Firstly tell us about your Baelfire book series.
It's a brainchild decades in the making. I started telling stories
for as long as I can remember, and originally wrote the story from a
different main character's perspective back in 1995. It was terrible.
It was so bad that I actually got discouraged from writing, but
continued character and environmental development through drawings.
After a couple of decades, I revisited the work I had, and rewrote
the book as it is.
Honestly, I didn't write it thinking about
any sort of retail gain, rather, I wrote it because there are so few
books in the genre that I felt had a dark reality to them. I liken
the work to a Tarantino film crossed with elements of Tolkien: as if
reality and fantasy had a love child.
Your first book, ‘Baelfire: Innocence Lost’ has received a lot of positive
reviews. Why do you think it appeals to so many people?
Well this is my first book, so I would have to say that my strengths
are character development, and dialogue. I think many of my readers
find that the content is relatable, rather than being lost in some
sort of heavy explanation of objects or details.
I also have been told on many occasions that I have strength in
writing female characters, whereas many authors seem to fall victim
to clichés and stereotypes. I plan on continuing this standard in
Where did the idea for the Baelfire series come from?
Baelfire, as a whole, is a convoluted metaphor. The "idea"
took on a life of its own when I attempted to make sense of the world
we live in. Throw in a cuddle puddle of academic study and role
playing games, and you have a bit of an idea of where my head was at
when I started letting the words appear on screen.
Q. You describe your childhood as having rancher parents, often
finding yourself in the dust and mud of small town America. I imagine
stories told round a campfire?
My sisters always scared the shit out of me around the campfire, if
that's what you mean! For the most part, I had a pretty lonely
childhood, worked hard (even as a kid,) and spent a lot of time alone
allowing my imagination to take over.
You studied acting and some reviews say your writing is very
visual, almost movie-like. Is there a link here?
Probably. I mentioned Tarantino above, and I do have to say that his
style of writing has been a heavy influence on me. Going back even
further, I'd have to throw a shout out to Shakespeare. Both of these
guys have a way of writing for the common man (of the time period,)
and I hope I have captured even a fraction of their greatness.
How about the degree in Anthropology. Another influence?
Oh yes. Unlike other degree-seekers, I studied Anthropology to
enhance my understanding of the human condition out of pure love for
the human condition. Diversity, in my humble opinion, is the key to a
successful future for all humanity; one can only hope to understand a
portion of this by devoting countless hours studying other cultures.
I hope that my writing shows all of these hours of attempted
understanding...maybe even to influence someone to do the same.
You came up with the quote: ‘Science is both a liberator and
destroyer.’ Can you expand on this?
I could, but it would be a spoiler...
Often artists see and experience the world in a different way to
most. How about you?
That's a million-dollar question! I think as an artist, it really is
important to recognise that everyone sees the world differently.
That's truly the beauty of art. When one makes art with words, you
have the amazing ability to allow another to connect the dots and
create their own paintings.
I know that I see the world differently than most, and I do want to
be able to share that vision, while walking the peripheral safety
net-free tightrope of reader interpretation. For example: I love
asking people how they see the huge beasts the Plainsmen call
"Toenuk." I've heard a hundred different interpretations,
and not many match my own vision. It always makes me smile.
There was quite a gap between the release of book one and book 2. How
long does it take you to write a novel? Take us through your writing
Life stuff is funny. I really do hope to one day become noticed
enough to write Baelfire (and other titles I'm working) full time. As
it sits however, my responsibilities are pretty overwhelming. I do a
lot of work ghost writing for fitness and nutrition, so admittedly, I
spend a lot of my creative fuel paying the bills.
If I did the
math, it takes me an average of 15 years to write a book...even
though my outline is mapped out for 9. I realize I'm an author, not a
mathematician, but I am definitely going to have to figure out a way
to speed that up!
Are you working on the next book in the series now?
A: I am, and it is nearly complete.
Okay, thanks for the interview.
You can purchase the Balfire books from amazon via the link here.
A beautifully written story that is as much literary fiction as it is sci-fi. Compelling reading from an author on the rise.
The Moon fell into the Ocean and the Waves wept.
Infinity was once home to a thriving civilisation. That is, before the Moon arrived. The enormous, spherical structure brought with it death and destruction, wiping out most of the population with a series of earthquakes and tsunamis.
Since then the Moon has sat silently on the southern edge of Infinity’s mass continent.
Lucky Marsh is one of three moon-sitters charged with monitoring the Moon, acting as a living alarm system for Infinity’s last city. They must watch, but never touch: that’s the golden rule of moon-sitting. However, for the ever-curious Lucky, that rule has become increasingly difficult to abide.
Her nightmares compel her to do more. Her feet betray her while she sleeps
perfectly swell. There were no prisons, no slums, no insane asylums,
no cripples, no poverty, no wars. All diseases were conquered. So was
old age. Death, barring accidents, was an adventure for volunteers.
of the United States was stabilized at forty-million souls.
morning in the Chicago Lying-in Hospital, a man named Edward K.
Wehling, Jr., waited for his wife to give birth. He was the only man
waiting. Not many people were born a day any more.
fifty-six, a mere stripling in a population whose average age was one
hundred and twenty-nine. X-rays had revealed that his wife was going
to have triplets. The children would be his first.
was hunched in his chair, his head in his hand. He was so rumpled, so
still and colorless as to be virtually invisible. His camouflage was
perfect, since the waiting room had a disorderly and demoralized air,
too. Chairs and ashtrays had been moved away from the walls. The
floor was paved with spattered dropcloths.
The room was
being redecorated. It was being redecorated as a memorial to a man
who had volunteered to die.
A sardonic old
man, about two hundred years old, sat on a stepladder, painting a
mural he did not like. Back in the days when people aged visibly, his
age would have been guessed at thirty-five or so. Aging had touched
him that much before the cure for aging was found.
The mural he
was working on depicted a very neat garden. Men and women in white,
doctors and nurses, turned the soil, planted seedlings, sprayed bugs,
spread fertilizer. Men and women in purple uniforms pulled up weeds,
cut down plants that were old and sickly, raked leaves, carried
refuse to trash-burners. Never, never, never – not even in medieval
Holland nor old Japan – had a garden been more formal, been better
tended. Every plant had all the loam, light, water, air and
nourishment it could use.
orderly came down the corridor, singing under his breath a popular
If you don’t
like my kisses, honey,
I will do:
I’ll go see
a girl in purple,
Kiss this sad
If you don’t
want my lovin’,
Why should I
take up all this space?
I’ll get off
this old planet,
Let some sweet
baby have my place.
looked in at the mural and the muralist. “Looks so real,” he
said, “I can practically imagine I’m standing in the middle of
you think you’re not in it?” said the painter. He gave a satiric
smile. “It’s called ‘The Happy Garden of Life,’ you know.”
good of Dr. Hitz,” said the orderly.
referring to one of the male figures in white, whose head was a
portrait of Dr. Benjamin Hitz, the hospital’s Chief Obstetrician.
Hitz was a blindingly handsome man.
faces still to fill in,” said the orderly. He meant that the faces
of many of the figures in the mural were still blank. All blanks were
to be filled with portraits of important people on either the
hospital staff or from the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of
Termination. “Must be nice to be able to make pictures that look
face curdled with scorn. “You think I’m proud of this daub?” he
said. “You think this is my idea of what life really looks like?”
your idea of what life looks like?” said the orderly.
gestured at a foul dropcloth. “There’s a good picture of it,”
he said. “Frame that, and you’ll have a picture a damn sight more
honest than this one.”
gloomy old duck, aren’t you?” said the orderly.
“Is that a
crime?” said the painter.
shrugged. “If you don’t like it here, Grandpa –” he said, and
he finished the thought with the trick telephone number that people
who didn’t want to live any more were supposed to call. The zero in
the telephone number he pronounced “naught.”
was: “2 B R 0 2 B.”
It was the
telephone number of an institution whose fanciful sobriquets
included: “Automat,” “Birdland,” “Cannery,” “Catbox,”
“De-louser,” “Easy-go,” “Good-by, Mother,” “Happy
Hooligan,” “Kiss-me-quick,” “Lucky Pierre,” “Sheepdip,”
“Waring Blendor,” “Weep-no-more” and “Why Worry?”
“To be or
not to be” was the telephone number of the municipal gas chambers
of the Federal Bureau of Termination.
thumbed his nose at the orderly. “When I decide it’s time to go,”
he said, “it won’t be at the Sheepdip.”
do-it-yourselfer, eh?” said the orderly. “Messy business,
Grandpa. Why don’t you have a little consideration for the people
who have to clean up after you?”
expressed with an obscenity his lack of concern for the tribulations
of his survivors. “The world could do with a good deal more mess,
if you ask me,” he said.
laughed and moved on. Wehling, the waiting father, mumbled something
without raising his head. And then he fell silent again.
formidable woman strode into the waiting room on spike heels. Her
shoes, stockings, trench coat, bag and overseas cap were all purple,
the purple the painter called “the color of grapes on Judgment
on her purple musette bag was the seal of the Service Division of the
Federal Bureau of Termination, an eagle perched on a turnstile.
The woman had
a lot of facial hair – an unmistakable mustache, in fact. A curious
thing about gas-chamber hostesses was that, no matter how lovely and
feminine they were when recruited, they all sprouted mustaches within
five years or so.
where I’m supposed to come?” she said to the painter.
“A lot would
depend on what your business was,” he said. “You aren’t about
to have a baby, are you?”
me I was supposed to pose for some picture,” she said. “My name’s
Leora Duncan.” She waited.
dunk people,” he said.
is a beautiful picture,” she said. “Looks just like heaven or
something,” said the painter. He took a list of names from his
smock pocket. “Duncan, Duncan, Duncan,” he said, scanning the
list. “Yes—here you are. You’re entitled to be immortalized.
See any faceless body here you’d like me to stick your head on?
We’ve got a few choice ones left.”
the mural bleakly. “Gee,” she said, “they’re all the same to
me. I don’t know anything about art.”
a body, eh?” he said. “All righty. As a master of fine art, I
recommend this body here.” He indicated a faceless figure of a
woman who was carrying dried stalks to a trash-burner.
said Leora Duncan, “that’s more the disposal people, isn’t it?
I mean, I’m in service. I don’t do any disposing.”
clapped his hands in mock delight. “You say you don’t know
anything about art, and then you prove in the next breath that you
know more about it than I do! Of course the sheave-carrier is wrong
for a hostess! A snipper, a pruner – that’s more your line.” He
pointed to a figure in purple who was sawing a dead branch from an
apple tree. “How about her?” he said. “You like her at all?”
she said, and she blushed and became humble – “that–that puts
me right next to Dr. Hitz.”
you?” he said.
no!” she said. “It’s–it’s just such an honor.”
you admire him, eh?” he said.
admire him?” she said, worshiping the portrait of Hitz. It was the
portrait of a tanned, white-haired, omnipotent Zeus, two hundred and
forty years old. “Who doesn’t admire him?” she said again. “He
was responsible for setting up the very first gas chamber in
would please me more,” said the painter, “than to put you next to
him for all time. Sawing off a limb – that strikes you as
kind of like what I do,” she said. She was demure about what she
did. What she did was make people comfortable while she killed them.
Leora Duncan was posing for her portrait, into the waiting room
bounded Dr. Hitz himself. He was seven feet tall, and he boomed with
importance, accomplishments, and the joy of living.
Duncan! Miss Duncan!” he said, and he made a joke. “What are you
doing here?” he said. “This isn’t where the people leave. This
is where they come in!”
going to be in the same picture together,” she said shyly.
said Dr. Hitz heartily. “And, say, isn’t that some picture?”
“I sure am
honored to be in it with you,” she said.
“Let me tell
you,” he said, “I’m honored to be in it with you. Without women
like you, this wonderful world we’ve got wouldn’t be possible.”
He saluted her
and moved toward the door that led to the delivery rooms. “Guess
what was just born,” he said.
she said. She was exclaiming over the legal implications of triplets.
The law said that no newborn child could survive unless the parents
of the child could find someone who would volunteer to die.
they were all to live, called for three volunteers.
parents have three volunteers?” said Leora Duncan.
heard,” said Dr. Hitz, “they had one, and were trying to scrape
another two up.”
think they made it,” she said. “Nobody made three appointments
with us. Nothing but singles going through today, unless somebody
called in after I left. What’s the name?”
said the waiting father, sitting up, red-eyed and frowzy. “Edward
K. Wehling, Jr., is the name of the happy father-to-be.” He raised
his right hand, looked at a spot on the wall, gave a hoarsely
wretched chuckle. “Present,” he said.
Wehling,” said Dr. Hitz, “I didn’t see you.”
invisible man,” said Wehling.
phoned me that your triplets have been born,” said Dr. Hitz.
“They’re all fine, and so is the mother. I’m on my way in to
see them now.”
said Wehling emptily.
sound very happy,” said Dr. Hitz.
“What man in
my shoes wouldn’t be happy?” said Wehling. He gestured with his
hands to symbolize care-free simplicity. “All I have to do is pick
out which one of the triplets is going to live, then deliver my
maternal grandfather to the Happy Hooligan, and come back here with a
became rather severe with Wehling, towered over him. “You don’t
believe in population control, Mr. Wehling?” he said.
it’s perfectly keen,” said Wehling tautly.
like to go back to the good old days, when the population of the
Earth was twenty billion – about to become forty billion, then
eighty billion, then one hundred and sixty billion? Do you know what
a drupelet is, Mr. Wehling?” said Hitz.
said Wehling sulkily.
Mr. Wehling, is one of the little knobs, one of the little pulpy
grains of a blackberry,” said Dr. Hitz. “Without population
control, human beings would now be packed on this surface of this old
planet like drupelets on a blackberry! Think of it!”
continued to stare at the same spot on the wall.
“In the year
2000,” said Dr. Hitz, “before scientists stepped in and laid down
the law, there wasn’t even enough drinking water to go around, and
nothing to eat but sea-weed – and still people insisted on their
right to reproduce like jackrabbits. And their right, if possible, to
those kids,” said Wehling quietly. “I want all three of them.”
you do,” said Dr. Hitz. “That’s only human.”
want my grandfather to die, either,” said Wehling.
really happy about taking a close relative to the Catbox,” said Dr.
Hitz gently, sympathetically.
people wouldn’t call it that,” said Leora Duncan.
said Dr. Hitz.
people wouldn’t call it ‘the Catbox,’ and things like that,”
she said. “It gives people the wrong impression.”
absolutely right,” said Dr. Hitz. “Forgive me.” He corrected
himself, gave the municipal gas chambers their official title, a
title no one ever used in conversation. “I should have said,
‘Ethical Suicide Studios,’” he said.
so much better,” said Leora Duncan.
of yours – whichever one you decide to keep, Mr. Wehling,” said
Dr. Hitz. “He or she is going to live on a happy, roomy, clean,
rich planet, thanks to population control. In a garden like that
mural there.” He shook his head. “Two centuries ago, when I was a
young man, it was a hell that nobody thought could last another
twenty years. Now centuries of peace and plenty stretch before us as
far as the imagination cares to travel.”
faded as he saw that Wehling had just drawn a revolver.
Dr. Hitz dead. “There’s room for one – a great big one,” he
And then he
shot Leora Duncan. “It’s only death,” he said to her as she
fell. “There! Room for two.”
And then he
shot himself, making room for all three of his children.
running. Nobody, seemingly, heard the shots.
sat on the top of his stepladder, looking down reflectively on the
pondered the mournful puzzle of life demanding to be born and, once
born, demanding to be fruitful … to multiply and to live as long as
possible – to do all that on a very small planet that would have to
answers that the painter could think of were grim. Even grimmer,
surely, than a Catbox, a Happy Hooligan, an Easy Go. He thought of
war. He thought of plague. He thought of starvation.
He knew that
he would never paint again. He let his paintbrush fall to the
dropcloths below. And then he decided he had had about enough of life
in the Happy Garden of Life, too, and he came slowly down from the
Wehling’s pistol, really intending to shoot himself.
But he didn’t
have the nerve.
And then he
saw the telephone booth in the corner of the room. He went to it,
dialed the well-remembered number: “2 B R 0 2 B.”
Bureau of Termination,” said the very warm voice of a hostess.
could I get an appointment?” he asked, speaking very carefully.
probably fit you in late this afternoon, sir,” she said. “It
might even be earlier, if we get a cancellation.”
said the painter, “fit me in, if you please.” And he gave her his
name, spelling it out.
sir,” said the hostess. “Your city thanks you; your country
thanks you; your planet thanks you. But the deepest thanks of all is
from future generations.”
story was first published in Worlds of If Science Fiction, January
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