Editor’s Note: This is the tenth in a series of interviews and story excerpts spotlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island. The previous eight can be read in this collection here and yesterday’s ninth interview can be read here. Please check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow here to learn more: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.”
1. Who are some of your favorite writers, books, movies, and intellectual influences?
My mom was the slowest shopper. Had to try on everything, and debated with herself the merits of a particular dress or shoe purchase with the thoroughness of Hamlet mulling murder. Growing up I was, it is fair to say, rotten as only an only child can be, and impatient too. But I was also reasonable. Good behavior could be bought with a sufficient bribe.
So one day she wants to try on some shoes. I’m in tow, which means a tithe must be paid to Kid Mammon. Such sacrifices were typically in the form of G.I. Joe figures, but as it happened that afternoon, it was a copy of Iron Man #221.
My first comic book. As a kid, every first-anything is tinged with magic, and so it was with that issue of Iron Man. I read it so many times that its pages would probably be translucent if you could find it in my father’s attic today.
Across the gulf of nearly thirty years, what matters about that comic isn’t nostalgia. It’s that it got me thinking about how the story might continue. How it could have gone differently. How it could have been more.
Wouldn’t it be cool/interesting/exciting/crazy if…?” I began asking questions like that of every story form I came across. Comics, novels, movies—didn’t really matter. Thinking always in terms of hypotheticals and counterfactuals fires the imagination. On the other hand, you’re also perpetually let down by whatever you watch or read. Nothing ever quite compares to what you come up with yourself. After a certain point, you get tired of being disappointed.
Fine, you eventually decide. Guess I’ll have to write it myself.
2. How do you describe yourself ideologically?
A conservative that realized there’s nothing left worth conserving anymore. A TEA Partier that realized the country he loved sees him as nothing but a piggy bank to be smashed open. A libertarian that realized you can’t live and let live because the only choices in this life are to rule or be ruled.
3. Which thinkers/commentators have influenced you?
4. Where are you from?
I’m from Delaware, the world’s largest strip mall.
5. What are your writing goals?
To offer readers something different. I like taking concepts, genres, and characters that have no business being in the same room together, locking them in a cage without any food or water, and seeing what happens. I do this by creating multiple, ongoing series, each in a different genre. Then from time-to-time, I have these series’ heroes meet. Long-term, I’d like to hire others to produce more content set in this shared universe.
I don’t care if readers know my name. I’d rather my characters be the famous ones. The goal isn’t to be Stephen King. It’s to be Marvel Comics.
6. Where can people find/follow you online?
My blog can be found here. Some of my previously published short fiction is available for complimentary download on my Smashwords page. I can also be found darkening the otherwise sunny environs of Liberty Island.
7. What’s your craziest hobby/pastime/interest?
Not so much anymore, but I used to be into trying to save people from themselves. By way of an example, here’s a snapshot I took back in March 2010—the weekend Congress passed Obamacare—when me and several thousand of the similarly delusional thought we could save America from having her wrists slashed by the Left:
Joke was on us, though. The country had already killed itself back in November of 2008.
An excerpt from Stephen McDonald’s “The Wreck of the Hu Jintao“
The Earth’s light made the hull fragments opalescent, like broken shards of sky. The Hu Jintao’s remains hung silently in the vacuum of space.
As I approached the wreck, I saw a tiny shadow move on a piece of debris. A drone, I thought. There shouldn’t have been one here, though. The radiation vomiting from the Hu Jintao had been enough to dissuade wreck-divers such as myself for the last fifty years.
I froze, and inertia carried me. A mile-long filament tethered me to my shuttle. With the suit’s rebreathing system, I’d have up to twelve hours to explore the wreck. Not that I might actually have that much time. If the drone had spotted me, I was dead.
I watched the shadow against the wreck’s tightly-formed debris field, orbiting the still-intact aft section. Unlike other drones protecting historical sites, this shadow didn’t sit like a fat spider waiting for divers, only to rocket to life when it sensed you. Instead, it danced lightly from one scorched piece of tungsten plating to another.
And it was coming towards me.
It takes oxygen to fire a bullet. On either wrist I had sealed-system gun barrels, each capable of firing a single round.
I knew enough to wait until it was on me before attempting a shot. As North America’s pocked surface turned beneath me, I asked myself–not for the first time–why I was doing this.
I wasn’t here to steal. My family being connected to the Party, I didn’t need the money.
But I’d been fascinated with the war since preparatory school, and had developed a certain fondness for the defeated that my parents considered unhealthy.
“You wouldn’t like them so much had you known any,” my mother had said. “They were coarse and vulgar.”
“They sound rather refreshing compared to our enforced decorum.”
“Refreshing? They attacked us. Killed all those men on that ship.”
“Yes, all ten of them,” I’d said. “In return, we killed millions.”
“Well, they shouldn’t have started it. And you shouldn’t be so fascinated with them.”
“Why be so concerned? Really, mother. It’s as harmless as a Roman collecting Carthaginian pottery.”
The fact that I was hanging five thousand kilometers above the Earth probably meant I’d overstated my hobby’s harmlessness. Being in my forties now, I’d found that that which isn’t earned is cherished least. The coin that bought my private shuttle could easily have belonged to another family, had they been as sycophantic as ours to the Party. Why not risk it?
The shadow was close now, and I readied to fire. It was only as the floating piece of metal it crouched on turned into the light that I saw what it was.
It took a moment to realize I wasn’t insane.
I laughed. “You were someone’s pet, I take it?” The Siamese couldn’t hear me of course, but it turned its head as if it understood. Some fur had been burned from its belly, and steel glinted underneath. Except for that, it was in perfect condition. An incredibly rare find.
I re-fired my jets, adjusting my approach to the Hu Jintao’s aft. The kitten followed, expertly bounding debris.
“Be careful,” I warned. Its paws must have been magnetized. Still, one wrong step and it would have slipped into the void. It didn’t seem bothered by this. It would have been easy to dismiss the confidence with which it moved as the actions of an unfeeling machine. But it would have been programmed to behave like a real cat – same responses, same intuitions. Its grace here, then, came from decades of practice.
It wasn’t hard to understand why men had brought robotic pets aboard dreadnaughts like the Hu Jintao. They were massive ships with only ten-man crews to service the nuclear warheads. Dealing with the same people every day during a two-year patrol, who wouldn’t want a pet – preferably one that didn’t consume oxygen, food, or water – to break the monotony? It was nice to have a companion out here. Especially in the days before believable women could be fabricated…