Mike: Next up is Joe Commer, Deputy Supreme Commander of the United System Space Force, and Jack’s younger brother.
Joe: Hi. Great to be here. I know from what the other characters have been telling me that my role in Jack Commer Seven will be minor. I’ve also just skimmed some of the notes and can see there’s not much for Joe to do here. That’s okay with me. This can be a short interview. I know you have other stuff to do.
Mike: No, we can take as long as we need. After all, as I work through any novel, the notes can change and new plot lines develop. Who knows what we might need you for?
Joe: Well, I’ve done the minor role stuff before. No big deal. Right after my breakout role in Nonprofit Chronowar, I was more or less just on call in Book Four, Collapse and Delusion. Had a few lines to demonstrate how much I’d gotten my act together after Book Three. That was okay with me, as I really had to stretch in Nonprofit Chronowar and I needed a rest after that. In Books Five and Six I have some decent support scenes and in Six I get a good introspection chapter, so all’s good, really.
Mike: Really? You’re really okay with just “being on call” in a final Jack Commer novel?
Joe: Well, my role in the series has always been to offer support. Jack and I were quite a team in Martian Marauders, both before and after John destroyed the Typhoon and killed himself, our other brother Jim, and the rest of the crew. I helped Jack hold it together after that, and he helped me deal with destroying the earth when we Xon-bombed it. Anyway, Jack needs to lead in this book, and I’m here to support that anyway I can. And I’m also here to support Ranna, as I know she wants a bigger role. She’s really been in the background since Book Three.
Mike: Talk about Book Three a bit. Both you and Ranna were defined by Nonprofit Chronowar. You both had a lot of psychic injury you’d been sitting on for a long time, and through the trauma, you both emerged stronger.
Joe: Right. Maybe we both needed rest after that. That was a traumatic book. Here you’d written The Martian Marauders and Jack Commer, Supreme Commander about events after the Final War and the evacuation of Earth. Now in Book Three Joe inadvertently time travels back to 2020, where the solar system breakdown traumas are just beginning and people are starting to freak out over Heuristic Time Transition, and then the book takes us up to the 2033 evacuation itself. Only later do we find out that it was Alpha Centaurian Chronowarp technology behind all the time travel, that it was all an invasion. That they nearly wrecked the universal timeline just to try to attack us from the past, starting really in 2013.
Mike: So now you get to relive the horrors leading up to the Final War. We get harsh scenes of the last days, from Ranna’s perspective at the Cat Farm and also from Hedrona Bhlon’s at her art museum–nonprofit ladies trying to hold their little empires together in the last days. We have the Final War, and the Central Asian Powers destroy the moon with an Xon bomb.
Joe: The scene in the Artemis Museum where Hedrona starts throwing away everyone’s nasty mediocre paintings is sobering. Pathetic paintings intended to raise money to restore the moon! Oh my God! She knew it was all over then. There was nothing to do but abandon the planet.
Mike: And Nonprofit Chronowar marks the point where your war guilt surfaces.
Joe: There’s a hint of it in the opening chapter of Martian Marauders where we’re orbiting the essentially dead planet Earth to run tests, and some of the crew is nostalgic about Earth and hoping we can return, and Mr. Copilot Joe is adamantly maintaining he’s done with the earth and wants to move on to other planets. That’s him in denial mode. We all see more hints of his trauma in his string of girlfriends and failed relationships after the war. You could even say that he easily fell into the Alpha Centaurian brainwashing in Book Two because he was already so off balance and didn’t even know it.
Mike: Yes, I can see you know how to talk about this stuff after having been through it. But you don’t ever talk this way in Books Four to Six.
Joe: It just hasn’t come up. I’m just maintaining my Deputy Supreme Commander job and I’m really, really involved with my wife. There’s still so much Ranna and I have to know about each other. And the lovely ending of Nonprofit Chronowar, where you posit that by 2075 we’ll have repaired the earth, where we have telepathic animals and Martian friends who know how to use their Amplified Thought to repair the whole solar system, that was all a sort of symbol of how Ranna and I had become integrated, and were together, and could have an amazing life. Initially, neither of us wanted to do more than our first scene in Collapse and Delusion where we’ve time-traveled from 2033 to 2038 for Urside’s wedding. So, while I know Ranna’s eager for more work, and I’ve always enjoyed my scenes in the following books, it hasn’t been life or death for us about our roles in these latter novels.
Mike: I don’t know. Ranna said she was resentful in her interview.
Joe: Yeah. I get that. But I think it’s less about any ego actress screen time and more about resenting that her talents aren’t being utilized for the series. She has so much to contribute.
Mike: What about Joe Commer? What can he contribute to Book Seven?
Joe: Well, aside from my supporting actor role, there’s always the possibility that some Ranna-related plot could bring in some fresh input from Joe. She and Amav are right, you know. This book can’t be about how great the two marriages are. And we don’t have to threaten the marriages with Rick Ballard to create any artificial conflict, either!
Mike: One thing for certain: I really don’t want you in a rescue operation role. We’ve done that before, bringing in a second ship or having a second ship on standby.
Joe: You’re right from Amav’s interview that there’s always that problem of bringing together major characters who have deep and positive relationships. Do you have parallel storylines and bring them together at the end? Do you keep them together throughout the book and invent some conflicts between them to make it interesting? How do you write about two people in a great relationship without boring the reader? Or resorting to platitudes about “brother” and “wife” and so on? You don’t want to plaster your chapters with descriptions that sound like greeting card poems. “Wife, you’ve meant so much to me over the years / Let’s remember the good times and screw the tears.” That sort of crap.
Mike: You made me laugh! Joe Commer made me laugh!
Joe: Right! Is that why you had me gaping in shock when you had Amav bitching so unmercifully at Jack in the first chapter of The Wounded Frontier? She more or less did it again in the first chapter of The SolGrid Rebellion, you know.
Mike: Whoa, whoa! That was Jonathan James trauma, both times!
Joe: Well, you’re making my sister and law and good buddy Amav out to be this total shrew, you know!
Mike: Hey, she can be headstrong. But by the end of SolGrid Rebellion we see there’s much more to her than that. And she starts dealing with the JJC trauma.
Joe: Okay, okay, I get it, I’m just giving Mr. Author some trouble here.
Rick Ballard: You can’t win, buddy. Just can’t. Mr. Son of a Bitch Author here is always right! He’ll kill you off, he’ll torture you–
Mike: Ballard! Out! Goddammit!
Ballard: All in the name of some so-called artistic quest I’m afraid none of us have ever understood–
Mike: Dammit, Rick–
Ballard: Need conflict in this mother? You got it with old Rick! Me! Just shovel me right into the center of this damn thing, gonads and all, and I’ll show you some conflict!
Joe: C’mon, Rick, out. Consider yourself confined to quarters.
Ballard: Dammit! Okay, okay! But you haven’t heard the end of this!
Mike: Wow, I’m surprised he took an order from you.
Joe: Well, I was his commanding officer for a while. Maybe some instinct kicked in. But so what? Rick doesn’t bother me. He’s just a character. I can’t let a character bother me.
Mike: Even yourself?
Joe: No, I’ve been through it. I don’t even let myself bother me.
Mike: A good sign, I guess. So are you ready for Book Seven?
Joe: Yeah. Bring it on, whatever it is.
copyright 2018 by Michael D. Smith