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What is Reality?

M. Thomas Apple Author Interview

M. Thomas Apple Author Interview

Adam’s Stepsons follows Dr. Heimann as he designs the perfect soldiers for the United America’s in their war against the Martian colonies. What was your inspiration for the setup to this interesting science fiction story?

At the time I wrote the kernel of the story, I was working in a used bookstore and devouring all the short stories and novels by Phillip K Dick and Robert Heinlein that I could lay hands on. I was (and still am) fascinated by questions of “what is reality?” but I was (and still am) also intrigued by the question “who am I?” not only in terms of shared realities and perceptions but also ethnicities, religions, and personal relationships within the family. The sense of self is inextricably bound with community and history; my own family history, for example, is filled with generation after generation of soldier in nearly every major conflict since the 1680s. So I knew that I wanted the story of Dr. Heimann and his clones to take place during a military conflict of some sort. The US made it to the Moon first, so I figured any Moon Base would be set up by a future version of the US. But the rising powers of India and China would necessarily lead to competition and colonial expansion elsewhere in space. So I based the UAAF on the Moon, India on the ISS, and China (basically) on Mars. But something has gone wrong, as it usually does, and that sets off the conflict.

I should point out that, when I initially plotted the story and sketched out the characters, Dolly the Sheep hadn’t been announced, Battlestar Galactica was a late ’70s TV show starring Lorne Greene, and “The Clone Wars” still consisted of a single line spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi. So as much as I’d love to say that I got the idea for soldier clones from the current zeitgeist, the underlying premise of Adam’s Stepsons actually predates the trend. My high school library had beat-up copies of Nancy Freedman’s Joshua, Son of None, and Ben Bova’s The Multiple Man, so it’s likely I internalized elements from those stories and subconsciously reproduced them in my own story.

Dr. Heimann and one of his cloned soldiers, Seth, have an intriguing relationship that becomes very deep. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?

Dr. Heimann prides himself on his scientific bent of mind, but he struggles to cope to grips with the fact that he basically has no family left, and as Seth grows and begins to develop a real emotional attachment, the doctor desperately tries to push away the feelings he had for the person Seth is clone of. Meanwhile Seth has been trained (“brainwashed,” as the doctor puts it) to be an efficient killing machine, and his need for order compels him to seek out and eliminate anything unknown or unreasonable. Yet he, himself, can’t help feeling strong conflicting emotions, first toward the doctor and then toward his fellow clones. Both characters are driven to discover, deep down, who they really are as people, outside their rigid societal roles as scientist and soldier. Dr. Heimann knows that Seth is not his real son, but can’t help treating his stepson’s clone familiarly because it reminds him of what he has lost. Seth has been “programmed” not to think of anything other than army orders, but he can’t shake the sense that there is more to who he is as a person. Finding out he is a clone, and who his “brothers” are, is the trigger for the final confrontation.

Science fiction has always asked the ‘what if’ questions, but I feel that your novel went a step further. What were some ideals you used in building your story?

My original intention was to investigate not just the “what if” of human cloning (i.e., how would this be done? how would the clones grow physically and mentally?) but also the “what is self?” to a cloned human being. The scientists argue that personality is partly inherited and partly environmental; so if you were to make several different clones of one person and then controlled the information input,  they would all become the same person. But personality also consists of emotional attachments made with other human beings on a deeper social level. Human beings are social animals; we need other humans to survive and thrive, and without others we have no clear sense of who we are and what our purpose is. So in order to examine this in a futuristic setting like a clone facility on the Moon, I needed to have a reason for making clones in the first place, plus other people who would provide the clones with that social environment. Once that was established, the real question became “Is what we’re doing morally ethical?” The military paying for the clones display classic cognitive dissonance, by using people they claim are not really people but know they actually are, in order to win what they call a morally righteous war but actually is destroying their entire society. Yet the General clearly also feels a sense of internal conflict, feeling obligated to protect every member under his command, including the clones, and also knowing through his friendship with Dr. Heimann who the clone really is and how this might affect his friend. Ultimately, I was interested in making sure none of the characters were typical “scifi” stereotypes, that they had ideals but were deeply flawed people, and ultimately would find themselves trying to make the best of what basically could turn out to be a lose-lose situation in the end.

What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?

Right now I have a couple of projects I’m working on in various stages, but the one most closely related to Adam’s Stepsons is a metaphysical science fiction series set mostly on Mars. The first book is called Bringer of Light; a crew of ethnically diverse and somewhat misfit asteroid hunters recovers an extra solar object from beyond the solar system, experiences physical and spiritual changes, and ultimately becomes the new leaders of the united Mars colonies as they break away from the old political chaos of Earth and form a new society. The story combines hard science with various mystical systems of belief, ethnic and religious sense of self and identity, and international/interspacial political intrigue. I’m about a third the way through the initial draft; the aim is to finish writing by the end of summer 2017, and have an edited, polished manuscript done by spring 2018. The next two books (Defenders of Aeropagus and Return to Omphales) have already been outlined and plotted.

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Adam's StepsonsDr. Johann Heimann designed the perfect soldiers: superhuman in strength and intelligence, immune to sickness and disease, programmed to lead the United Americas to a quick victory in the Mars Colony War. But Heimann didn’t anticipate the military’s unrealistic demands, or his own emotional responses to his creations. And now Number Six is calling him “Father”! What exactly is going on during the clones’ personality imprinting cycle? As Heimann starts his investigation, Number Six grows in confidence and self-awareness…and both discover the project hides a secret even Heimann, himself, doesn’t suspect…

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End of Knighthood

End of Knighthood Part I: The Chess Pieces (Reverence, #2)

End of Knighthood Part I: The Chess Pieces by Joshua Landeros is a ripping tale of military science fiction. The novel follows the continued struggle of William Marconi a cyborg super soldier as he continues to figure out his place and duty as a soldier and knight in this futuristic warzone. Will ends up joining the resistance movement. Fighting the UNR, the new world government superstructure, or curbing its growth becomes the center of conflict. Chancellor Venloran is the locus of these plans and wishes to destroy his enemies completely. Can non-UNR countries survive the rising tide and hardened troops?  The principal question is, what will Will do to make up for his past transgressions on behalf of his former role?

Landeros paints a picture worthy of the classic military science fiction writers in their hay day. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers can be felt in every leap of Will from rooftop to rooftop. He masterfully borrows what made these novels great by their action and dialogue. One of the strong parts of the End of Knighthood is not just the fantastic action, but the dialogue between the soldiers is some of the best I have ever read. This is what keeps these soldiers human and what makes them instantly relatable to the reader. Sure, it is cool to read the amazing action scenes that Landeros crafts, but in the quiter moments we get to see how these individuals struggle with their in between status and their struggle in the midst of war.

As far as action goes, you can’t get too much wrong when you have cyborg on cyborg action, but Landeros takes painstakingly careful steps so that the reader does not become lost in the rain of bullets and blows. We are able see every body fall, but we are also able to see the glimpses of humanity from these soldiers as they reflect later their deeds. Will, the main protagonist, and one of the few carry overs from the previous book, is one such character that we get to see who continues to develop.

In our current times of political upheavals and nation states, one would think a book such as End of Knighthood would be hard to swallow. The UNR seems to be something that could occur in the not so distant future, but with the addition of these tech enhanced soldiers, Landeros has given the reader enough of an escape to enjoy oneself rather than wallow in more reality. Despite having a military science fiction bend, the novel could appeal to anyone looking for an action centered yarn along with some political thriller overtones. The genre blending on Landeros’ part is spot on and should please a wide variety of readers.

All in all, the reader may lose some sleep going through one battle scene and turning the page for another, but it is sleep happily given up. I look forward to the next installment of the Reverence series.

Pages: 233 | ASIN: B06ZZCDJ44

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Adam’s Stepsons

Adam's Stepsons3 Stars

Adam’s Stepsons by M. Thomas Apple is an interesting science fiction piece. We follow Dr. Heimann who designs the perfect super soldiers for the United America’s in their war against the Martian colonies. Heimann quickly discovers that he did not anticipate the brutal efficiency of the military, nor the attachment that arises from his creations. These clones are not only the peak of what the human form can do, they actually transcend humanity through intelligence and strength. They are the weapon that the United Americas will use to crush the rebellion on Mars. Dr. Heimann is shocked when one clone, Six, begins to call him “Father” and then the can of worms truly opens.

Apple’s novel is almost painfully short, only because I wanted to have more to read and dive into. He anticipates the future of inter-solar system colonization and the struggles that can arise, such as this between the United Americas and the Martian colonies. He does not neglect the complicated matter here or the scope considering the Terran governing force is losing the war and needs these clones to pan out.

The struggle between scientist and soldier is an old one, but one that takes on a new twist with the rise of cloned super soldiers. Apple goes along the lines of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, but does not seek to critique war itself. Instead, the author goes further and asks whether these soldiers are “truly” human or are they  just “equipment” as the military officer Marquez calls them.

The conflict deepens even further when “Seth”, clone number six, as Dr. Heimann calls him when no one else is around, begins to call him “father”. The book bounces between the POV’s of the scientist and Six, which is interesting because as the book goes on Heimann becomes more and more unstable and uncertain of his mission of designing soldiers, who resemble the people that their genetic material comes from. Six, or rather, “Seth” becomes increasingly more confident in his abilities and his intelligence. All of this leads to a climax that may polarize readers, but one that will still make the reader ponder on far after they have finished the novel.

Overall, I enjoyed Apple’s prose. It reads crisp like that of Asimov or Heinlein, but I am still unsure if the short length of the work was appropriate. There is a lot of dialogue and not enough actual “action” going on throughout, so I was expecting more digging into the rich themes of personhood and philosophy of the soul. I realize that may be asking too much.

Adam’s Stepsons is a fun addition to the long canon of science fiction that dares to ask the “what if” of the future. It also seeks to ask the “should we, if we can” question that not enough science fiction is retrospective enough to ask. A good read for any science fiction lover, especially of the Heinlein or Asimov variety.

Pages: 92 | ASIN: B06XJRT8CS

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A Whole New Reality

Sam B. Miller II

Sam B. Miller Author Interview

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E. is about an alien invasion that’s stunted, but the alien’s will be back and humans must prepare. What was your inspiration for the lizard like alien antagonists and their culture?

I wanted an alien race that was not human but could be related to easily by the reader. The race had to walk on two legs and with the proper disguise be able to walk among regular people. They had to be fearsome but not so alien as to be physically outlandish. Finally the decision was made to create the Chrysallamans, an alien race of lizard people. Their culture would be similar to Earth in that there were all kinds of citizens, from educators to the military. I’ve read books where the description of the alien and its culture is so complex and foreign, the story becomes hard for the reader to follow. I want the reader to comfortably read the story without having to constantly remember odd words and customs. In my opinion, the reader has to be able to somehow relate to all the characters.

In the story scientists must manipulate human genes so they are better equipped, physically, when the aliens return. I found the science in the novel to be well developed. What research did you undertake to make sure you got it right?

I used my imagination and thought a virus would be the perfect tool for the scientist to use to alter a person’s DNA. The changes had to be understandable to the reader. If they were too outlandish, the reader would reject the story. Wikipedia was a great source for ideas. One of my daughters earned a PhD in genetic research and works in the field.

Major Blunt is the one that raises the alien boy. What was your process in writing their interactions to develop the bond they have?

I have 5 children and 2 step children. My interactions come from real-life experiences raising my kids.

The Origin of F.O.R.C.E. crosses many genres; sci-fi, action, adventure. What books or authors were the biggest inspiration for you?

John Campbell, Robert Heinlein, and E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith were the biggest influences on my story ideas. They could really take me to a whole new reality in my mind as I read their stories.

The second book in the series is Dawn of Chrysalis. Can you tell us what’s next in the story of F.O.R.C.E.?

The human race is in trouble. After narrowly claiming victory in the first invasion, an assault by advanced militaristic aliens armed with light speed capable spacecraft is a continuing threat. Humans have to discover the secret of faster than light travel. Chrysalis has been attacked by a new enemy and the Emperor flees to Earth thinking his armada is waiting for him. Whatsit is on a mission to return to Chrysalis and save his fellow Chrysallamans from being wiped out by the new menace. Whatsit returns to Chrysalis but some evil humans trick him and allow him to be captured by the new aliens. The Chrysallaman Resistance finds him. Right now I’m writing Chapter 6 of the third book. Very exciting.

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The Origin of F.O.R.C.E.The first scout ships of the Chrysallaman Empire made contact in 1947. Their mission was simple: find a suitable planet for colonization. Earth—HG-281—was the perfect target. Rich with land, minerals, and water, the blue planet could boast only of a primitive race of defenders known as Humans, bugs who could be easily squashed by the might of a single Chrysallaman’s mind. When one of the scout ships is unexpectedly brought down, the advance party is forced to return to their home planet 30 light-years away to report and regroup. In their wake, they left behind a broken ship, dead crew members, and a young alien boy who would grow to become one of Earth’s greatest assets—and her greatest ally. The lizard-like aliens would be back, and in force. Mankind must prepare a strategy capable of defending against not only superior technology, but superior psychic ability and strength. It will take an elite group of military personnel, brilliant scientists, a sombrero-wearing alien, and another generation to plant the seeds that will grow into a World Wide Defense, the likes of which the Chrysallamans have never known.

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