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, Stephen B. Pearl – Pearl is a multiple published author whose works range across the speculative fiction field, extending into Game lit and adventure modules. His writings focus heavily on the logical consequences of the worlds he crafts and draw from his varied life experience.
Stephen’s Inspirations encompass H.G. Wells, J.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, Stan Lee and Homer, among others. He believes that good fiction is based on good fact and that to write, one must read and that there is greatness in all forms of literature. One could say he pursues the great then, to the best of his abilities, tries to distil it down and express it as his own original work. For more, visit: www.stephenpearl.com.
Thanks so much, Stephen, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured in your book? If so, discuss them.
Stephen B. Pearl: I often will have Pagan characters which, given that that is the blanket term that my expression of faith falls under, isn’t surprising. Basically, I write people. Some of them are what we would call aliens, but they are still people. I also, as I go along, try to keep in mind the diversity of folk I have met. One example is from Freedom’s Law, where I have a bit character who is a reporter that has been surgically altered to resemble the Rowan character. It’s an element of the Freedom Saga series that if you want to know more about, you can read Cloning Freedom, Book One, https://www.limfic.com/book/cloning-freedom/. This character lets slip that she used to be biologically male. It works for the plot because they are trying to confuse the sniffer units used for identification. It adds a layer of complexity to the order she is impregnating into clothing. Her past physical gender is treated as an incidental thing that only matters because of the fact it affects her biochemistry in a minor, but useful to the plan, way.
I try to keep in mind in all my works that we live in a world of wonderous verity and reflect that in my characters. Race, creed, social background, placement on the sexual spectrum all weave into the background to the extent that it fits with the work overall.
I do have a novel that is being reissued this year, The Hollow Curse: https://clublighthousepublishing.com/productPage/Details/114, that uses bisexuality and lesbianism as major elements. I strove to be honest and respectful. All too often, people either exploit a theme of difference or glorify those who are in the ‘different’ group. Either extreme is false. Folk are folk, and while I try to show diversity, I am ultimately writing about folk.
JSC: What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
SBP: The search and replace command. At least two spelling and grammar checkers. Access to a good encyclopedia.
JSC: What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in writing your books?
SBP: The vastness of space. Pluto is a mirror five light-hours away, give or take on orbital positions. A light-second is 299 792. 458 KMS, do the math, I had to. Pluto is in our own solar system. It lives in the same farmhouse as us, our solar system. The next house over is kilometres away. Space is big and quite empty. Unless you’re aiming for it, your odds of hitting anything are infinitesimal. That last is moderated a bit because of the drawing effect of gravity, but still. Even travelling at what has affectionately been dubbed ‘The Crap Barrier’ where it is likely that the microparticles that do occupy the void would pulp your spacecraft with their impacts, which is about one third light speed, going anyplace in even interplanetary space takes days to weeks.
The mind boggles at the size and instinctively shies away from it. Frankly, I try to get the very broad strokes of the math right then fudge the details with wording.
That said, I do believe that if we don’t destroy ourselves or lose our technology, both very real possibilities, we will eventually find a way to circumvent the speed of light and reach for the stars. Note I said circumvent, so some of you, please take a deep breath and let your BP come back into the normal range. 😊
Not so much learned, but a realization I came to is that if, let’s say, a missile was fired in a ship to ship battle a million years ago. Provided it didn’t detonate, it could conceivably drift through the void until it got sucked in by a random gravity source and crashed into something. There are stories in that idea.
JSC: What advice do you wish you’d had before releasing your first story?
SBP: Actually, second novel. Check google before you decide on a title. I picked ‘Slaves of Love’, which seemed evocative. Sadly, it is also as common as dirt. The book is lost in a plethora of like titled works. It will be reissued as Love’s Guardian later this year. https://clublighthousepublishing.com/productPage/Details/164
JSC: How did you choose the topic for Freedom’s Law?
SBP: It followed naturally out of the world and situations I had established in Cloning Freedom. I wanted to hang with Ryan and Rowan and see the next step for them. I also wanted to explore the galaxy of the switchboard universe and put in context some of the diverse species I came up with to play advisories on the e-entertainment that Rowan had been used to make.
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
SBP: I wanted to explore a real dichotomy of freedom and law. Every law passed limits freedom, but without law, no one is free.
As an extreme example, I am not free to kill people who annoy me; there are laws against that. But if I was free to do that, others would not be free to express their opinions unless they match my own. Thus they are not free. Anarchy is not freedom. It is ultimately rulership by the sword and enslaves all but the one at the top who him or herself is enslaved by the need to defend their position. Thus they are forced to impose a government of sorts so someone can watch their back.
As such, Freedom’s Law explores the grey area we call freedom and also the consequences. There is a quote, ‘A hungry man is not a free man.’ I’ve always thought it quite insightful. Following that logic, a woman in need of medical attention is not a free woman, is also true.
Philosophical musings aside, I also wanted to write an entertaining, adventurous book in a well-nuanced science fiction universe. I think I succeeded.
JSC: Tell us one thing about them that we don’t learn from the book, the secret in their past.
SBP: Ryan, after the disaster on Murack 5, started drinking heavily. At the time of his cloning, he was seven years sober. The cloning removed the physiological addiction, but he is constantly on guard against it at a psychological level.
JSC: What secondary character would you like to explore more? Tell me about them.
SBP: Sooplus, actually her crew and their ship the duck-like avian with a rocket up its arse. (the interspecies translator system doesn’t always get nuance right). They are a mixed-species crew of smugglers, oh sorry, honest traders. The ship is a patchwork of technology salvaged from various scrap yards from multiple species. Sooplus is an Otterzoid who is married to her first mate, Mueperss, a Felinezoid, and they are raising Sooplus’ child from her previous relationship. They are courageous, conniving, completely a-moral, in it for the money and will lie through their teeth for their own short-term self-interest. They are also loyal to their crew, family, doting parents and members in good standing of the Inter-Species Love and Relationship Association. If I live long enough, I want to revisit them and write some swashbuckling in space stories.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
SBP: I start with the world. What are its physicks, what is the history of its inhabitants, what kinds of technology do they have, this includes magic and PSI, and at what level? If appropriate, what do their maps look like?
That done, I look at what conflicts arise naturally out of this world. In the Tinker’s Series, leftover technology going wrong and environmental degradation are the ones that jump out. For the Freedom Saga, social problems and humans are still human no matter how advanced their technology. For the Bastard prince sage, Horn of the Kraken https://www.drivethrufiction.com/product/151000/Horn-of-the-Kraken and the soon to be released Mistletoe Spear it was the missions of what is in effect a commando troop in a 900ds CE conflict. And so on.
The important thing is that the conflict arises naturally from the world. If it is forced, it cannot be maintained, or it will come off and false.
Finally, I generate characters with skill sets that allow them to be effective in the world and face the challenges posed by the conflict without being so powerful that they breeze through.
After that, I let the characters loose and role play with myself.
JSC: How does the world end?
SBP: The sun will expand to encompass the orbit of a wasted ball of rock nearly bereft of atmosphere hanging lifeless, or nearly lifeless, in space.
We as a species will long since be dead or have abandoned the place of our birth as time-shifted its environment away from our needs.
If the second option, there will likely be brother species that evolved after us abandoning Earth that have joined us orbiting younger stars.
Let’s move, people. We only have about five billion years!
And now for Stephen’s latest book: Cloning Freedom:
In the early 21st century, Rowan is fighting a secret war against alien pirates bent on subjugating all of mankind.
At least, that’s what she thinks. In reality, it’s a thousand years later, Earth has long been part of an interstellar and interspecies republic, and she’s a character on Angel Black, an e-entertainment that allows viewers a complete sensory experience through her perspective. Who needs actors when you can clone famous performers and splice in some alien DNA? Since studio clones have no rights, their lives and experiences can be tailor-made for the program.
It’s just too bad the clones don’t know that.
Ryan Chandler was a decorated war hero until he was cloned to save his life. His career options died with his original body and the best job he can get is a technician on Angel Black. He’s planning to escape to a newly colonized system when Rowan is scheduled to be killed off.
With help from unexpected allies, Ryan stages Rowan’s rescue, but getting her off the set is only the beginning. To succeed, they must evade a manhunt supported by the state that fears Rowan’s liberation might be the triggering event of a clone rights movement that could cost the establishment billions and shake the foundations of human society.
And check out Stephen’s next book, the sequel to Cloning Freedom – Freedom’s Law, coming this November:
Escaped e-entertainment star Rowan McPherson and her liberator, retired Space Forces Captain Ryan Chandler, have arrived at the Switchboard Station, the central hub of the Galactic Republic. The alien-administered sectors of the station provide sanctuary, as long as Ryan and Rowan keep out of United Earth Systems territory.
However, Rowan’s health is deteriorating, and only advanced human medicine can save her. Docking in the felinezoid sector and boarding with old friends, Ryan searches desperately for medical facilities outside of the human-controlled parts of the station while dodging obsessive and dangerous foes intent on retrieving Rowan for the studio, or killing her, whichever is easiest.
Meanwhile, back on the set of ANGEL BLACK, the truth about the clones’ existence comes to light. Working in secret, they begin recruiting outside their show’s cast and even their own enemies, as they plot rebellion.
The light-years-long arm of the law is treading closely on all the clones’ heels, and they will have to step carefully in their battle to be free.
Brain Lag – watch for pre-order information for Freedom’s Law: http://www.brain-lag.com/
THE STARS OF THE SHOW
Rowan sat in the command chair of the Star Hawk. The control stations formed a horseshoe around her. Five of the control seats were empty. The mutilated, android body of Henry filled the one in front of the computer station.
“So, sweetness, I thought you’d be off shagging hotty-boss.” Henry swivelled his chair around as far as the wires and fibre-optic cables that connected him to the ship allowed. The burnt artificial-skin that covered half his face blended oddly with the brown shade on the undamaged side. Rowan looked at the android. She’d become accustomed to the missing legs and one remaining arm, but she still had to force herself to look into his face.
Rowan’s pretty features pulled into a tentative smile that didn’t reach her blue eyes. “He said he was going to map out the repair work. I really think he needed some alone time. Captain Denardo telling him that he is an outlaw throughout the United Earth Systems brought it home. He can never go back. His old life is over. He’ll never see his wife or son again. Or any of his family, for that matter.”
“He’s being an ass, sweetheart. Joslin’s an e-addict. Got her head so deep in the shows she’ll never pull it out. Probably doesn’t even know he’s gone. That marriage was over years ago.”
“I know that, so does he. I don’t, well…” Rowan fidgeted with her dark-brown hair where it brushed her shoulders.
“Do the wild monkey dance with married guys! For the record, sweetness, I’m a bachelor. Plastic has advantages.” Henry grinned. The undamaged side of his face looked lusty, the ruined side macabre.
“Don’t you think Ryan’s had enough betrayals?” Rowan’s lean body shifted uncomfortably in the chair when she realized that Henry was staring at her breasts.
Henry looked away, anger colouring his features. “With a family like his, who needs enemies? All of them members of Humans Ascendant. I’m surprised they didn’t take a hit out on him when their injunction against his cloning fell through.” Henry’s voice became scolding and high pitched. “‘You… you disgusting fakie, you aren’t my son! You’re an abomination!’” Henry’s voice returned to normal. “Those were the last words his mother said to him. In a recorded message no less.”
“His son keeps in touch.”
“Sweetness, that kid acts like Ryan should have let the cancers kill him after the disaster on Murack-5. Better for him if his father were dead than a clone. Never mind that Ryan went back into the regs so the kid’s tuition would be covered. Forget that Ryan has more medals than a veteran’s day parade.”
“I don’t know what it’s like to have kids, but I think Ryan is broken up about his son. That seems the hardest part for him.” Rowan stared into the large screen that filled the upper wall at the closed end of the horseshoe of consoles. It showed a ring of dark material encircling a starscape dominated by one bright star.
“Ryan’s got a lot to be broken up about with the way you cloned types get treated.”
“Bigotry is stardust.” Rowan didn’t take her eyes off the screen.
Henry watched her for over a minute before speaking. “Why don’t you tell me what’s really bugging you, sexy lady. Unless you want to make an AI’s day and give us a flash.” Henry leered at Rowan.
“Dream on!” Rowan shook her head.
“Such is the sad fate of plastic, to love and never be loved. To long for the warmth of flesh. To wish to shag my sexy crewmates until the sun goes nova. You sure you and Ryan don’t want to play threesies? I’m not fussy that way.”
“Henry!” Rowan sounded annoyed.
“Sure thing, sweet stuff. It was just a suggestion. Spill, why are you up here instead of taking a virtual swim or studying for your navigator’s rating?”
“Is it that obvious?”
“Hotty, sigh once more, and I’ll send you to medical to check your breathing.”
“It’s just…” Rowan gestured at the main screen. “On the other side of that stargate is where I lived my whole life. I know it was all fake, but it was mine, and I didn’t know it was fake. I… I miss my Dad and Mom and Angel and Carl, everyone.”
“You got Ryan and me, sweetness.” Henry’s voice was free of the sexual heat it normally held.
“I know. I… I love Ryan, or at least I’m pretty close to loving him. Not bad for someone I’ve known less than a month. And Henry, underneath the pervert act, you’re a really sweet ma… artificial intelligence. It’s just…”
The undamaged side of Henry’s face looked haunted. “Each of those plaques Ryan put up was a brother or sister. I know what it’s like to miss someone you’ll never see again.”
Rowan ran her hand over the three plaques on the side of the command chair. One for each captain of the Star Hawk that had died during the heavy lander’s years of service in the Space Combat Corps. Her eyes traced over similar plaques on the back of each duty station chair. “At least my folks are still alive.”
“That’s the shaggable girl I know. Now go find Ryan, take him to a place where my monitoring’s enabled, and shag his brains out. Do you both good.” Henry made a pumping action with his arm and growled.
Rowan smiled and shook her head. “You’ll have to settle for two out of three.”
“Which two?” panted the android.
“Guess, but does the phrase ‘privacy on’ have any meaning to you?” Rowan stood, then clutched the command chair’s arm as a wave of dizziness swept over her.
“What’s the problem?” Henry stared at Rowan.
“Stood up too fast.” Rowan used the access aisle that kept her out of Henry’s reach to move toward the bridge’s door.
“I never get to have any fun.” Henry kept a smile on his face as he accessed the telemetry from Rowan’s implanted physical control systems. The smile vanished when Rowan left the room. “Oh, sweetness. No use telling you or hotty-boss before we reach the station, nothing you could do about it anyway.”
With a shake of his head, Henry dedicated more of his RAM to editing the readings from his two human friends and loading them for relay to Michael Strongbow. “Sorry guys, but I want my new shaggable body. Nova blast liberty, give me hips or give me death.”