Friday, March 25, 2016

Author Spotlight: Nathan Wall

Happy Good Friday everyone!
Today's Author Spotlight shines on Nathan Wall, author of the Evolution of Angels series.

Artificial Light Cover
With Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice now showing, we are switching gears a bit to venture into the world of super heroes, their alter egos, and why nobody in the comics/movies can figure them out. 
Why no one can figure out Clark Kent is Superman; a writer’s journey into meaningless research

by Nathan Wall
How many of you know who Eric Lipton is? No takers? Don’t worry; you’ll see what he has to do with this article in a bit.

Batman v. Superman comes out soon and there’s a question that has always plagued my mind. Why can no one can figure out Clark Kent is Superman?

In comic lore, there’s no short of weird or fantastical explanations—from Clark’s ability to alter facial muscles to his perception altering glasses. However, none of the reasons given in the comics are depicted on the silver screen.

So we’re going to analyze this quandary from as close to a real world perspective as we can.  I’ll use plausible explanations (because someone who absorbs solar radiation and turns it into energy to fly is plausible).

In Man of Steel, Smallville, and briefly in the 1978 film, we begin with Clark in his hometown interacting with fellow citizens without his trademark glasses, before eventually growing into the most iconic superhero of all time. If you grow up around someone, you’re going to remember what they look like. Wouldn’t you?

We’re familiar with the tale. A teenage Clark goes on a journey after Pa Kent dies to learn about his Kyrptonian heritage and train to become Superman. He eventually returns to civilization in his early 30’s. In the movies, it’s never really said HOW long Clark is gone, but given his apparent age difference in Donner film number one, it’s safe to assume 10-12 years has past.

Man of Steel would support this theory. Clark holds many jobs ranging from bus boy to a deep sea fisherman. He walks from Kansas to somewhere well north of the Yukon. We never see him do it at supersonic speeds, and it’s likely he never uses his powers since his whole life was spent trying to blend in. For the sake of argument, we’ll say 12 years has passed from his time as a teenager to when he first wears the red cape.

Now, you tell me, how many people from high school would you recognize today? I’m not talking about the one’s you kept up with. I’m talking about the random ones who send you Facebook requests and you have to verify a connection through mutual friends.

What if you saw these former classmates from a long distance, moving super fast? You probably wouldn’t recognize many, if any, of them.

The world has north of 7 billion people. The chances any one person would run into Superman is low, much less see him moving at less than the speed of a bullet. If Superman stayed in just one city all the time (Metropolis) with the population of 8 million, and saw 100 people a day, what are the chances he would randomly see the same person twice? For our case, this is a purely random experiment, and the 100 people are always different until he’s seen them all.

Well, it would take him about 220 years to see every single person just once, moving at supersonic speeds at times. Damn.

You’re probably going to cry foul. “Clark Kent runs into more than 100 people on his way to work each day, and those people are often going to be familiar faces after a while.”

That’s true, but you have to consider that the regular citizen of Metropolis is going to assume Superman could be anyone. So we must separate those Clark sees every day from the number Superman sees every day.

But wait, there’s more. The average person gets a surge of adrenaline when something catastrophic happens—like their plane falling out of a sky—and their memory as a result is jaded or warped. It’s moments like this when someone is most likely to run into Superman. How much are you going to remember of Superman, other than he’s tall, muscular, and washes himself with Old Spice?

This factor is called acute stress and chronic stress. Saving the super-scientific details like glands and hormones for Film Theory, just know chronic and acute stress have very powerful affects on memory.

If you’re randomly running into Superman, you’re using short term memory. According to Miller’s Law, most people only remember about 5-9 details when shown a list of items or an event. So how would a clash with Zod in the financial district affect that number? Well, we’d have to look at Acute Stress.

Acute Stress is the reaction to an immediate perceived threat. There have been mixed findings which show acute stress can have both negative effects on short term memory or actually enhance it. However, in order for it to enhance memory, the part of the brain being affected by stress needs to align with the part of the brain recording the memory. The stress induction must come BEFORE the memory starts recording. In other words, for Acute Stress to positively affect short term memory, many things must happen. Yet, there’s another form of stress which would trump Acute Stress.

Chronic stress affecting the population of Metropolis is an entirely different animal. Chronic stress is the constant subjection to (you guessed it) stressful events. Essentially, it puts your body in a continuous state of fight-or-flight, negatively affecting your ability to learn and remember details.

Yikes! Those poor people of Metropolis. They always have to worry about Darkseid invading, Braniac infiltrating their power grid, or even massive super continents built of kryptonite popping up a few miles off shore. Wait, we want to forget that one ever happened? Ok. I can’t blame you. Anyway, I’d certainly say Metropolis lives in a constant state of stress. Simply put, many people have a hard time remembering the orders and details of a shared event even if they aren’t stressed.

For instance, when police gather information on a child abduction or a store robbery, they’ll gather info from a large group of bystanders. It’s rare any two people have the exact same recollection of the event.

Consider when Superman was originally created. Compare it to the last 15-30 years. It used to be most people stayed close to their hometown after high school. The media available to us 24/7 wasn’t anything like it is now. That means the Superman of George Reeves’ era wasn’t dealing with people from Smallville showing up in Metropolis to see him strut around in blue tights. It’s most likely no one outside of Metropolis would’ve ever seen video or pictures of him during that era.

Obviously, Superman must now account for things like Social Media, the world being more mobile, facial recognition software and so forth, but at the time of his creation none of that was an issue. The people from the Daily Planet and Smallville would know Clark Kent as a bumbling nerd who probably has premature issues in bed, not some suave muscular god destroying giant robots with his bare hands. In fact, Superman’s best mask is Clark Kent and those normal glasses.

I can’t help but feel this isn’t done yet. After all, none of this answers why Lois (outside of MOS) never figured him out, or why Lex Luthor couldn’t put 2&2 together. Maybe there is something else I am missing. Something right in front of us all in the many different theatrical versions of Superman. Wait a minute. That’s it!

Each version of Superman is completely different because we’re not looking into a continuous story. We’re looking into snapshots of multiple realities!

Think about it. How many super villains is Superman really going to come across in his career? How many times is it going to be required for him to fight in the open while hundreds of snapshots are being uploaded to Twitter? It’s likely only a fraction of a percent of the times Superman is needed to save the day actually involve a super-powered being. While certainly enough to induce chronic stress, it’s rare enough that most of his interactions are still going to be him swooping by too fast to see.

You can’t identify what you don’t see.

It’s likely the version of Metropolis we see in the movies is actually a glimpse into several other realities. Viewers of CW series The Flash know what I mean.

In my opinion, any one Superman from any given version of earth only has one interaction with Lex Luthor and not multiple, giving him less of a chance to be identified. Any one Superman is probably only fighting one of Bizaro, Doomsday or Braniac, and not all of them. How do I come to that conclusion?

Well, in the Dark Knight Saga, Christopher Nolan took a realistic view into the world of Batman. Over the course of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne was Batman for six years. I figure that based on the age of Gordon’s kids in BB vs. TDK.

Over the span of those six years, Batman only fought two world class villains (Ra’s al Ghul and The Joker). The rest of the time he took on petty and organized crime, away from the lights and spectacle of City Surveillance, Police, Eyes of the Press and Social Media coverage. It was then another 8 years until Bane showed up, and his 3-4 month rule over Gotham. That’s three super villains in 14 years.

So let’s assume some of the 100 completely random, chronically stressed people who do get to see Superman up close do so in a situation that doesn’t involve a villain like Metallo. We’ll say Superman saves a kitten from a tree for a little girl. Surely those people would remember Superman’s face and figure out he’s Clark Kent!

Um, no. Remember Eric Lipton?

Clark Kent is a news reporter for the Daily Planet, not an on air personality. He also does his research all over the globe. How many investigative journalists who do pieces on Mayan ruins do you know of, much less would recognize on the street?

In 2015, Eric Lipton of the New York Times won the Pulitzer Prize. This is the most prestigious award in Clark Kent’s field of business. I had to Google Lipton’s picture to know who he was.

Holy CRAP! Look at Eric’s picture! If it weren’t for those geeky glasses and haircut, he could be…No. No f*cking way! Ladies and gentleman, have we found Superman? Can’t be. Superman doesn’t NEED a secret identity. He’s always Superman!  That’s the exact mentality of the people in Metropolis. They just don’t believe a guy like Superman is doing anything other than being Super.

In conclusion, let’s examine the facts. Most encounters with Superman will involve him moving too fast to be noticed. Even if Superman runs into 300 random people a day, it’s going to take more than the average American lifespan to see them all more than once. Factors like chronic and acute stress are going to warp people’s already fragile memory. Furthermore, not many people would know what Clark Kent looks like in order to compare his appearance with Superman, if they even thought Superman had a secret identity at all.

When factoring in all these modifiers, it’s pretty amazing Lois was able to figure out Clark’s identity in Man of Steel. In order to avoid future detection, all Superman has to do is not fly into highly populated areas and stand reverently with a sad expression on his face while hundreds of people touch him.

I hope you enjoyed the article. If you did, please give it a share with the hashtags #EricLiptonIsClarkKent  #WhoIsSuperman #BatmanvSuperman #IndieAuthorsRule #DoThisFilmTheory #DawnofJustice.

Perhaps y’all will check out my book series “Evolution of Angels.” The latest book in the series “Artificial Light” was released on February 10, 2016.  Please follow me on Twitter @NathanKnwSports and at

Thank you for that thought provoking piece, Nathan. If you don't mind, I'd like to ask a few questions about writing and such...

1.     Firstly, thank you for appearing on the blog to talk about your writing, research, and some intriguing thoughts on Superman’s alter ego.

I’m very appreciative of this opportunity. Any chance I can have to reach a new audience, I’ll happily take it. I want to also use this opportunity to let everyone know that my latest novel, “Artificial Light” will be available for a free Kindle download on April 1st. It is part of the Goodreads group “SupportFor Indie Authors,” larger giveaway. If my book isn’t exactly up your aisle, you’ll probably find something that fascinates you. Please check it out and support aspiring writers, even if it isn’t me.

2.     It’s obvious that you have done some very in-depth thought and analysis as to why nobody in Metropolis can figure it out that Clark Kent and Superman are one and the same. What motivated you to go the extra mile to find this answer?

For one the movie Batman v. Superman is coming out. I thought the subject timely. A lot of people might be searching Google for details on Superman, and perhaps scouring the Twittersphere for anything related to the Man of Steel. Also, it’s a question you hear asked often along with “how does Superman shave?” Superman was the first modern day superhero and by far and away the most iconic, which hurts a little given my affinity for Batman. Yet, aside from his red undies being outside his pants (which has recently been changed) everyone always makes fun of his disguise. In fact, as Henry Cavil recently showed, the glasses are actually more than enough.

3.     It sounds like you enjoy learning the psychology (as in the why) of characters’ behaviors and thoughts. Does this research affect your own writing? How?

I’m not as far into psychology as you might think. I’m no expert on Freud. I tend to believe too much research can hinder creativity. However, I do like dissecting the “why” characters do what they do.

Humans are naturally motivated. Even the slacker at home, playing Xbox while stuffing his face with cheetos is motivated by something. Motivations, more so than religion, politics, ethnicity, gender, or whatever have you, define who we are and what we become.

For fiction to be entertaining, you need well established motivations that clash. The most popular series going right now is Game of Thrones. The interesting characters have complex motivations. It’s not just them being humble, sarcastic, or pious, but what fuels their drive.

4.     At the beginning of your post, you also mention the large amount of research you conduct as a part of your writing. How much research do you perform on an average book?

Would “a lot” be an acceptable answer? Haha. For my latest book, I did research on Hindu and Egpytian Mythology, along with Time Dilation, the different forces (Gravity, both Nuclear, etc) and the Fermi Paradox. I added this to research from the previous novels.

As I said earlier, too much research can be a bad thing. After all, how silly does the original Independence Day movie look now? Basically, what amounts to MSdos took down an advanced alien warship. That same computer would have a hard time affecting any of our current day technology, yet it disabled a civilization that’s far beyond what we currently have today?

The best thing is to do basic fact research and build your fiction in the plausible, but so far advanced that current technology never outpaces it.  The worst thing would be to base my world firmly in string theory and have that disproven 10 years from now. That’s my thought, anyway.

5.     It sounds like you write hard sci-fi but also enjoy the lighter stuff such as comic books and pulp fiction. What do you read? Why?

I wouldn’t say I write hard SF. As the books go on, they certainly incorporate more of those elements. There are still plenty of explosions, breaking arms and betrayal for the average reader. I’m not busting unintelligible techno babble. I want to appeal to a wide range of readers. So far, from my reviews, I appear to have done that. Certainly if you like SF details, this series will have that for you.

I’ll read anything. For the first book in my series, I wanted to have something a little more militaristic. So I read thrillers and books dealing with military espionage. For book two, I went in a paranormal mystery direction, so the Dresden Files was a handy reference.  

The next book in my series is a mix of Spartacus (the tv show) and Stargate, but with Angels and characters from Norse, Mayan, Yoruba and other mythologies. So, the first Hunger Games is coming in useful.

6.     Tell us about the world of your Evolution of Angels books.

The series title can be taken literally. It’s an Evolution of what we expect from Angels. The general premise is that gods of ancient religions were one-time angels. Things like minotaurs and werewolves exist, but they exist from science experimentation and not supernatural means. Demigods (Zues and his ilk breeding with mankind) and Nephilim (fallen angels fornicated with the daughters of man) become one and the same.

In Artificial Light, New Zion is a garrison. Swarga Loka is a hidden planet. In book 4, Helheim is a gladiator arena and Tartarus is a trading post for prisoners, slaves and gladiators.

In book 1, Evolution of Angels, the series title was a little more on the nose. The book dealt with soldiers undergoing the “Double-Helix” project in order to activate latent angelic DNA. Because this DNA is brought out, they can use special weapons that are only activated when in contact with angel DNA. That idea was influenced by a paper I read stating humans have genes passed on by Neanderthals, but in varying degrees. I figured, well why not angels? So the story was really about the next wave of angels—their evolution.

7.     Is there a recurring theme in your writing?

Each book builds on the themes of the last, but then focuses on something specific for its story. While Artificial Light dealt with fate vs. free will (book 1 theme) and one’s sense of purpose (book 2 theme), its primary directive was to explore how far someone would go to fight for what they believe in. Sometimes you risk becoming a villain in order to be the hero. At what point do you stop and take notice of what you’re doing? When is your fight no longer worth it, or no longer what you thought it’d be?

I don’t set out to write my books with a particular theme in mind. Books that do that tend to be too heavy handed. I also subscribe to the belief that themes and morals gleaned from texts aren’t always what the author intended, but what the reader interprets. After all, we can’t very well ask Robert Frost what he meant by his poem The Road Not Taken. Whatever he intended doesn’t matter, he’s dead. What’s important is what it means to us.

8.     Your covers are well done. Do you compose them or hire it out?

I like to draw, but I’m not nearly that good. I suck it up and hire them out. I’m an indie writer, but I want to compete with trads in every way possible. I hire beta readers, editors and artists. I want my book professional. It needs to pass every test a big 5 (or is it 4 now, can never keep up) publisher would put it through. That doesn’t mean mistakes aren’t made, but I don’t want the fact I’m an indie to be an excuse for lack of quality.

Don’t take that as me putting down someone with a lesser cover, or who self edits. Sometimes finances get in the way, and other people are better at dissecting their own work. For me, to get it where I feel proud of it, I seek professional help.

9.     What inspired you to start writing?

I’m a naturally artistic and creative person. I write music and play many instruments. I do video and film. From a young age, though, I was always a story teller. When I’d play with action figures, I’d perform epic storylines. Most boys would just take Batman and slam him into the Joker. Not with me. There needed to be a purpose. That eventually morphed into writing.

I like writing the most out of my hobbies because I can do it anytime, and I can control every aspect of it. I tried working on scripts with other writers and directors, or compose a song collectively with a band, but ultimately their influence just got in the way and worked against whatever vision I had. Being a lone wolf works great for me.

10.  Lastly, what do you hope to accomplish as a writer?

At this point, I’d settle for consistent reviews. Haha.

I used to have dreams of being a Richard Castle, or the next GRRM and converting my series into an HBO show, but now I just hope to leave something behind for my descendants to look at and go “wow, I’m related to him!”

My father is really big into He did the DNA test and traced our heritage back quite a ways. I’ve got two ancestors from the Mayflower, many who fought in the revolutionary war, others settled Texas before it was popular, and even some involved in the crusades. William the Conqueror is in my bloodline. I’m related to the guy that Mel Gibson’s character in the Patriot was based off of. How freaking awesome is that?

Yet, the more he finds out, the more I’m enamored with just seemingly anonymous individuals who settled Alabama, or migrated from Scandinavia to England and Ireland. These are people who were just living their lives and never thought someone 500 years down the line would be learning about them, or taking an interest.

I love the Marcus Aurelius quote “What we do now echoes in eternity.” That’s so true. When I’m long gone, and my grandkids eight generations from now on some Moon colony in another galaxy swab their DNA, and find out they have an ancestor from what was once called Texas, I want them to be able to pull up my stories and have a connection (because humanity deemed it one of the 100 texts worthy of saving from global annihilation). I want them to be able to read into my soul and get an understanding of where they came from. This is my chance to speak to them through history. My thoughts, dreams and words are time traveling!

When you think about it, it’s kind of appropriate that my book deals with Angels, humans, history and bloodlines. In a way, my books are a manifestation of my story ideas. Instead of leaving behind prophecies and special abilities, I’m leaving behind the written word. My father’s love for discovering our past is mirrored in my love for crafting futuristic interpretations of it.

Thanks again to you, Rob for the interview and allowing for the incredibly long guest post.
Thanks again for visiting the Assembly Area, Nathan and best of luck in your writing career. Please keep us posted!


Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Conversation about Writing, Dystopia, and the End of the World (Part 2)

Here’s the conclusion of our discussion of Homeland: Falling Down, and the trends which inspired it.

HENRY BROWN: So, whether faced with our own military or with modern-day Hessians under globalist command (assuming the 3 percenters have prepped adequately enough to avoid being simply starved to death) with no support from a foreign ally and probably without popular support, how viable do you consider a guerilla resistance effort to be?

R.A. MATHIS: You mention in False Flag that no insurgency has ever won without foreign intervention and popular support, which I thought was a very good point. The two things America has to counter that are the 2nd Amendment and the 2008 election of the best gun salesman the country has ever seen. We have over 300 million citizens and about as many firearms in this country. We are also buying up ammo as fast as it can be produced (at least what is left over after DHS gets their share). Combine that with hundreds of thousands of highly trained combat veterans scattered to every part of the country, and the odds don’t look so long.

(HENRY BROWN: What a coincidence that veterans, patriots and gun owners top the list of potential “domestic terrorists” the government is most worried about, eh?)

R.A. MATHIS: This alludes to the working title of book three, “Every Blade of Grass.”

HENRY BROWN: How appropriate–that very quote (whoever said it) was just going through my mind as your words sunk in.

R.A. MATHIS: I think the success of a resistance would vary by region. Rural areas would be virtual no-go zones for regime forces. Some urban areas may just welcome them like the Vichy French.
It seems to me that the biggest problem for the resistance would be the lack of electricity. If the regime restored power to each region as it was brought into compliance, it could make for effective deadly propaganda against the resistance. It’s the old “freedom vs security” dilemma on steroids. I’m not sure which way the populace would go in that case, especially in winter.

HENRY BROWN: Very good point. Most people  take electricity for granted. Few of us have any concept of what a struggle life will be without it. And that’s even without somebody intentionally trying to kill you.

R.A. MATHIS: How would you go about establishing a resistance? Could it succeed?

HENRY BROWN: That endeavor would be a kettle of quandaries stuffed full of dilemmas and wrapped in Catch-22s. What I would encourage is a cellular structure perhaps similar to the French Underground or other successful resistance movements. But if it is successful, at some point it would have to take the offensive. And that would require somewhat centralized leadership–anathema to the principles hopefully held by those who constitute such a movement. That would require very rare leadership–willing to step down and surrender the reins of power when victory was secured–as George Washington did.

Could it succeed? Yes. But it would be an uphill struggle from start to finish, with no room for mistakes at the strategic level. At a tactical level I like its chances a little better, partly because of the points you made.

In Falling Down, Cole’s father, Hank, is an honest cop. In my experience that’s a rare, dying breed. But now and then I come across memes regarding certain sheriffs who have gone on record stating they will not comply with unconstitutional orders from the Feds, including civilian disarmament. As with the military, I’m skeptical that many who wear the badge will honor their oaths at crunch time. How do you see it?

R.A. MATHIS: Again, I think this may be regional. I believe small town sheriffs would be more likely to resist the regime as they personally know most of the people they would be asked to arrest, kill, etc. The impersonal nature of bigger cities allows collaborators to see numbers rather than real people. Like Stalin said, “The death of one man is a tragedy…”

Of course, there would be exceptions on both sides of the spectrum. And we must always remember that power not only corrupts, it draws the corrupt.

That last sentence ran through my mind as I read the McMillan scenes in False Flag. You mention window tint citations a few times in regard to this trooper. Was this character and situation inspired by actual events?

HENRY BROWN: Actually, yes. I made friends with a state trooper a few years back. Unlikely, but true. Stories he shared fit with things I’ve heard from other cops and ex-cops. Basically, somebody with a badge can make your life hell now for any reason at all. Window tinting was one of the specific excuses he used to harass people and help eat out our substance. And that BS fits thematically so well, because the Surveillance State just HATES it when something impedes their invasion of our privacy.

In Homeland: Falling Down, Cole strikes me as a character who’s just an honest soldier who wants to do his duty and avoids politics like the Plague. First of all, is this an accurate assessment?

R.A. MATHIS: Yes. Like most people, he just wants to be left alone. But also like most people, politics affects him in huge ways, whether he likes it or not.

HENRY BROWN: Like the saying goes: You may not be interested in politics, but politics sure has a keen interest in you.

R.A. MATHIS: I found your character Adiur rather fascinating. His connection to Greeley, the secret government training program, the other members of his unit with equally unusual qualities and names. Can you go into detail about this character and your inspiration for him?

HENRY BROWN: This goes back to my research on the occult and mind control, again. There are documented cases of this kind of thing, including superhuman strength, drastic voice changes, change in spoken language, and being oblivious to pain. There’s other bizarre stuff like “remote viewing” and “automatic writing,” too, but I don’t know much about those phenomena yet. Anyway, molestation as a child is pretty common in these “sleeper agents” and sex acts are incorporated into the occultic rituals for adults, too. This is where Greely comes in.

It’s all pretty horrific stuff, which is why I left it behind closed doors, and only implied “vanilla” sex, at that.
Is Cole based to any degree on some particular individual?
R.A. MATHIS: He is the personification of the dilemma faced by our troops in such a time. Hank is the same, but for civilian authorities.

I’ll ask you the same thing about Greeley and Adiur.

HENRY BROWN: Greely and Handel are amalgam characters, based on different people I’ve known and met. I’ve never been involved in drugs or the occult, but I’ve rubbed elbows with others who were. Neither of these characters are what they seem to be on the surface. Greely appears to be the sultry cougar-type “strong independent woman.” She’s the object-of-every-schoolboy’s fantasy. But deep inside she’s a sick tool who is about as independent as a marionette.

Handel’s façade is perhaps just Joe Blow Normal Dude. He’s handsome, clean, in his prime, average intelligence, a “good person” on paper…but there’s more to him than superficial observation would ever indicate. He’s been horribly abused since childhood and doesn’t even know it. He’s fractured. At the risk of spoilers, he has been conditioned to surrender his will and his body over to be used as a vehicle by Adiur–a malicious personality given access to Handel when his psyche was fractured.

I don’t know for sure that anyone I’ve ever met was a bona fide MPD. But I’ve known some guys who were blank slates like Handel, susceptible to that sort of conditioning in my opinion. Such a person has a hole in their soul, and nature abhors a vacuum.
When you first introduced Eduardo in Falling Down, I couldn’t help thinking of Geraldo Rivera. But as the story progressed, I shelved the connection. You really drew a 3-dimensional character in him. He’s a disingenuous self-promoting media whore on the one hand, but he proves to have streaks of decency as well. Congrats on that, BTW. What were your thoughts when you conceived the character, and did he wind up like you first envisioned him?

R.A. MATHIS: He actually was inspired partly by Rivera, especially after I saw how Geraldo behaved on Celebrity Apprentice (not a good look for him). He represents exactly what you stated: the self-serving, headline-grabbing media. He doesn’t care if his reporting is biased or disingenuous. The next step in his career is all that matter to him. He’s not an ideologue, but he will toe the line and support ‘the narrative’ his superiors provide to get ahead. He is a tool (in more ways than one).

It's interesting that you ask if he is winding up as I first imagined him. I like the question because it implies Eduardo has a life of his own and makes his own choices. As a writer, that's when I know I'm onto something…. When I stop directing the characters and let them do their thing, writing down what I observe. That's when it's most fun. I don't know what Eduardo will do or how he will turn out. How will he react when he discovers the true nature of the regime? I don't know. He is a bit of a wild card.

HENRY BROWN:  Definitely onto something. He lives, breathes, sweats and stinks. Seriously: kudos. Very well-drawn character.
Will the presidential candidate from the prologue appear again in subsequent books?

R.A. MATHIS: The candidate, Martha Jefferson, will have a big roll down the road. And that road is gonna be a rough one.
The assassin’s “little green book” will be a factor going forward.

HENRY BROWN: How many books do you think the Homeland series will last?

R.A. MATHIS: Right now I'm thinking at least three, maybe four. It really depends on where the characters take the story…and sales (You’re laughing–I’m not laughing).

HENRY BROWN: Not laughing, really. Just smiling. But think of it as a smile of solidarity.

Is there anything you’d like to share about Executive Order?

R.A. MATHIS: Yes. President Tophet is just getting started. If you thought things are bad now, just wait.

Can you give a hint as to what is in store for the next Retreads book?

HENRY BROWN: I haven’t woven it all together completely yet in the cobweb of my mind, but there’s got to be a showdown between Adiur and Tommy Scarred Wolf. Also between McCallum and either Rennenkampf or Cannonball. The latter would be more dramatic. An EMP. Grid down. Starvation. Dissident extraction. Internment camps. The clergy response team. Jihadi terror cells completely unleashed. Texas secedes. Rocco and his crew take in some refugees. Clashes with occupation forces. And, oh yeah: World War Three. That’s a few off the top of my head.
Changing gears a bit, where did the idea for Ghosts of Babylon come from?

R.A. MATHIS: A few months before deploying to Iraq, I found a picture of my grandfather taken in Germany during WW2. With the photo was a note written on the tissue paper issued to GIs to write home with in those days. He had just learned of Germany's surrender and was looking forward to coming home and not sleeping in a foxhole anymore.

I wished I had more. More of his experiences. More of his thoughts and feelings. More of him.

So I kept a journal during my
Iraq deployment so my family would have more than a picture and a note decades from then. When I finally got back home, I started writing, using the journal as the basis for a memoir. It was partly self-therapy and partly out of a desire to pass my experiences down to my children while they were still fresh on my mind.

 It eventually morphed into a novel. I still don't know why. Maybe there were things I needed to say that could only be said through fiction. In any case, it eventually turned into Ghosts of Babylon.

We all begin writing for different reasons. I once read that no one writes because they are happy. What inspired you to start writing?

HENRY BROWN: First of all, that is a cool story unto itself. Thanks for sharing that.

As for me and writing, I’ve always had an active imagination, for one. Also, from a very young age, no matter how much I liked a story (either on film or on paper) I saw room for improvement. “It would have been even better if this was changed, that was tweaked, if so-and-so would have said/done such and such…” At least that motivated me in my first creative efforts.

I kind of did that with real stuff throughout my life, too. “Hey, what just happened would make an intense scene in such-and-such type of story.” Or, “Oh wow–check that out! I’d love to be able to capture what I’m seeing/feeling right now and reproduce it.”
There have been times when I really should have been completely focused on reality and my part of whatever task was at hand, but part of my mind was already busy plagiarizing the situation. Somebody once called me “a cultural scavenger.”  I still have mixed emotions about that remark. Maybe he meant it as a compliment, but it still seems a bit insulting. Nevertheless, there must be some truth to it, since I’m constantly compelled to weave fragments of life experiences together into stories (which are much more exciting than real life).

In fact, that’s still at work today, in yarns like False Flag. All these trends are converging toward a perfect storm that promises a bleak future and an end to life as we know it…so why not insert some guys like the Retreads, who won’t take it lying down, no matter the odds. Islands of integrity in a world of treachery. They’ve got the skills and wits to bring smoke on some scumbags in the process. And most important, they’re compelled to try to make a difference.
You strike me as a voracious reader. I sure used to be. When I was on active duty, when possible, I always had a paperback stashed in my cargo pocket or rucksack, for the inevitable “wait” phase of the old hurry-up-and-wait S.O.P. Did you keep a book stashed in your tank?

R.A. MATHIS: I read a little of everything. I especially enjoy sci-fi, fantasy, history, philosophy, and even a little horror. Unfortunately, working and writing leave far less time for reading than I would like. I read as much as I can, but am frustratingly slow at it. I often supplement reading with audio books and YouTube.
I usually had a book handy in the Army, but never got to read it on the tank as I was the platoon leader and barely found time to eat and sleep during operations. But I read constantly during after-operation downtime. Like you, there were also the times waiting on the tarmac for a flight, leaning on my rucksack, stealing a few pages here and there.

HENRY BROWN: Oh yeah, I got a lot of reading done sitting around Green Ramp in my lower enlisted days.

R.A. MATHIS: What do you enjoy reading most?

HENRY BROWN: Excepting horror and philosophy, the same ones you listed, plus classic pulp; westerns; war (fiction and non); military history; and various & sundry fare from the blogosphere in the “neomasculine” genre.

Have you/do you read SHTF or TEOTWAWKI fiction from other authors? If so, which do you recommend? (Some authors I recently discovered, who have written some enjoyable books, are “Joe Nobody” and Mark Goodwin. I’m curious about “A. American” and some others, but haven’t taken a chance on them yet.)

R.A. MATHIS: Oddly enough, I haven’t read many other SHTF works other than False Flag (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and a bit of James Wesley Rawles first book, Patriots. I want to keep Homeland original as possible, so I’m avoiding similar works right now. I do plan to read them once I’m a little further into the Homeland series.

HENRY BROWN: Interesting. It seems that it’s paying off–Falling Down did not seem derivative or imitative of any other SHTF works I’ve read. And thanks for that!

 I read
Patriots as well, and have considered trying more of Rawles’ fiction…but haven’t, yet.

R.A. MATHIS: Which authors do you recommend I start with?

HENRY BROWN: Me, of course. But seriously, you might want to try “Joe Nobody“–he blends prepping info into his narratives fairly well. The protagonist in the ones I read was easy to root for. The action was believable. Overall a good read.

R.A. MATHIS: Thank you again for having me, Hank. Your questions were enjoyable and thought provoking. I truly enjoyed them.

HENRY BROWN: Hey, same here. We should do this again some time.

R.A. MATHIS: That's a deal.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Conversation about Writing, Dystopia, and the End of the World (Part 1)

I was recently interviewed by author, Henry Brown for his blog, Virtual Pulp. The interview turned into a running discussion about writing, dystopia, and worst-case scenarios.

Here is part 1:

HENRY BROWN: First of all, thanks for agreeing to do the interview.

R.A. MATHIS: Thank you for having me, Hank.

HENRY BROWN: After reading Ghosts of Babylon, I guess I assumed you might follow up with something similar, or possibly move on to more mainstream literature. What made you decide to spin a SHTF yarn?

R.A. MATHIS: I wrote Ghosts of Babylon because I had to. It began as an effort to mentally sort out my Iraq experience. The Homeland series is the same.

 The seed was formed from the occasional news story of another general being fired for questionable reasons, a new executive order being announced, or the IRS being used as a weapon. That seed took root as these stories began to appear with alarming regularity. I thought it was just me being a bit paranoid, so put it aside and kept my mouth shut. But then I noticed others voicing the same concerns, both on the street and even in the popular media.
The last straw dropped when a guy came to our house to work on the air conditioner. We struck up a conversation as he worked. He told me that he was mortally afraid of the government. That’s when I began to realize how widespread the concern really was. (As a side note, I believe this sentiment is a contributor to the current election cycle’s rebellion against all things establishment.)

(HENRY BROWN: I would have to agree. And on the one hand it’s about time. But on the other…it seems to me that the pent-up outrage, now that it’s finally loose, is proving to be misdirected in many quarters.)

R.A. MATHIS: Homeland is an attempt to test the thesis, to mentally sort it out as a kind of mental experiment. Unfortunately, the thesis is proving all too plausible.
On a similar note, I noticed your Retreads series has gone from pulpy men’s adventure to a more serious SHTF genre. Why the shift?

HENRY BROWN: I’m not sure I can answer that in a way that makes sense to others, but I’ll try. Some of the times I’ve been happiest in life were when I had my head stuck in the sand–either voluntarily or unintentionally. That applies to the writing partition of my life, too. My whole experiment in men’s fiction was partly an effort to relive the fun and the rush of adventure lived vicariously through characters in some of the novels I read as a kid and young man. Better yet: to pass that experience along to new readers. Such was my ambition. (And yet, I couldn’t go Full Ostrich all the way–in Hell & Gone you can already see the government attitude–through the goons in their alphabet soup agencies–that certain law-abiding Americans are more dangerous than actual terrorists. In Tier Zero I sort of laid the ground work for False Flag by introducing some ugly little secrets of black ops, and how, if Washington doesn’t have a convenient one to exploit, our would-be rulers are willing to manufacture a crisis as an excuse for the next power grab in their agenda.) But I got to the point where I just couldn’t swallow the blue pill anymore.

I see the world around me drowning in deception. People who recognize this must not let the truth be buried. We have to shout it from the rooftops as best we can, despite the odds. If those sound like the words of a maniac, well, so be it.

I guess I should mention that I’ve had it in mind to write apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic fiction for a long time–but something a little less heavy, like the Last Ranger series or Doomsday Warrior before it (only without the mutants, the Zen philsophy and the weird psychodelic acid trip scenes). However, taking stock of the situation facing us in America, people need to wake up; not be somnambulized into maintaining their complacency.

The Retreads were established characters, who I and some readers really liked. If I could choose anybody to guard my flanks when facing Armageddon, it would be guys like them. After all, they were staring down the barrel of WWIII from their very debut, and handled it pretty well. At the same time, I knew that pulling out all the stops politically would piss off some readers who liked the previous books. Oh well. Life is too short and freedom is too precious to lose sleep over whether I offended somebody or not. I get offended constantly in books and movies. Suck it up and drive on.

Aren’t you sorry you asked that question, now?
When you introduced the DHS involvement with the regular army in Falling Down, it made perfect sense and I wondered why it hadn’t been done before (my own excuse is that I haven’t yet depicted conventional national military forces). After all, the Red Army had its political officers–military commisars or whatever, feared by all the regular soldiers. Same with the Soviet Navy. The Wermacht was, to an extent, gripped by terror due to the SS and Gestapo. Compared to me, your active duty experience is very up-to-date. Did you witness anything first-hand that confirmed for you this scenario will play out in a SHTF scenario?

R.A. MATHIS: You are exactly right about the Soviet commissars being the basis for the DHS “advisors” assigned to active units in the book. In fact, an important parameter of my “thought experiment” mentioned above is that there must be historical precedence for the events in the book, especially in the actions taken by the government. Knowing that the new regime would be suspicious, or even hostile, toward the military, commissars assigned to keep the troops in line would be a top priority. If you put yourself in the regime’s shoes, the DHS seemed like a perfect fit.

 My first-hand military experience ended in 2006, before our current President took office. At that time, the political correctness machine was already in full swing, but I never experienced blatant meddling by civilian agents. That being said, the amount and pace of social engineering forced upon our men and women in uniform since then is both staggering and alarming.

There is something I found interesting as I read False Flag. The occult ceremonies woven into the plot and connected with the tier-zero units and other operatives. Can you go into more detail about their purpose to the regime and why you included them in the story? Also, are these ceremonies simply mind control, or are they really colluding with unseen forces?

HENRY BROWN: Well, now you’ve done it. If people didn’t believe me to be a tinfoil hat whack-job already…
This angle came entirely from my research, which encompassed everything from MK Ultra and Monarch to “satanic ritual abuse.” I followed the leads where they led and was astonished to discover how interconnected it all is. It all sounds crazy on the surface–some of it as if inspired by a B-horror movie or bad sci-fi. And don’t get me wrong–there are a lot of cockamamie wive’s tales out there. Unfortunately, much of it is mixed up with things that happen to be true. I could go on at great length on this subject, but will try to pare it down to just a couple aspects.

One of the first bombshells to land on me was that multiple personality disorder (MPD) can be artificially created in people. And I’m understating the fact here, because some who have studied it much more than I have will tell you that EVERY case of MPD was manufactured by high level experts in cognitive sciences; and furthermore, that they do so with a common denominator of ulterior motives, and with government funding.

Some of those same folks will tell you that there absolutely are unseen forces at work. Certain spiritual beings are always looking for a body to occupy, and when a personality is split, they are given entry. This is stuff I don’t really want to believe. I’ve never been obsessed with UFOs, vampires, werewolves or witchcraft. I don’t watch “ghost hunter” shows or think zombies (as depicted in pop culture recently) are very credible. In most of the churches I’ve ever attended, great pains were made to downplay the supernatural in the Bible, and remove the paranormal/supernatural from the Christian worldview. Frankly, that tendency rubbed off on me, so I’ve never taken that stuff seriously most of my life. That is beginning to change. I’m at the point now that I do see a spiritual/occultic aspect to the postwar mind control efforts. But not many rational people can swallow that–which I certainly understand. What I tried to do was write that subplot in an ambiguous enough manner that the reader can take it whichever way they are most comfortable with–either just advanced brain-screwing built on the discoveries of the Nazi mind control pioneers with occultic trappings to make the victims believe they’re tapping into some ancient spiritual power; or human scientists carrying out the brain-screwing at the behest of the unseen beings they serve (knowingly or unknowingly). The bottom line for most readers, perhaps, is that it’s fiction. There are plenty of theories even more far out than this in other books or movies, and people suspend their disbelief for the sake of entertainment. Frankly, I’d love to be proven wrong about a lot of stuff I’ve said both on this blog and in my books.

As to what purpose our domestic enemies would have for such individuals…when you take stock of what they are doing and still intend to do, sleeper agents they can activate like flipping a switch can come in very handy. Especially in false flags. The cream of the crop could be held in reserve for really big jobs–high profile assassinations, for instance; while the unstable sleepers can be used as cannon fodder in the school-shooting-of-the-week. One investigator has discovered that many of the MPD cases are part of a “super soldier” program, which makes sense when you consider that the mind control endeavors in North America took over where the Nazi scientists left off. Pretty scary, if true.

You mentioned how the purge of the  US high command partly inspired you to write Falling Down. In my own SHTF book, that purge of field grade officers (which began in earnest about 2009) also plays a part. First off, I’m curious how the average Joe in the ranks feels about this today, as well as the junior grade officers. Secondly, you wrote it in such a way as to suggest that Colonel Lee bugged out before being nabbed by the DHS. Are we going to see him again in future installments?

R.A. MATHIS: On the purge subject: Like the old saying goes, you can’t fool the troops. I still have friends in uniform. They see the attack dogs ejected while the lapdogs are promoted. It has an adverse effect on morale across the width and breadth of the active force.

 Yes, we will see more of Colonel Lee. Good catch on that one.

HENRY BROWN: Considering those purges, among other things, what is your general gut feeling about whether the regular military will hesitate to make war on American citizens?

R.A. MATHIS: That is why I included Cole in the book. I needed to see the situation through the eyes of a soldier. I don’t think they will obey that type of order, the outstanding conduct of our troops in the Middle East (with very few exceptions) over the last 13 years will testify to that. But what if extreme coercion is applied?  In Homeland, all military families are brought on base when it hits the fan. This allows the soldiers to focus on their jobs, knowing that their wives and children are protected and cared for. However, this move also gives the regime leverage. If a soldier refuses to commit atrocities, his family may be forfeit. That kind of pressure is enough to make good men do very bad things. I do not envy our troops in such a situation. The same tactic can be used on just about anybody. This was a key tool of the totalitarian regimes in the last century. I don’t see why future regimes would stop using it.

HENRY BROWN: I don’t envy them either. In fact, rarely does a day go by anymore that I don’t find myself opining that I couldn’t be a part of what the military has become. It is no place for a patriot, or even for a good soldier anymore.

R.A. MATHIS: What are your thoughts on the likelihood of the American military making war on its own citizens?

HENRY BROWN: No offense, but in my experience officers often have a perspective on situations and shared experience that is rosier than the grunts see it. I’ve been on the enlisted side and could write quite a hatchet-job on the rank-and-file, even back in my day and even in an elite unit.

It boils down to this: kids growing up in the USA have no appreciation for how good we’ve had it here. They not only take our freedom and rights for granted, they are conditioned to have contempt for America. Very few of them resist that conditioning. Those people grow up and join the armed forces and, big surprise, the motivation is rarely patriotism. It’s for college money and job training. And that’s how the recruiting commercials pitch it. They throw bait out for mercenaries and that’s what they get.  (But perhaps many did join in the months/years after 9/11 for a more altruistic motive).

Career soldiers would just as easily fight for any cause and as part of any army. That’s the impression I got of the average G.I.
All officers have some generic pretense of honor, but when the rubber meets the road, most officers and NCOs are serving their career ambitions, not their country. Some are better than others, but those who rise to the top are nothing more than uniformed politicians.

Baron Von Steuben gave us quite the compliment when he illustrated the uniqueness of the American soldier (unlike any other soldier who receives an order and automatically complies, Americans had to have confidence in the motive behind the order before they would comply). This is definitely no longer the case.
All of this was bad enough when I wore the uniform; I’m sure it’s much worse now. Thank God there are exceptions. But what few good soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen remain are either being purged, or forced out by the increasingly hostile environment the military is being transformed into. So yes: I’m afraid most will fire on American civilians, and with little hesitation–especially with the added head games they are sure to get immediately prior. I would love to be proven wrong, but won’t hold my breath.

So, whether faced with our own military or with modern-day Hessians under globalist command (assuming the 3 percenters have prepped adequately enough to avoid being simply starved to death) with no support from a foreign ally and probably without popular support, how viable do you consider a guerilla resistance effort to be?

R.A. MATHIS: You mention in False Flag that no insurgency has ever won without foreign intervention and popular support, which I thought was a very good point. The two things America has to counter that are the 2nd Amendment and the 2008 election of the best gun salesman the country has ever seen. We have over 300 million citizens and about as many firearms in this country. We are also buying up ammo as fast as it can be produced (at least what is left over after DHS gets their share). Combine that with hundreds of thousands of highly trained combat veterans scattered to every part of the country, and the odds don’t look so long.

(HENRY BROWN: What a coincidence that veterans, patriots and gun owners top the list of potential “domestic terrorists” the government is most worried about, eh?)

R.A. MATHIS: This alludes to the working title of Book Three, “Every Blade of Grass.”

HENRY BROWN: How appropriate–that very quote (whoever said it) was just going through my mind as your words sunk in.

R.A. MATHIS: I think the success of a resistance would vary by region. Rural areas would be virtual no-go zones for regime forces. Some urban areas may just welcome them like the Vichy French.
It seems to me that the biggest problem for the resistance would be the lack of electricity. If the regime restored power to each region as it was brought into compliance, it could make for effective deadly propaganda against the resistance. It’s the old “freedom vs security” dilemma on steroids. I’m not sure which way the populace would go in that case, especially in winter.

 That’s about the halfway mark. Look for the rest of the discussion tomorrow. – Rob

Click here to read Hank's review of HOMELAND: Falling Down.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Author Spotlight: Henry Brown

Henry Brown Amazon Author Page

     Today's Author Spotlight guest is Henry Brown. Henry (or Hank if he likes you) has recently completed the third installment of his 'Retreads' series. This latest book constitutes a new direction for the characters and the franchise in general, but I'll let Hank tell you more about that.

According to his Amazon bio: "Henry Brown was born to a fierce Mongol chieftain and a mighty Viking warrior-queen who were promptly kidnapped by alien wargamers from another dimension, leaving him to be raised by wolves on the frozen steppes.

Trapped in an avalanche caused by a tremendous meteor strike and frozen alive, he stood in suspended animation as the centuries passed until a team of nubile swimsuit model archaeologists rescued him in 2010, nursed him back to peak health, fell in love with him, bought him a state-of-the-art underground lair complete with mad scientist laboratory hidden on an uncharted subtropical island, and now cater to his every whim while he devises diabolical schemes of world domination.

True story.

Oh yeah: in his spare time, he writes fiction."

Wow! With a bio like that, I have to hear what Henry has to saw about his writing.

Take it Hank!

   Thanks, Rob.

    I don't think of myself as a morbid guy. I would prefer to be apolitical, and believe that peace and freedom will endure in America for the rest of my days. But try as I might, I just can't keep my head buried in the sand.

     Big trouble is headed our way and you don't have to be a “tinfoil hat” type to see it. More and more people are waking up to this, but life as we know it is coming to an end soon regardless of how many believe or not.

     It's a real chore to both stay informed and avoid being consumed by utter helplessness in times like these.


     The natural human instinct when everything looks bleak and there is no realistic hope to be found, is to escape. For some, temporary escape is found in beer, “reality” TV or the things money can buy.

     Anything to distract you from the worry and fear. I have the same escape instinct, and sometimes I let it win.

     I hope it's not a symptom of insanity that I sometimes escape by reading fictionalized predictions about that same bleak future. I suppose it's got something to do with being an “observer.” It's other people who have to face catastrophe and make the incredibly tough decisions, when you're reading about doomsday scenarios. Not only that, but the good guys usually win.

     Now, writing about the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI)... that's easily explained.

     First of all, I'm a writer. Writing is what I do. Secondly, it's therapeutic.

     I've wanted to write apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories for many years. I've never been completely satisfied with how it's been depicted in either film or fiction. But like any writer of the incorrect political convictions, striving to interest a publisher prior to the POD/E-Book revolution, I got in the habit of self-censorship.

     My debut novel, Hell & Gone, was written during those days when traditional publishing was the only “legitimate” path for a writer to become an author. And though it was written in the span between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq (when patriotism made a brief comeback), I still had to dial down the God-mom-and-apple-pie sentiments. Not all the way, mind you—just enough, I hoped, to get it past the leftist gatekeepers in publishing and into the hands of readers.

    Yeah, I was pretty naïve.

Tier Zero Cover

    Eventually, Hell & Gone made it into print (and E-Book) anyway. By the time I wrote its sequel, Tier Zero, I was slowly liberating myself from self-censorship. Where Hell & Gone was a fusion of modern military thriller and old-school pulpy action novel, Tier Zero leaned harder to the pulp side. I wrote it in the style of an old post-Vietnam paramilitary adventure, and the book even has a cover to match. I allowed more truth, as I see it, to slip through—sometimes at the expense of a character's likability. But my quixotic goal was mostly to “bring back men's fiction,” not to hammer home a cautionary message. It turns out that reviving men's fiction (which necessitates that men actually read, rather than only watch sports/play video games) is possibly just as outlandish, or more so, than waking up the ovine masses via a cautionary work of fiction.

    Nevertheless, in the months following Tier Zero's release, I did some soul-searching and prioritizing.

    The result was that I completely unleashed myself. I decided to take these characters I dubbed “the Retreads” and usher them from pulpy men's adventure into a dark tale about the death of America. It wasn't exactly the TEOTWAWKI story I wanted to tell. I would have had more fun spinning a yarn similar to The Road Warrior or Craig Sargent's old Last Ranger series. But doomsday has been hanging over the heads of the Retreads ever since I first introduced them. In a way I can't quite explain, it is somehow fitting that these guys face threats now so real as to be petrifying.

     I knew I would offend and alienate some of my readers. Furthermore, there were some aspects of

     America's demise I just didn't want to deal with.

     Racial conflict, for instance—what Jesus warned about when He said ethnos will rise against ethnos.

     I didn't want to include it; but to not portray the deepening racial divisions and their likely consequences would have been willfully ignorant—an attitude that drives me up the wall in other people on other subjects.

False Flag Cover

     There are aspects of the perfect storm heading America's way that I did not deal with at all in False Flag; and some that barely get mentioned in passing. Maybe I'll have opportunity to incorporate them into future tales, but there just wasn't room for them in this already epic-length book.


     Obviously, most people are completely ignorant of what's going on and dismiss all warnings as “conspiracy theory.” Of those who are aware, many Christians assume the rapture will save them from any sort of inconvenience whatsoever. The rest are busy prepping as best they can.

That's the wise course to take. The survival of you and your loved ones is far, far more important than entertainment of any variety. However, when you're preparing for, and stressing over, impending catastrophe 24/7, sometimes you need to pause and take a few breaths. TEOTWAWKI fiction affords some degree of “escape,” while still keeping you focused enough to not let normalcy bias and the distractions of this world derail your awareness and purpose in the long term.

    That's why I read apocalyptic fiction and will continue doing so while possible. Whenever I have what is now the recurring argument with myself (why should I write TEOTWAWKI fiction when I believe I am staring down the muzzle of TEOTWAWKI right now?), I always wind up descending into a more basic question: why write fiction at all?

   The answer, for me, is: because I can't help it.

Thanks again for visiting the assembly area, Hank. It was a real treat.

You can find Henry at: