The Alternate Futures Podcast
The Alternate Futures podcast features interviews with indie science fiction creators where we discuss their work, the world, and anything in-between. while this mostly means authors, I’m open to indie science fiction creators using a wide range of media.
If you have any comments or would like to see me interview your favourite indie science fiction creator, feel free to contact me.
2.13 Gerald M. Kilby
In this episode, I chat with Gerald M. Kilby. Coming January 7.
Story Introduction: Life Choices
by Gerald M. Kilby
I woke up on a cold, wet concrete floor, stark naked, the headphones were still on my head…
Website: edwinhrydberg.com (alternatefutures.co.uk)
More insights on Edwin’s writing can be found at Author Insights on Indie Book Showcase.
Edwin: Welcome to the alternate futures podcast, where we chat with indie science fiction, creators about their work, the world, and anything in between. I’m your host, Edwin Rydberg. And for this first episode, I thought I’d introduced myself, my path to writing and a bit about the goals and structure of the podcast moving forward.
So I grew up in a small town in Northwestern, Ontario, Canada times were different back then. This was like the seventies as a long time ago, especially in rural Canada, we had one small cinema in the town and one channel on television. This was the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the national network a little bit like the British BBC, but a lot smaller.
Fortunately, all of this was enough for me to still watch, the original star Trek and to see the original star wars movies when they came out as an impressionable kid, for anyone like me at the time, and these were life changing experiences, seeing an epic space fantasy on the big screen with special effects that still for the most part hold up today was amazing. And it really ignited my interest in space and science and science fiction.
So I grew up with Star Wars and I’m one of the people who was heartbroken at the mess made of the sequels. I’m hoping that they’ll get back on track with that shortly. And it was because, you know, this is a. This was a story I grew up with and characters and a universe that was important to me as a, as a, someone interested in science fiction.
Anyway, on at risk of alienating, some of my other listeners I did see some of the Doctor Who episodes as a kid. We got some of the BBC feed on the Saturday mornings, but I never really could get into Doctor I always thought the aliens were kind of comically unrealistic and I did discover later this was intentional, but for me at the time it was, it was kind of a deal breaker.
In terms of science fiction books, my early influences were Asimov’s Foundation series the works of Arthur C. Clark, which formed the basis of a report I did in high school. Alan Dean foster, especially the PIP and Flink series as a kid. And then his Damned trilogy, then the Uplift War by David Brin should go without saying, I suppose that Aldous Huxley’s brave new world and George Orwell’s 1984 were among those as well.
Since then, I’m also discovered the classic works of Phillip K Dick and William Gibson, as well as authors like Richard Morgan, Ian M banks, Robert J. Sawyer, Tricia Sullivan, Lauren Bewkes, and Justine Robson to name a few. Despite this, my only attempt at writing science fiction in the early part of my life was a short comic book, that was a combination of James Bond and star wars that I wrote when I was 10.
After that I focused largely on science and research until the end of university and then majored in biochemistry. Great. But it was my overseas PO post-doctoral positions that kind of returned me to the path of right.
Initially I was the resident English speaking native. So, so my writing or writing related jobs were in regards to scientific articles, promotional pieces for sponsors and whatnot. But a friend I met there in my first position, turned me back on to science fiction writing. And with his permission, I wrote a short story featured on my website, which is titled Awaken from that Gentle Good Night, which has said in a world that he created.
During my next position in Italy, I want a Europe wide science writing contest where the goal was to write a short story that made a scientific concept accessible to the general public. And that made me think maybe I might have a bit of potential in this writing thing.
As it happens shortly after that there was a rapid series of light life-changing events. All of them positive, but life-changing nonetheless changed countries, got married, had a child, found myself as a stay at home dad and decided to give writing a more serious try, quickly realized I didn’t know what I was doing and that I needed others to learn from, so I joined writing.com.
I found this to be an exciting, vibrant community and I was writing and experimenting a lot while I was a member of the site. This inspired me to attempt my first NaNoWriMo national novel writing, month. And I succeeded in that one, which led me to finish three manuscripts in a year and a half. But then I changed direction and I started thinking that there were so many authors on writing.com that should be published, and this was the beginning of the, the self publishing era.
So I come up with the idea to, to sort of form a group, from the website of the volunteers and publish a science fiction anthology. And so we had some volunteer readers, volunteer editors, volunteer cover designers. And this, this basically birthed the Utility Fog Press and the name, as many of you probably know utility fog is well, basically, it’s a swarm of nannites a group of smaller entities that working together can create something more than themselves. And that, and that’s kind of my my outlook on life and working with others and whatnot. And that, and that’s also that that philosophy has shaped much of my direction forward.
We ended up publishing three anthologies altogether. Although two of them are only two of them are still available. Those are Farspace Two and Assassins’ Canon.
Then although I joined the writing group at the time you know, real world writing group and. And was part of that for most of the next decade. I still, I changed direction into digital art, which is kind of something I discovered during the creation of the anthologies. And I was in there for maybe as much as eight years into sort of that direction created how many pieces that I sold at science fiction conventions and including the most recently in the London, Worldcon in 2015.
And that experience really helped me develop in my creation of book covers interior designs for children’s picture books, which I commonly do now for authors through my facilitated self publishing imprint of quantum.press. Finally I did however, return to writing. I’m cleaning up those early books and getting them out there, which they should hopefully be out soon.
And also some of the other writing that I’ve done in the time and putting all that together into a, into a, basically an epic space science fiction, fantasy universe, essentially keeping in the vein of utility fog, however, I am also writing collaboratively with other authors on fun projects, through a campfire stories project I’ve started via Utility Fog Press and links for all of the, anything that I’m mentioning here will be available on the alternate futures.co.uk page. And the transcript of this episode, if you are interested in checking it out yourself.
My own interest when I’m writing science fiction is an exploring the human side of the story. Specifically how humanity and society will change as our technology becomes more powerful and invasive. You know, what, what issues will our future generations face that we can scarcely comprehend? As many of you are well aware, we’re starting to see some of those issues now.
And that’s kind of what I want to unwrap a little bit with some of the authors moving forward in the podcast series. You might, you might guess from some of my science fiction inspirations the foundation series, star wars, star Trek that, that I do like. The epic scale of many of these stories.
And it’s actually part of what keeps me from publishing more frequently as is my stories keep growing as I develop them, and I never really get to the end point. And so this is something I I’ve been working on in the last few years and how to arrange them into a universe where I can actually create these standalone stories.
As for the podcast. I like to use it to highlight the works and ideas of independent science fiction creators, while at the same time, having interesting discussions with them about their writing and the world and their life, et cetera. It’s so easy to find information and content about famous authors, but there are, there are a lot of quality authors writing in relative obscurity, and I want to help bring some of them to the attention of science fiction enthusiasts.
The podcast in general features two parts. First is the interview where we learn about the author. And then second is what I call Revenge of the Muse. So to add a little bit of creative flare to the show and provide you the listener with some original fiction, I send an author four randomly ruled story cubes that represent the categories of Hero, Action, Setting or Journey, and Science Fiction Element.
And I asked them to prepare a short introduction to a story using those cubes as guide. After we read their story, we discussed their thought processes that went into interpreting the cubes and creating the story. So this kind of gives you a, maybe a feel for how they approach their, their own writing.
Since I’m both hosts and guests of this first episode it was only fair that I did the exercise myself and I swear I didn’t cheat by re-rolling to get what I like. Although I really wish I had in some points because I was quite stuck on a few of the cubes for a while.
For those following along at home, who’d like to try their hand at this, or just to kind of see what the image is actually were the story openings and the image cube images will be available on AlternateFutures.co.uk in the podcast section.
All right. So here’s what I came up with for my four rolls.
Johnny Starbuck kept hidden and tried to stay warm as he waited for an opening in the distant security system. Rolling Hills spread before him, gentle waves of magma from what was once an active volcano were covered by a thick white blanket that lay over the dead world.
There were no trees, no birds, no cute bunny rabbits leaving their distinctive footprints in the fresh snow. It might’ve been a skier’s as paradise, if anyone had been allowed to ski. Instead the entire planet was owned by TesserAct and interstellar mega Corp. That was in turn owned by trillionaire Timothy Spacely.
The Sprocket mogul had gotten rich creating a trans-spacial propulsion system that shortened interplanetary travel times from decades. to days. Hailed as hero philanthropist by the media, he’d given away the blueprints for the propulsion system, hosting them on the galactic web for any and all to use as they would.
The blueprints included every detail, except how to make the key component. As the only supplier of the miracle Sprocket Spacely became immensely wealthy, selling it to all who could afford it. For some reason, all attempts to reverse engineer, it had failed in any attempt to discover the factory where they were manufactured had also been unsuccessful.
Laying prone. Johnny was wrapped warmly in a thermal suit. As he lay in case in a small amount of snow through the telescopic lens of his camera. He stared at what appeared to be a plasma cannon with low orbital range. That kind of defense system suggests that he was on the right path and thoughts of how much he could make selling the blueprints and the hidden factory below it, filled him with warmth. He lived like a king on his own planet with that kind of money.
Assuming he could get off this planet, when the time came.
It hadn’t been easy, finding transport to the private planet. Johnny had spent his time gathering information in seedy bars, backwater mining colonies, and even from Helio wave surfers before finally hitching a ride aboard an ice transport and jettisoning to the surface in an escape capsule.
Getting off the planet was almost certainly going to be harder, but he’d cross that line when he came to it.
For now, it looked like he was finally in luck. As a gap had opened in the patrol pattern of the drones, patrolling the area. Johnny jumped up from his hiding spot and raced forward through the knee-deep snow, keeping a careful watch for the return of the patrols. What he didn’t expect was a cartoon character popping up in front of him.
It was a strange looking dog.
Hey mister, you don’t belong here, it said in a weird accent that sounded like half bark, half speech.
Johnny looked around, but couldn’t see any drones or anyone else who might be projecting the image. I don’t want any trouble. He said, continuing to run forward, the dog turned and followed him. I’m ASTRO, the artificial security Targeted Response Option and you’d better stop, it said sounding more agitated.
The automated holographic warning had him concerned, but Johnny decided to continue on since there was no other evidence of security being alerted. Don’t go there, the dog said continuing to follow up, but otherwise not interfering.
As Johnny reached the plasma cannon, he saw an entrance portal, but almost immediately another cartoon appeared this one of a short, portly, balding, man.
No, you can’t go in there. Go away. Spacely must have some sense of humor, thought Johnny reaching for the portal keypad.
I warned you, the cartoon said before it pulled a laser pistol from its belt and pointed it at him.
Johnny didn’t know whether to laugh or run, but it didn’t matter because moments later he lay unconscious in the snow at the base of the hard light emitter, he’d mistaken for a plasma cannon.
So that’s the first original story in the podcast series. What went through my head when I was coming up with this? All right. So my cubes, the hero cube it looks like a ninja or someone in a snow suit. So I kind of took it as a character who was being stealthy. And I did also use the snowsuit bit.
The action was very confusing for me. It’s, it’s basically a head or a snow globe with a face that appears to be laughing. So I took this as kind of a, a little bit humorous a little bit weird. And then you can see that, that sort of, I brought in the cartoon part of that and well, we’ll get to the scifi element, but this was sort of inspired by an idea I had had regarding a forum discussion.
Some time ago that someone was suggesting in a shared universe that you had to keep your stories grounded in reality, and you couldn’t have anything like planets with cartoon characters on them. And so I came up with an idea of how you could have a planet with cartoon characters on it.
For example, with population uploaded to servers and then projecting themselves through various types of emitters onto the surface of the planet to make it look populated or whatnot.
Setting features it is a camera. So I spent some time thinking about that, but, you know, obvious camera, photography, surveillance journalism comes to mind.
So that incorporated that with, into Johnny’s sort of motivation. And then the Scifi Element looks like radio telescope or for those of you who are familiar with The Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, it looks like an ion cannon.
And so that’s what I came up with and I hope you enjoyed it.
Thank you for listening transcripts of this, and all episodes are available at alternatefutures.co.uk, as are the story cube, images, and original story openings written by my guests along with any website links, et cetera, that are mentioned within the, within the interview or the podcast itself.
If you’ve enjoyed this, why not share it with friends and othersci-fi fans you know? And if there are any indie scifi creators, you’d like to see featured, send me a message at email@example.com. At the moment I’m thinking primarily authors, but also people like video game creators potentially even artists.
Finally, if you’d like to support this podcast financially, you can do so on Subscribe Star, just search for Alternate Futures. There, you can find extra discussions and information that hasn’t made it into the final edit.
And thank you once again for listening. I hope you’ll join me on the next episode.