Friday, November 23, 2012

Interview with sci-fi author Christian Porter

Christian Porter is in the house today to talk about the first novel of a contemporary sci-fi trilogy, Shadow Precinct.

Welcome, Chris. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: I am a Howard University alum from New Orleans. I worked in the video game industry for a few years after I graduated. The story of Shadow Precinct began as a video game design document. I was enjoying fleshing out the ideas and the characters so much that I amassed a nice amount of material. I met Rochelle Levy (President of Aziza Publishing, LLC) through a mutual friend. She convinced me to try writing as a creative outlet and the rest is history as they say.

Please tell us about your current release.
Shadow Precinct is my first novel, the first in a trilogy of books. It takes place in an alternate reality United States where firearms are heavily restricted. Because of this, a new hybrid law enforcement organization is developed that supplants the police force. Members of this group are called zealots and they are trained from childhood in all manners of hand to hand combat and covert operations tactics. The story focuses on Everett Santeaux, the best zealot to ever come out of the program, and his family history.

What inspired you to write this book?
I grew up immersed in “nerd culture,” I guess you could say. I loved reading books, comics, watching anime, playing video games, and listening to hip hop. That’s a quick synopsis of what made young me tick. After I made the decision to turn my notes into a novel, I wanted my love for all of these things to be reflected in the story. Of course, I’ve been inspired by life experiences as well. My time at Howard University was definitely instrumental in me putting pen to paper so to speak. Time with family and friends was and continues to be an inspiration for me to keep writing.

Sitting on the sun...

Sitting in a lava waterfall…

Sitting at the center of the Earth…

Sitting in a dragon’s lair…

Sitting in acid rain…

Mind over body…

Mind over body…

Mind over body…

Mind over body…

Mind over body…

Everett was in his second year at the zealot training facilities in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. At this moment, he was participating with other students in a training exercise. They sat just outside of a large cave with torch lined walls, the cold air rushing in through the mouth of the cave making the flames on the torches leap wildly. This grueling task was designed to help them endure extreme pain, a trait that every zealot must develop. Lines of students sat cross-legged in a meditative position, outside in the blistering cold wearing all black cloth training kis. The elevation made drawing each breath difficult. The sub-freezing temperatures made it impossible for many of the potential zealots after the first hour. Overseers and Xi Wang Xi were pacing the lines, removing those that were clearly not going to pass this exercise. Thirteen young boys had already been carried out to the infirmary after going into hypothermic shock, collapsing to the hard, snow covered ground. In the third hour, another boy collapsed dead. Halfway through the fourth hour, two more would die, one with tears frozen to his face. Everett continued to sit. Had he opened his eyes, he would have seen just how many students were failing. As his focus intensified, time became relative. Inside of Everett’s mind, he was meditating in the center of an exploding star. Everett continued to sit, his skin beginning to turn blue, oblivious to the pain. Three shift changes of overseers had come and gone, the only constants were the students and Xi Wang Xi.

Mind over body…

Mind over body…

Mind over body…

A young overseer walked up to Xi. Like all of the others that were keeping watch of the training exercise, he was actually adequately dressed for the elements. He spoke through a heavy wool facemask.

“Master Xi. This has been the longest that this exercise has ever gone. It is beginning to cut into other areas…”

He was interrupted by the aged voice of Xi, his English accent having faded over the years, “Let it continue. You and the other overseers can return to the main building. I will watch the remaining students.”

“Yes sir.”

“Answer me this overseer, who are these last two students?”

“Master Xi, one is Everett Santeaux. The other is Olufemi Anyogu.”

They both gazed at the two young boys in astonishment, both of them sitting perfectly still unaware that they were the only ones left.

“Master Xi, it is quite amazing that they’ve lasted this long. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“Nor have I.”

The young man followed his orders and helped to gather the other students. Some whose extremities had become black with frost bite, requiring amputation and subsequently ending their zealot training. The two students remaining continued to sit for another half an hour. Everett’s focus was finally derailed by the feeling of a large fur blanket being thrown around him. His eyes were frozen shut, and as his mind and body began to rejoin, he started to feel the pain that he had dismissed for an ungodly amount of time.

“Everett is it? Try to breath or you will go into shock. I have overseers here to help you to the infirmary. Move very slowly, your joints have probably locked into position.”

Xi saw that Everett’s mouth was moving, but he could not hear any words. His lips were chapped and turning bluish. He leaned closer and could make out a faint question.

“How…how long?”

Xi chuckled, “five and a half hours.”

The overseers helped Everett up and placed him on a stretcher where they carried him back in doors to the infirmary. He was placed in a bed and administered an IV. As he began to fade into unconsciousness, he could hear the overseers speaking with the onsite doctors.

“No, I don’t think you understand. Both of these boys should have died hours ago. Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees, a couple of degrees below that is considered extremely dangerous territory. These boys had temperatures hovering around 90 degrees.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“Tell me about it. They also don’t exhibit any signs of frost bite, I’ve been a doctor for over 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this out there. And the fact that they are kids? It’s incredible.”

“Incredible is quite the understatement, doctor.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am working on the second part of the three-part story of Shadow Precinct. I joke all the time and say I’m writing my Empire Strikes Back. We’re shooting for Fall 2013 to have Part II out there.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It’s hard to say. Honestly, I considered myself a writer since I wrote my first short story way back when I was in like the third grade or something. I compare it to people who enjoy taking pictures and people who are legit photographers. I enjoyed writing, but I never thought that it would be a potential career path or ever be anything more than a hobby. I definitely didn’t consider myself an author. It wasn’t until I was literally holding the finished product in my hands that I was like, “Damn, wow. I guess I am an author now.”

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do not write full time. I have a job that can get pretty demanding at times. The writing for me was always therapeutic in a way. After a long day, it was as much a relaxing thing as it was fun to flesh out the story and the characters. For me, the writing process is not confined to any time, though. If I have an idea for some cool setting or action set piece, I pull out my phone and make sure I document it so I can revisit it later and refine it. It is a balancing act, but very manageable especially if you really have a desire to see your project through.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Ha, that’s a good question. I think I just go into a zone with my headphones on. Music is a large part of the creation process for Shadow Precinct. The references in the story and the nods to different albums and songs, they act like, in my mind, the soundtrack or what the main character has in his iPod or something like that. If possible, an infinite supply of peanut M&Ms.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a kid, I wanted to make video games. I was, and still am, a gamer for sure. I literally grew up with them. My degree is in computer science, and like I mentioned, I did get the shot to work in the industry for a little while. It’d be cool to return to it in a design capacity, come up with a cool idea to convert to that medium. Maybe even adapt Shadow Precinct to that form.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I just want to thank them for reading about Shadow Precinct. I hope it sounds cool enough that they want to explore it further, please hit the site up ( or follow me on twitter (@ShadowPrecinct).

Thanks for joining the blog, Chris. The artwork with your novel is impressive. I'm a fan of black, white, and shades of gray. Write on!

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