Category Archives: The Universe of Thomas Sullivan

The City as a Character

Have you read a hard boiled detective story set in the countryside? Watched a classic crime noir film set in a rural area?

Probably not.

Crime noir stories are set in a city. Not just any city, a large, crowded, gritty city. It’s inhabitants range from the innocent to the most evil criminals an author can imagine.

Not just any city will do.

Most often the cities used in these stories are Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, London, and sometimes Chicago. Sometimes the city is fictional, often bearing no name.

A well written noir makes the come alive for the reader. So much so the city itself can seem to be one of the characters.

Capital City on Beta Prime is meant to be a character of sorts. It is a cold and inhospitable place, dangerous, dirty, and crowded.

It is also a diverse city. It’s humble beginnings were that of a mining colony using the shipping containers used to bring necessary supplies to the planet. In the better parts of town the architecture is modern and elegant. Suburbs for the middle class have sprouted up. Bad neighborhoods can be found adjacent to middle and working class areas.

Transportation is a mess. Just what you would expect from any large urban city. It ranges from individual hovercars to old fashioned but modern subways. Taxis can be found to take you anywhere.

What makes Capital City unique is the people. Spread throughout the millions who inhabit the futuristic city are characters who make the city what it is.

Joe Maynard for example. The proprietor of Joe’s Place, an Old Earth comfort food joint with great ambiance and music. A place to eat, relax, and do business, legal usually but not always.

There’s the crooked (bent) cop Markeson. A strange duck if you ask me. Markeson’s as bent as they come but he’s a skilled detective who periodically takes great offense to other criminals breaking the law in his city.

Weather makes a city unique. Chicago is the Windy City. It rains in San Francisco and the fog rolls in. Capital City is the frozen city. The fog in Capital City is a bit different though. When it’s a bluish green, evil lurks.

Everything necessary for a thriller can be found in Capital City. Transportation to get away, goods and property to steal or smuggle. Innocent people to be murdered and plenty of not so innocent people to do the killing. Corruption is everywhere and so are people who hate it. Most of all, there are plenty of people who just want to take care of their families and live their lives.

Capital City is also home to many who wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. It is more than just the backdrop for a story. It’s integral to it.

The Inspector’s Eye

E-mail from readers can be interesting for an author. I particularly like e-mails that ask specific questions about why a character did this or why did your story line take this twist, etc. I’d like to use this newsletter to answer one reader’s question in particular.

Why did you give Sully a cybernetic eye?

It’s a good question. At least I think so.

Once I made the decision for the Inspector to not be completely human, to have a few parts that aren’t human attached, I could have given Sully just about anything. Legs that would allow him to run super fast or jump over buildings. Arms that have multiple types of weapons built in. Armor beneath his skin to protect his vital organs. The sky was the limit.

But I chose to give Sully a cybernetic eye.

I based my decision on two primary reasons. Not that I intend to fill my stories with deeply profound hidden meanings, but there are things I build in for readers to catch and ponder. If a reader doesn’t pick up on it, it’s not a big deal. If a reader sees the hidden gem, great!

Sully sees the universe differently. Using his robot eye and not a human one to tell that part of the story brings attention to what Sully sees and thinks. He’s a damaged individual who sees things differently. Being a cynic, he trusts little of what he sees and hears. Actions and motives are what Sully looks to see.

More important than a story telling device is the fact I love the first two Terminator films! My kids and I also loved the short lived television franchise Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

I am convinced the show’s short run was due to the fact the writers and producers did not understand one very important fact. Sarah and John Connor are key elements of any Terminator story. But let’s make one point clear. They are NOT the stars

The Terminator is!

Summer Glau, who brought Cameron to life in the TV show, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who brought the first Terminator and Uncle Bob to life, were the stars of the franchise. Miss Glau did a wonderful job as Cameron and the show would have been better served had the story line evolved around Cameron more.

I digress.

One of the features I found fascinating was the HUD Terminators used within their cybernetic eye, or optics if you prefer. Terminators can replay old memories, access data files, call up protocols, identify objects and individuals, and most importantly, select whether not to terminate a human.

In one episode of TSCC Cameron dressed up in an enticing outfit and visited a bar frequented by employees of a nuclear power plant in order to obtain the bar codes the Connor’s needed to gain access to key parts of the plant. Acting like a naive and unknowing young woman, she flirted with a pair of males from the plant who happened to be playing pool.

It didn’t take Cameron long to get invited to play a game she “didn’t know how to play” and wager money. Like fools the men let Cameron break. She promptly pulled up her HUD, used her targeting software, calculated the optimal break point, and sank four or five balls in the break.

I follow developments in robotics and artificial intelligence. Both technologies are coming whether we like it or not. In some ways these new technologies will be of great benefit to mankind. I can also see the potential for evil and great harm to society. All too often we as humans never stop to ask the question should we. We just plunge ahead and focus on “how do we?”

Given how fast technology advances, I don’t think it’s far fetched for Sully to have a cybernetic eye. I’d even venture to say within a hundred years humans will have the ability to replace a damaged biological eye with a cybernetic eye with some of the same features Sully possesses in his replacement eye.

So now you know.

If you have any questions about any of my characters that you would like to ask, please do! Just drop me an e-mail (SciFiThriller@kcsivils.com) and ask. I might even include the answer in a future issue of The Inspector’s Report.

This was first published in The Inspector’s Report, Volume Two, Number Eight.

Why Is The World of Beta Prime Not As Futuristic As Most SciFi Worlds?

If the movie or TV rights to The Predator and The Prey were purchased, would Capital City look like some fantastic, futuristic vision of urban life?

Probably not.

Parts of the Capital City would certainly appear as if they came from the wildest dreams of architectural fantasy. Certainly the Northwest Quadrant, where the wealthy and politicians make their homes, would appear to be futuristic. The Northeast Quadrant, with its industry, upper middle class and the SpacePort terminal would look futuristic.

But what about the Southern Quadrants? Where the poor and working class live?

Picture the tenements of North American industrial cities, where instead of brick and mortar, the buildings are converted containers left over from colonization with plastisteel facades. Buildings would have the same design and construction as the poured concrete buildings built in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Ugly, cheap to build and made for those considered beneath the ruling elite.

Hovercars require some type of fixed path to travel on requiring roads to be constructed. Perhaps the only advantage of a hovercraft over a wheeled vehicle is the roads will last longer.

There is very little that is truly new. Ideas are recycled all the time. Joe’s Restaurant, with its cliche neon lights, Classic Rock decor and North American comfort food, plus whatever the locals consider solid fare, is an example of retro styling and architecture some 500 years in the future.

Besides, Joe’s is home away from home. It’s an interesting place like Rick’s Cafe American of Casablanca fame is. The locals gather at Joe’s as do all sorts of interesting denizens of Capital City.

Old technology that works fine will be used on many Alliance worlds. As they say, if isn’t broken, there is no need to fix it. Railroads as we know them today, steel wheels on steel rails, are still used on many worlds where issues of climate and expense of construction and maintenance prevent the successful use of more “modern” technologies like Maglev Trains.

On a world like Beta Prime, a visitor would find a curious mix of the old, albeit updated, technology with the new. Soldiers and police would carry modern energy weapons with a variety of capabilities. Some soldiers and police prefer old school projectile weapons. As Inspector Sullivan constantly tells the pup Josephson, “a big exit wound is one way to make sure the perp stops shooting back.”

Fashion is one area where futuristic designs do make sense on a world like Beta Prime. But then again, what has come before often makes its way back through the fashion world. A tourist could expect to see the miners and industrial workers to be dressed in typical coveralls, designed both to protect the worker and keep the worker warm in the freezing environment of Beta Prime.

White collar workers, particularly the so-called elite and politicians would be those more inclined to wear the more daring fashion designs. Middle and working class fashions on Beta Prime tend to resemble those found in the 1940s and 50s with updates in materials. Life is dreary for many on the planet and the dark browns, blacks and blues of clothing reflect this aspect of life.

Classic styles, such as pin stripe suits, tailored to fit perfectly, never go out of style, regardless of the century, planet or city.

Other worlds, with different climate or life support needs, will have different levels of technology. Life on a moon, such as the two moons of Beta Prime, Serenity and Persephone, with no atmosphere, requires a more futuristic vision of the structures. The same is true of a colony on an asteroid of the space station serving as the terminal for large starliners and space freighters.

Why is the world I created for Inspector Sullivan and his companions to inhabit a mix of such commonly found items from today and the hoped and dreamed for technology of tomorrow? Because it is the way man does things.

We still make furniture from wood don’t we?

Still, if you look around, there is plenty to find that is not what one would expect to see in a city today.

Take Sarah. When was the last time you saw a human clone?

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Understanding Sarah

In the process of preparing The Predator and The Prey for publication, the manuscript has been read by beta readers, book reviewers and others. So far, the response has been highly favorable, which as an author is encouraging. Of particular interest to those who have read the manuscript are three of the characters: Inspector Sullivan, Father Nathan and Sarah.

Of the three, I'm most reluctant to expound too much on the character Sarah. One simple reason is sharing too much about her character and its development would provide spoilers for the second novel in the Inspector Thomas Sullivan franchise, Last Train to Nowhere, which will feature heavily clones as part of the story line.

Having said that, there are a few things I am willing to share about the character Sarah. Her physical description is based on the actress Summer Glau as she appeared when playing the role of Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It is revealed her genetic code has been modified to provide her with enhanced capabilities, just a few of which include the ability to age, or look younger, without the use of cosmetics. Sarah has the ability to appear as young as her early twenties or as mature as her mid-thirties.

Sarah informs Sullivan she is a military grade clone. She can withstand extremes in temperature, survive on less food and water and heals extraordinarily fast if the wound is nothing more than a bad laceration.

In addition, her senses are heightened. Sarah's sight, hearing, sense of smell, touch and taste are superior to the average human. For some reason, which Sarah cannot explain, she even has a sixth sense of sorts that allows her to spot things or be aware of things others cannot notice. She can spot another clone without having to examine the individual.

The most common question asked about Sarah is how old is she? The answer is five, going on almost six. The reader's response is how can that be? She's always described as being in her early 20s or mid-thirties. The answer is simple. Sarah was "born" fully grown, or as she would put it, "I hatched as a woman. I can have kids and all that stuff."

This fact makes for a lot of fun writing her character. Sarah can act like an immature child because, well, she's five years old. She can act like the young woman she is because physically, she is a young woman.

As the series continues, I will reveal more about Sarah as she grows and develops as a person. For those who want to learn about Sarah's backstory in order to answer questions such as how did Sarah get to Beta Prime or what was her relationship with her other two sisters, take heart.

All three of the main characters, Sullivan, Father Nathan and Sarah will be the subject of prequels!

The third installment in the series has a working title of Murder on Persephone. It will be followed by the backstory, in novella form, of Inspector Sullivan. My plan for the series afterward the release of the as yet unnamed back history of Inspector Sullivan is to release the next installment in the Thomas Sullivan series followed by a another prequel. For fun, both for myself and the hoped for many followers of the series, I plan to write short stories and make them available on this site.





What Does The Future Hold For Inspector Sullivan?

The Predator and The Prey will be available soon on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

What lies in the future for the good Inspector Sullivan and his friends?

The second installment of The Chronicles of Inspector Thomas Sullivan is currently being written with the working title of Last Train to Nowhere.

Also in the works are a series of prequels, novellas that will provide the back history to the mysterious Sarah, the devious Markeson and answer the question of how Father Nathan became a priest. A full length novel is planned in the future based on Sullivan's time in the Space Marines and the events leading up to his transfer to Beta Prime.

Why Crime Fiction on an Alien Planet?

My late mentor Don Meyer liked to say “there is nothing as difficult as original thought.” Life experience has taught me he was right. Another concept he liked was “there is nothing original under the sun.” Finally, he liked to say “you can get all the good ideas, you just can’t use them all.”
So what does this have to do with writing stories about a crime fighter who lives on an alien planet? It means I like crime fiction, science fiction and film noir movies. I’m not smart enough to come up with a totally original universe or story concept. But I can get good ideas from what has been done in the past and come up with something that is a slight variation of what has been done before.
Not that science fiction thrillers or futuristic crime stories are anything new. Bladerunner and Outland come to mind as a couple of my favorites. Then I ran across the quirky but delightful Firefly series that lasted for an all too short run on TV. A space western? What an idea!
Throw in the fact that I’m a fan of classic noir detective novels by writers like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and you can see where this is headed. So why not send my hero to fight crime and corruption on a frozen planet sometime in the future?
If Joss Whedon could create the universe for space westerns in the stories told in Firefly and Serenity, then I can certainly have Clint “Dirty Harry” Eastwood and Humphrey “Sam Spade” Bogart serve as inspiration for my own Thomas Sullivan.
Not original and perhaps a bit risky since cross genre stories don’t always do well. I mean, what niche does the story fall in? How do you attract a reading audience? Sci-fi fans might not think the story has enough futuristic elements. Crime fiction and noir fans might think the story is not gritty enough.
But they’re my stories and its what my imagination has come up with. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
The first of in my Thomas Sullivan: Lawman of Beta Prime series should be in print, I hope, no later than February of 2017. With a working title of The Predator and the The Prey I hope readers enjoy the story and look forward to reading more about the adventures and struggles of one Thomas Sullivan.