Category: Interviews

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Author Greg Bear

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Author Greg Bear

 

I have long been a fan of Greg Bear’s work. I think the first thing I ever read by him was The Strength of Stones and that segued into Blood Music which is probably my favorite novel by Bear besides Darwin’s Radio. It is hard to choose between the two.

 

The Enquiring Hitchhiker asks….

Question 1- As an archaeologist I found Darwin’s Radio fascinating. Do you think that the human race will undergo another major evolutionary change before we manage to wrest control of our own evolution?

 

Evolution never stops. We’ve defined evolution at the species level, but adaptation to changing environments occurs at the individual level throughout one’s life; we don’t individually grow wings to fly from danger, but we do bring into play phalanxes of genetic responses to changing seasons, physical threats, food supplies, sexual needs—you name it. Every aspect of biology is about solving problems on a second by second basis. What we call evolution, then, is a larger scale instance of that constant flux, observable in the different body plans of separate species, in the fossil record, in ontogeny AND phylogeny, which may or may not give us clues as to how change has happened in the past. Societies solve and support and adjust as well, politically and culturally, organizing populations, and that echoes back to how individuals adjust. To be sure, human evolution is now as much about social and technological adjustments as actual genetic adjustments; the mix and back-and-forth of this scale of evolution is not easy to quantify. But it’s important and may signal even greater changes to come. Whether or not, in all of this, a new “human” species will evolve is unknown—but if that sort of change is to come, it will have to sneak in soon. Because we’ll likely soon have the understanding and means to reverse such change, should we find it inconvenient.

 

Question 2- In Eon and subsequent novels you deal with the idea of alternate universes and alternate futures do you think that we are currently moving toward a physical model of the universe that allows for alternate universes in which life can arise?

 

These ideas are certainly fun to write about. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that a kind of “sum over histories” approach to alternate universes comes into play in living systems, including plants, which apparently have ways to maximize efficiencies through quantum adjustments in their photosynthetic chemistry. If that’s the case, and it appears pretty solid, then I may have to reassess my opinion of Frank Tippler’s quantum neurobiology! And that could imply that our own cognition and behavior may rely on a kind of motion through time which is less of a knife-edge slide into the future, and more of a smeared-out perception of competing futures… in which we may at times be able to make a choice. In CITY AT THE END OF TIME, I call it Fate-shifting. Fascinating prospects!

 

Question 3- Many of your works are about Humans evolving in a direction that seems to make them more dependent on each other physically and mentally. Do you think humanity is evolving toward a singular “overmind” or a small group of “control minds” and away from the rugged individual. Do you think there is room for the individual in the “Singularity”?

 

Centralization is not how minds get things done. Minds get things done through efficient and orderly distribution of problem-solving. An “overmind” is frightening because it’s basically unnatural. Likely it would also be terribly inefficient, and perhaps have a difficult time shedding waste heat! The Singularity is already upon us, has been upon us; no individual can grok the totality of modern technology. I know I can’t!

 

Question 4- I have not yet read The Mongoliad yet I am very interested in the concept and will pick it up at some point. Tell our readers why what is unique about it?

 

MONGOLIAD is distributed problem-solving (and story-writing) spread out among seven writers, with several other good folks providing tech support and fact checking. That it works at all—and it does, very well indeed!—points toward not just forward-looking attitudes on the part of Subutai’s founders, but a unique group of writers able to shed ego and focus on character and story.

 

Question 5- Our site is of course geared towards rational conservatives, libertarians, and objectivists. How would you describe yourself politically and what do you think are the major problems facing our society?

 

In many of my novels, I demonstrate my political persuasions through future-casting and social modeling—and because I try to play an honest game, many readers are confused about what to call me. I keep telling Jerry Pournelle I’m a liberal, mostly to irritate him—he’s been a major figure in my life–and he says I’m not a liberal, more of a maverick. Probably true. We still like each other, despite major disagreements. But the so-called rationalist and objectivist political persuasions have in recent decades slid into a lock-step with confederate conservatism that I find not only distressing, but irrational. I respect old-school libertarians—but not bigoted, pseudo-libertarian evangelicals who somehow manage to draw their ideals from both patriarchal plutocrats and Ayn Rand. That mix just doesn’t make sense. I doubt that Mr. Heinlein would sympathize with core Republican conservatism today, and I know Rand would have been disgusted. But that’s all part of continuing evolution in American politics! And times are a-changing, or swinging about in new winds. I remember back in the nineteen sixties, when I was a pre-teen conservative, trying to read a cruddy little tome called “None Dare Call It Treason.” I couldn’t get through it. The author accused Eisenhower of being a commie. Some currents never shift or run pure. Plus ca change!

 

Thank you for taking time out to answer these questions for us.

 

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Author David Drake

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Author David Drake

Known best for his Hammer’s Slammers series and his Lord of the Isles series David Drake has become an icon of military science fiction and fantasy over the years. We are happy to bring you an interview with the creator of the Hammerverse.

The Hitchhiker asks…

 

Question 1- You come from a history and legal educational background how did you end up in the writing business and what advice would you give to a person trying to get into the writing business today?

 

And Latin–don’t forget the Latin background, because it’s very important.

When I was in high school, a teacher (Eugene Olson) was a professional writer on the side. I determined that some day I would sell a story. Writing grew into a small hobby, but I didn’t dream of becoming a full-time writer.

Then I was drafted. When I got back to the World, I used fiction writing as a way to organize my memories and feelings, and to let out my considerable anger in an acceptable fashion.

After eight years of working as a lawyer, I realized that the particular stresses of the legal profession were going to kill me, so I quit and got a job driving a city bus. I spent more time writing because I had more time, and I figured the money would be very helpful. To my utter amazement, my writing career took off and I became a full-time freelance writer.

I didn’t begin writing in order to be a writer: I began writing to learn an interesting skill. I proceeded in a, well, in an obsessive fashion from 1970 on in order to control my anger and despair. I don’t really have advice for someone who Wants to be a Writer–who wants to get into the writing business today or any time–because that wasn’t me.

 

Question 2- How did your experiences in Vietnam prepare you for writing your fiction? Do these experiences show up in any of your books?

 

I served with an elite unit, the 11th Armored Cavalry; the Blackhorse Regiment or 11th ACR. In 1970 nobody I knew believed we were Saving Democracy. I suspect grunts in Iraq and Afghanistan have the same contempt for blowhards speaking similar twaddle today.

But we did our job. Everybody in the Blackhorse did his job. We kicked the ass of whoever they pointed us at, not because we believed in the war or in democracy or in any damned thing: we kicked ass because we were the Blackhorse.

I carried the attitude over into civilian life. My job is writing, and I do my job the best way I can; every time, every day. I’m David Drake, a writer, and I rode with the Blackhorse.

Yes, my military experiences show up in my fiction–even in humorous fantasy short stories. And bears shit in the woods.

 

Question 3- You helped start Carcosa a small publishing company, what are some of the pitfalls of publishing and how have those changed over the years especially in light of the internet. (We are interested because at the Freehold we have our own small press publications that will be coming out this fall)

 

I’ll give you two points; one which you probably think you know.

 

1)         Don’t put in more money than you’d be willing to burn in the driveway. Do not assume that anyone, ever, will buy one of your books.

Jim Groce and I put up all the money for Carcosa. Carcosa books are now sold for considerable sums of money, but Jim and I lost all the money we put in.

 

2)         Be aware that if you’re in a partnership, you may learn more about your partners than you wanted to know.

 

You should be publishing because you want to get certain books that you think are important out into the hands of readers. No other reason justifies small-press publishing.

 

Question 4- Who are the writers that have influenced you and your writing the most over the years?

 

There are a lot of ways to answer that. My prose style owes more to Tacitus than to any writer in English, and translating Ovid has taught me a great deal about the nuts and bolts of characterization.

In the SF/fantasy field, though, Henry Kuttner and Clark Ashton Smith. Kuttner started out as a crude stylist, but he always knew how to tell a story and he always went for the emotional punch. His stories have heart; even the hackwork is written with belief. Further, he kept learning from every story.

Smith’s vocabulary is unfortunate; he gives the impression of having taken it from a dictionary, not from the wide reading that would have permitted him to use the words in the correct context.

Despite that, his settings are gorgeous and his plot development shows that he really understood concepts about which Lovecraft merely mouthed words: his own insignificance and the insignificance of mankind. Smith’s work shows a detachment which I find in no other writer in the field, and the best of his stories are crushingly effective even after multiple rereadings.

 

Question 5- Tell us a little about your political beliefs, You told me in our email exchange that you are not a libertarian. What do you describe yourself as?

I have no ideology. My family in Iowa was Republican, but when I moved to NC I registered as a Democrat so that I could vote usefully in primaries.

I used to describe myself as apolitical, but my friend Eric Flint–a Trotskyist labor organizer–said I was the most political writer he knew, save for himself. It’s true that I analyze human interactions in terms of politics, so politics are at the heart of all my fiction.

I suppose I believe, as did Dickens and Orwell, that a society which ran on Christian principles (note that I did not say Christian theology) would be ideal for human beings. Again like Dickens and Orwell, I don’t believe there’s any possibility of such a society existing among human beings; but I wish it were the ideal toward which most people strove.

I don’t believe that’s going to happen either.

I try to be courteous; and honest; and even kind. I am in despair when I look at the world around me and at my own failings.

 

Thank you for the interview. I know there are several readers here who are ecstatic you took the time to do this for us.

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Dr. Gregory Benford

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Dr. Gregory Benford

 

This week the Enquiring Hitchhiker has several new interviews. The first of these is with  Dr. Gregory Benford. Dr. Benford is one of the leading authors of hard science fiction working today. His novel In the Ocean of Night was one of my first introductions to the idea of artificial intelligence.

 

The Hitchhiker asks…

Question 1. Ben Bova has commented that there is too little science fiction about scientists, their lives and the work that they do. Clearly, you are an exception to the rule but why do you think this is the case, even among scientists who write science fiction?”

 

Writing well is hard, and scientists are often single-minded, so never develop the narrative skills to really enjoy writing, as I do. I realized early on an advantage: You get to use material from part of life that few know and few writers attempt.

 

Question 2. You come from a science background how did you end up in the writing business and what advice would you give to a person trying to get into the writing business today?

If you possibly can, don’t write for money. It’s too hard to make it work, especially full time. I’ve always been a hobbyist and think that gives you freedom to enjoy it more. I’ve been very lucky in timing, coming in as the New Wave energy lapsed and there was appetite for more traditional, Campbellian sf. I added some literary graces to hard sf. Many have done this now of course.

 

Question 3. Who are the writers who have most influenced your writing?

The usual: Hemingway, Faulkner, the great English poets pre-Shakespeare, & in sf, Clarke, Heinlein, Disch, Russ, Silverberg, John D. Macdonald, Donald Westlake, Raymond Chandler. I learned a lot from them about narrative craft.

 

Question 4. This is sort of a personal question so bear with me on this. You and I are both from the South and we both work in a science field (albeit archaeology isn’t exactly a hard science). When I first started I moved to the border area of New York and Pennsylvania to work on a multi-year dig. I experienced a massive amount of anti-Southern bigotry not from the local people but from my fellow archaeologists who tout themselves as paragons of civility and liberalism. Did you experience anything similar as a Southerner turned scientist?

 

I changed my Alabama accent to a flat California one first year of grad school at UCSD…for good reason. Liberals aren’t really liberal, though they’re blind to that–they’re in love with a value system that needs villains. Be aware. When I taught in the English Dept. at UCI (honors program, and upper division journalism), I noted that American literature has been strongly Southern (Twain, Faulkner, Welty, both Tom Wolfes etc) but literary theory has a Northern cast. Many think it odd that I’m from the South, but that just reflects the monoculture of academe—which desires diversity in everything but opinion.

 

Question 5. Can you tell us a bit about your role at Reason Magazine and maybe a brief run down of your political beliefs?

I’m a Contributing Editor. I write a piece for the magazine when they bring me an interesting topic. I used to help shape issues, writing cover stories, but in recent years do much less. I’m a middle level libertarian. Don’t believe in open borders, as some do. Prefer some aspects of old line, cultural conservative views, which note the importance of continuity and community in shoring up liberties. Dislike our militarist impulses of late, though my father was a professional who fought in WWII and Korea and retired as Commandant of the artillery school, Ft. Sill. (I and my identical twin brother were in the reserves but never served.) I grew up in occupied Japan and Germany and saw the aftermath of that colossal struggle. A list:

1. I don’t think trying to manage Arabs or others is our proper job. Our Navy should keep the sea lanes clear for trade, but policeman is not our role; doing that endangers the structure of our Republic, as Eisenhower pointed out.

2. Nor do I like borrowing money from China to give it to people who hold us in contempt, hoping to curry favor.

3. I’d like a simple tax code and an end to the long-ago lost War on Drugs.

4. In law, change the costly legal rules from “discovery” to disclosure, as the Brits do.

5. I would consider advocating that California leave the Union, since it is simply too large an entity to run its affairs without being able to control its borders, make most of its laws or print its own money. We see now the limits of the Federal Republic model.

These ideas put me outside most political movements, of course.

 

Dr. Benford thank you for the interview.

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Dr. William Forstchen Author of “One Second After”

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Dr. William Forstchen Author of “One Second After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last weekend I visited the “Self Reliance Expo” in Hickory North Carolina. My main goal in coming to the convention was to meet Dr. Forstchen and hopefully interview him for the Freehold. The interview happened but was not conducted under the best of circumstances.  I taped the interview but it was conducted in the convention hall and the sound quality is not the greatest. Below is a transcript of the interview and I will make available an audio version and host it on The Freehold Radio and Podcast page later in the week.

Dr. Forstchen is a professor of military history at Montreat college. His novel One Second After details the aftermath of an electromagnetic pulse and how it affects the citizens of the small town of Black Mountain, North Carolina. The book reached number eleven on the New York times bestseller list when it debuted in 2009. Dr. Forstchen is also a good friend of Newt Gingrich and they have written a number of books together.

The Hitchhiker asks…

 

Question 1. Has writing the book One Second After made you more appreciative of the prepper movement in America?

Absolutely.

Question 2. What do you believe is the most important thing to be prepared for after an EMP event?

It’s like Maslow’s  hierarchy of needs. Water, Food, medication, security, and then recovery.

Question 3. I have not had a chance to read the book yet but I have been told that refugees come from Charlotte and cities to the east into the mountains. Do you think they would actually head toward the mountains rather than the coasts?

Yes, there seems to be a homing instinct that people think mountains are going to be safe.

Question 4. You spoke to me earlier about your next book. The one about a space elevator. Do you think that is what is going to finally open up space to business?

Yes, One hundred percent. That is why I am writing the book. The technology is already here.

Question 5. Many people on our site are fans of Newt Gingrich (especially me). We wanted Newt to win the nomination. Tell us a little about your political affiliation and your affiliation with Newt?

Newt and I have been friends for twenty years. We’ve written nine books together. I think he would have made a fabulous President (I concur). He has been a  very close personal friend as well. I have a deep love and admiration for him.

Thank you for your time Dr. Forstchen ad I hope we can one day do an interview in a less hectic environment.

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Daniel Knauf Creator of the TV Series Carnivale

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Daniel Knauf Creator of the TV Series Carnivale

 

This week we are proud to bring you an interview with Daniel Knauf. You may remember Daniel as the creator of the hit HBO show Carnivàle. He is currently working to recreate the story telling genre with his Bxx internet format. Bxx presents a non-linear method of telling a story in which the viewer can follow the story from multiple angles, out of sequence, or even follow specific characters through the story.

 

The Hitchhiker asks…

Question 1- Tell our readers a little about how you broke into the entertainment business. I have read a little about how Carnivàle was discovered and I would like to hear the story from your side?

I was an employee benefits consultant by day, writer by night. I’d had some limited success in the ’90s, but things hadn’t really gone anywhere in the long-haul. In 1998, I was in what I like to call “the crest of a slump.” I was closing in on the big four-oh, and I decided to take a last run at the whole silly screenwriting thing. I created a website called unmovies.com as an online resume’ of sorts, where I posted the first acts of all my unsold scripts as writing samples. In 2001, a young development exec, Robert Keyghobad, working for Scott Winant, an Emmy-winning television director-showrunner, found Carnivale at my website. We developed it together, took it to HBO and the rest is history.

Question 2- Many of our readers are older science fiction and fantasy fans. For instance I am 41. I know you broke into the business later in life meaning in Hollywood after your twenties. Was it hard to do that in a town obsessed with youth and what are your words of wisdom to someone like me just now trying to work my way into the entertainment field at this late date?

It helps to be talented. Know your craft. Deliver promptly. When an opportunity presents itself, seize it with both hands and ass-rape the shit out of it. I mean that. Don’t go for half measures. Keeping that fire blazing in your belly when you’re middle-aged is the hardest part of the battle. If you can pull that off, you should see a measure of success.

Question 3- You have been writing for comics for some time now. What is the real difference between scripting for a TV show or Movie and writing for a comic?

Comics are much harder to write. Like haiku, it’s a very unforgiving medium by virtue of its brevity. The disadvantages are that you can’t really depict movement. You’re writing a story with a series of stills. Also, you can’t rely on an actor or a deft edit to make your dialogue play. Everything is on you. Plus, comics pay way less than TV and movies. And there’s little or no back-end, so you totally get shafted out of any profits from movies that may be derived directly from your work. It’s a lot like how things used to be in the early days of rock-n-roll; a lot of terrific artists get terribly exploited by the big comic-book publishers. But the one big advantage to comics is the creative control you have as a writer. The editors pretty much leave you alone and let you create.

Question 4- Explain for our readers your latest project Bxx Haunted and where you want to take this? What kind of media would you like to see developed from this innovative approach to entertainment?

I created Bxx because, though the internet has been around for a couple decades, no one had devised a narrative format that exploited its characteristics. Sure, people post stories and videos, but they make no effort–other than, perhaps, length–to adapt them to the internet as a specific medium. An episode of television, for instance, can’t really be called “internet content” simply by virtue of being uploaded; it’s still just TV you passively watch on your computer. You’re not interacting with it the way you interact with actual internet content. I wanted to create a narrative form that the audience would access the same way they access other content on the internet, that is by instinctively clicking when their interest is piqued, receiving information in various media–video, text, images–and viewing it in a multitasking environment via multiple screens.The key difference between the internet and, say, film or a book, is that the internet is non-linear. The order in which you access content is dictated by each individual, not by some,external physical mechanism such a one page following another, or frames of film running through a projectors gate. The user defines how an what and in what order he or she wants to access content. So the first thing I had to broom what the idea of controlling how my story would be experienced. That’s not to say that there couldn’t be a three act structure–a beginning, a middle, and an end. In fact, that structure is immutable and unavoidable in life as in fiction. However, in traditional storytelling, the writer controls the sequence of events, parses them out in a very specific order that can be manipulated to maximize their impact on the audience. Since the internet is intrinsically non-linear, so too should be any narrative format adapted to that medium.So I considered other types of narratives that are experienced non-linearly. Ancient history, for instance. Artifacts are discovered, and a picture emerges of an epoch. Additional artifacts are dug up, and that picture changes. Artifacts don’t present themselves in linear order. History unfolds with massive gaps that gradually get filled as more information presents itself. Memories are another type of non-linear narrative format. We smell cut grass. We feel good. It evokes a moment in our own history, which then triggers synapses that connect us with adjacent memories–some connected by time, others by the people involved. And so in a few seconds, a scent can trigger a chain of memories that begin with our first kiss and end with blowing a math exam in college.A more technical type of non-linear narrative is the story contained on an airliner’s flight-recorder. The story begins at take-off and ends with a crash. The flight-recorder captures an uninterrupted real-time record of everything that occurred in the course of that story on multiple media–cockpit audio, radio transmissions, avionics, technical logs. The story of the flight is then accessed by investigators, not necessarily in chronological order, but in whatever way it is necessary to determine why the crash occurred.The flight recorder–or black box– became my model for the box-narrative format.As a proof of concept, I created an event that unfolded in real time–in the case of HAUNTED, a paranormal investigation in which the team is compromised and/or possessed by the very entity they are observing, leading to a tragic outcome. Like any drama, it was scripted and rehearsed. However, this drama lasted 32 hours, and was captured by 16 video cameras. We literally called “action,” and 32 hours later, called “cut.” We then put everything that was captured during the course of that drama–video, text, stills–on a website and developed a user interface that would allow the audience to navigate and access the content.Though the result is imperfect, it was much more compelling than it has any right to be. Without any promotion to speak of, we’ve generated a fairly large audience. Hopefully, we’ll get a shot at doing it again with a decent budget and better hardware.

Question 5- I am a big fan of Andrew Breitbart. He said, “Our culture is the most important front. And the three most important pillars of that culture are Hollywood and pop culture, along with education and the media. Those three are absolutely controlled by the left.” This website was created because I realized the truth of those words and I want to take back my segment of popular culture from the left. I know you were a friend of Breitbart and you suffered for coming out of the conservative “closet”. Please tell us your opinion of this quote and tell us what exposing yourself meant in Hollywood?

First of all, coming out as a conservative revealed the sheer vastness of the army behind me. I got so much support and so many kind letters, I was deeply moved. Meanwhile, I’ve gotten very little hate. I’m sure the decision has costs me a gig or two, but it hasn’t cost me any real friendships. Despite all the loudmouths, the majority of liberals in Hollywood lean closer to the center than you might think. All that said, as an artist, I serve truth and beauty, not right or left. If a narrative leads to a dark place with mature content, I’m going to follow it there. Injecting politics into a narrative is the sleaziest kind of propagandism. Yes, the Left does it all the time, and frankly, I think their work–and, btw, its effectiveness as propaganda–suffers for it. They have to twist reality grotesquely out of true to convey their values. So you end up with silly movies in which the “bad guys” are all big-business types of European descent, and all non-whites are portrayed as inherently noble–even magical. Nobody buys that stuff. It’s absurd. As MLK asserted in his “I Have a Dream” speech, character is not defined by skin-color. Bad guys and good guys come in all colors, races and creeds.Conservatives get that. Most people get that. It’s only the liberals that feel this need to PC everything up.To realize Breitbart’s words, you don’t fight leftist propaganda with rightist propaganda. You don’t fight fire with fire. You fight fire with water. The dramatic narrative is inherently a vessel for conservative values. The very construct of a classical “hero”–that is, an individual struggling against a collective, external menace–is deeply conservative. So my job is, in a way, easier than that of the modern Hollywood propagandist. All I have to do is tell a ripping yarn.I can tell you what I won’t do, though. I won’t ever write a gratuitous scene that makes the audience feel like a dupe because they go to church, or salute the flag, have pride in America and believe in its exceptionalism, or cherish the Constitution and the liberty it defines.

Thank you for the interview.

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews L. Neil Smith

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews L. Neil Smith


 

 

 

L. Neil Smith is a writer, and libertarian political activist. He  is the founder of the Prometheus award for libertarian fiction and has written volumes of libertarian centered science fiction. He has also given us what I consider our most thought-provoking interview to date. It is my pleasure to bring you L. Neil Smith.

 

The Hitchhiker asks…

Question 1. You are the creator of the Prometheus award can you tell us why it was needed?

I’ve been a student of social and political change as long as I can
remember. One thing you learn from such a study right away is that
political change is impossible without social change, psychological
change, to prepare the path — and the best way to accomplish that is
to “concretize” the otherwise abstract future you want to create and
live in.

H.G. Wells and Edward Bellamy both understood this and used science
fiction to criticize their times and generate a realizable alternative
in the minds of their readers. There have been others. Both Arthur C.
Clarke and Robert Heinlein created believable, desirable universes,
although their motives weren’t quite as explicitly political. Ayn Rand
did it, too, but I don’t believe she knew she was writing science
fiction. One of the few absurdities she wrote was that the detective
novel — notably Mickey Spillane’s — was the last literature of
ideas.

Of course, as a lifelong science fiction reader, I knew better. So the
fundamental idea was simple: encourage writers to create new worlds in
which people are free to live their lives as they wish and to prosper
in that freedom. And the way to get that done was to offer a very
concrete award — solid gold — for doing that job best in any given
year.

Question 2. I love the Probability Broach. I especially love the graphic novel based on it. One of the reasons I find the probability Broach so intriguing is that I live in the South Mountain section of North Carolina. This area was in an undeclared war with the federal government from the time of the Whiskey rebellion until the late 1960s. Of course the Probability Broach hinges on the fact that the Whiskey Rebellion was won by the rebels in their timeline. Do you have any other fiction based in that universe?

There are several other novels in what I call the “North American
Confederacy” or the “Win Bear” series, although my German publishers
referred to it as the Gallatin universe, and that’s probably more
appropriate, since some of the books don’t involve Win Bear or occur
on Earth.

I’ve skipped around a bit, so, in the order in which they should be
read, they are _The Probability Broach_, _The American Zone_, _The
Venus Belt_, _Their Majesties’ Bucketeers_, _The Nagasaki Vector_,
_Tom Paine Maru_, _The Gallatin Divergence_, _Brightsuit MacBear_, and
_Taflak Lysandra_. There’s also a tiny bit of Confederate crossover in
_Forge of the Elders_, and some minimal connection with the _Roswell,
Texas_ universe in _The American Zone_.

All of these books are available now or are in the process of being
reprinted. Tor is about to make _TPB_ an electronic book at long last;
Phoenix Pick, which does most of my stuff has electronic versions
ready practically the same day the “dead tree” book cmes out. And of
course _TPB_, as you note, is available from BigHeadPress.com as a
webcomic or graphic novel.

Last, but far from least, Brian Wilson, the libertarian radio talk
show host has recorded an audio version of _The Nagasaki Vector_
— which some folks think is my funniest book, that can be had at a
modest price through CD Baby. There will be more if sales merit it.

Question 3. As one of the founders of Big Head Press do you think your message is reaching a younger audience by means of graphic novels and comic strips?

I’m not really a founder of BigHeadPress.com. That credit belongs to
Frank Bieser, the publisher, and Scott Bieser, the brilliant artist
who is also what we call the “HMFWIC”.

That said, BigHead was created,in the beginning, to make _The
Probability Broach_ into a graphic novel. That process took a long
time, and so they published _A Drug War Carol_ first, written by Scott
and Susan Wells. It has its own website and can be had as a dead tree
graphic, as well. One of the best bargains available today.

I’m not sure it was ever our purpose to reach younger readers in
particular. I’m happy to reach anybody who’ll listen — that is, read
our publications.

One problem the general freedom movement has — and which I’ve been
struggling to fix all throughout my career is that its various
“compartments” are too well insulated from one another. Today, for
example, we have libertarian supporters of Ron Paul, and Libertarian
Party members for Gary Johnson. We’ve got two flavors of Objectvist.
There are Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. We’ve got survivalists
and “preppers”. We’ve got hard money advocates and gun people. I’m not
sure how much they communicate with one another, but — given the
preparations the government seems to be making for a civil war — I
think it’s important that they do.

BigHeadPress and other efforts like it could become important conduits
for freedom-oriented ideas and communications within the various
sections of the movement. Hardline statists know that they’re in their
end-game, but there may still be time to deter them before it gets
really ugly.

Question 4. What does the future hold for you and your work? Are you working on anything new that may interest our readers?

What’s new? Well, the fun news is that _BrightSuit MacBear_ and
_Taflak Lysandra_ are about to be republished (I hope to sneak _Their
Majesties’ Bucketeers_ in there, somewhere, too) and will then be
followed by the five additional books I meant to write in that
sub-series. There could be two more _lamviin_ Mav and Mymy novels, as
well.

That’s in addition to _Blade of p’Na_, a prequel to _Forge of the
Elders_ that I’m almost done with, _Ares_, which will fit between
_Pallas_ and _Ceres_ (there will be two morein that series, as well,
called _Beautiful Dreamer_ and _Rosalie’s World_) and a new project
I’ve just taken on which I can’t fully discuss yet. Brian Wilson and I
are also working on an audio version of my nonfiction book, _Down With
Power: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis_.

Oh, yes, and I’m also doing work for LinePlot Productions on a sequel
to their animated movie _The Silver Circle_ which will be released
later this year.

And finally (so far), I used to be a professional musician, and I hope
to put together an album of the various songs I’ve written in the last
half century or so. The album will be called _Do Not Remove This Tag!”

Question 5. I know you are a libertarian activist can you tell us a little about what changes in American society you would like to see? As a rational (Heinlein) conservative I can see the appeal of libertarianism but I am of the opinion that a libertarian state as depicted in the Probability Broach or in Roswell Texas can only be sustained if the population has a certain educational level or educational “background” (that may be a more appropriate word). I believe this country has fallen below that level. Do you believe that is true or that we need a certain level/background at all to implement a libertarian society?

Whatever knowledge of history and human nature I’ve managed to acquire
over the years tells me that people will rise — or fall– to meet
your expectations of them.

The people who built this country — I’m not talking about the
Founders, here, but of ordinary people doing ordinary thngs every day — were not especially well-educated, but they knew which side their bread was buttered on. That’s the whole “secret” to a freer market and a free society. they weren’t always consistent, either, but they did create the most prosperous, peaceful, and progressive society that ever existed at any time, anyplace on Earth.

It was their “leaders” who undermined that and are in the process of deliberately destroying it. They dream of a new form of high-tech feudalism, a dream that must be shattered if freedom is to survive.

It’s presumptuous for you — or for anybody else — to think you know how much liberty people “deserve”, or are prepared to use in ways that you may think are “wise”. You have no such right. Nobody has. That’s as bad as the criminals, cretins, and crazies who think they have a
right to rule us now.

Look: the two hardest things in the world to learn, the two things
that make us genuine adults, the two things that many people — maybe even most people — never really manage to get through their thick collectivist skulls are these:

A. Other people are as real as you are.

B. You must learn to let go of their lives.

Instead of prescribing for others, ask yourself, instead, how much
liberty _you_ deserve and are prepared to use wisely. Otherwise, MYOB: mind your own business. If everybody did that, we could have a free society tomorrow.

And no, I don’t believe we need just a “little bit” of government
(that’s like a “little bit” of cancer), for example, to build the
roads.

Like Doc Brown said, “Where we’re going, we don’t _need_ roads

Thank you for doing this interview.

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Michael Z. Williamson

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Michael Z. Williamson

This morning the Enquiring Hitchhiker brings you an interview with military science fiction writer Michael Z. Williamson or as some call him “Mad Mike”. Mr. Williamson was brought to my attention when this site came online because he had written a novel called Freehold. The reader who brought him to my attention thought we had named the site after that novel (actually we named the site for Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold).

 

The Hitchhiker asks…

Question 1. Our reader base runs from the ultra conservative right to the most anarchistic libertarian. Does your writing speak to any particular audience?

 

 

They’ll certainly like some of what I have to say, though the libertine social content of some of my cultures may be a bit eye opening. On the whole, though, I’m very much a determinist and unabashed supporter of the free market.

 

Question 2.You wrote your second novel with John Ringo, who we interviewed last month. From looking at your work and his you both seem to be type “A” personalities. Was it difficult working together?

 

 

Only a little. He handed me an outline and told me to have at it, then did some minor edits afterward. I did run into a snag needing some backstory, which he first told me to make up myself, then realized it was his universe. But there were no disputes over characters or major incidents.

 

Question 3. I get quite a bit of grief for my online avatar with me holding my .45 Ruger Vaquero. It has become something of a matter of pride to continue using it since it offends so many people I dislike. I don’t think I have seen a picture of you where you are not carrying a pistol or rifle of some sort. Do you get the same kind of response to your photos and does your interest in firearms help flesh out your stories?

 

 

No, my readers seem thrilled that I use, enjoy, and know about weapons. My daughter sometimes gets flack over her pictures with her pink M4 carbine, though, from age 7-14.

 

Question 4. What does the future hold for you and your work? Are you working on anything new that may interest our readers?

 

 

I’m hoping to shortly contract The Redneck Zombie Brigade, and a contemporary Holmes story, and an historical fantasy air combat story.

Question 5. Tell us a little about your political affiliation and beliefs.

 

 

I believe government is necessary. I also believe its necessary functions are few–defense, courts, certain infrastructure (an Interstate, for example, is pretty much impossible without eminent domain and large investment). Governments are supposed to help us live together in civility, not live our lives for us.

 

I could be wordier, but I think some things are best said short.

 

Mike

 

Thank you for the interview.

 

 

 

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews J. Neil Schulman

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews J. Neil Schulman

We had the pleasure to interview J. Neil Schulman last week. He is the author of the Novel Alongside Night and has twice won the Prometheus award for his work. Currently Mr. Schulman is working on a movie based on Alongside Night.

 

The Hitchhiker asks…

1. I have asked this of several authors and in your case I think this question is even more pertinent. Tell me about the influence Heinlein had over your work and life?

I wrote an entire book to answer this question: The Robert Heinlein Interview and Other Heinleiniana (http://www.heinleiniana.com).

As I wrote in my introduction to that book:

In July of 1973, I was twenty and had been an avid fan
of Robert Heinlein for half my life. I don’t think it’s an
overstatement to say there’s a good chance that if he
hadn’t lived, I would’ve never made it to age twenty.
Teenage suicide is common, and my teenage years
were, to state it mildly, not good. If Robert Heinlein
hadn’t written the books he wrote, and I hadn’t read
them, I doubt very much that I would have had the
intellectual background necessary to climb out of the
hole I was in between the ages of fifteen and eighteen.

For most of my childhood, Heinlein represented everything
in my life that meant anything to me. He wrote
about futures that were worth living for. He wrote
about talented people who felt life was worth living,
and made it worth living, no matter what the breaks
that fell their way. His characters never had an easy
time of it, but they persevered.

And, boy oh boy, when you’re getting the shit kicked
out of you in half a dozen different ways, images like
that are sometimes the only thing between you and the
edge.

2. I was looking over your work and I noticed you wrote an episode of the Twilight zone that came out in the 1980’s “Profile in Silver”. I was 15 at the time that episode aired. I haven’t seen it since but it is almost as fresh in my mind as the day I saw it. The premise is about time travel and the prevention of the assassination of JFK. Just as speculation do you think time travel is possible and if so do you think we would recognize them even if they were among us?

I not only believe time travel is possible, I believe that time isn’t anything like what we think it is. Like Heinlein described in Between Planets, I believe there are multiple parallel continua and that we’re constantly slipping in and out of them. By the way, I wrote about this episode in another of my books: Profile in Silver and Other Screenwritings and blogged about it at http://jneilschulman.rationalreview.com/2010/06/the-twilight-zone-profile-in-silver/

3. You list your political affiliation as “Limited Anarchist” how is that different than Libertarianism. Tell us a bit about your political philosophy?

This interview is quickly becoming links to fuller answers to these questions. My best summary is also on my blog here: http://jneilschulman.rationalreview.com/2012/04/welcome-to-customer-service/

4. Your novel Alongside Night is about an economic collapse in the United States. It is my understanding that it is being made into a movie. Can you tell us a bit about the work itself and the movie being made from it?  ( This answer included Question 5. What are the current projects that you are working on?)

This is going to answer both question 4 and 5. I wrote the novel Alongside Night in the 70’s and it was published in 1979. It projected a future where the dollar had collapsed due to government overspending and monetizing its debts, causing a hyperinflationary crisis. We are now living in the objective economic conditions leading to that kind of crisis — again see my article at http://jneilschulman.rationalreview.com/2012/04/welcome-to-customer-service/ — the last section titled “Yankruptcy: What is the tipping point when government overspending collapses the buying power of the dollar?”

I’ve written a screenplay adaptation of Alongside Night and I am currently in production as its writer/producer/director. We’re aiming for film-festival release by summer 2013. Full info is on the official movie website at http://www.alongsidenightmovie.com/.

In a follow up conversation Mr. Shulman informed the Hitchhiker that Ron Paul has endorsed Alongside Night the novel and he and he’s appearing as himself in the movie.

Thank you for the interview and we look forward to supporting your new Movie.

 

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Larry Niven

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Larry Niven

Larry Niven is one of the old guard of hard science fiction writers. His ringworld Novels are some of the most widely read science fiction novels of all time. It was our pleasure to interview him for the site.

The Hitchhiker asks…..

Question 1- I asked this question of Dr. Pournelle but I also would like your opinion on the same question. The modern trend in speculative fiction is away from hard science fiction and has moved towards a melange of vampire eroticism, mystical children, and medieval fantasy. Even when Hollywood attempts a science fiction story (see my review of the new Total Recall) they infuse the story with so much pseudo-scientific gobbledegook that it gives me a headache. Do you think that this lack of interest in hard science fiction says something about our society?

I touched on vampire eroticism in the Ringworld series. Mystical children: never tried it. Medeival fantasy: sort of, in the Magic Goes Away stories. I try not to follow trends.

Hollywood sometimes does well with SF movies. Hard SF generally goes transcendental at the end, like 2001 did, perhaps because there’s no clear end to the conquest of space. Less ambitious movies can succeed brilliantly, like Westworld and Rollerball and Aliens. The gobbledegook problem is that it isn’t really researched: it’s just babble, a tradition well established by 3rd season Star Trek.

But our society has always been like that. I’ve seen progress: you used to have to hide your SF books.

Question 2- Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?

We tend to flinch from this question. It’s a great chance to offend all of our friends but one.

I’ll cop to reading everything by Tim Powers, Terry Pratchett, Robert Heinlein. I love The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. Neil Stephenson and Neil Gaiman are great.

Question 3- My personal favorite book of your’s is the one you wrote with Jerrry Pournelle called Lucifer’s Hammer. Since I have asked several authors their opinion of what they would do to prepare for a scenario such as the one described in the book, I thought I would change the question for you and ask what you would do to rebuild later on if you happened to be one of the survivors?

The real Dan Forrester was Dan Alderson, and we got our data from him. I’d use the books he would have preserved in that septic tank (in Hammer.)

Me, I’d get to Jerry Pournelle and follow directions. He considers me an idea source.

Question 4- In your work man meets the alien Kzin race and promptly goes to war with them again and again. The naked ape is constantly defeating a trained warrior race of giant cats. Do you think that first physical contact with an alien race will end in war and do you think Mankind really has that internal killer instinct ready to come out?

It’s not plausible that the first alien we meet will be that close to our own state of civilization. Bet that they’re a billion years advanced beyond us. Yes, the internal killer is ready to come out, but he doesn’t stand a chance.

Question 5- Over the span of your career you have been seen as both a liberal and a conservative. Where on the political spectrum would you place yourself and why?

Raised Republican. I dropped out when George Bush Sr. raised taxes. I’m still waiting for an apology. Currently Libertarian. I sent money to Newt Gingrich, the only candidate who doesn’t think that a base on the Moon is funny.

 

 

Thank you for the Interview we really appreciate you taking time out to speak with us.

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Writer Mike Baron

The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Writer Mike Baron

Mike Baron is the Creator of the comic Badger and co-creator of Nexus. He has worked on Marvel’s Punisher and is a contributor to Big Head Press.
I have always been a fan of your work. I first discovered Badger back in the late 1980s. I even painted Badger on a t-shirt because it was impossible to find t-shirts of comic characters back then that weren’t one of the top four spidey, hulk, superman, or batman. I think I was drawn to Badger because of the internal struggle between his personalities. At that time in my life I was struggling with who I was and who I wanted to be. The Badger story spoke to me as a teen in a way other comic characters did not. To show what a fan boy I was I think I still have all the first run of Badger, or at least most of them and they were not easy to come by in rural North Carolina back in the 1980’s.

Anyway I digress on to the questions…

 

The Hitchhiker asks…

1. What inspired you to create Badger and in a larger sense what inspires all of your creations?

Once Capital accepted Nexus I sought to capitalize by launching another title. The boys insisted on a costumed crime fighter. I was walking down State St. in Madison wondering why a guy would put on a costume and fight crime. He’d have to be crazy. That was the first note. I looked at the shops I was passing. Badger Liquors. Badger Barber Shop. Badger posters. That was the second note. I’d read The Minds of Billy Milligan and it had always stuck with me. I guess I’d been looking to create an MPD super hero all along. I also had those eight pages of Ham the Weather Wizard that Jeff Butler drew so we decided to tack that onto the front of the story and that’s where Ham came from.
The urge to tell a story, to reach an emotional catharsis lies at the heart of all my story telling. It’s the same urge that drives songwriters, I think.
2. How did you get into the comic writing business? What is your advice for someone that is trying to break into the business today?
I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. I’d been working with the Dude for several months when we learned via Steven Grant that Capital City Distribution wanted to branch out into comic publishing. I think the best way for young talent to break into the field is to produce their own comics. You can always get them read and all they take is sweat equity. I would guess that the second most popular route is to go to as many comic conventions as you can and hang out with the editors. Buy them drinks. Get them laid.
3. Comics sales seemed to explode in the 1990’s then sales contracted through the early 2000’s do you think that the trend towards the artist who was also the writer hurt comic sales? (I am a big believer that the artists draws and the writer writes and very few people are good at both) Or was it the internet that hurt sales in that time frame? There seems to be a rebirth in comics today is this due to Hollywood’s discovery of the superhero?
There are some terrific artists out there who for some reason think they can write. There are very talented writer/artists like Mike Mignola. But there are a lot of guys who draw great
who end up with writing assignments probably because it’s easier for the publisher. Some of these guys learn on the job. I don’t see where Hollywood has helped comic sales except in the case
of The Walking Dead. Maybe web comics will expand readership. The plethora of publishers today is due to numerous factors. People are desperate to do comics and will give their work away if it means being published. A lot of licensors are handing out licenses to publishers who don’t pay their talent just to keep the property in the public eye. There are a lot of vanity publishers. The big guys, particularly the big independents like Dark Horse, IDW and Dynamite, are very canny about what they publish. That’s why we see so many licensed properties and so few creator-owned at those houses right now. They are simply going where the money is.
4. What do you think is the future of comics? Is it online or are comics at least “profitable” comics going to stay print and paper for sometime to come?
When Henry Ford introduced the Model T experts quickly announced the extinction of the horse. They forgot that people love horses and collect them. Likewise comics. You can’t ride a comic and it doesn’t nuzzle, but you do get that warm thrilling feeling when you crack open a new book by your favorite creators. Print comics will always be with us. But the future of comics lies online. That’s where the readership will grow. These kids today, these kids…they don’t buy comics. They buy video games. And that’s why we see so many video game based entertainments as well.
You describe scififreehold as a science fiction site. I have written a science fiction novel called WHACK JOB which I plan to release digitally next year. It is guaranteed to blow your mind.
5. Scott Bieser of Big Head Press described you to me as the conservative of the crew there. Tell us a little about your political beliefs?
I think it’s fair to say I’m conservative. Of course Scott’s libertarian. Those guys are crazier than gerbils on acid.

 

Thank you for the interview. We appreciate your work and look forward to reading your new work WHACK JOB.