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Old 02-24-2009, 10:01 AM   #1
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Steve Jordan interviews the cast of The Lens

Konichi-wa. I'm Steve Jordan, and I've been offered a rare opportunity. I am standing just outside of the space freighter Mary, featured in the novel Berserker, and the soon-to-be-released novel The Lens. I have been given permission to go on-board the Mary and speak to its cast--er, crew, about the upcoming novel, and anything else they want to talk about, before it is released! And as this is a sort-of pseudo kinda something like live feed, you, my MR friends, can also suggest questions for me to ask the crew, about anything you want! (And they may even answer you!)

Yeah! Cool, isn't it? Just like a DVD extra!

First: How did I get here? Well, yesterday a strange, tiny man in a dark cloak showed up at my door and presented me with a box... then ran away. I opened the box--after making sure it wasn't ticking... certainly a futile gesture with digital watches these days--and discovered a device with a few buttons, and a label which read: Mr. Quantum Right Brane Displacement Tuned Macro Organism Translator (MQRBDTMOT, for short... like it helps) with Optional TARDIS Locator and Key Fob.

Well, being a key fob aficionado (remind me to tell you sometime about my brand new auto-expandable superhero costume fob--it's cool, but a b***h to fold back up!), I naturally unpacked everything and found that the key fob projected an instruction manual before my eyes! After giving it a quick once-over, I realized that I would be able to translate myself into the Right Brane, where my stories originate before I translate them to novels... and actually speak to the characters in my novels!

So: There was no question who I was going to visit first (actually... I wanted to visit Alain Guest first, but his new girlfriend scares the hell out of me. Maybe after a few dozen drinks.). So I worked the controls, on the MQRBDTMOT, pressed the fob, and here I am!

Don't ask me how my cellphone works here--heck, I'm not sure how it works at home--but I was able to call ahead, and they're expecting me, so I'm just waiting for them to open the hatch and ask me in...
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Old 02-24-2009, 10:10 AM   #2
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what fine wenches you have on those book covers .....
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Old 02-24-2009, 10:11 AM   #3
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Steve, I've never gotten a real sense of the size of the space freighter Mary. Is there anything you can compare it to that I might know? (A terminal at BWI, the new terminal building at Ronald Regan National Airport, FedEx Field?) Also, is it new and shinny looking like most NASA vehicles or looking like most over the road trucks and railroad box cars?
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Old 02-24-2009, 10:42 AM   #4
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Geoff, I'll try to discreetly pass that on when I see the Captain. Regarding the Mary: Wood, it's huuuge! It must be a good city block long, and maybe five, six stories high. The engine pods alone are the size of boxcars! I can't see any seams in the hull, it's pretty much smooth, with just a few little ports and modules here and there... they look like they're molded right into the skin. And it's white, like shiny alabaster... I mean, it's pretty! Of course, it's a relatively new ship, and I guess a few years will put some blemishes on it eventually. But right now--

Ah, there's the hatch opening... and unless I miss my guess... yes, that's Captain Carolyn Kestral waving me up! Come on... (I am so geeking out over this!)

"Welcome to the Mary, Mister Jordan! It's so nice to meet you in person."

And you, Captain! My MobileRead colleagues would like me to pass on their compliments on your... ah... attractiveness. Yes. As a matter of fact, you're... uh, taller than I imagined you.

"I get that a lot. And you, uh... look thinner in person."

Thanks! I've dropped a few pounds... heh... anyway, why don't we get started with the interviews?

"Certainly! And if you and your friends would like, we can also walk around the Mary, and I can show you some of the amenities."

That would be great! And where is the rest of the crew?

"Oh, they're about somewhere... we'll run into them soon enough."

Okay. So: You're just back from the planet Shura Dva, where most of the story The Lens takes place. Nice planet?

"Well, it's still in the process of being terraformed, so it's really not much to look at. And after our visit, we were happy enough to leave!"

I can dig it. We know, of course, that you had quite an adventure on Shura Dva, although only you and I know the details.

"It was an incredible adventure, Steve! And as rough as it was at times, I can assure you that I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

Excellent. Ah, we seem to be approaching the bridge of the Mary. Would Mark O'Bannon possibly be here?

"Well, let's see..."

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Old 02-24-2009, 11:04 AM   #5
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Ask about the crew - any dogs/cats - non-humans?
Do they like chocolate?
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Old 02-24-2009, 11:35 AM   #6
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Wow, look at this bridge. For my MR friends, the bridge isn't so much like a bridge you might be familiar with... it's sort of like, um, a large interior office. There's a viewscreen on the far wall, where a forward port might be... but there are no windows here. It has these three desks, two of them side by side, and one behind them. Captain, this desk back here is yours, right?

"That's right, the Captain's station. That one is the support station, which is only occasionally needed. And there, at the pilot's station... this is Mark O'Bannon, my first officer and pilot."

Mister O'Bannon... pleasure to meet you!

"Call me Mark."

Of course! You can all call me Steve, by the way.

"So, you're the one in the Left Brane that's transcribing our stories into e-books! How in the world did you get here, anyway?"

I was given a MQRBDTMOT by a strange visitor. See?

"Looks like a key fob."

Oh... yes! Well, the MQRBDTMOT sort of sits between branes, and I call it with the fob when I'm ready to go back.

"I... see."

No, really.

"If you say so."

So... Mark, I've heard quite a few comments about the Martian appearance... the black skin and white hair, and all. Up close, it's very striking. If you don't mind my asking--

"Yes, it's black and white there, too."

It... Oh! No, no, I was gonna ask something else! (But I'm sure a few people will be glad you cleared that up.) uh... Knowing that your skin and hair color comes from your ancestors' experimenting with improperly-tested skin therapy treatments, do you or other Martians ever get any... I dunno, grief from other races about the bad judgment of your forebears?

"Oh, no... that kind of thing went away generations ago! It would be like criticizing an Australian for having ancestors who were criminals."

Good point. Mark, I understand that on this adventure, you met someone from your past. Can you tell us about that?

"Well, yes. I happened to meet someone who was aboard the scout craft I used to rescue a group of innocents from a battle zone."

That was the mission that cost you your Ranger career, wasn't it?

"That's right, it was. No big, though... I was just as happy to leave."

So how does that fit into the story?

"Well, the girl's name is Sharee, and she is now a member of the Oan Engineer's Guild. With her help, I managed to get involved with what was going on between the Engineers and the Cargans on Shura Dva... I'm not spoiling anything, am I?"

No, not yet...

"Ah, good. So, anyway, Sharee helps me to assist them with their little... problem, and save their terraforming operation. For now, at least."

For now?

"Well, they still have a lot of work to do, back there. But they've got a much better chance at it now."

And what happened to Sharee?

"Ah, that would be telling! Spoilers..."

Yes, of course... silly of me! So, how is working for Captain Kestral?

"Oh, this is a great job... some of the most enjoyable work I've ever had, really! 'Course, every now and then, it gets a bit stale. But when it does, something like Shura Dva comes up... or Lief's Planet... and we get a little excitement."

Lief's Planet? Tell us about that.

"Actually, you should talk to the others... I was sort of in the background through a lot of that, and they can give you more background on that one..."

"Mark's Being modest, Steve. If it weren't for Mark, we'd probably have died on Lief's Planet... or worse."

Worse? What's worse than dying?

"I'll tell you, while we check out more of the ship, and look for a few more of the crew. Come on."

Sure... whoa! Carolyn, is that--

"Oh, don't mind that, Steve. That's just the ship's remote drone. It hovers around and monitors things for the Mary, sometimes inside the ship, and sometimes outside. It's pretty quiet in hover mode, and until your ear gets attuned to it, it can sort of sneak up on you."

Neat! It looks like a smoked glass orb. I can see tiny lights flashing inside of it... but I don't hear anything. What makes it float?

"It has its own gravity field that it uses to propel itself. It just floats around the ship, doing its job."

Sort of like a ship's mascot, huh?

"Well... I tend to think of it as a remote independently-mobile sensory node and intercommunications tool... but I suppose you could call it a mascot, yes."

Mm. So, I'd guess there aren't any pets aboard, huh?

"Why? Did you plan to bring one?"

No...
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Old 02-24-2009, 01:06 PM   #7
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Hey, is that one of the crew quarters?

"Yes, it is... would you like to see?"

Absolutely! I've always wondered what the cabins were like... hey, this is nice! Friends, I'm inside what can be considered a stateroom, like a large hotel suite. There's a main room... well, area, really, with a sofa and a few chairs, a large viewscreen on the wall, and a desk with a ship's console... this allows you to access the ship's intelligence system and library, yes?

"That's right."

Nice. And over here, in an adjoining space, is the bed... mmm, memory foam. (wish I had a glass of wine...) Looks like plenty of built-in drawers, and a nice-sized closet. Then, there's a private bathroom. This looks fairly normal, overall, except for the shower: It looks more like a big pod, and inside of it, instead of shower nozzles, there are grills on each side, above and below. I'll bet this is a sonic shower, isn't it?

"We just call it a shower, but yes, it uses sonics instead of water."

Nice. You just use water for the commode, then?

"That's sonic, too."

Really?

"Of course. We can't afford to be as wasteful with water as people were before the 21st century! If we did, we'd've used up all the hydrogen in this arm of the galaxy by now! Sonic cleaning is much more efficient, sanitary, and even pleasurable. Depending on the setting."

That must be... interesting.

"Are you blushing? Ah, you Old Earthers and your provincial ideas..."

Yes, well, on that note, maybe we should move on!

"Sure. Why don't we check out the common area?"

Great! I hear you can get a great cup of coffee on this ship.

"Yes... almost always. As it turned out, coffee wasn't nearly as enjoyable while we were on Shura Dva. That planet did some... interesting things to food."

But it all reverted to normal again when you left?

"Yes, thank the Gods! I almost had a mutiny on my hands, thanks to... well, I don't want to give too much away."

Spoilers. Of course. Let me say, wandering around the Mary is a wonderful experience. The corridors are a nice size, plenty of room to walk side-by-side. Not quite as big as a Star Trek corridor, maybe...

"Star what?"

Star Trek, you know, the Enterprise...

"What kind of enterprise? Is that a business venture?"

Well... it is, the way Paramount runs it. Never mind... ah, and now, we're in the common area. It's like a big rec room with a big table, a few smaller game tables, some loungers, and a kitchen on one wall.

"Oh, don't let Angel hear you call this a kitchen! I think he's used to much more elaborate cooking spaces... like you'd find in your average four-star restaurant. We call it the galley. But, yes, we get together for meals here, talk about work, hang out, play fizzbin..."

Oh, I'm not going there.

"Of course you wouldn't. It's Tuesday."

And the sun's still up. Is there some coffee made?

"Here you go..."

Thanks. Hey... 3-D chess! Let's see... how do you move the pieces? Is it a joystick, or...?

"Um... you just pick one up and move it. See? It's not a hologram..."

Heh! Of course... silly of me... oh, is that the infirmary? In Berserker, you hid a small incubator here that was supposed to hold a sample of the Raian virus.

"Yes... it was just under there. Sitting on it's side, it looked like it was built-in. Of course, after the Raians found it and melted it down, it took a blowtorch to get it out."

Do you still have it? A memento of your first mission together?

"There are some things you don't want to be reminded of, Steve. That whole episode just serves to remind me of how stupid it was not to tell my crew about my carrying the dormant Berserker virus. That first mission almost became our last. No, I don't need any reminders of that lying around."

I understand. Can I see the cargo bay?

"No problem. This way..."
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Old 02-24-2009, 03:33 PM   #8
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Old 02-24-2009, 03:49 PM   #9
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I was hoping I'd get more questions from the MR members, but I got a quark-burst a second ago... something about everyone being out chasing dogs...

Oh... my... God. It's like the closing scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark in here! Look at all the containers!

"Well, as a matter of fact, we'll be taking these crates to our next stop in a few days. They are from the private collection of a media mogul who died recently, and most of it will be sold to pay off his estate. Mind the hand truck..."

You mean this sleigh-looking thing? Hardly looks big enough to hold a nine year old boy. Carolyn, early on in The Lens, you end up staging a fight in here.

"Yes, on Lief's Planet: A bunch of criminals were trying to rob a settlement, and we lured the leader and his men in here to try to subdue them."

You and your crew seem to have some LEET fighting skills!

"Well, of course Mark and I have had the benefit of Ranger training, which includes comprehensive combat training. Tirri and Sarander haven't had the same kind of training, but Sarander just fights like a bull, and Tirri... well, I don't know where her fighting ability comes from, but you have to see it to believe it!"

Word. Doesn't Tirri work back here?

"Let's see if we can find her... I think she's working on one of the booms further into the bay."

Along with Mark, Tirri is the other member of your crew who isn't baseline-human.

"Right: She is an Avian."

So she is genetically altered to best adapt her to the planet she was born on. She has hollow bones, and feathers instead of hair.

"Her hair is essentially a compound follicle... but it looks like feathers. She's very light and agile, but strong, and better-suited than baseline humans for working in 3-D spaces and variable gravity environments. And like I said, you should see her fight!"

With Mark and Tirri here, it's kind of like having aliens on board, isn't it?

"Well, maybe. There are some races in the Galarchy that look pretty alien! But as much as we might want to meet beings from other planets, the world we're in is much better than living with actual aliens."

How so?

"Well, think about it: First of all, we all have a common ancestry... we're all human. That means a basic cultural understanding between us."

I follow.

"Then, there's the fact that we can speak to and understand each other. Think about how great that is... and how unlikely it would be with aliens! We can barely communicate with the Raians, and we've been working on that for decades now! With aliens, you don't have a cultural base, so sharing concepts is much harder. And who says aliens will vibrate vocal cords to communicate? They might blink lights in the infra-red spectrum at each other, which we couldn't even see..."

Like trying to 'hear' radio waves...

"Exactly! The possibility that we'd be able to communicate effectively with multiple races of aliens would be impossibly remote! Then, there's biology: Most Oan races can eat the same foods, breathe the same atmosphere, see and hear the same messages and warnings, operate the same machinery with similar appendages, et-cetera. Again... aliens with completely foreign biologies would be unlikely to be able to do those things. You'd be so occupied with providing air, food, basic biological services, controls, messages and warnings that every alien could understand, et-cetera... just like language, it would be impossible to do it! I'd never want to be part of a world like that... what an insane idea... it would never work!"

Heh... funny you should say that...

"Oh, I think I see Tirri around there."
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Old 02-24-2009, 04:36 PM   #10
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Waaa! Now I have to read Steve's books... waa... my poor to-read list.

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Old 02-24-2009, 04:37 PM   #11
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Old 02-24-2009, 04:53 PM   #12
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"Yes, there she is! Tirri, I'd like you to meet our guest."

"Oh, hi! You're Steve... the writer guy! Nice to meet you!"

Pleasure's all mine. What are you doing here?

"Just servicing this boom. It was acting up on Shura Dva, and this is the first chance I've had to service it. It dropped a crate, and... well, I don't want to get into that right now."

You don't want your client to know one of their crates was damaged?

"No... it's a spoiler! Duh! Aren't we supposed to be avoiding spoilers?"

Ah, of course! Quite right, let's skip the crate. So, you run this entire cargo bay. It's massive!

"Oh, yeah, we can hold a lot of cargo. I mean, we're not a Valley Forge-class freighter, but we have a lot of space. And this is just the main bay... we have smaller bays above this, on the next level, for more sensitive supplies, and things that need customized atmospheres."

Could you carry animals and livestock in here?

"Well, yes, I suppose. Were you planning on bringing some?"

No... just asking. Uh, you haven't seen any stray dogs around here, have you?

"Sorry."

Never mind... I'm sure they'll turn up. Tirri, you're one of two crewmembers on-board who are not baseline-human. Does that ever present any problems for you?

"My husband's a baseline-human, you know. In fact, some of my best friends are baseline-human."

But seriously...

"Seriously, no, not usually. Although I had my own... issues on Shura Dva. That place was just not conducive to my health and welfare! Was it, Carolyn?"

"I'll say! Another good reason we were glad to get out of there!"

"Anyway, there's no one on this ship with any prejudices or preconceptions about Avians, or any other race, for that matter. Well... maybe Mark, the things I've heard him say about Lokians. And, of course, none of us like Spiders--I mean, Raians. But they mostly want to wipe us out, so that goes without saying."

Right. Your feathers... well, compound follicles... are really fascinating to look at, if you don't mind my saying so. It sort of... drifts about on the breeze a bit, it's very hypnotic. If you don't mind my asking...

"Yes, there's feathers down there, too."

Whu--No! (Why does everyone think I'm gonna ask stuff like that?) I was gonna say: On your home planet, did your feathers serve any purpose in helping you to get around?

"Oh, no. From what I understand, the compound follicles were a by-product of the genetic alterations done to Avians, not a desired trait. Avians use flying rigs to get around, which is why we were bred like birds to be lighter, and more comfortable in open space. But the feathers do serve a useful purpose: They're great insulators, better than regular hair, or even fur."

I see! And speaking of seeing, I imagine your larger pupils make it easier to see greater distances?

"Well, mostly to see better detail. For instance, if you look over there at that red crate... see it? I can read the label on the bottom left corner from here."

What label?

"There... the bottom left corner. It says 'This end up'... oh. I guess I should fix that."

"Good idea! And while you're doing that, I'll take Steve upstairs, and see if we can't find Angel."

"Okay, have a good tour! See you later!"

And you...
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Old 02-24-2009, 04:55 PM   #13
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Okay, seriously, how is it that artifical gravity continues to work while your ship is getting the tar whupped out of it by the Raians?
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Old 02-24-2009, 08:04 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Steve Jordan View Post
... Can I see the cargo bay?

..."
Wasn't the cargo bay wrecked when the security harnesses broke? Hope it wasn't too long to repair.


Way to go Steve. Kestral is, I think, one of your best avenues to follow through.
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Old 02-24-2009, 08:16 PM   #15
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Okay, Carolyn, I've had a question posed by one of the MR people: how is it that artifical gravity continues to work while your ship is getting the tar whupped out of it by the Raians?

"Well, this ship hasn't been 'whupped by Raians'... thank goodness. If you're referring to our first mission, remember, the Ranger heavy cruiser Superman showed up and deflected a particle beam that would have cut us in half. At that point, it wouldn't have mattered how good the gravity systems were. The gravity systems work in conjunction with inertial manipulation fields to maintain a steady gravity, and usually do a great job. However, when you're near a strong gravity well... say, inside a Sun's corona... it'll work, but so weakly that it's like it isn't even there. Then things can get messy. We bounced around like ping pong balls on that one, and Tirri almost ended up crushed by machinery in the bay. Fortunately, she's very agile."

And did it take long to repair the bay after that incident?

"Well, we had to take a few weeks to check and remount every security harness in the bay. The standard mounting system was to spec, legally ... but I decided they could be much better. That kept us going nowhere for awhile, but we didn't want to see it happen again. Uh, what?"

You're climbing a ladder.

"Yes?"

Well, this is a space ship. Aren't there turbolifts, or something?

"What's wrong with ladders?"

Well, nothing, I guess...

"A space ship is a self-contained vessel that travels alone in deep space. You don't waste power on things like turbolifts in deep space when you don't have to. And we don't have to. Besides, there are service shafts that run from top to bottom, and stem to stern, which are isolated from the gravity systems and therefore maintain a neutral gravity. If we have to move something heavy from one level or section to another, we use those."

Okay, I get it. No wasted energy. Good thinking. So, these are the upper storage bays. It's sort of like walking around in a big self-storage facility. Does each one of these maintain its own environmental system?

"About half of them do, by default. Others can be set up to run their own ecosystems, if needed. A lot of them are just used to store our own things. That one there holds most of Sarander's excess engine supplies. Come on, the farm is right over here."

Yes, I want to see this...
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