Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction
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In the near future, the United States has been transformed into the Unified State, an oppressive police state that keeps its citizens under constant surveillance. Poverty and crime are rampant, and the citizens live beneath a perpetual cloud of fear. Pedro Pulido has never known his country to be any other way, but his grandfather remembers a time before, and he teaches Pedro to recognize the propaganda for what it is and to think for himself. Still, Pedro is no revolutionary.
Then Pedro’s quiet town is engulfed by the country’s growing anti-government insurgency, and terrifying changes begin to occur. A mechanical soldier with artificial intelligence, Samuel, is deployed in the neighborhood and, like others of its kind, is glorified by the government as a great protector of the people.
However, it quickly becomes apparent that Samuel isn’t just keeping an eye out for insurgents. After the death of one of Pedro’s closest friends at Samuel’s hands, Pedro finds himself faced with a decision. Does he accept the status-quo or seek justice for his friend’s murder?
Today I have an interview with Robert Corrado, author of the dystopia The Fifth Column.
Can you talk a little about what the book is about?
The Fifth Column is a dystopian fiction set a few decades into the future of the United States which has now become a police state that the characters refer to as the Unified State. A group of families in a small town find themselves swept up in the anti-government insurgency that is occurring across the country, and the novel explores how they deal with it, the choices they make, and ultimately what happens to them as a result.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
Some close friends and I dabbled in film around 2008 and we all took the same week off work and we put out this weird little amateur action comedy called Violent John, you can find it on the internet. The film was nowhere near the kind of production I had originally envisioned and although I learned a lot I was generally disappointed. So this result got me thinking about the type of movie that six or seven people could make on a shoestring budget and still have it look and feel like a movie put out by a studio. The Fifth Column started out as this concept but the more I wrote the more I realized that there was enough going on in the country politically and culturally that I could really build on these ideas I had. o I made it a full novel. There is so much fear and distrust about what is going on with our government, and also so much political passion for one side or another that it really inspired me to try and tap into that in the book.
How long did it take to write the book?
It took me the better part of three years from concept to release.
Who is your favorite character?
Sergeant Rache is by far my favorite character. A tragic hero with a dark side will always entice me.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?
I outline like a madman. First I completed a general outline that kind of looks like a flowchart with very terse bullets of what is happening with arrows leading to the next bullet. Then as I’m starting to write I go into each of those bullets and do an outline that is more detailed. Then I write the thing. By the time I’m done it looks like I have about 100 powerpoint presentations.
How did you come up with the cover?
The cover was initially a watermark image that was sitting behind the first page of the story. It was meant to be kind of a propaganda flyer with this cool watermark embedded in it. I created it in an hour or so using some programs on my computer. I liked it so much I made it the cover and removed the watermark. The symbolism is in your face with that single white star representing the new “Unified State” of America and against a white background I think the whole thing really pops.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
After I wrote a terrible movie (see a few questions back). Seriously though, when you are making a film there is a laundry list of limitations (that was some serious alliteration). You have special effects that don’t work, cameras break, people don’t show up for a shoot etc… When you are writing a novel, none of that goes wrong. ou have inside of your imagination the best artists, computer graphics designers, actors, director, all of it. The best part is, every person that reads your novel has completely different ideas of how its visualized but the visuals always meet the reader’s expectations. You still have to set some good expectations with your writing mind you.
What are you favorite books and authors?
I love Phillip K. Dick, I love Ray Bradbury, I love Robert Heinlein. Alistair Reynolds has put out some GREAT stuff. My favorite story of all time, the one that I can read again and again is called The Warrior by author David Drake. I love fantasy novels as well. Glen Cook, who wrote the Black Company series, is one of my inspirations.
What are you working on next?
I have a few manuscripts I’m making progress with. One is the first in a planned trilogy of fantasy novels. The other is a reality-bending science fiction dystopia very much in the vein of Phillip K. Dick. At some point I’m going to have to go full time on one or the other, but I’m not ready to decide yet.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Take every opportunity to write that you can. Even if what you feel like you are writing is uninspired garbage. It may not read like garbage when you give it a fresh look later on, or it might just need some tweaks that you think of later on to go from garbage to gold.
Samuel sat motionless at the end of the cul-de-sac in the pouring rain. Or, seemingly motionless to the residents of Sanctuary Court, anyway. Currently, it had 12 uni-directional robotic ears trained with mathematical precision on strategic points within the neighborhood. Three other microphones were set to record all nearby ambient noise through a variety of filters for the sounds of electrical and mechanical tools, the spoken word, and even whispering. They could record the drop of a pin with crystal clarity from over 100 meters away. Samuel’s numerous optical lenses were trained similarly. In wide-angle they could snap to movement and then zoom in and follow. In tight-angle they could record in high-definition a portion of a citizen’s tattoo or birthmark and, even if it was half concealed, compare it against millions of others in the FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security, and Civil Defense Intelligence databases. For all of its concealed functionality, it looked like its power switch had been shut off. Samuel observed the residents of the street peering out through their half-closed curtains and blinds or through front doorways held slightly ajar. The heavy rain pattered against its frame, and in the gray overcast day, it looked like something discarded.
Author Robert Corrado is giving away some great prizes! One lucky winner will receive a free copy of The Fifth Column, plus a $50 Amazon gift card. Four other winners will receive a copy of the book! Enter through Rafflecopter. Winners will be randomly selected by the author at the end of the tour.