A Big Cyberpunk Fan

T. C. Weber
T.C. Weber Author Interview

Zero-Day Rising follows a team of hackers as they try to stop an evil corporation’s mind control plans while evading authorities. What were some sources that informed this novels development?

I wrote the trilogy mostly because I’m a big cyberpunk fan and wanted to write a near-future cyberpunk story. It also explores what happens when media become so concentrated and news so biased, they threaten critical thought and democracy. Other themes in the trilogy include the dangers of monopoly capitalism, political corruption, and government and corporate surveillance. All of this is happening now.

For example, the overturning of net neutrality in the U.S., headed by a former Verizon lawyer, opens the door to big Internet service providers intentionally favoring websites and content that they own, or pay them a premium, over others. This would essentially end free speech and competition on the Internet. Then there’s the consolidation of news, books, and other media under fewer and fewer mega-companies, which leads to the layoff of journalists and the closing of newspapers. Where I live, the Tribune Company in Chicago bought the Baltimore Sun, the Capital-Gazette, and several other Maryland papers, and laid off staff to cut costs. In the case of the Capital (founded in 1884), the Tribune is closing it entirely, leaving Annapolis without a local paper. Even music is falling under monopoly control. Live Nation, iHeartRadio, SIRIUSXM, Ticketmaster, and Pandora are now all under the control of one man, a right-wing billionaire named John Malone.

Sleep State Interrupt, The Wrath of Leviathan, and Zero-Day Rising examine a plausible outcome of these trends—a single company controlling nearly all information, and using that to control society. In the books, semi-ordinary people take to the Net and take to the streets to fight this ultimate peril to democracy.

I always do a lot of research for my books, to make them as realistic as possible. For the brain-control interfaces, I read papers about the state of the science, and extrapolated to the near future, assuming development by people lacking any ethics. (And since I wrote the book, Elon Musk started experimenting on pig brains—humans will be next!) I received technical feedback from cybersecurity and Internet experts to ensure that the hacking scenes were realistic. I received feedback on criminal and corporate law from practicing attorneys and friends in the business world, and by reading legal code, case transcripts, bylaws, and other not-terribly-exciting documents. Many other details in the book came from my own experiences in the Washington DC area.

Kiyoko and Waylee were strong protagonists that felt authentic. What were some obstacles you felt were important to their character development?

The trilogy has two main characters, Waylee and Kiyoko, who are half-sisters. Waylee is an intense woman in her late 20’s who works as a journalist until her nemesis, MediaCorp, buys the paper’s parent corporation and fires her for investigating them. Waylee is outgoing and charismatic, and has a large circle of friends and acquaintances. She is extremely creative, resourceful, and intelligent, and has a quick wit. She struggles with cyclothymia (a type of manic-depressive disorder), but embraces her hypomanic phase, which increases her creativity and energy. While it has drawbacks like overconfidence, it allows her to think fast and come up with ideas that no one else can. Her depressive state can be extremely debilitating, though.

The other main character is Waylee’s much younger and hypersensitive half-sister, Kiyoko. At first, she rejects reality and her traumatic childhood by living in a fantasy world both inside and outside virtual reality. But confronting crises in the real world, she gradually transforms into a strong leader, and will not accept defeat as an option.

There are also a number of other major characters and a slew of minor characters. All the characters change significantly between the start and end of the trilogy, and have both positive and negative arcs depending on the book. The overall arcs for the protagonists are positive, though. The trials and self-reflection they go through change them and empower them to confront their enemies.

I’m a big fan of the hero’s journey, and even more so, fascinated by the question of what makes an ordinary person become a hero. While superheroes and elite soldiers are fun to read about, I think it’s much more interesting to read about the person next door thrust into a situation way above their head, and seeing how they cope. The main characters change throughout the trilogy, and have to overcome their flaws and increase their skills in order to defeat their enemies.

Most people are too afraid, self-centered, or apathetic to step up and put their lives on the line, whether literally or figuratively, for a greater cause. Only a small fraction of people become activists. Their concern could be local, or all the way up to global. Heroes generally have a strong moral code, a feeling of obligation to something bigger than themselves, have passion and commitment, are willing to sacrifice, have knowledge of the issues they care about, and may feel anger, hope, or desperation. And they may not start out that way; in the most interesting books, the protagonist has to change internally to succeed in the finale.

What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this novel?

Above all, a good story shouldn’t bore the reader. The story should make sense, have high stakes, and have main characters that jump off the page–either sympathetic, unpredictable, passionate, gutsy, resourceful, complex, noble, or all of the above. Finally, a story should be immersive. The reader should feel like they’re in the setting and one with the character.

The biggest challenge of a series is that each book has to top the one before it. And a limited series like a trilogy needs intertwined plot and character arcs not only within each book, but spanning the whole series. This takes a lot of planning and thought! Further, Zero-Day Rising is the series finale, so the ending had to be better than a “good” ending. It had to resolve the conflicts of the entire series, in a way that personally pitched the protagonists against the antagonists. I always agonize over the ending of any book, so I especially agonized over this one.

You’ve completed the BetterWorld Trilogy. What’s next?

I’ve completed an alternate history novel called Born in Salt, and hope to have it published sometime this year. The premise is, fifty years after a coup replaced President Roosevelt with a fascist dictatorship, America is a land of hopelessness. Ben Adamson, a 19-year-old farm boy in southern Illinois, wants only to spend his time fishing and hunting, but when his brother is killed in combat—a story more suspicious than factual—he and Rachel, his brother’s fiancée, are drawn into an underground revolutionary movement. After staging a rally against the war, Ben and Rachel are arrested by the ruthless Internal Security Service. Ben is given a choice: betray the rebels, including his best friend from childhood, or Rachel will be lobotomized. Unwilling to doom anyone he cares about, and seeking justice for his brother, Ben decides on a third option: to frame corrupt officials to trade for Rachel, and in the process, turn the dictatorship’s factions against each other. But he must dodge the suspicions of police and rebels alike. And when Internal Security sends agents to verify his stories, all may be lost.

I’ve also completed the first draft of The Council, a satire of local government. A newly elected councilman tries to save the last stand of forest in the county against greedy developers and a dysfunctional government. I’m still in editing mode, so it probably won’t be out until 2022.

And I’m working on a post-apocalyptic horror novella and several other projects. I expect the novella will also come out in 2022, although finding publishers for novellas is difficult.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website | YouTube

In Zero-Day Rising, the third book of the BetterWorld trilogy, Kiyoko is tired of hiding and grieving, and has decided to strike back. In the first volume of the critically acclaimed BetterWorld cyberpunk trilogy, Kiyoko’s older sister Waylee and their hacktivist friends exposed a conspiracy between MediaCorp and U.S. President Rand to control the flow of information and run the world on behalf of a cabal of billionaires. In volume two, Waylee faced life imprisonment, while Kiyoko and her friends were hunted by a team of ruthless mercenaries. In Zero-Day Rising, Kiyoko resolves to free her sister and bring down President Rand and MediaCorp. However, MediaCorp unleashes its ultimate plan: direct mind control with cerebral implants. Can Kiyoko and Waylee’s team stop them? Can they penetrate MediaCorp’s networks and end the company’s grip over humanity? All while eluding the biggest manhunt in history, in a country where everyone and everything is under surveillance?

About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on January 26, 2021, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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