Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, David Bridger – David Bridger settled in England’s West Country after twenty years of ocean-based mischief, during which he worked as a lifeguard, a sailor, an intelligence gatherer, and an investigator. Now he writes science fiction and fantasy novels. Sometimes they’re informed by his experiences out on the crinkly blue.
Thanks so much, David, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
David Bridger: Literary science fiction and fantasy.
JSC: Do you reward yourself for writing, or punish yourself for failing to do so? How?
DB: When I finish writing a book I reward myself with a few weeks off. I like to time each completion to coincide with a big sporting event: football or rugby world cups, Wimbledon, the summer or winter Olympics, that sort of thing. Sometimes I’ll binge watch a box set I’ve kept on hold.
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured in your book? If so, discuss them.
DB: Space Train is filled with them. Refugees from wars and environmental destruction, LGBTQ+, people of color, former military personnel living with physical and/or mental damage, fugitives from military punishment, oppressed innocents.
JSC: How did you choose the topic for this book?
DB: It chose me. The perpetual wars, savage environmental destruction, and global refugee crisis of end-stage capitalism are tragedies I can’t ignore. So is the daily danger to people of minority communities in countries like the USA.
If the option existed to escape this planet and start again on a new world, I would take it. Unfortunately that option doesn’t exist. So I wrote it.
JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write and why?
DB: General Tsuke Mato commands an elite military force of the alien Dowl Empire. When we meet him we see a huge, muscular, walking crocodile warrior, a truly terrifying sight. But later, when we spend a few days with him on family home leave, he lets his guard down and sinks a few buckets of beer and we get to know the real person beneath the gruff and scarily capable soldier. I love him.
JSC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
DB: An Egyptologist, a sailor, and a novelist. The second and third became my successive long careers while the first has remained a lifelong amateur interest.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
DB: Yes. My mother taught me to read early, so when I started school and the other kids in my class were learning their letters I sat happily with whichever book I was immersed in. And then I continued reading it at home, often late into the night with a flashlight beneath my blankets. And early next morning before I had to get up, and at the breakfast table if I could get away with it.
JSC: If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?
DB: A shelter, a filled bookcase, and a Native American flute.
JSC: If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
DB: Iain Banks. We would sit in my fireside armchairs with our faces flickering warm and the room dark behind us while we talk, first of the compassionate socialism we share and the state of the world outside, particularly from his point of view after death, and then all night sharing with each other our unwritten stories.
JSC: How does the world end?
DB: Unchecked capitalism.
And now for David’s new book: Space Train:
FIREFLY meets WAGON TRAIN. Space pioneers, frontier worlds, alien societies, war refugees rebuilding their lives, heroes with heart, loving relationships of many flavors, and a scarily clever ruthless enemy.
Tom is a man of color in a social system where the respectable classes are exclusively white. An interstellar freighter captain who flew refugee ships for the resistance during the galactic war, he is tormented by the memory of a terrible tragedy. Never again will he lose a ship or allow anyone to hurt passengers he’s promised to keep safe. Not ever!
Nene is a telepathic blue-skinned alien spy embedded in a tyrannical regime that looks likely to reignite the galactic war, and she is dangerously attracted to the haunted human who flies refugee families to start new lives far away.
Saxe, an elite security executive whose career was damaged when Tom escaped from his custody during the war, is driven by cold hatred and revenge. If the only way to destroy Tom is by destroying the galaxy, then that’s what he’ll do.
Space is vast, but with a hunter so ruthless and the prospect of war so close, can people of peace ever find a safe place to live?
Gravity pressed Kym into her chair. Willerby’s was greater than Main’s. Not too much, but after eight days in space even half-Main gravity would have felt heavy.
She nodded ahead. “Distinctive red building at the near edge of town. There it is.”
Iron ochre was the cheapest paint back home on Main. Maybe it was everywhere because, as far as she could see, every second or third building in First Town was painted the same warm brownish red.
But there could be no mistaking the hotel, it being the most substantial building in sight, and certainly the only one that was three floors high and topped with a long curve-edged roof of red cedar shakes.
Its landing pad was a wide square of stony concrete about the size of a field. Next to it was an actual field, filled with a riot of colorful tents and banners.
A handful of small ships sat around the edges of the pad. Zac aimed for the big empty middle of it.
Over to their left, the wall of mountains filled the horizon. Brown, of course. Not snowcapped, but substantial, with sharp ridges of naked rock rising to the summits.
Sunlight broke through the clouds and painted two horizontal lines of dull yellow across some lower slopes of the mountains. When the lines faded, a tight flight group of four ships came into view.
They were two big, pale-green vessels, one shaped like a turtle, the other a winged egg fifty times the size of Pearl, and beside them two slender fighters, one orange and one blue. They were hugging the ground, moving fast, and heading for the landing pad.
“I see them.”
“Don’t tangle with them.”
His jaw tensed. “We were here first.”
He was still aiming for the middle of the concrete square, and taking his sweet time about getting into position.
The blue fighter shot ahead of its bigger charges and flew directly at Pearl, stopping abruptly in a nose-to-nose hover only ten meters away and kicking up a cloud of whirling brown dust.
Kym cried out in alarm.
Zac growled, and continued to line up for landing.
The fighter rocked its fierce swept-forward wings and rotated its two cannons, then flew at Pearl again, and again, and again.
Back off! Back off! Back off!
Each time, it stopped just short of collision, forcing Zac to retreat in reluctant jerks.
Behind the aggressor, the big green turtle vessel made a no-nonsense landing on Zac’s intended spot.
Its door swung back and caught a clip, while a set of lightweight metal steps rolled open to the ground. A tall, black man wearing a dark embroidered shirt with indigo cotton twill pants and an impressive pair of knee-high leather boots clattered down the steps. He was carrying an unconscious, bloodied white man in his arms like a sleeping child, and he ran through the dust cloud to the hotel.
The big egg landed beside the turtle, its wide doorway ramping open before its engine whine had dropped to a stop. A tall, black woman with beautiful long braids jogged down the ramp and followed her colleague to the hotel without a glance in Pearl’s direction. Her polished ox-blood high boots were as impressive as his black ones.
Finally, the fighters landed side-by-side and powered down abruptly. Their darkened teardrop canopies slid forward, and their two female pilots swung down to the ground, where they linked arms and strode in step to the hotel. They too wore fancy leather boots, with skintight indigo pants and black blouson jackets, and their hips swayed in time. Each of them carried a helmet with an oxygen mask hanging loose.
The blue fighter’s pilot sent Zac a curt nod, and then ignored his glare.
Kym hid her quick smile.
There was still plenty of space available on the pad, so Zac landed Pearl and shut down the engine.
No one moved for a minute, until Zac sagged in his chair like a slow-punctured air balloon.
Kym unstrapped and stood cautiously, testing her strength, watching Mickey do the same and thinking his young muscles were probably coping with the gravity better than hers were.
She asked Zac, “Want me to get your legs?”
He didn’t respond. His eyes were closed, and his forehead creased as if a headache was drilling a deep hole into it.
She touched his shoulder. “I’ll go in and sign the contract. I don’t expect it’ll take long. You get some rest.”
He rolled his head toward her across the back of his chair, but didn’t open his eyes.
“I’ll come with you,” Mickey said.
Zac roused himself. He unclipped the black handgun from his panel and offered it to Mickey.
Kym’s eyes widened. “No.”
“Those people were all wearing sidearms.”
“Good for them. They were all wearing expensive leather boots too, but we can manage without those and all.”
“Looked like one of them’s been shot.”
“We don’t need a gun.” She punched the door release and filled her lungs with crisp, earthy air while the steps rolled open.
Her breath clouded. Fall on Willerby felt like winter on Main.
“They’re armed too.” Zac nodded at two men leaning against the sides of a big tarpaulin-wrapped cube twice the size of Pearl and watching all the activity on the landing pad. They wore holstered sidearms, and each held a rifle.
“We don’t need a gun.”
People over the way in the field of tents were throat-singing in harmony. Their song sounded like a musical meditation. It suited the mountain landscape.
Pearl’s outer skin was scorched white and paint-flaked in long streaks from the wormhole transit.
Mickey caught up with Kym halfway across the landing pad. He was wearing Zac’s heavy gun in its hip holster and walking as if the responsibility of it affected his balance.
She shook her head and sighed a cloud of air.
David Bridger settled in England’s West Country after twenty years of ocean-based mischief, during which he worked as a lifeguard, a sailor, an intelligence gatherer, and an investigator.
Then he got hurt, came home a bit physically broken, and for good measure caught a severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) virus in a military hospital.
Now he writes science fiction and fantasy novels. Sometimes they’re informed by his experiences out on the crinkly blue.
He writes what he loves for readers who love what he writes.
He is a Quakerish ecosocialist, a spoonie, an adopter of donkeys, a lifelong Liverpool FC supporter, a lover of blues and jazz, a browncoat, and a whovian of the 9 and 10 era (starting with Rose and ending with Donna).