Culture

'It's All Compulsion-To-Create Via Mathematics and Engineering. Fun Stuff.'

Editor’s Note: This is the seventeenth 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 first fifteen can be read in this collection here and the sixteenth is here. Find out more about Liberty Island’s new writing contest here, running through the end of April. 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.” 

Author, Musician, Contrarian, and amateur Mathematician and Historian. And that’s not even what I do for a living.

Duncan, Kurt

1. Who are some of your favorite writers, books, movies, and intellectual influences?

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I got my initial socio-political grounding from Robert A. Heinlein. Being that I internalized so much of his writing in those early years, I would have to say that his style (later works notwithstanding) is my “comfort zone.”  I have enjoyed reading Charles Sheffield, Larry Niven, Lester Del Rey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony, Norman Spinrad, Isaac Asimov, Keith Laumer, and the not-to-be-forgotten Douglas Adams.  I suppose each of them has, in one way or another, contributed (either toward or against) my political perspectives.  Guilty pleasures would include John Grisham (from time to time), Tom Clancy (when I have a spare few months per book), and Michael Crichton. For visual entertainment, I gravitate toward Korean dramas (because, shut up), and anime (because, Steven Den Beste).  I also like Zhang Yimou’s movies.

2. How do you describe yourself ideologically?

Somewhere in the middle of the Conservative / Libertarian / Anarchist triangle.  If such there be. For a number of years I listened to Rush Limbaugh, who articulated a lot of the uncoordinated thoughts I’d had rambling around.  That led me toward other Conservative thinkers, and from there, backward toward the writings of Hayek, Mises, Bastiat, Friedman and the like.  I consider myself a small ‘l’ libertarian, with anarchist leanings.  In many cases, I am just downright contrarian – often-times in an effort to get others to think through their own philosophies. and at other times, just because I can be.

3. Where are you from/currently reside?

I am from Wichita Kansas, and I currently reside in an undisclosed residential bunker somewhere vaguely north of Denver, Colorado.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Oh, and a few weeks, whenever possible, I reside in VietNam.  Because, tropical paradise.

4.  What are your writing goals?

I recently mentioned to my wife that my main hobbies — music composition, story writing, and computer programming — are all essentially the same thing: the identification of some goal, and the enjoyment of the process of effecting that goal.  It’s all compulsion-to-create via mathematics and engineering. Fun stuff.

Every so often I think of a story that I’d like to investigate, or experiment with.  Some of the ideas are workable, some aren’t.  I want to get them on (electronic) paper and flesh them out, in no small part because that gets them out of my head, so that they stop bothering me.  I want to share the best of them with anyone interested in being entertained.  Finally, I want to surreptitiously bury a few seeds of libertarianism in my readers (all three of them) in much the same way that Robert A. Heinlein did for me.

My story “The Rose Princess” takes place in a world which has an odd mix of pre-industrial and post-information age technology.  I have a number of other short stories and two novels (in varying stages of completion) set in this world, which document the birth and evolution of a nation.  I also have another near-future novel in progress which I will be finishing any day now, along with the next novel in that series which I will be beginning, any day now.  I need to get all these down on paper, and into Amazon (or Liberty Island) so I have room in my brain for more stuff.

5. Where can people find/follow you online?

Ask the NSA. They probably remember all my past websites and blogs better than I do.  With that said, you might check out:

https://www.facebook.com/kurt.duncan.author?ref=hl

www.kduncanauthor.wordpress.com

If you leave comments, I might be encouraged to actually post content a bit more often.

6. What’s your craziest hobby/pastime/interest?

Because my brain doesn’t function like a normal person’s, it is quite likely that all of my hobbies, pastimes, and interests are crazy.  I suppose one of my more enduring crazy hobbies is my Univac mainframe software emulator.  My first *cough* years of experience in the industry involved a Sperry Univac / Unisys mainframe computer.  That was long ago.  Recently, I realized I missed working in that environment.  Not having a Unisys mainframe handy, I elected to write software which would provide that environment, running under a modern operating system.  I’m still working on it — and I suppose it will never be finished.

7. Are you going to become famous and win many literary awards?

Mog, I hope not. I have enough trouble living up to my own standards, let alone those of the rest of the world.  I wouldn’t mind winning the lottery, though.

An Excerpt from Kurt Duncan’s, “The Rose Princess“:

 

The ax looked as if it weighed half a ton, if not more. The handle was carved from a single tree that had been felled by a master logger in the great forests west of the Royal City. It was six inches thick at its narrowest point, and exceeded six feet in length. The blade had been ground from one of the huge boulders that had fallen upon the Royal City from nearby Mount Foofgarble the previous year. A decree had gone out, requiring and demanding that all future executions should be effected via this, and only this, weapon.

 

Execution fans had their favorite cheers, and they had become quite adept at producing new and inventive chants. The introduction of the Ax of Doom was certainly a novel event, and it called for something special. The most avid fans from all over the kingdom had come to see the weapon, and to take part in the invention of a brand new cheer.

 

Meanwhile, the executioner stood in front of his dressing room closet, considering which of his several black robes would be most appropriate for the evening’s event. His best black robe hung in front of him, beckoning. It was so black that his eyes were drawn deep within it. He didn’t usually wear this robe. He liked it immensely, and thought he looked quite good in it. As a result, he didn’t want it worn out or damaged.

 

Tonight, however, was a special occasion. After another moment’s thought, he took the robe off its peg and put it on. It seemed to fit a little more snugly than he remembered. He wondered if he ought to work out a bit, but then remembered that it was common for him to be a bit pudgy at the beginning of the season. He would regain his taut shape soon enough.

 

“Almost time, sir,” called the stage manager from the doorway.

 

“I’m coming,” growled the executioner. He pulled his mask over his head and donned his gloves, drained the last of his power ale, cast a final look into the mirror, and turned to leave. “Is it in position?” he asked.

 

“Yes sir. Center stage, just like you asked.”

 

“Good,” said the executioner. He clapped the stage manager on the shoulder and they left the room. They stopped backstage, and the executioner peeked around the corner. “Wow, what a crowd,” he commented.

 

“Yes sir, everyone’s here to see the ax.”

 

“I suppose so. Well, here I go.”

 

“Break a leg, sir,” offered the stage manager, backing away.

 

“I should hope to do more than that,” quipped the executioner as he tossed his cloak over his shoulder and ventured out onto the stage.

 

The crowd, noting his arrival, began to clap and whistle. He waved at imagined friends in the audience. The crowd cheered and waved back. The executioner took some time to strut around the front of the stage. The audience yelled in appreciation. He struck a pose. The audience stomped their feet. Some of the members also stomped their neighbors’ feet.

 

The executioner walked over to his new weapon, sitting on a pedestal, and concealed by a black shroud. The crowd grew silent with anticipation. He lifted the weapon, still covered, and the crowd quit breathing. The lights dimmed, and a spotlight picked him out.

 

“The Great Hall of Executions Event Committee,” intoned a voice from above, amplified by twenty thousand watts of power. “Is proud,” continued the voice. “To present the new season of executions…featuring the all new, the incomparable, the undeniable, the deadly…Ax…of…Dooooooom.”

 

The executioner yanked off the shroud and lifted the ax above his head. The polished blade caught the brilliance of the stage lights and sent dazzling rays dancing across the Great Hall. The crowd exploded into screams and shouting and pounding. Flashbulbs popped and news cameras whirred and clicked as the executioner paced back and forth in front of the roiling crowd.

 

Then, amid the noise and confusion, the new cheer was born. The pounding began to settle into a solid rhythm, and first one, then ten, then a hundred, then a thousand people were chanting, “Doom, Doom, Doom, Doom.” The executioner walked from one side of the stage to the other, presenting the weapon to the audience. “Doom! Doom!” they responded.

 

Some of the more innovative members of the crowd added a counterpoint to the cheer. Over the resounding noise of the original chant one could begin to hear the occasional “Chop! Chop!” The cheer settled into a rhythm: “Doom, Doom, Chop! Doom, Doom, Chop! Doom Doom Chop! DOOM DOOM CHOP!” Not to be outdone, the chorus from the Royal Thespians’ Society began singing over the rhythm, “We Will, We Will CHOP YOU!” The new cheer was an instant hit. The executioner pranced around the stage for a full five minutes as the audience continued to sing.

 

In due time, the executions proceeded. Throughout the event, the audience never quit singing “We Will, We Will, CHOP YOU!,” except, of course, at the appropriate moments when the entire crowd chanted, “Hey, batter-batter-batter-batter-BATTER-BATTER-Sa-WINGGGGGG!” Each execution met with great applause, and the event ended with a standing ovation for the executioner, who bowed and exited the stage, carrying his new weapon.

 

The audience then departed in good spirits, having been greatly entertained by the spectacle. There was sure to be an exciting execution season to come. It had been rumored that an unusually large number of spies from the kingdom of Angz had been caught in and around the Royal City, and were even then in the dungeons, awaiting execution. Some pundits were already suggesting possible post-season activity. Indeed, season ticket sales had reached an all-time high, and the scalpers had made a nice profit.

 

The king and queen retired to their chambers, generally pleased with the outcome. However, even with the responsible parties (and some innocent ones, too) suitably dealt with, the basic problem remained. The official records were set. The princess had been named Ugh, and she was just going to have to deal with it.

 

Read more at Liberty Island…