume reminded me of him and his hilarious movies. I feared he would understand the question as a joke about him.
I wasn’t wrong.
“Kill him,” he told the soldiers.
I didn’t even have time to breathe. I shoved back the chair, taking advantage of its wheels. The shots were simultaneous and missed me. Leaning on the arms of the chair, I threw both my feet up, precisely hitting each of the men’s chins. They groaned, buckled and fell onto Big Al’s desk, who by this time was heading to the exit door, looking for shelter.
I could not let him escape, after all he still owed me one answer.
I chased the silver caped man through the halls. The tremors occurred again and this time, were followed by explosions. It didn’t seem that the Venusian Incas intended to leave survivors. I even reached him twice, but the cape slipped through my fingers. I asked him to answer me the last question, but, to my amazement, he laughed and shouted “Awika” while running ahead of me.
“He’s gone mad”, I thought, worried.
I believed to have lost him when suddenly, at the end of a corridor, he stopped and, as I approached him, grabbed me and pulled us both into on a pneumatic tube. With the flip of a trigger he launched us into a vertiginous tunnel that snaked through unknown places. At the end, we were dumped in a small and somewhat uncomfortable control room. Before I could recover, I saw Big Al already standing and pointing a scary gun at me: four barrels of at least three inches each. A laser sight scratched the tip of my chin.
“I’ll tear your head off,” he said while triggering commands on an electronic board.
“Where are we?” I asked, trying to buy time.
“Escape ship. It’ ll go about three hundred kilometers below the surface and then be launched by catapult out of the moon. Six seconds later the ship will reach hyperspace. A safe and unexpected escape.”
By the chatter of the ship, I suspected that we were already on our way.
“These three hundred kilometers… how long will it take?”
“Twenty-four seconds. Stand up!
He seemed to have changed his mind about killing me. I thought that the gun would rip my head off, but it would also open a huge hole in the hull. I got up slowly, analyzing all of my possibilities. They were very few, I must admit.
“Up against the wall!”
When I touched the wall, I was surprised. A pod much like those deployed in the huge cargo ship that was commanded by Charles Stross clasped me. Hermetically sealed, I barely had space for small movements.
“Killing you would be silly, I prefer to give you a lesson. You’ll have a long time before dying of suffocation, thinking about how dangerous and irresponsible you are.”
The ship jolted harder. Big Al caught himself as he could, leaving the weapon aside. He didn’t need it any longer. The next few seconds were tense. He was watching the clock, I was warning him that he hadn’t answered the last question.
“Hyperspace!” He said with a huge smile. “I’ll throw you off the ship. You will be lost in such a way that no quantic toy will be able to locate you. Hopefully you will reenter in a sun. Quick and painless death.”
“The final answer!” I screamed at the top of my lungs.
“I’m a massive Hitch Hiker’s fan, but that’s probably all the funny SF I need in my life. Actually I don’t read a lot of comedic fiction in any genre. I’d rather watch some funny television, then curl up with a really miserable, depressing novel.”
Then he pressed a button and, before I fainted, I heard “Awika” once again.
The sequence to this exciting adventure is coming soon.
Daniel Borba, Delfin and Christopher Kastensmidh collaborated with this interview.
This interview follows an earlier one with Charles Stross.
I clung with one hand to the edge of the parapet, trying to lift myself up while Jeff pulled me.There was a clear sign of urgency in his eyes, which divided his attention between me and something else that was taking place several feet below us.
I heard an intense rattling, noises of something collapsing, metal popping, hums and distant sirens. In a final effort, I let myself fall on the roof, breathing hard. Jeff wore a kind of rubber suit or something. His whole body was covered, his head protected by a high tech helmet leaving only his face visible. He carried a kind of three-barrel rifle on his back, slightly diaphanous, as if it was made of a synthetic or mineral translucent material.
In addition to the fatigue that made my body hurt, a deep disturbance wrecked my nerves. For the third time I migrated straight for the next interview, without the needed rest.
I sighed and tried to stand up.
“Be careful when getting up. There are Soulhunters looking for me.They saw me getting into this building.”
I frowned. I licked my lips and got on my knees.
“Soulhunters …” I muttered, feeling a little dizzy. I touched the ground, looking for support.
“Those mechatronic hunters are hard to fool. You chose a remote location for the meeting. We should’ve chosen a less visible area.”
“We arranged this meeting?” I was amazed. “I don’t remember anything…”
“You sent me a message eighteen hours ago indicating these coordinates as the meeting point. I left my hiding place before dawn and walked through the city of rubbish to get here. If you didn’t do this, who did?”
I felt a bitter taste in my mouth. A feeling of being manipulated, moved by invisible strings, a plaything in the hands of a skilled puppeteer.
“I don’t know.”
Jeff shrugged. He helped me up and led me behind a wall full of holes. He pushed me against it and reached for a black chip the size of a matchbox inside his pocket. Self-adhesive, it was firmly stuck on my chest.
“I shouldn’t have come here without protection. What you did was madness,” he said, taking a gadget with a luminous screen and colored buttons from a side pocket. He pointed the gadget at me and a yellow-greenish light burst from it, fully involving me.
I was taken by a wave of intense heat. The chip on my chest emitted a bright glow and then the transformation began. To my utter astonishment, it stretched over me like a second skin, forming bumps and scales, covering me completely. Within seconds only my face was exposed. My head was protected by a helmet. Jeff and I matched, both covered by a black and opaque second skin.
“This is … Incredible!” I said after a moment of perplexity.
“We’d better get out of here. We are not safe.”
I glanced at the horizon. Black coils of smoke rose into the sky like huge columns. I closed my eyes for a few seconds. I thought about the rocky planet I’d been on, the space freighter and the words of Charles Stross …“The earth no longer exists, destroyed in a war between corporations.”
“A war has destroyed the Earth,” I muttered in awe.
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
“This isn’t another alternative reality. I’m living the same reality from the last interview.” This was a rhetorical phrase. I was talking to myself. I was finding things out.
“And you caught me,” I cried. “Was I here before leaving the rocky planet? Why did I fall? How did we run into each other? How come you were able to reach out and save me?”
“I just came here, as agreed. I heard a scream. I saw you flailing in the air, about to fall. I rushed towards you and grabbed your arm. This is all I know.”
My eyes were lost. They saw everything and saw nothing. I tried desperately to create a bond between the final moments with Charles Stross and the initial moments with Jeff VanderMeer. There was a jump of parsecs in nano seconds. Too impossible to believe in the possibility. The quantic clock didn’t have that much power. Or did it?
Then I was rudely ripped from my thoughts.The building we were in shook harder. Cracks covered the floor, opening wide gaps in the concrete. The ledge where I had just been rescued shattered. Jeff took me by one arm and made me run toward one end of the building. I followed him to the edge of the parapet and stopped.The fall was over 100 feet high.
“Jump!” Jeff shouted, while the building seemed to fall apart under our feet.
“You’re crazy!” I shouted back in panic.
On the opposite side of the building, on the roof, there was a Soulhunter. It had just finished climbing the walls using prehensile highly adherent paws. It was an amazing device, a mech about four meters tall when in upright position.The body slightly resembled a humanoid shape. Articulated mechanical arms and legs, massive body with micro joints that allowed exact movements: forward, backwards, swivels up to 180 degrees. Metal cannulas were jumping here and there, from the arms and body. Pipes for firing missiles. At the end of the arms there were flamethrowers. The head was an isosceles trapezoid with two front tears that blazed a bluish light.
I identified the mechatronic hunter the moment I saw it. It was either some kind of implanted memory – things were happening so inexplicable that any possibility had to be considered – or special information that the suit transferred to me.The only thing I knew was that jumping was the only option. That’s what Jeff and I did.
The suit we wore made us either lighter or heavier, according to our needs. We landed without problems. Our feet touched the ground gently. Immediately, we began to run through the rubble, fleeing from our hunters.
Two minutes later we stopped and hid under a huge slab.There was a mountain of debris on it. We were not tired.
“350 Monsignor Dubois Street.East of town. In good speed, about twenty minutes away,” I said, leaning back on a wall.
“What’s that address?”Jeff asked me.
I felt terribly sick. I was disturbed again. What was the address? I knew what it was, but I didn’t know how I knew it.
“You’ll see when we get there,” I said in a whisper. I remembered the interview. I cleared my throat and asked him the first question.
“Is it difficult to concilate the fact of being a publisher, a writer and an editor of anthologies? In Brazil, many times, one of those activities would get you gradually excluded from the others by your own peers”
Jeff looked at me for a moment, confused. Then, he smiled.
“We may die, but the interview has to go on,” he said, nodding positively.
“That’s right,” I said.
“I am a shape-shifter by nature and it’s not unknown for me to become a giant bear named Mord. Exclusion by peers is the least of my worries—anyone who tries to peg someone as just one thing is actually limiting themselves. Concentrating on anything other than doing a diverse range of interesting project is a fool’s game and limiting. Sometimes I will be known as a giant bear, sometimes as a squid, sometimes as a meerkat, and sometimes as a mushroom. This too shall pass.”
I heard the answer without giving it much attention. My eyes and ears were alert to the perimeter. And there were Soulhunters approaching.
“Are you ready?” I asked, ready to run.
We left our hiding place under the slab and shot by bumpy tracks, skirting mounds, debris and mangled wreckage. We skipped obstacles, sliding slopes and climbing hills until we were intercepted by another Soulhunter. They spread across the ruined city in search for survivors and soldiers astray. They ruthlessly killed men, women and children.
A volley of bullets tore up the ground around us and made us jump sideways, rolling on the uneven ground. Jeff drew the weapon he was carrying and shot a single burst of light that hit the “chest” of the Soulhunter.He ripped a thick metal plate from it, leaving a handful of wires visible. He was about to shoot another, but had to dodge a gush of fire. The fiery mass burned the concrete turning it into lava. I heard Jeff yell scared and in pain.
I slipped through the wreckage, bypassing the mech, without seeing or knowing where Jeff was. A wall of fire separated me from his last position. I feared the worst. Taking advantage of the incredible agility and skill that the special outfit gave me, I jumped on the back of the mech, holding on to it as best as I could. One of my hands was stuck in the ocean of flashing wires that were exposed by the direct hit from Jeff.
I was still trying to pull them out while the mech was struggling, trying to get rid of me, when I heard Jeff yelling, asking me to protect myself.
So I did. I shrank on the back of the monster and felt it be shaken by a violent impact. A second shot opened a hole on its “chest”, almost crossing it (which might have been tragic for me). The beast shook and fell face down, abandoned, powerless, beaten, killed.
I left it, dumbfounded. I walked a few numb steps and then I saw Jeff overcoming the barrier of fire and coming towards me. His lips were opened in a wide smile. I looked at the Soulhunter again and identified a logo over a name. Manufacturing brand, certainly.
We look at each other, exhausted, and started running again.
“How has your experience with comic books been so far? How do you see the connection between science fiction in comics and in literature nowadays? And how does it feel being a judge to the “best of the year” most relevant award of the sequential art, the Eisner Awards?” I asked as we moved quickly by the desolate landscape.
“I grew up on Tintin, Asterix, and Indian comics versions of classics like the Ramayana, Jeff began, as he jumped over a partially torn sign of advertisement for Pepsi-Cola – Returning to comics and finding them better than the best movies sometimes has been wonderful, and I also have had fun doing comics scripts for things like my story The Situation (the story, not the comic, is actually being released in Brazil in March).”
We walked past a rusty old truck and and then suddenly halted, looking amazed at what lay before us. About two dozen Soulhunters marched, coming from all directions.
“It stretches me as a writer—any exposure to other forms of storytelling is good for you, and gives you more tools to use in your own work. I enjoyed being an Eisner judge—it made me read everything in comics for a year and made me appreciate the wide range of things being written,” he concluded as he looked for the best way to escape the siege.
“The street I’m looking for is close. Just two hundred meters … Past them. We need to get past them. Backing off is not an option.”
Then Jeff did something that surprised me. He pulled me close to him, held me by the arm and pressed a button on his suit. Soon we were in the center of a blue bubble. The Soulhunters seemed confused, unsure of where they should go.They stopped their march and hesitated while we were going through one by one, overtaking them with extreme caution.
He had triggered a bubble of invisibility, an additional item that was not available in my suit.
“I thought I would surprise you with this little accessory,” Jeff whispered in an almost inaudible voice.
So I’m not the only one with surprises today, I thought with satisfaction.
We passed the last barrier of mechatronic hunters with a feeling of victory. There were no more than eighty meters between us and the driveway to the address I was seeking. It was because of the certainty of impunity that we made our biggest mistake. We forgot all about caution and stepped on some loose stones, which rolled noisily and called attention of the last row of hunters. They turned towards us, saw the stones that were stilling rolling on the dusty ground and opened fire in all directions.
Our suits have an amazing capacity for protection, serving as a kind of bullet-proof vest to most of the existing missiles. At least for the time they would resist to the excessive stress caused by repeated impacts.The resulting embrittlement would make us exposed to any collision, even the most banal ones.
It was a hail of bullets that hit us from all sides. We were separated from each other. The bubble of invisibility was deactivated, revealing our positions. Even in great pain, we ran as fast as we could to the entry that was our goal. The hunters were right behind us, shooting repeatedly, hitting us many times.
We ran down the ramp of the garage harshly, zigzagging our way through the columns. The Soulhunters had some trouble getting in, but some of them, writhing and twisting, were able to do it. We stopped behind a column, took a deep breath trying to catch our breath.
“You implied in an interview that the Steampunk genre risked becoming stale due to the “copy of a copy” effect. In the past, when this trend began, in cyberpunk, it meant the genre was dying and in effect most authors stopped writing cyberpunk stories not long after (or eventually stopped calling their fiction “Cyberpunk”). Do you think that Steampunk is slowing turning into a corpse from the inside out, in the sense that’s being kept mostly alive by the force of the market – having become trendy – but in which no new literary ideas are happening?
Jeff leaned on his knees, ducked and heaved a deep sigh.He knew that the interview could not stop, no matter what.
“Everything once identified as a marketing term turns into a corpse, but there are two things to remember: sometimes a corpse provides good revenue and jobs for much stranger and more bizarre things, and all of the beetles and other creatures that feast on a corpse are fascinating in and of themselves…you have to understand, a dead body is not the worst thing in the world. Decay and decomposition and contamination are where the action is!”
“And the only thing we want right now is to turn into corpses, right?” I asked him.
“I don’t even wanna think of worms crawling on me,” Jeff chuckled. “What are you hiding here? Why did we come to this address?”
I looked back and saw one of the hunters trying to get rid of the columns that were on his way .Two others watched it quietly, just waiting for it to open space for everyone. I pointed out, then, a door on the wall ahead of us. Unfortunately, it was also visible to freaks who followed us.
“Let’s walk through it, go downstairs and then you’ll see.”
We went toward the door and tried to open it. It was locked. While we forced our way in, a volley of missiles turned the walls around us into crumbs, hitting us as well. I screamed in pain and bent forward as if I had been hit on my stomach instead of my back. Jeff pushed me aside, pointed the gun at the door and fired, causing it to disappear in a cloud of splinters and dust.
We ran inside and downstairs. We reached a wide chamber. On one of the walls, two niches had a huge surprise for us.
“State of the art exoskeletons. Virtually unbreakable protection against any known weapons. And it also shoots extremely destructive plasma pulses. That was my surprise,” I said with great satisfaction.
“Bubbles of invisibility and exoskeletons …I should’ve figured out it would happen this way.”
“If you do think that, can international literature (read: non-English) came to its aid? And will it ever be accepted by the English market (read: translated and published)?
I asked as I entered one of the exoskeletons. Jeff did the same.
We were quickly assimilated by the ingenious engineering of liquid metal. We were then cocooned within the powerful weapon of war. Besides our isolation, we could talk to each other, without any loss of contact.
We cocked our weapons, pointed to the ceiling and pulled the triggers almost simultaneously. A wide hole was opened where once there was a thick layer of concrete. The plasma turned the matter into smoke and ashes. We jumped out of the chamber, moving with lightning speed by the rugged environment of the garage. Two hunters stopped in front of us and were transformed into twisted metal in seconds.
We let out a scream of joy and great satisfaction.
“I don’t think it’s the function of international literature to rush to the aid of Steampunk. The job of “international” literature—a meaningless term considering you can find 10 to 20 traditions or more just in India alone—is to be true to itself and not to deform or change itself to fit an Anglo market. Its job is to be true to itself and to colonize the Anglos with its own unique brain bullets. That said, I think the current infusion of international and multicultural Steampunk is a very good thing that is keeping the corpse lively. Look! It’s leaping around right now! Almost as if it were resurrected!”
We went out into the light of day and came across dozens and dozens of Soulhunters. All of them were facing us. We unlocked our triggers, loaded the plasma cartridges and began shooting. We went forward without problems, liquefying them, dismantling them, causing them to explode into multiple pieces. We laughed out loud as we did that.
I forgot, in ecstasy, to press the button on the quantic watch (I didn’t even know whether or not it would work).
The destruction would’ve gone on forever if Jeff hadn’t been hit by something unknown. His exoskeleton was thrown several feet back, with one arm torn off. I looked up out of pure reflex and lost my breath.
A huge ship – a huge bubble or something – was floating hundreds of feet above our heads. Something big and frightening. Then a bright glow came from the ship, some kind of a ray. I was hit. Heat, pain and fear until I lost consciousness.
When I woke up, the first thing I saw on the vaulted ceiling of the room where I lay, was the strange logo I had seen on the Soulhunters.
The sequence to this exciting adventure is coming soon.
Luis Filipe Silva, Delfin and Christopher Kastensmidt collaborated with this interview
“From Bar to Bar has been publishing some of the more creative author interviews you’re likely to find anywhere.”
“From Bar to Bar continues to run the oddest interviews I’ve ever read. This time around, it’s Mark Charan Newton, the author of Nights of Villjamur, who is the interviewee. One of these days I’m going to sit down and read this entire website from stem to stern, because these interviews are just amazing. I hope someday I get to meet Tibor Moricz, the interviewer; I think he’s got a great, weird and wonderful mind.”
Terry Weyna – Reading the leaves
“It was a lot of fun and I was pleasantly surprised at the final outcome! Definitely makes a chance to the usual interview format.”
Mark Charan Newton
When I began thinking about releasing the De Bar em Bar internationally, I knew I would face a great deal of obstacles. Specially contacting and getting positive answers from those I wanted to interview.
It is no easy task finding e-mails and contacting well known authors, specially when we are completely unknown. It always feels like we’re boring ones asking for favors.
But that was only in the beginning.
Now I get help from the interviewees themselves. They indicate writers they are friends with and make my work a lot easier.
So, Ekaterina Sedia, Charles Stross and Jeff VanderMeer will be here in the next series of interviewees.
I’d like to thank all those who have helped me with courage, incentive and words of encouragement and also all who helped and are still helping this blog become a reference in the genre.
Last, but not least, I’d like to thank all those who say From Bar to Bar is a silly thing, where interviewees only make fools out of themselves. For those, I’d like to send my best regards. 😀