Today’s guest-post is a bit of a first. Two men enter the squared circle of this blog and only one man leaves. Cue theme music. Cut the lights. The interview begins…
M. D. Jackson is a science fiction and fantasy artist. His work has been seen on book covers from Pulpwork Press, Rage Machine Books and others. He has also had artwork featured in Dark Worlds Magazine, Outer Reaches, Realms, A Fly in Amber, and Imagine FX Magazines. He is also a blog columnist for the Amazing Stories website.
Jack Mackenzie is a writer who has had numerous short stories published in Dark Worlds Magazine, Raygun Revival, Encounters Magazine, as well as the anthologies Kings of the Night, Sails and Sorcery and Swords of Fire. His first novel, The Mask of Eternity has been published by Rage Machine Books and his second novel, Debt’s Pledge is scheduled to be released later this year.
These two talented individuals sat down for a chat recently. The results were… unexpected.
M.D. JACKSON: So, Jack, we’ve worked together on a couple of things, the latest of which is your book, The Mask of Eternity.
JACK MACKENZIE: What did you do?
M: I painted the cover.
J: Big whoop. I wrote the book. I did all the work.
M: Okay, well, cover art isn’t the same as writing a whole book, I know. But it’s nice, right?
J: It’s okay.
M: Okay, well, tell me about the book.
J: The Mask of Eternity, at its core is about the nature of reality and about how we, as part of the fabric of that reality, can influence the universe around us.
M: Uh…okay. But there are spaceships, right?
J: Well, yes, there are spaceships and aliens and all the things you would expect from a science fiction book. It’s classic space opera, yes, so it will appeal to fans of STAR TREK or BABYLON 5 or FARSCAPE, but it’s also about more than just spaceships and aliens, it’s about our place in the fabric of reality.
M: Because I put an alien on the cover. And a spaceship.
J: Yeah. That was pretty weak, actually. Your Daa’baa’kh didn’t look nearly as scary as I’d imagined him. And your spaceships suck.
M: I painted them the way you described them.
J: No you didn’t. You painted them the way you wanted to.
M: Okay, let’s get back to the book. Why did you write it?
J: For the money. Heh.
M: No, really. The book features a number of very strong female protagonists, which is refreshing. What prompted that?
J: Actually I was watching a documentary on television.
M: About the nature of reality?
J: No. It was about Troma Entertainment and their Scream Queens.
M: Scream Queens?
J: Yeah. Troma Pictures are the studio that produced THE TOXIC AVENGER and SURF NAZIS MUST DIE. They make dreadful pictures and they feature actresses whose job it is to be sexy, jiggle, scream and usually die in very bloody and violent ways. As I was watching the actresses being interviewed it became obvious that a lot of them were very upset about the sexist and misogynistic way they were being portrayed. As I was watching I though; Hey, I could write a better film than the crap the studio puts out. I could write a film that would cast these women, who are really sweet people, and give them something better to play then T&A objects. That’s where the germ of the story began.
M: That’s very… that’s strange. These aren’t ‘B’ movies, these are, like, ‘C’ or ‘D’ pictures.
J: Yeah, their films are awful but good ideas can come from the weirdest places.
M: So your main character, Solace DeLacey, started life as one of these… Scream Queens?
J: Yeah. Julie Strain. She’s very hot.
M: Wasn’t she in HEAVY METAL 2000? I mean her voice, right?
M: So, if The Mask of Eternity were to be made into a movie, you’d want Troma Pictures to…
J: Fuck, no! Those guys make shitty pictures! I’d want a decent studio and ‘A’ list actors.
M: Okay. Let’s talk about your other work. Tell me about the Ka Sirtago and Poet stories.
J: Well, Ka Sirtago and Poet… there’s another idea that was prompted by a documentary. I was watching a documentary about the Alpha Male. The documentary showed an example of an atypical alpha male — a monkey who had only one eye and a strange, tusk-like tooth. Normally a monkey like that would not take the top spot but within this particular group of monkeys this one’s mother was the dominant female and she helped pave the way fro him to become the top banana (pardon the pun). I started thinking about a human analogue of that situation and that was how I came up with Ka Sirtago, the prince of Trigassa who has a hideously scarred face but maintains his position because of his mother who is the de-facto ruler of the kingdom.
I didn’t think I could write about Sirtago on his own so I created a foil for him in Poet, who is learned and sensitive and yet every bit as deadly with his twin daggers as Sirtago is with a sword or an axe. So the Ka Sirtago stories are kind of like mini “buddy movies” where the two get into trouble and have to find their way out. Sirtago is the brawn and Poet is the brain. Sirtago is slave to his appetites but Poet keeps him focussed on the tasks at hand. It’s a dynamic that has worked over half a dozen stories.
M: Will there be any more?
J: Oh, yeah. And maybe a novel down the road. I’m certainly not done chronicling their adventures. There will be many more.
M: I illustrated one of them. That was fun.
J: Yeah, that’s nice.
M: So what’s next for you?
J: DEBT’S PLEDGE is another science fiction novel I have coming out soon. It’s very action oriented but it also examines our place in time — how we owe a debt not just to those who have paved the way for us, but also to those who will come after us.
M: Kind of like a ‘Pay-it-forward’?
J: No. Completely different.
M: So how did this one come about?
J: Well, you know how Gene Roddenberry used to describe Star Trek as Hornblower in Space?
M: I thought that was ‘Wagon Train to the Stars’?
J: That was what he said for people who weren’t literate. So if Star Trek is Hornblower in Space, then DEBT’S PLEDGE is Sharpe in Space.
M: Richard Sharpe? Bernard Cornwell’s hero?
J: Yup. The book was very much inspired by Cornwell’s Sharpe novels, which are really excellent books. I can’t recommend them or his other novels enough. Cornwell is a terrific adventure writer.
M: So you ripped him off?
J: No. It’s an homage. I didn’t rip him off. I’m gonna kick your ass.
M: Uh… just not the hands, okay? I need them.
J: You’re not worth the effort.
THE MASK OF ETERNITY is available now for kindle and in paperback and hardcover from Rage Machine Books. The Ka Sirtago stories can be found for Kindle and other e-reader formats at the Rage Machine e-Bookstore. A print version will be available soon.