Thursday, August 9, 2012

My First Podcast Interview...

After lunch Wednesday, my friend Nick interviewed me for his Dudeletter podcast.  Apparently I'm the third audio interview he's recorded.  In addition to asking me about how I wrote, why I wrote, etc., we discussed two of my specific projects a fair bit and touched on a third.

First, we discussed my novel Battle for the Wastelands.  Nick, along with Jeff Baker and Sean C.W. Korsgaard, was one of my beta readers that I had take a look at the completed first draft after I ran the entire novel through my Lawrenceville writing group and before I bring it in its entirety before my Kennesaw writing group Thursday.  He had some good ideas, like officially making the last chapter an epilogue and increasing protagonist Andrew Sutter's soul-searching when he's forced to re-evaluate his prejudices against "the trading folk."

(The trading folk are an ethnic group resembling a combination of Jews, Gypsies, and Native Americans.  They call themselves the Menceir, like our world's Irish Travelers.  The neutral term for them is "trading folk," but the racial slur is "pikey," which is an anti-Gypsy/Traveler slur in our world.  The stereotypes Andrew associates with them are generally similar to those held by anti-Semites, with a sprinkling of anti-Gypsy views too.  Having the hero of my story starting out as a racist is not an endorsement of racism--heroes need flaws.)

The idea of military service discouraging racism is something borne out in real life.  When I was in either very late middle school or high school, I read an article about the Marine Corps training regimen in Parade magazine, which comes with the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  The article referenced a recruit who went in a skinhead and came out saying "there are cool people of all races."  William Broyles Jr., who wrote the film Castaway, also wrote a column I read in the AJC about how reviving the draft would mix the different races and classes and reduce social division.  Although I don't think that's sufficient justification for conscription, I don't see a flaw in the logic.

We also discussed Grendel as a villain and Andrew as a hero.  Grendel is to a large degree amoral--he'll do what he views as necessary to secure his objectives.  Although these objectives aren't necessarily bad, the means he uses often are.  Meanwhile, there are moral lines Andrew will not, under any circumstances, cross.  Furthermore, Grendel's motivations are also rather selfish, while Andrew's will eventually become more altruistic.

We also discussed what I call the "Afrikanerverse," the world where my published short story "Coil Gun" and my as-yet-unpublished story "Picking Up Plans In Palma" takes place.  We briefly touched on how I'm transforming "Coil Gun" into a movie script based on S.M. Stirling's advice that short stories make good movies and books make good TV shows and discussed the Afrikanerverse in general.

One thing we touched on was how, during this world's 20th Century, the world divided into two camps.  Fascism never arose and the USSR, which started World War II in an alliance with Japan (I don't think there was a Russo-Japanese War in this world) and the Qing Dynasty of (northern) China was defeated, nipping Communism in the bud.

What resulted was a geopolitical confrontation between the League of Democracies, led by the United States and including the great European powers Britain, France, Germany (unified in 1848 under little-l liberal leaders), and post-Communist Russia, against the Afrikaner Confederation and its allies, including the Persian Empire, a Sikh state in northwestern India, and the Taiping regime in southern China.  The Afrikaners and their allies have formed what I tentatively call "the Self-Determination Compact"--basically a coalition of states who feel threatened by the spread of "American" ideals. 

The battle lines of this world's Cold War are not centered on different economic systems, but something more basic.  The League of Democracies is driven by egalitarian, Enlightenment-based little-l liberalism much like the ideals that the United States is based on, while the ideology of the "Self-Determination Compact" can essentially be described as "authoritarian traditionalism."  This does not mean there aren't any Enlightenment influences on the SDC states--the Afrikaner Confederation has democratic freedoms and the like for the white (to varying degrees) ruling class, albeit marred by religious discrimination, while the Sikh state practices a weighted voting system much like pre-WWI Prussia rather than being a straight-up despotism.

These two value systems, in a way, transcend religion.  Most of the states of the League of Democracies have largely Christian populations.  The Afrikaner Confederation's state ideology is something resembling our world's Afrikaner Calvinism and the Taiping regime is an overt Chinese Christian theocracy (Afrikaner influence means the founder of this world's Taiping, rather than viewing himself as "God's Chinese son," instead views himself as being analogous to the Old Testament Jehu--the executor of God's judgement).  Meanwhile, the Persian Empire, Thailand, the Rashids (an Arab state), Afghanistan, and some other states are traditional monarchies and the Sikh state is, although not a theocracy, a state where one religious/ethnic group rules over others.

We also briefly discussed two villain-protagonist stories I wrote centered around the character Andrew Patel, a half-Indian biomedical engineer who lives by the ideas of the philosopher Nietzsche and who does medical work for criminals in exchange for the funds needed to pursue transcendence as he understands it (basically turning himself into a cyborg).  I originally intended for them to run in a superhero anthology my Kennesaw group was putting together, but the project seems to have died for lack of interest.  I'll see what kind of markets accept superhero stories and, failing that, put them on the Kindle.  No real discussion there, but they were mentioned.

I'll post the link to the actual interview here when Nick posts it on the Dudeletter.  Although my comments about what was discussed are pretty detailed, I left a lot out--after all, you need a reason to listen to the podcast.  Although I don't know how he'll edit it, there's a good chance there will be spoilers for Battle for the Wastelands and other books in the series, as well as "Palma."

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