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Review: A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe, an essay Anthology [Nov. 23rd, 2015|01:07 pm]

A Long Time Ago: Exploring the Star Wars Cinematic Universe, an essay Anthology

Edited by Rich Handley and Joseph F. Berenato

• Publisher: Sequart Research & Literacy Organization (November 6, 2015)
• ISBN-10: 1940589061
• ISBN-13: 978-1940589060

For some time now, the Sequart Organization has been releasing high-quality essay anthologies and documentaries dealing with popular culture productions that have a fantasy or sci fi bent. They’ve especially excelled with collections exploring comic book series and artists, Star Trek, Batman on TV and film, and Planet of the Apes.

Now Sequart has released the first of a three book series diving into nearly every aspect of the Star Wars phenomena, A Long Time Ago focusing on the films and TV programs associated with the franchise. It’s a book for serious Star Wars fans, those who are devoted watchers and collectors, but especially those interested in almost scholarly critiques and analyses.

Naturally, an anthology of so many perspectives will be uneven in quality and usefulness, and gratefully the content isn’t a collection of tributes and accolades. Of course, many essays are syntheses of the countless publications that came before. Speaking of the past, the book opens with discussions of two predecessors to Star Wars; Ian Dawe connects George Lucas’s 1971 THX 1138 to Star Wars. Rich Handley deftly compares and contrasts Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz.

Then, Julian Darius explores why Star Wars “broke cinema” not only in terms of transforming summer films into blockbusters relying on merchandising for profits, but also set the stage for films that dropped logic and credible plots to become anti-intellectual special effects fests. Lou Tambone summarizes why many feel The Empire Strikes Back was the best of the original trilogy, and Joe Bongiorno reviews why Return of the Jedi was the result of compromises and concessions diminishing what the film could have been. For me, the most intriguing look into the original films is “The Ecology of Tatooine as the Epicenter of the Star Wars Films” by Matthew Sunrich which proposes that Luke Skywalker’s home planet might also be the world where The Force is centered.

In terms of TV efforts, Steven H. Wilson offers a pointless deconstruction of the pointless 1978 holiday special, and Kevin Dilmore and Jean-François Boivin delve into how Ewoks and droids came to television as childish films and animated series. Then, David Pipgras warmly praises the five plus seasons of The Clone Wars, and Nathan P. Butler reviews the potential of the new Rebels series. Fortunately, all these authors provide detailed plot synopses for those who missed or forgot these broadcasts. Somewhat related to the book’s scope is Alex Newborn’s history of Star Wars rides created for Disney parks, an example of how such collections try to touch all the bases.

Regarding the second trilogy, Joseph F. Berenato revisits his own 1999 review of The Phantom Menace which, strangely, details all the problems he finds in the film but still determines it’s a fine piece of work. Zaki Hasan, Keith DeCandido, and Rocko Jerome also examine the prequels, each providing viable reasons for some of the decisions that shaped them and discuss the could ofs, would ofs, and should ofs that might have improved the stories and characters. Everyone seems to agree the visuals were spot on.

Other essays underline why the Star Wars mythos resonates with the inner child in all of us, but A Long Time Ago was assembled for adults who know the Expanded Universe of George Lucas very well. If that’s you, there are essays here that are illuminating and insightful. For others, some chapters might tempt you to explore projects like The Clone Wars or Rebels. Stay tuned: Sequart’s own trilogy has just begun.

This review originally appeared Mon. Nov. 23 at BookPleasures.com:
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Book Review: The Phoenix Gate by Michael S. Vischi [Nov. 21st, 2015|08:01 pm]
The Phoenix Gate
Michael S. Vischi
• Publisher: Outskirts Press (May 10, 2015)
• ISBN-10: 1478744537
• ISBN-13: 978-1478744535

Review by Wesley Britton

Had The Phoenix Gate come out in 1969 or thereabouts, I’d have been tempted to label the book psychedelic science fiction. No, no, I don’t mean sex, drugs, and all that.

Well, there’s no lack of graphic sex in The Phoenix Gate. In particular, the main protagonist, Evrikh, has such magnetism that virtually every woman he meets wastes no time in seducing him. Perhaps the strangest of them is Lorelei, an alluring creature that seems to be part soil, part plant, part, well, the stuff of myth. But she’s not the main love interest. Determining just who is takes some time and some sensuous experimentation. Lucky Evrikh.

But what makes me think of mind-altering states are all the mental trips Evrikh endures from beginning to end. He doesn’t understand what he’s experiencing—dreams, visions, memories, time jumps? He doesn’t remember much of his past or who he’s supposed to be. Apparently, he’s on a future earth after an apocalyptic war ruled by a Council opposed by a Resistance of “unfamiliar” humans the Council has banished from the cities. Both sides want something from Evrikh and he’s surrounded by many characters that might be friends, might be spies, might be from his past, might know pieces of the mystery he can’t put together. And the future of humankind, if any, is what’s at stake.

This New Terra is a violent world with no shortage of explosions, vicious fights, brutal deaths, and “unfamiliars” like Evrikh gifted with astonishing powers. Many settings include very bright, flashing lights, humans morphing into transparent beings, humans becoming lightning fast fighters or biological weapons, not to mention powerful time travelers popping in and out. In short, very trippy.

All these elements are woven into a very fast-paced and jagged saga that presents puzzle piece after puzzle piece continually surprising the reader. The Phoenix Gate is not for young readers, and those who join the quest should expect to be challenged by the swirling events as four hundred pages will go by before any resolutions become clear. And then Part Two begins. It’s cerebral sci fi full of the unexpected and you don’t need any recreational chemicals to enjoy the kaleidoscopic ride.

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com, Nov. 21, 2015
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Review: Chronicles of Zauba'ah by Tosin Coker [Nov. 10th, 2015|05:54 pm]

Wes Britton’s review of Chronicles of Zauba'ah was originally published at BookPleasures.com at:

Chronicles of Zauba'ah
Tosin Coker
• Publisher: N9neformation (9 Nov. 2015)
• ISBN-10: 0993306810
• ISBN-13: 978-0993306815

by Wesley Britton

The Chronicles of Zauba’ah is the new prequel to U.K. author Tosin coker’s “quadrilogy” of The Mouths of Babes, Let Sleeping Gods Lie, Heaven’s War: The God Awakened, and 2013 Evolution. Judging from Chronicles, the first novel I’ve read from England’s first female black Sci Fi writer, these books must all be dense, complex, and very challenging reads.

Throughout Chronicles, for example, Coker paints an almost overwhelmingly descriptive canvas of multi-layered alien societies and cultures. She offers beings that can, among other things, communicate telepathically, morph from humanoid bipeds into four-legged spirit forms, and live for centuries. Zauba’ah, in particular, is a warrior-scientist who has to incarnate into different bodies and lifetimes over thousands of millennia. It’s her evolution from adolescent girl to her ascension to an initiate of the N9ne to a planet killing goddess that’s the primary rudder running through the story.

But the plot sometimes seems almost secondary as what’s really going on is the unfolding of an intricately woven multi-verse with an uncommon depth of detail. It’s very impressive to see how Coker juggles so many elements together from the first page on. For example, the various species and sub-species are presented with full backgrounds of their traditions, values, class structures, as well as family and interpersonal relationships, not to mention extremely violent physical, mental, and metaphysical fighting styles. The milieu is full of sensory imagery, and the dialogue benefits from inventive wordplay. I especially liked characters who “overstand” what they learn.

Perhaps the flow is where we can get thrown off. Some sequences have abrupt segues. Long passages of time and seemingly major events can be compressed into a few paragraphs. Sub-plots can seem like very long digressions, but are more likely means to introduce characters that will be important in the books that follow. In fact, the book doesn’t end so much as it just stops as a new “mission” is about to begin. To know what happens next, well, we just have to go on to The Mouths of Babes.

Obviously, there’s a lot of moving parts in Chronicles and the book is not a fast read. Any synopsis is likely to suggest the book is built on familiar SF tropes, but few such novels have as much originality in their presentation and creative scope. Chronicles is for serious readers who seek more than light entertainment in their literature. As Chronicles is designed to set the stage for Coker’s other books, then those of us who haven’t discovered them before have another new epic to travel.
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Review: Méridien (The Silver Ships Book 3) [Nov. 8th, 2015|09:28 am]
Wes Britton’s review of Meridian was first posted at:

Méridien (The Silver Ships Book 3) Edition
S. H. Jucha
• Publisher: S. H. Jucha; 1 edition (November 1, 2015)

Once again, I’m learning the difficulty of reviewing a book that’s part three of a trilogy without having read the previous two volumes. In the case of Meridian, this is especially true as, to mix some metaphors, S. H. Jucha hits the deck running by throwing readers into the deep end of the pool.

So, for at least the first twenty pages or so, readers are likely to flounder trying to understand the setting and characters. Who are the New Terrans and where is the planet they live on? Who are the Miridians and why don’t they get along with the Terrans? What are these Silver Ships everyone worries about? Who are all these people?

But if you stay the course, you’ll pick up clues as to what’s going on and find yourself transported to the future and meet a rich cast of principal and supporting characters. In particular, you’ll meet Admiral Alexander Racine, who was apparently once a ship pilot before he moved up the ranks. In Meridian, Alex is much larger than life. He’s wise, brave, compassionate, a visionary. He makes no missteps and makes bold moves based on his intuition. He can change, challenge, and create governments. He’s knowledgeable about politics, economics, diplomacy, and even terra forming. He commands well-earned loyalty far beyond his wide inner circle of various experts and friends. After all, his business is saving whole populations and rescuing a slave species.

As I went along, the descriptive details and layered circumstances reminded me very much of the novels of Jack McDevitt and Kristine Kathryn Rush. That’s due, in part, to the inter-galactic settings and the complexities of Racine’s various quests. After the first two parts of the novel, in which Racine and company take on the governments of two worlds and unlock the secrets of the Silver Ships, I feared I was wandering into the longest denouement I’ve ever read. I was wrong. Jucha had much more for his hero to accomplish, mainly creating a new hybrid civilization on yet another planet.

Clearly, the readers who’ll be happiest are Jucha fans who read the two earlier Silver Ship outings. New readers like me will find entry into this strange new universe challenging at first but can find the flow with some perseverance. I admit liking the positive tone and the idea the future doesn’t have to be filled with the distopias so many other authors offer describing humanity largely violent and power hungry. That’s not who Alex Racine is nor are the multi-species relationships he builds. These are worlds and characters you’ll be glad you spent time with.
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Review: Anthology I: Eight Sci Fi and Fantasy Short Stories [Nov. 6th, 2015|05:02 pm]
Wes Britton’s review of Anthology I was originally posted at BookPleasures.com at:

Anthology I: A Collection of 8 Science Fiction & Fantasy Stories
• Publisher: The Novel Fox, LLC (March 15, 2015)

For decades, the outpouring of Sci Fi short stories has rivaled the number of tribbles devouring the grain designated for Sherman’s Planet. There are tons of books of award-winning collections and a plethora of magazines devoted to these stories.

Now, The Novel Fox, a digital-first publishing company, has joined the flood with the first of their projected Anthology collections. Why not? Reading their chosen eight debut yarns, I felt a bit like I was reading the latest issue of Azimov’s or Analog without these magazines’ editorials, commentaries, or articles on true science. Anthology is sci fi and fantasy and nothing but sci fi and fantasy with something for every lover of the many sub-genres contained in these umbrella categories.

Naturally, short stories don’t permit developing intergalactic turf wars or focusing on more than a few characters active in but a few scenes. Here, we meet eight tightly-woven protagonists coping with surprising new worlds. Perhaps the most inventive is Ernesto Pavan’s “A Wand’s Tale,” told from the point of view of a magic wand. Unquestionably, the creepiest is Peter White’s “Subsidence” which should remind readers of that relentless doll that tormented Karen Black in the classic Trilogy of Terror TV movie. The most obvious chapter drawn from a longer work is Shane Halbach’s ““Grant My Powder be Dry and My Aim Be True” with an unexplained beginning and an abrupt end.

Dominic Dulley, Gerri Leen, T.D. Edge, Roti Mehrotra, and Shawn Scarber also offer their perhaps more standard slices of straight-forward SF with everything from prematurely washed-out spaceship pilots to enhanced assassins. It’s easy to see why the editors at Novel Fox chose all these selections to inaugurate their new series. I, for one, look forward to future editions. There are some tribbles we can all use more of.
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On being a Blind Author [Oct. 12th, 2015|04:53 pm]
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Some folks have asked me how my being a blind author has affected the creation of The Blind Alien, the first of The Beta-earth Chronicles. I have two answers.

First, although I often don’t want to admit it, there’s much of me in the character of Malcolm Renbourn, the man drug across the multi-verse to a new world where he’s blinded and trapped on a planet he doesn’t understand. Without question, Malcolm and I share countless day-to-day frustrations dealing with what are ordinary things for sighted people. Of course, his challenges are far more daunting than mine. When I lost my sight, I didn’t have to start from scratch adapting to a puzzling new planet, learning a new language and discovering strange, completely alien cultures. We both have felt like freaks, especially in the early times of learning how to be blind.

In the story, another character makes many observations on how Malcolm will always be limited in his education about how to live on Beta-earth. For example, Bar Tine notes how Malcolm will never understand body language, sizes of large things and places, never able to gauge long distances. In addition, Bar and other narrators describe the reactions of other people to Malcom both as an alien and a blind man. Truth be known, on our planet, many folks can make blind people feel like aliens in real life. Some very odd questions Malcolm hears are based on actual things people have asked me. Do blind people sleep with their eyes open or closed? How do blind men aim into toilets? I was asked whether or not I knew I had a beard. So circumstances readers might find weird were actually taken from my own experiences.

There’s one passage in book two of the Beta-earth Chronicles (hopefully coming in December) that my wife found illuminating. It’s Malcolm describing his new home from his perspective, using his other senses to put readers into the setting. My wife said, for the first time, she really understood how I process things, using sound, smell, and touch to create mental images of what’s around me. So too Malcolm.

Speaking of sound, that sense had much to do with the composition of The Blind Alien. As I listen to every book read aloud to me in one form or another, I listened to every draft of my own book as I went through the countless revisions. This was especially important as I created “Beta speak,” meaning different dialects for all the Betan characters. With luck, these dialects give the books a distinctive tone and flavor. I wanted the Betans to sound different, but wanted to avoid just tossing out new vocabulary. So each of the women narrators have their own rhythms, cadences, and phrasing shaped to meet their backgrounds. The characters are revealed not only by what they say but how they say it. For example, I wanted the more educated women to sound different from those with less schooling. By listening to their descriptions and observations, I was able to tighten their dialogue, pick up the pace, and hopefully breathe life into all of them. In addition, listening to the flow really helped me know where I needed to edit or cut, cut, cut. If a passage didn’t make a story point or help deepen character development, out it went.

So I guess I’d tell all sighted writers to try to find ways to hear your stories. Focusing on the sound can demonstrate what is flowing, what isn’t. If you hear the dialogue, you can tell what sounds real, what sounds contrived. Even on a completely different planet.
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Book Review: Tiny Instruments by Mitchell Bogatz [Oct. 8th, 2015|05:53 pm]

This review was originally posted at BookPleasures.com on Tues., Oct. 8.


Tiny Instruments [Kindle Edition]
Mitchell Bogatz

• ISBN: 1516963679
• ASIN: B01239YVYQ

Science fiction readers are likely to recognize many familiar tropes in Mitchel Bogatz’s Tiny Instruments. For example, the story of “TC5,” the incubated fifth incarnation of eminent scientist Timothy Cottard, emulates many a sci fi staple. Pre-destined to live in service to humanity but not considered human, Cottard is kept captive in a “school” for the hyper-intelligent where he’s expected to live out his 40 year cycle as a rational and unemotional being, genetically engineered to be an unquestioning member of a secluded society with no freedom of choice.

While Cottard thinks his life’s mission is to figure out how humanity can live on Venus, his unstated quest slowly becomes his, and our, exploration into what defines humanity. While his conception might have been artificial and an artificial disease will ensure a short life, what makes the gentle TC5 a mere machine despised by most humans he meets? What about his independent spirit separates him from many of his fellow artificials? What is it about him that inspires deep friendships with three humans willing to make serious sacrifices to give him a life outside of the school walls?

These are questions relevant to the novel’s plot, but these questions also indicate the wider meanings Bogatz hopes readers will take from the story. Sure, Cottard has programmed flaws and limitations, but don’t all humans share this condition? How do our preconceptions about ourselves define who we are? What does it say about humanity that we’d be willing to create beings to do our thinking for us while denying them the most basic of rights?

Tiny Instruments is a comfortable read because of its familiar elements, its straight-forward tone, and the likeability of its main protagonist as well as many of the sympathetic supporting players. TC5 is an interesting twist on Pinocchio because Cottard doesn’t know he wants to be accepted as a human, only that he wants hope, choice, and love in his life. Who’s to say he wasn’t human to start with, but no one, including Cottard, recognized it?It’s an ancient journey told in a fresh setting with readily believable and extremely developed characters.
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Wes Britton contributes to New TV Spy Book [Oct. 7th, 2015|07:03 pm]
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Last month, Wes Britton’s new novel, The Blind Alien, debuted via BearManor Media. At the same time, Wes was a guest author in Diane Kachmar’s Five Fingers: Elegance in Espionage A History of the 1959-1960 Television Series, also published by BearManor Media!

If you never heard of Five Fingers, the TV version that is, you’ve missed a seriously cool television nugget. For 17 episodes, David Hedison played Victor Sebastian, an American counterspy code-named “Five Fingers” who posed as an international theatrical booking agent while seeking Communist agents. Combining humor and romance, Sebastian flirted with glamourous fashion model Simone Genet (the steamy Luciana Paluzzi) who became his partner in globe-trotting intrigue.

Hedison, of course, is best known for his starring roles in The Fly, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and playing Bond buddy Felix Leiter in both Live and Let Die and License to Kill. Luciana Paluzzi is fondly remembered for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in 1965’s Thunderball.

But before their 007 roles, these two actors really made an international splash in Five Fingers, a pre-Bond boom program that deserved a longer life than NBC gave it. You can find out why in Diane’s new book which has it all—the actual spy story that launched the concept, the James Mason film that gave the show its name, and pretty much everything else you’d want to know about this highly-regarded Cold War action drama.

To put the show in its historical context, Diane asked me to write a chapter called “Victor Sebastian: The Proper Spy” which is an overview of the espionage-oriented TV shows between 1951 and 1959. I bet you didn’t know there were so many in so many styles. I also describe how Five Fingers was the perfect transitional series bridging the anti-Communist programs of the ‘50s and the far more fanciful shows of the ‘60s.

So if this sounds down your alley, check out Diane’s book at:


Find out how an episode of Five Fingers might have inspired a Danger Man script that set up The Prisoner at:

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WReview: Star Trek Sex: Analyzing The Most Sexually Charged Episodes Of The Original Series [Sep. 24th, 2015|02:41 pm]
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This review was originally posted at BookPleasures.com at:


Star Trek Sex: Analyzing The Most Sexually Charged Episodes Of The Original Series

Will Stape

• Paperback: 134 pages
• Publisher: BearManor Media (September 7, 2015)
• ISBN-10: 1593938624
• ISBN-13: 978-1593938628

Back in the mid-‘70s, I attended a lecture by Gene Roddenberry where he acknowledged some feminists were accusing him of using women as sex objects in Star Trek. He pled guilty, saying he intended to continue using women as sex objects but added, “to be fair, we will continue to use men as sex objects as well. I’ve played one myself. It’s great fun.”

Clearly, sex in Star Trek has been a subject of countless discussions since the original series aired, including a lengthy (and sometimes inaccurate) Wikipedia article touching on elements in all the series and films. Now, Will Stape beams in on sex in the original series although his book could be better titled “Star Trek Sexuality” as physical consummation was rather uncommon onscreen for Kirk, Spock, and the rest back in the day. But sexual aspects were there from the beginning, notably the alluring Susan Oliver as Vira in the pilot, “The Cage,” where Vira repeatedly tries to seduce Captain Pike (Jeffery Hunter) in a number of settings. Thereafter, the classic cast dealt with topics like inter-species breeding, prostitution, the raging hormones of puberty, attempted rape, population control, conflicting gender roles, out-of-control emotions, and many suppressed and not-so-suppressed desires. And that just scratches the surface.

While most of the book is a series of summaries describing the sexual elements Stape perceives in the first episodes, he later abandons the scope implied in his title. For one, his list of the hot babes of the Star Trek universe includes ladies from The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. Sorry, while some might find spaceships “sexy,” I found the chapter describing the different types of Federation ships seriously off topic. Perhaps I’m the one too limited. When I think sexy, I’m thinking Nichelle Nichols and Grace Lee Whitney in miniskirts, green slave girls, and Mudd’s Women and not the “Defiant” or “Reliant.” Nor latter-day parodies or the Howard Stern show.

Will Stape certainly has Star Trek credentials. For one matter, he wrote for both Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. So his familiarity with the mythos makes his Star Trek Sex an interesting addition to the canon of book-length Star Trek studies. Still, most Trekkies and Trekkers won’t learn much new—there’s really no new ground broken here—but readers might see the original episodes in fresh, and sometimes surprising ways. For example, while many remember the famous Kirk/Uhura kiss, they forget in the same scene Spock and Nurse Chappel are forced to share an inter-species embrace. And I didn’t know that kiss was preceded by one between James T. West (Robert Conrad) and Filipina-American actress Pilar Seurat on an episode of The Wild Wild West. Not a black and white match, of course, but such tidbits make these books worth perusing for unexpected nuggets of what we never knew before.
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A New Interview with Wes Britton at BookPleasures.com! [Sep. 21st, 2015|02:40 pm]
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“A Conversation with Wesley Britton” was originally published 9/21/2015 at BookPleasures.com.


It is re-posted here with the publisher’s permission.

Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest, Dr. Wesley Britton. Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books, Spy Television (2003), Beyond Bond: Spies in Fiction and Film (2005), Onscreen and Undercover: The Ultimate Book of Movie Espionage (2006), and The Encyclopedia of TV Spies (2009) and he has recently published a book of fiction, The Blind Alien.

For sites like BlogCritics.org and BookPleasures.com, Britton has written over 500 music, book, an movie reviews. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio's Dave White Presents for which he contributed celebrity interviews with musicians, authors, actors, and entertainment insiders. The Blind Alien is his first novel, the first of a four-book series.

Dr. Britton earned his doctorate in American Literature at the University of North Texas in 1990. He currently teaches English at Harrisburg Area Community College. He serves on the Board of Directors for Vision Resources of Central Pennsylvania. He lives with his one and only wife, Betty, in Harrisburg, PA.

Norm: How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?

Dr. Britton: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, which accounts for my being an English major and earning my Ph.D. in American literature. I didn’t really get going with published work until grad school when I began pumping out scholarly articles, book reviews, and encyclopedia articles for a ton of publications. For a spell, I got some good responses for my poetry. Seems I keep changing directions in my writing life—a Mark Twain scholar, poet, spy expert, music and book reviewer, and now sci fi novelist.

What keeps me going? What doesn’t? I guess the simple answer is one word—ideas. There are so many things to write about and I seem to have a knack for various types of writing. I must add getting published so often and getting positive feedback keeps the fire burning.

Norm: Why have you been drawn to writing non-fiction about spies and espionage and where and how did you get your sources for the books?

Dr. Britton: Well, Spy Television (2003) was born when I realized there were many books on specific TV series but nothing that covered the entire genre. I thought it was a book that should be written. I already had a shelf-full of TV spy books, but quickly expanded to read up on shows before and after the ‘60s, the heart of the book. My favorite part of the research was connecting with so many experts and aficionados of various programs and made many lifelong friends while drawing on their expertise. Research volumes, the net, and magazines of the past were also helpful, not to mention hunting many hard-to-find DVDs. Such hunts are a huge part of the fun.

Norm: As a follow up, what purpose do you believe these non-fiction books serve and what matters to you about these books?

Dr. Britton: Demonstrating how the trends changed over the years showed not only what authors, producers, and broadcast companies were interested in, but how the public felt about espionage. Early radio shows reflected the deep mistrust people had about spies. Early TV programs showed just how fearful we were of both true and non-existent Communist threats. The ‘60s was the Bond-inspired spy renaissance where we got a lot of “spy-fi” and tongue-in-cheek adventures. The ‘70s were very fanciful and the ‘80s were much more gritty and down-to-earth. These cycles continue to the present day with more cynicism and hard-edged stories most popular now.

This is a rather skimpy summary of four books. Two of them, of course, dealt with books and films. Whether or not they matter to anyone beyond historians and a niche market is for others to say. To be honest, what mattered to me was the sheer pleasure of doing all that research and discovering so many books, films, and shows I knew nothing about.

Norm: What's the most difficult thing for you about being a writer?

Dr. Britton: That’s easy. To quote my wife, I’m “the man known by many, paid by few.” I take pride in what I’ve written, am grateful for any reputation I’ve earned, but suspect I’ll always rely on my day-job to pay the bills.

Norm: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?

Dr. Britton: Whew, if there’s anything I try to avoid, it’s giving advice to other writers. We can get all the advice we can absorb from all sorts of avenues. But I suspect it all depends on what other writers want to accomplish. Build a reputation for writing short magazine pieces? Publish that one novel many authors feel they need to get out? Actually become a professional writer of either non-fiction or fiction? It all revolves around your goals. As everyone knows, perseverance and patience are essential. I guess I’d add, get off social media and turn the TV off! You can either call yourself a writer while doing other things or write.

Norm: In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often take liberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point. But how much is too much?

Dr. Britton: In non-fiction, I try to avoid any tinkering with what actually happened. For me, it was more a matter of not getting bogged down in details that might be interesting to me but don’t contribute to what you’re trying to cover. I suppose that was grad school training; be objective and use supporting evidence to build your case. If you’re reading a “thesis biography” where an author has an agenda, be very careful.

I don’t know how to answer that question in terms of fiction. Of course, all my fiction takes place on another planet . . .

Norm: You have recently published a work of fiction, The Blind Alien, which I believe is Book 1 of your Beta-Earth Chronicles. Could you tell our readers a little about the series and book 1? How did you decide to author the series and what inspired you to write the series?

Dr. Britton: The Beta-earth Chronicles opens when an unhappy history teacher, Dr. Malcolm Renbourn, is captured by a device that drags him to an alternate earth. Blinded in the capture, Malcolm has no idea what has happened to him and cannot comprehend what is going on around him.

As the story progresses, Malcolm has to first learn about being state property in a slave-holding country before escaping to a free land. He learns about the ancient Plague-With-No-Name that kills three out of four male babies their first year. Thus polygamy is the norm and the basis for Betan tribal structure. In addition, Malcolm finds himself the center of scientific interest in whether or not his genetics might contain the cure to the plague.

But that’s just part of the story, to put it mildly. As the series expands, Malcolm’s tribe grows with very strong wives from different cultures forced to endure a number of pressures and battles with powerful political, scientific, and religious forces.

The series began when I asked the question: how would a blind man fare in a world he cannot understand, where people speak a language he doesn’t comprehend, and where customs are completely different from what he knows? I don’t know of any other book that considered these issues or employed some of the narrative techniques I used.

I’ll add one reason I went in this direction is that I’ve spent so long writing about the works of others, or interviewed other creative folks on the radio show, that I wanted to create something that was me. Before, it was all presenting history in one form or another. Now, I’m putting Wesley Britton on the line.

Norm: What purpose do you believe your stories serve and what matters to you about the stories?

Dr. Britton: Without question, my first purpose was to entertain readers. I worked very hard to make the stories fast-moving with surprises on every page. I’m delighted some readers are seeing allegories and insights regarding race, sex, and gender in the first book. It’s a book for intelligent readers.

What matters to me most will be the reactions to the characters. For me, most of them just came to me, creating themselves. Their back-stories and the relationships they share are the heart of everything that assaults the family. If you don’t fall in love with the women in these books, then I’ve failed miserably.

Norm: When writing your Beta-Earth Chronicles, did you have a set plan or is it improvisational?

Dr. Britton: I must admit, I had the full arc of the four books in my mind, the characters formed, and I knew most of the plots and sub-plots before I began setting them down. At first, I thought I was just entertaining myself thinking Beta-earth was just too strange to be written about. Then, I decided to go for it and set out on a decade or so long adventure in writing to try to put form to what was in my head. Develop this, cut this, revise, revise, revise.

As it happens, I have a full fifth book in my head that might get written, depending on how well the first four fare. I have the beginnings of a sixth book if the saga gets that far.

Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?

Dr. Britton: While there’s stuff about the books at various websites, the best is my Beta-earth Chronicles website:


Norm: What is next for Dr. Wesley Britton?

Dr. Britton: If the publisher follows the planned time-table, book two, The Blood of Balnakin, will come out around December. Three months later, book three, When War Returns. Three months after that, book four, The United States of America. As all of these books are already written and in the publisher’s hands, I guess I could take time to write other things while trying to promote the living daylights out of the Beta-earth Chronicles. And, of course, more book reviews as I’m a ridiculously voracious reader.

Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.

Dr. Britton: I guess it would be, who are these books going to appeal to?

To answer that, please let me plug in a comment from author Raymond Benson: “The Blind Alien is a story with a highly original concept, fascinating characters, and not-too-subtle but truthful allegories. Don’t let the sci-fi label or alternate Earth setting fool you--this is a compelling and contemporarily relevant story about race, sex, and social classes.”

I wanted to get that note in as many folks are telling me my series should appeal to readers who don’t ordinarily read science fiction. There are few strange gizmos, no lazar guns, no space ships, very little violence at all. One reader told me there’s more sociology and cultural anthropology in the stories than what you often find in sci fi. An alternate earth is mainly the setting for the stories, but what drives them are the hopefully relatable characters. With luck, I’ll be hearing things like, “I don’t usually read science fiction but . . .”

Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
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