The Perils of Isolation is a collection of short stories that are connected by your love of fishing. Did you write these stories for this collection or did you write them over time and decided later to publish them?
The Perils of Isolation is my first book. I wrote it while I was in the process of retiring after a 35 year career in upstream oil and gas. I took some advice from a friend, and wrote about things I knew something about. The three stories include some real life experiences, with a stretch or two!
The stories are connected by your love of fishing. Where is your favorite place to fish?
It’s a toss up between two places described in the book. Mik Muk Mac is set at the headwater of the French River, or Lake Nipissing in Ontario, Canada. It is still a remarkably wild and scenic place, but fishing has waned over the years as rod pressure has increased. The Tesla Terrorist is set in Labrador, Canada. My favorite rivers in Labrador for Atlantic salmon are the Eagle and the White Bear, both of which flow into Sandwich Bay. The only fishing allowed there is fly fishing, with a single, barbless hook. So, a large fish usually wins the battle, and escapes untouched… but that’s okay!
I really like The Tesla Terrorist story. Do you have a story that stands out to you from this collection?
The Tesla Terrorist is both an adventure story, and my first venture into science fiction, my favorite genre. It also is a bit of a political statement. Weldon Purdy, the mad scientist villain and the Tesla fanatic, destroys the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric installation. Muskrat Falls will be late and vastly overspent when it finally produces power. It will put Newfoundland and Labrador in dire financial trouble, and it will not meet the full power needs of the province as originally pitched.
Do you have plans to publish more short stories?
I just wrote a short story for inclusion in the first Science Fiction Novelists Anthology. It is called Lunar Salvation. I really enjoy the short stories of the true masters of the field, like Ray Bradbury. I have just started another sci-fi adventure novel called Robo Lord, which may evolve into a another series.
And Pegasus will be publishing Martian Hermitage soon, which will complete the Master Defiance series.
The Perils of Isolation by Blair Wylie is a collection of three stories connected by similar themes: of using your wiles to make it through unlikely situations and of course, fishing. They are a creative and generous description of humanity. The first story, ‘Mik Muk Mac’ is an immersive and humorous story about a fishing trip gone awry. The second story, the ‘Naive Neftyanik’, is about an oilman known as Blake McTavish who has to set up shop in a new country and navigate the new terrain while making new friends. ‘The Tesla Terrorist’ is about a group of friends who further the work of Nikolas Tesla and make some fascinating discoveries along the way.
The characters and their relationships were interesting and heart-warming, especially in ‘Mik Muk Mac’. I could easily imagine being a part of the tribe of lads going on adventures together- they were complex and fun characters that worked together very believably as a team. Goolee, Mac, James, and the rest of the bunch managed to keep me on the edge of my seat with all their misadventures, even if I kept losing track of who was who.
The ‘Naive Neftyanik’ was my favorite- I love stories about people starting afresh in strange, new places. Blake McTavish was an incredibly likable and real character- an average Canadian who agreed to be the ‘front man’ for a company: he had to set and run an office in Western Siberia. He faces all the problems that a new place poses with a sturdy resolution to find solutions: whether it be business, food, or accomodation. He soon finds himself in the company of some helpful and kind fishing buddies.
I was most intrigued by the title of the third story: ‘The Tesla Terrorist’. The main character, Weldon, is obsessed with the great electromechanical engineer, Nikolas Tesla and his life.
I had a lot of fun reading each of these stories, not only for their plot, but also from the abundance of knowledge on various topics that the author clearly has. They were informative and detailed without being any less entertaining- the slapstick endings on one of the stories made me laugh out loud. This collection is a great respite for anyone sick of dense and intense fiction, and looking for quick and fun stories.
Pages: 281 | ASIN: B07KQ6TC2H
Covert Alliance starts when a megalithic pyramid is discovered which sets off a series of dangerous events. How did the idea for the pyramid start and change as you wrote?
I took some inspiration from Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 and 2010, and I suppose the pseudo-scientific folks on television known as ‘ancient astronaut theorists.’ Although at first the pyramid appears primitive, it proves to be a technological marvel that was obviously not built by humans. Like Clarke’s megaliths, among other things, the pyramid is a pointing device that when followed up on, alerts benign, very advanced aliens to the presence of another intelligent species (namely, the human beings on New Earth). And then the real adventure begins!
I enjoyed the depth of knowledge provided in this book. Do you do any research for your books before writing?
I do research, mostly using web-based material (Wikipedia is especially useful as a starting point). As I develop a story, I find my research becomes more intense, as I realize I may have gotten a few things wrong. The creative phase requires abstract thinking, and the review stage requires linear, self-critical thinking. Research and cross-checking is required throughout.
What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this book?
I believe good science-fiction does not try to tell a reader what to think, rather it inspires a reader to do their own thinking. I also want to make the tale fun to read, full of adventure with twists and turns. I depend on my own judgement to evaluate if I get the balance right. And on reviews by Literary Titan of course!
The science inserted in the fiction, I felt, was well balanced. How do you manage to keep the story grounded while still providing the fantastic edge science fiction stories usually provide?
The characters provide the grounding if I get it right. I want them to be recognizable people, with feelings and fears, aspirations and frustrations. If a reader puts themselves in a situation confronting one of the characters, that would be a big win for me.
Covert Alliance by Blair Wylie starts when a massive and potentially dangerous pyramid is discovered on New Earth. Prime Minister Philip Wong has to make some delicate decisions regarding the investigation of this pyramid- while keeping military, political, and social turmoil at bay. He enlists the help of a professor, lieutenant, and a major for the deep space probe. They discover that a certain caste of a race known as ‘Masters’ is planning to annihilate their species using bio-terrorism and other nefarious means. Strategic and powerful moves have to be made by the characters that determine their chances of survival.
The parallels between the mystery of the pyramids in the story and our real world (Earth itself) is particularly fascinating. There’s definitely enough conspiracy theories floating around regarding the construction of the Great Pyramids- and not a few of them involve aliens. So all of this tying into the story made the plot more believable and interesting. The author presents a fairly dense and research-oriented view of the plot. Every detail is examined and explained with a scientific tone. I enjoyed this storytelling method- but I could see how some people who don’t prefer getting into the nitty-gritty statistics would find this a bit long-winded. Some of the parts read almost like a manual and I definitely struggled with some of the technical details but at the same time, it was almost educational- the systematic disassembling of the plot details so the big picture became clearer as a whole.
As always, Blair Wylie creates a dark world without using a cynical or depressing tone. The decisions the characters make are influenced by their intellect and limited resources. Similarly, the motives of the antagonists are also laid out clearly. The Warrior Masters were menacing and dangerous not because of their inherent evilness but because of their efficient and convincing plans. They made detailed plans about the best way to attack and cripple New Earth. A relevant and terrifying pandemic is also central to the plot.
Covert Alliance is a slow-burner that takes a while to sink its teeth in. It’s a well-researched and relevant science-fiction story that made me rethink the nature of human society. It’s a great read for anyone who enjoys believable and engaging science fiction.
Pages: 380 | ASIN: B07W6GLHB1
Tube Survivors follows a group of people who found New Earth but run into problems building their idyllic society. What was the inspiration for the setup to this novel?
It was fun to ponder how ten-thousand Tube Dwellers would transition from life within a womb-like, totalitarian, agrarian, basically Communist system, then quickly (by necessity) through a spaceship’s command and control system, and then to life as pioneer’s on a new and dangerous planet. Their leaders know Earth’s history, and they believe capitalism ultimately led to many problems. They build on the non-monetary, resource-sharing system they experienced in Tube World. They have to completely model their growing and vastly different economy with a very complex Resource Allocation Plan. In many respects, the leaders function as the Intelligentsia in the Soviet Union, or the Second Foundation in Isaac Azimov’s Foundation series. The Second Foundation works in secret to refine predictions of the future of galactic humanity based on mass-psychology, and targets areas for surgical intervention to improve the outcome. The leaders of New Earth share their economic modelling and elaborate, continuously-updated, computer-based plan with the general population, and hope their involvement will motivate them to help make it all work. In other words, the leaders of New Earth believe most people are good and intelligent, and want to live in an orderly, nurturing society where no one tries to selfishly get ahead. They are naïve, but well-intentioned. In contrast the leaders of the Soviet Union believed peasants and workers were incapable of understanding the running of a country, suppressed and controlled what was made public, and ruled with an iron fist.
The survivors tackle many moral issues when creating their society. What were some ideas you wanted to explore in this book?
The Tube Survivors believe capital punishment to be abhorrent, but struggle to agree on a humane alternative. They try banishment, similar to what the British tried with Australia, and the French tried with French Guiana. Their first test case is a psychopath named Harvey, and it does not go well. Harvey exploits an indigenous, humanoid tribe with the intent of inflicting revenge on the human society that rejected him. The Tube Survivors also want to remain ‘green’ and eco-friendly. They want to avoid the use of coal, oil and gas, but also know this greatly constrains their economy and quality of life. Like us, they struggle with issues that may not have a simple answer. In other words, I am suggesting that moral issues will never leave us.
What were some questions you kept asking yourself when writing this novel?
How would human beings actually establish a civilization on another planet? Is it as easy as many sci-fi novels and movies suggest using the fantasy of faster-than-light travel? What do pioneers need to take with them to survive and eventually thrive? What are their priorities? How do they best deal with indigenous humanoids? View them as competitors, and wipe them out? Or treat them as equals, and see if they will engage in mutually-beneficial trade?
What can readers expect in book six, Covert Alliance?
New Earth evolves into a parliamentary, monetary-based democracy. The Resource Allocation Plan basically becomes an elaborate budget. Life is good until a benevolent alien race initiates a face-to-face meeting on New Earth’s moon. The aliens ask testing questions to evaluate whether human beings are worth saving. Thankfully, they decide to alert the leaders of New Earth to an imminent threat from a malevolent alien race, one that pursues them relentlessly. The good aliens share some of their advanced technology, and a plan to combat the evil bunch known as the Masters. A fierce battle in space ensues, and then a covert attack on a Master-controlled planet using robotic spaceships and biological warfare. In other words, more traditional sci-fi stuff!
Tube Dwellers is a fun sci-fi novel following an average couple that are the unlikely heroes of an intergalactic space adventure. What were some new ideas you wanted to introduce in this book that were different from the preceding novel?
Tube Dwellers will be the fourth book in the Master Defiance series when Martian Hermitage is published (shortly?). The first three books in the series are set on Earth, Moon and Mars, and trace the demise and resurrection of human civilization, in spite of natural and man-made calamities, and an attempted invasion by an alien race, the evil Masters. The last three books in the series, starting with Tube Dwellers, trace the migration of some brave human beings to New Earth, where a new civilization emerges in spite of many challenges, and again, an attack by those nasty old Masters. New Earth is 106.6 light years from Earth, so the adventures are interstellar in breadth, not intergalactic. Still, the book does not indulge in the fantasy of faster-than-light travel. The 84-generation journey to New Earth takes 2538 years at 4.2% light speed.
I enjoyed how authentic Smitty and Tara were. What were some ideas that guided you while creating their relationship?
I took a bit of inspiration from a 1973 Canadian sci-fi series, The Starlost. It was low budget, and poorly crafted, but the setting was a generation spaceship, lost in space. The characters are naïve and Amish-like, and discover to their horror that they live on a spaceship that is headed for a star and total destruction. While not Amish-like, Smitty and Tara are everyday working-class people, who transition by necessity from doubting conformists to inspirational leaders. Tube World provided people like Smitty and Tara with pioneering skills so they could have the best chance for survival in the wilderness of New Earth. A basic problem with interstellar travel at sub-light speed is how do you deliver people with pioneering skills to another world? Frozen embryos ain’t going to cut it. Suspended animation or hibernation for 84-generations? Doubtful, without genetic modification like the tri-variant Masters engage in.
I appreciated the technical explanations of different complex concepts throughout the book. How much of it was made up and how much of it was derived from your career as a Canadian oil and gas engineer?
I worked in harsh, remote areas during my oil and gas career with lots of interesting, hardy people. I lean on that experience, and my engineering knowledge, when I write. Many aspects of the Second Chance generation spaceship are within the realm of possibility. The sheer size of the beast is a stretch, but necessary to sustain a healthy gene pool of 10,000 people for 84-generations. Building it in only 100 years or so is a stretch. A ‘magnetoplasmadynamic drive’ (massive ion propulsion system) has been theorized but is definitely a stretch. Building a spaceship that still works after 2538 years is a stretch. Travelling through space at ‘only’ 4.2% light speed is risky business. Space is not as empty as we once thought. You can run into rocks out there! The Oumuamua interstellar asteroid that just visited our solar system is proof of that.
What can readers expect in book five, Tube Survivors?
The pioneers on New Earth are determined not to repeat the mistakes made on Earth. They are naïve in many ways, but they stay true to their principles. They do some exploring by circumnavigating their continent in a catamaran sailboat. They discover to their horror that New Earth is not the pristine wilderness they were anticipating. It has been visited before by other alien races. And then those darn Masters show up again…
Master Defiance follows the survivors of a post-apocalyptic earth who must defend themselves against invading aliens. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
I wanted to suggest that human beings can survive a series of natural and man-made disasters. The setting is a dystopian Earth, but humans are still humans. The hunter-gatherers in the remote regions are toughing it out. But they need a little help from the past. Far-thinking ancestors have left behind Mother, a benevolent AI entity, and a vast store of knowledge. Young bow hunters discover and befriend Mother during a desperate quest for help. Mother helps them with advice, and she can defend herself, much to the surprise of the arrogant Masters.
The Masters were intriguing and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their development?
While I appreciate that faster-than-light travel sets up amazing sci-fi story possibilities, my books try to stay within the realm of the possible. Master Defiance suggests that intelligent beings can explore (and try to conquer) our galaxy at say 4% of light speed, if they are adapted (or genetically modified) to living for eons in a generation spaceship. This means vast expanses of time are required to move between stars, which could frustrate fans of ‘super warp speed’ using ‘ludicrous drive’ (a Spaceballs invention). The Masters are further developed during the series, as they are vindictive and persistent. They are also a tri-variant species, as revealed in Covert Alliance. And they view human beings as inferior, and only good slave material after gene-splicing. So, they are creatures that readers will love to hate!
I liked the contrast between the advanced aliens and the regressed humans. How did you want to represent this dichotomy?
Yes, the humans are technologically regressed, but they have retained their humanity. Yes, the Masters are technologically advanced, but they are inhuman. They view other worlds as theirs to conquer, and other species as theirs to enslave. Fighting the Masters is about saving our species, and about saving our humanity.
What do you try to do first when you write, inform or entertain?
Entertain a thinking person.
Posted in Interviews
Tags: adventure, author, author interview, Blair Wylie, book, book review, bookblogger, dystopia, dystopian, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, kindle, kobo, literature, Master Defiance, nook, novel, post-apocalyptic, postapocalyptic, read, reader, reading, science fiction, scifi, story, suspense, thriller, writer, writing
Tube Survivors by Blair Wyle is about a carefully selected group of people who are now residents of “New Earth”. They face the trials and tribulations of getting accustomed to the new planet, along with the social and societal turmoil that comes with this unprecedented situation. Not only are they making their best attempt at survival, they also face strange new challenges: a fragile ecosystem, a pandemic capable of wiping out a whole species, and a psychopathic criminal on the loose.
The exploratory and adventurous tone of the book allows it to grow beyond being a typical science fiction narrative. The discussions between Abubaker and Ishikawa were especially interesting: they debate on which way they want the society to progress, ultimately rejecting a capitalistic model for one that empowers human potential. Even though some of the dialogue seemed a little idealistic and unlikely, it was still refreshing to see a science fiction book that doesn’t take a cynical or dystopian view of the world. Everything from rehabilitation of prisoners to resource allocation plans are presented with striking clarity. It made me reevaluate our systems on Earth and why things work the way they do.
There were a lot of topics discussed that would be considered political or controversial in today’s world. All these topics are effortlessly intertwined with the happenings on New Earth. The scientists and councillors work in a systematic and efficient manner to reach the root of problems and solve them one at a time.
This was a dense but an enlightening read. It presented a bleak view of our future if things continue the way they are, but also provided a believable version of our world that could be achieved with beautifully simple steps. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to take a break from the generally disillusioned tone of dystopian literature without compromising on the magic of science fiction.
Pages: 368 | ASIN: B07ZJH8YWB