Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Cyberpunk just got Biblical.
Actually it got Biblical back in 2007 when Frank Creed released "Flashpoint", Book One of "The Underground", published by The Writers Cafe Press. But, because I'm a slow reader and an inconsistent blogger, I'm just now making the declaration. So there.
My best friend, Johnny, is a huge cyberpunk fan. Growing up, he told me all about William Gibson, we went to see Hackers and Johnny Mnemonic, and we played the RPG (that's "Role Playing Game", for you non-geeks) Shadowrun many a summer afternoon (I was an orc with bionic-enhanced senses...and lots of guns). Now, while I'm not a cyberpunk expert by any means, seeing anything cyberpunk takes me back to simpler times in my youth.
Back in 2007, when I first poked my head out of my writer's cave and began to notice other authors in the "Christian Speculative Fiction" world, Frank's was one of the first names I heard. And, to hear that he had written--what he described as--a "Biblical Cyberpunk" story, I immediately grinned, thinking back to my Shadowrun days.
I've gotten to know Frank a little bit over the years and, now that I've finally read "Flashpoint", I begged him to let me do an interview. The gift of Biblical Cyberpunk must be shared with the world. "Flashpoint" is a crazy, gun-toting, dystopian adventure--and it's fun! Never has the End of All Things been so snarky and carefree. It's like the Book of Revelation by way of Anime (again, "Japanese Animation" for the non-geeks in the audience) with heavy doses of futuristic pop slang--which can sometimes be distracting as we're in the head of the main character--cool weapons, technology, and real true blue heroes who manage to do the right thing, even when the odds are stacked against them--and they always are.
I had so many questions for Frank while reading "Flashpoint", and wanted to interview him after I read the first chapter. But, I buckled my enthusiasm and waited until I finished the thing. So, I'm finished. So, I interviewed. Frank was kind enough to take some time writing about the End Days to sit with me and talk "Flashpoint"!
GM: Hey, Frank! We're finally here! The interview to end all interviews! Okay, anyway... Let's start with the obvious. What's "Flashpoint" about?
FRANK CREED: Thanks, Greg, for this chance to talk about "Flashpoint: Book One of the Underground"! It is about having fun with Dave Williams in the year 2036. In Dave’s world, any who believe in the fundamental truth of a religious text are considered terrorists. In this thought-crime world, Dave and his sister, Jen, Bible believing Christians, are forced underground and take the street names Calamity Kid and e-girl.
As underground saints they have almost superhero powers from a process called "re-formation" that nudges their bodies a little closer to their spirits. Armed with high-tech toys the team must face down peacekeepers, gangers, One State Neros, and fallen angels in Chicago’s dark Post-Modern age of Transhumanism.
GM: I want to go back to the beginning. I can tell from reading this that this is obviously a labor of love for you. How long have you been developing this world of Flashpoint and the Underground?
FC: Over a lifetime. Newscasters indiscriminately using the term "Fundamentalist terrorists" in reference to Muslims bothered me way back in the late 1970s. Calamity Kid’s long coat and twin automatic pistols were inspired by the cartoonist character in one of the Freddy movies. But my first solid "Flashpoint" notes date back to 1992.
GM: Ah! I believe you are referring to A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child! Yes! Now you're speaking my language, brutha! That character was Mark, right? I loved that guy. That was my favorite part of the movie. He should've beat Freddy, too... Poor, poor Mark :(
Back to "Flashpoint", I was completely hooked when I saw the way you combined faith with tech. I thought it was one of the most ingenious ways to turn the whole “we fight not against flesh and blood” spiritual battle that Christians face, and bringing it into a very real and physical context—-but without losing the spiritual aspect of it. Did all that come about naturally, or was there a lot of trial-and-error involved in trying to find the right balance of faith and technology?
FC: Using lethal weapons is a battle against flesh and blood. Sending someone to hell, or even wounding them makes me think of Christ’s arrest in Gethsemane and healing the centurion’s ear after Peter sliced it off.
Using non-lethal weapons, especially when your enemy is playing for keeps, is something of which Christ himself might approve. The concept came to me early but different methods developed throughout the manuscript.
I do wish that modern police and security forces would use non-lethal methods rather than real bullets.
GM: Without getting too spoilery, one of the things that really impressed me was your villain. When he makes his dramatic appearance, he actually comes bearing a very well-thought out argument against Christianity. Some might consider it gutsy to, almost literally, play the Devil’s advocate in a Christian novel. Was this a conscious decision, or did you just get lucky?
FC: I used to debate on discussion boards and had wished that Greek style dialog was still an acceptable form of popular fiction. But it does make for a tedious read. Action movies, however, commonly have heroes and villain tossing witty verbal barbs at each other as they struggle. Meaningful jibes during a duel seemed like a good naturally flowing alternative.
That’s what I love about fiction; if you can find a way to make it acceptable to your reader, all rules are bendable. As I wrote the combat, the dialog came from the characters.
GM: I see on your website that you’ve got Join the Underground : The Role-Playing Game, an anthology, and a sequel in the works. What is it about this world that keeps drawing you back?
FC: You mentioned Join the Underground-—more hours went into this work than any other. The game allows Underground fans years of cheap entertainment by gaming in the setting-—with or without Calamity Kid as your sidekick. A gamer is only limited by their own imagination. RPG designer Mike Roop did a wonderful job on the project, and I hope it does as well as the fiction.
My favorite novel is "1984", and one of my purposes for The Underground series is a modern reminder of what Orwell has already done so well; a warning for what the immediate future may hold. The near future aspect of sci-fi’s cyberpunk sub-genre suits such fiction so well.
Another purpose is to make readers of the series ask themselves if they might have something in common with Christ’s contemporary Jews. They expected the Messiah to be a liberator who saved them from the Roman Empire. What if the Second Coming is not what we’re expecting?
GM: How far in advance have you planned this series? Do you have an ideal number of books that you’re aiming for-—a complete story arc in mind? Or perhaps you’re just writing as the mood strikes you?
FC: There is no ideal number of books, but I have solid notes on books three and four. Beyond that I leave things to His will. The books are spaced between 2036 and 2038, so plenty of fiction (of any length), could pop up anywhere along the timeline.
I guess the most honest answer, though, is that I have such fun in the setting and with these characters. Reviewers are shocked that a dystopia can be so upbeat.
GM: It really is! But I think that that's good--it shows that, even in the worst of scenarios, we can still find something to laugh about, a hero to cheer for, and the will to fight back against the depressing state of the world. I think that's an important lesson that we can learn this side of the Apocalypse, too. So, any hints at what's to come in Book Two of "The Underground" series?
FC: A favorite character from "Flashpoint" is Legacy, who disappears. In "War of Attrition: Book Two of The Underground" we just may learn of Legacy’s fate as Calamity Kid and the crew encounters the power of Mega-corporations. That’s all I’ll say! WoA will *finally* become available in a matter of weeks.
GM: Great! And now, for a very "writer question": What's next for Frank Creed?
FC: The finishing touches are being applied to The Underground anthology: a collection of short fiction by authors that may surprise readers. I love the concept of opening the setting and characters to other creative minds. There are some great tales in this book, all by members of the Lost Genre Guild. I’m hopeful that the title will be available for this Christmas’ shopping season.
Promoting these books and all Biblical speculative fiction of our Lost Genre will be a project in itself for the rest of the year.
GM: I hope it's available this Christmas, too! I've waited long enough! :p In the meantime, what kind of stories can we expect to see in the anthology?
FC: The anthology stretches the novels’ timeline a little, and most stories take place outside the Chicago Metroplex (that's where "Flashpoint" takes place)—-two are even set outside the USA. What remains the same? The cyberpunk toys and fun continue, and the literary quality of the fiction remains constant.
I’ve had a great time with this project and even got to co-author a few of the titles. Some of my own original short stories appear as well. I do believe fans of "The Underground" will be pleased. I am as thankful for them as I am for this interview opportunity. I owe you one, Greg!
GM: Yes, you do. And, remember, Frank. I always collect. Mwuahahaha!
Thanks to Frank Creed for stopping by and thanks to everyone for reading. Go buy the book already, will ya? Here's the trailer!
Buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/Flashpoint-Book-One-Underground-Bk/dp/1934284017
Visit Frank at: http://www.frankcreed.com