Mike: Now joining us in the Smith writing studio is the projected central character in Jack Commer Seven, Jack’s son, Jonathan James Commer, brutally shattered into a million pieces of glass by Rick Ballard in The SolGrid Rebellion but quickly brought back to life and reconstituted as one-third of a solid chromium tetrahedron. Welcome, Jonathan James.
Jonathan James Commer: Well, thanks. I’m a little nervous about doing this role, you know. Even doing this interview, really.
Mike: Why is that, do you think?
Jonathan James: Well, everyone knows I’ve more or less been a villain in the previous two books. Brainwashed by the Alpha Centaurians and trying to become the sole Emperor in a new fascist Grid in Collapse and Delusion, well, that was a pretty horrible thing to do, I know. And I’ve been trying to atone ever since. I mean, I know the official line is that here I was brainwashed as a five-year-old and maybe I wasn’t really responsible for my actions even when I was twenty-seven, but then again, I wrote that stupid book–
Mike: A Fragmented Encyclopedia of Recent Self, an Alpha Centaurian bestseller–
Jonathan James: Yeah, well, it was ego-tripping crap, I see that now. I couldn’t handle the pressure of trying to be Emperor. It broke something in my head. For a while I really was insane. But really, that was no excuse for stealing the Typhoon II in Book Six and doing all that criminal activity. I mean, I stand by my principles, that any Grid is an evil thing, but … I don’t know. I messed up bad, I know it. Like I threatened my own dad with death and all. And when Ballard shattered me, in that instant I thought: well, you got what you were aiming for, man. Total annihilation. No Grid there, that’s for sure.
Mike: Well, the consensus of media pundits in Sol seems to be that you were brainwashed in one direction, of lust for fascist domination, and then to compensate, you veered in the opposite direction of rebellion and anarchy.
Jonathan James: Yeah. I don’t know. I’m still totally mixed up by all this, and I’m not sure I’m up to the task of having actual narrator omniscience in this book. How am I, how is anyone, to make any sense of all this? I mean, that’s what really scares me. In books Four and Six it was always everyone seeing JJC from the outside, and you as the author were never in my head like with Dad or Mom or anyone. So I could be private. And I don’t mind saying I was really glad to be offstage in Book Five, The Wounded Frontier, ’cause I just didn’t want to mess with anyone just then. Even though Mom was dissing me pretty bad in Chapter One, I just shrugged it off and let it all go. But by the time Book Six rolled around, I was ready again–what a great part, tweaking Dad’s nose and stealing his old spaceship! But a lot of my high energy for it was because I was relieved that nobody would be able to get into my head as I did all that stuff. All my actions would be mysterious, and people would imprint on me whatever they wanted.
Mike: Like Suzette or Jackie. Or Pat.
Jonathan James: Right. They all thought I had all this fascinating charisma but it was really all just highly charged nervous energy in my own head. I think that Ballard bastard saw through that. He really challenged me and it was then I realized it was all over. When he blew me away, like I said, that was just sort of expected, in a way. And then to find myself having to share that goddamn pyramid with him and T’ohj’puv, that was the worst crap. T’ohj’puv I could sort of put up with, he’s just a computer, for God’s sake, even if he sort of has his own set of psychopathic tendencies. But having to coexist with the guy who saw through you and blew you away–and it hurts, damn you, to be shattered into pieces of glass–man, I was depressed. One reason I didn’t care about Ballard deciding to blow Marsport to hell.
Mike: Really? You didn’t care? T’ohj’puv has it that you were just sort of stunned and unaware of the consequences of a close Star Drive.
Jonathan James: Yeah, that too. But basically I was depressed. Look, it was cool that Dad and I finally got to agree on something–namely, that SolGrid was a disaster and had to go–and yeah, I’m still proud I was a catalyst in wrecking it. But at the same time I secretly wished Ballard had just killed me and ended the whole trip there. I didn’t want to live in some stupid immortal pyramid. I mean, I was thinking that I was basically exiled to eternal hell with two psychopathic monsters, and then I thought, wait, make that three psychopaths, ’cause I’m one too. Thank God Trotter was there to cheer me up. He kept reminding me that there was a chance I could be a separate thing again, even just as a Wounded robot, and we’d have fun together again, and maybe I could explain to everyone what’s been going on with me and all. I don’t know. I’m just damn confused. I would also like to say that I’m really sorry about Suzette. We really had a great thing going there and she had to watch me die and then turn into this horrible tetrahedron thing. I don’t know if you can get me back with her in Book Seven but it would be great if you could. I miss her already.
Mike: Well, maybe that’s an idea. I don’t have any plans for Suzette in this novel, but–
Rick Ballard: Aw, screw Suzette! Look, this is all being written down, right? Like, it’s the written word on a computer, right?
Mike: Ballard! What are you doing here? This is JJC’s interview!
Ballard: Forget it! This is all being written down and I’m hearing all this crap against me, and that’s libel! Look it up in any law dictionary! I’m suing you both for libel! Nobody calls Rick Ballard a psychopathic monster!
Jonathan James: Forget it! That’s exactly what you are!
Mike: Whoa, calm it, guys. JJC, Ballard’s just a concept. Don’t let him rile you. Rick, get out of here. This is JJC’s interview.
Ballard: Watch it, little Jonathan Jamesie! This guy’s auditioning characters, he’ll lure you on, make you spout all this revealing BS, and then he’ll cut you right out, ’cause he’s such an ego-tripping author! Then again, you would know about that, wouldn’t you? You, the ego-tripping author of that piece of crap Fragmented Encyclopedia!
Mike: Get out, Rick. You’ve had your say. You don’t belong here.
Jonathan James: Yeah, get out! You won’t pollute this book! Let me tell everyone–you, Mike here, all the other characters, the entire reading public, everyone! The main reason I was so depressed was that I thought, hell, even if Trotter’s right and I get my own robotic self in Book Seven, this jerk Ballard will still be walking around and we’ll have to deal with him the whole book! So when I realized he dies horribly in Chapter One, man, that felt good! I’m a little nervous to have to take on the Shadow aspects of Mike’s character all by myself now, but hey, it’s a challenge, and Ballard here won’t be around polluting it!
Ballard: C’mon, guys, don’t you understand that’s the whole point of why I’m here? Why I butted in on your idiot interview with Mr. Author Film Director? Because I’ve figured it out! I don’t have to die after all. Mr. Author here originally wanted to see if he could redeem Rick Ballard, and sure, I was resisting it, ’cause who the hell wants to be redeemed? But when he was gonna kill me off so he could redeem our good-goody little Jonathan James instead, well, anyone could see that the whole structure of this novel was turning into crap. Boring! Then it hit me that in my interview, Mr. Author here just laughed at probably the greatest idea he’s ever heard–namely, that it’s me and Amav who get it on in this book and turn it into a real erotic romance!
Mike: Dammit, Rick, I told you that’s off the table. Now get out of here.
Ballard: No, really, man, okay, look, maybe I was a little crude the way I put it, and maybe anybody familiar with Rick Ballard laying the ladies up and down the galaxy like I said in SolGrid Rebellion, well, maybe they think I’m just some sort of seducer when in reality there’s so much more to me! If you’d just care to look, man! Hell, I love women! You know that! Respect ’em! Sure I do! Love ’em so much–you can see it in their satisfied faces! Man, on man! So what happens in Seven is that Rick does get redeemed, big time! He falls in love with Amav! It’s true and real! She resists it and resists it, thinking she has to be true to Jack, who’s really turned out to be a nothing wimp the last few books anyway, and all this tension builds through the book–until she finally comes to me! Think about it, man! You know you got nothing to fill up the last ninety-five percent of this book, dude! Throw in some real romance, man! That’ll redeem the mother! Spice it up! A nude scene with Amav Frankston Commer! Wow! Like the last chapter is nothing but our wedding night, if you know what I mean and I think you do!
Jonathan James: Man, is this guy for real? This is my mom we’re talking about!
Ballard: Aw, you skinny little wimp. You think you can stand up and shake your fist at me?
Jonathan James: Damn you, I was trained as a Zarj warrior!
Ballard: Aw, you little–
Jonathan James: AOYIEEEE!
Ballard: Ah–God! Oh my God! You gouged out my goddamn eyes! Both of ’em! Oh my God!
Mike: I’ll put ’em back in in a minute, Rick. Just in time for your death screams in Chapter One. Now cut your whining and just get out. Now.
Ballard: He–he doesn’t fight fair! Oh my God! My eyes!
Ballard: Okay, okay, Mr. Author, I mean–esteemed sir and all! Look, I’m not sayin’ you aren’t the greatest writer, man, I mean, man … just … damn, it hurts! Can’t you just put ’em back in? Please, man? Greatest novelist of all time, sure you can do that, I know you can! Hell, you drew a picture of me with my eyes, it’s sittin’ there to the right of your laptop right now! Sure you can put ’em back in and have ’em be nice and normal!
Mike: Okay, okay, your eyes are back in. New Martian Amplified Thought medical techniques. Better?
Ballard: Yeah. Thanks. I guess. But hell, what’s the goddamn point? A guy just can’t win against faceless author bureaucrats, can he? So screw you all. Smith, your novel stinks. You have this whole faceless bureaucrat writing corporation screwing the little guy, well, it sucks. I’m outa here!
Jonathan James: Thank God he’s gone.
Mike: Yeah. Wow, JJC, where’d you pick up the Zarjian double eye gouge?
Jonathan James: Aaah, it’s nothing. Clopt taught it to me when I was a kid. I have it down to a tenth of a second on each eye. The son of a bitch doesn’t know you’re on top of him until it’s all over. AOYIEEEE is the standard Zarjian muscle-freezing yell and it also guides your fingers right on home. But so what? Look, you’re not really gonna let my mom fall for that bastard, are you? I mean, I know I trashed her a lot in Book Four and my attitude in Six wasn’t so hot, either, but, you know, I was really touched by the last scene in The SolGrid Rebellion where Mom and Dad decide to come after me and find me. I mean, that’s really kind of cool. Because I was really feeling kind of lost and depressed at the time.
Mike: Yeah. In fact, that one sentence on Amav’s part was the whole catalyst for wanting to write a Book Seven in the first place. It just sort of came out on its own. And it makes me realize that you, JJC, must stay central to Book Seven, and that we’ve really got to explore you thoroughly in the novel. This interview is just a start. Getting into your head is going to be very difficult.
Jonathan James: Yeah. And then to somehow tie it all into some weird cosmic explanation for why the universe is the way it is now, ancient star empires and conflicts and laws of physics and all, that’ll be tough.
Mike: I know. Maybe it can’t be done. But if there’s a solid psychological foundation then it could all make sense.
Jonathan James: Huh. Could be I need some of that. The other weird thing is whether I see Mom and Dad again, how I relate to them, all that. You know, I don’t think you have the life experience yourself to talk about that.
Mike: Well, you may be right. On the other hand, I wrote through the eyes of a twelve-year-old girl in Akard Drearstone, so we’ll just see. You’re right, though, it’ll be a challenge all the way around. There’s no use writing a low-energy novel with a mediocre plot and characters who just mouth things because they mouthed things in six previous novels. We need to pull a lot of psychic forces together in this novel and I have a feeling you and I will be working very closely on this one. I’m not here to make more Jack Commer quilts to give to charity.
Jonathan James: Well, I’m gonna give it a try. It’s a great role. Just don’t be surprised if my Shadow aspects can’t be redeemed, integrated, whatever you want to call it. I may have some surprises we can’t imagine yet.
copyright 2018 by Michael D. Smith