Underground Rising is Biblical cyberpunk at its best. Stories in this anthology are based on author Frank Creed's UNDERGROUND which include his award-winning novels Flashpoint: Book One of the Underground, and War of Attrition: Book Two in the series.
Greg Mitchell: As part of our festivities for the new Biblical Cyberpunk release, Underground Rising: Takes from the Underground, I held a roundtable discussion with series creator and editor Frank Creed, and three other (including myself) contributors to this groundbreaking anthology! First off, let’s just go around the room and introduce ourselves. I’m, of course, Greg Mitchell, author of “Ex-Communicator”, the first story up in the anthology.
Frank Creed: I’m Frank Creed. I wrote and co-wrote several contributions to Underground Rising: Tales from the Underground.
Steve Rice: I’m Steve Rice, proudly pseudonym-free for ages. I also wrote “Bear Feat” for the anthology.
Timothy Hicks: I’m Tim Hicks from western Kentucky. I co-wrote “The Sandman Cometh”, a prequel story from the Flashpoint timeline.
Greg: And Grace Bridges! Representing our ladies tonight.
Grace Bridges: Hello from New Zealand where it is currently tomorrow afternoon! “Underground Undersea” is my contribution.
Greg: Frank, how did the idea for the anthology come about? Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this the first Christian Fiction anthology where other authors have come in and added stories to an author’s pre-existing series?
Frank: It’s the first of which I know, but surely it’s been done before. The idea came from the Underground’s origin, back in a cyberpunk series called Shadowrun.
Greg: Yes, Shadowrun! Many a fond memory.
Frank: Many authors wrote that series of books and I wanted to see what it would be like for other Christian artists to share in the Underground setting. The Underground is like Shadowrun but without magic or fantasy races.
Greg: Street samurais and deckers all around! Was it hard assembling so many different authors with their own voices under the Underground umbrella?
Frank: Not really, the contributions really stood on their own merits. Nothing felt forced from the creative standpoint.
Greg: What’s it like to see the finished product? I know, just on my end, I felt an enormous sense of pride from the end results. …Good Godly pride, naturally :p
Frank: It’s the end of years’ worth of effort, so there’s a sense of relief! But from a qualitative perspective, these really are some great stories that I’m sure will entertain readers of Christian cyberpunk.
Greg: Here’s a question for everyone: Do you think it’s possible to jump into this anthology with little to no background knowledge of the Underground novels?
Steve: Not if you use established characters.
Grace: As a reader? Sure. As a writer, nope. Either way, it’s very immersive.
Steve: The major problem is the voice. It’s very distinctive, like noir.
Tim: Not too easy. Knowing the storyline helped work out how the story tied back to the books.
Frank: I think it is possible. There’re plenty of examples of showing the technology with a brief explanation of what it is.
Grace: I return to the Underground when I need my imagination provoked for whatever. Some of you know that Flashpoint caused me to write a novel.
[Frank adds a smile here]
Greg: Wow, I didn’t know that Grace. What’s the story behind that?
Grace: The night I read Flashpoint, it fired up my imagination so bad. I had this dream… Cyberpunky, but that was all it had in common. I had to write it down. It became Legendary Space Pilgrims.
Greg: Frank, you corrupted...er, inspired young minds! That’s got to make you feel good, sir.
Frank: It really does. There have been many events that have come from writing Flashpoint, and inspiring Grace was one of those.
Grace: Actually [my novel] Faith Awakened came out at the same time as Flashpoint, almost to the day.
Greg: Okay, so now we know Grace was familiar with Flashpoint going in--I have to admit, Frank had to give me a crash course before I wrote my story (though now I’ve read both books and am all caught up :)). How familiar were the rest of you with this series before coming on board?
Tim: I enjoyed Flashpoint and wondered about how the world got into that predicament. I asked Frank about a nickname after Flashpoint and why it wasn’t recognized by the One World Order. Frank told me that was answered in his next book. Both books made me think, “What if?” Grace’s Faith Awakened and Flashpoint. That’s where my story idea came from. I wondered about the history before the story. Kind of like Paul Harvey’s, “The Rest of The Story.”
Grace: You’ve read Faith? Oooh :)
Tim: Yes, I read an ebook version. It was a pretty neat idea.
Steve: I had read Flashpoint (and Faith Awakened, for that matter), as well as writing a few virtual reality stories (“The Story Machine” and “Virtual Messiah”). And I had discussed things with Frank. He still hasn’t gone to the cops, so that’s a good sign.
Greg: Steve, your story “Bear Feat” actually stars Calamity Kid and e-girl, the heroes from the main books--was that awkward coming into those characters that were already pretty well-defined in their voices?
Steve: Not really. I’m a mimic anyway. The fact they were well-defined simplified matters. It was integrating them with my type of story and character that was tricky.
Greg: Well I thought you did great. Two continuity questions that are bugging me. Frank, how many sisters does Tinker have?
Frank: For now, Tinker only has two sisters. We'll have to leave that one open to creativity, though!
Greg: And, Grace, when does your story take place on the Underground timeline? You’ve got Calamity Kid and Legacy, right? (For those who don’t know, Legacy is captured somewhere in Book One…)
Grace: Yes. This actually occurs way down the track in what could be Book 4.
Grace: So it’s after a bunch of drastic stuff has gone on. I have another story set then, too.
Greg: Not in the anthology, though.
Greg: Ah, you tease us then.
Grace: All in good time, eh, Frank? :P
Frank: Indeed! I’m still writing Devil’s Hit List: Book Three of the Underground. Book Four will be co-written by Grace.
Greg: Whoa, big announcement!
Grace: Old news? It’s been settled for 3 years that I know of ;)
Tim: Cool! :D When can we pre-order?
Greg: More importantly, is Big Hoss Dupree [from “Ex-Communicator”] in it... oh wait, that’s not very important at all :)
Frank: You heard it here first! Pre-orders in a couple years. I write slowly. : )
Grace: So do I, and I got some other stuff on the fire at the moment.
Tim: Quality takes longer than quantity :)
Frank: Everyone will like Hoss, by the way, Greg.
Greg: I hope so! Tim, we talked about your story “The Sandman Cometh” being a prequel to the main series--was that tough to talk Frank into?
Tim: I hoped Frank would take a chance on my story. I wondered how the equipment in Flashpoint came about. What about the Sandmen before they had all the spiffy gadgets?
Greg: I’m glad he did. It was a neat peak into the past. Frank, in the “About the Author” in the back of Book Two: War of Attrition, it talks about “The Last Newspaper”. Now that’s the same story in the anthology correct? You wrote that thing back in 1983? How long have you had all of this in your head, man?!
Frank: The original version of “The Last Newspaper” was written back in about 1982, but that story was lost through time--I no longer have a copy of it. The version of “The Last Newspaper” that appears in Underground Rising was rewritten last year to fit into the Underground setting. It was not originally an Underground story. This stuff has only been in my head for about twenty years. : )
Greg: Oh, is that all? Well, I guess it’s a start :) I have to say, I read through the anthology for the first time the other day and was really impressed with it. Even though there are all of these different authors, working in their own little corners of the globe, the stories fit together quite naturally to tell a story of the Church in persecution. It was actually really inspiring, I thought.
Frank: I’m so pleased with the end result. I guess you could say “proud”.
Greg: I’ll hit Grace with this one first, since she’s our resident small press (she’s the woman behind Splashdown Books)--Do you see Christian Fiction making a turn, getting away from the predictable and exploring more fertile imaginative ground?
Grace: I certainly hope so! I have a number of very interesting submissions in my pile right now. Especially of a sort that mashes up the genres. I love that stuff!
Greg: Steve, do you think something like the “Biblical Cyberpunk” genre will be able to spill over into the “mainstream” Christian Fiction market, or do you think it, in a sense, belongs underground? The wild untamed, and all of that?
Steve: Spills are always possible. All these clumsy people, you know. I suspect that the mainstream will only do unusual and genre-bending work to copy the secular media. So the “underground” will likely remain so unless/until there’s a breakout story that becomes a major movie.
Greg: And perhaps that’s a larger problem that many within the “Christian Fiction” market see—a tendency to follow the trends, rather than set them. But I think Underground Rising is trendsetting stuff, no doubt, and I hope people catch on to it. I see a lot of naysayers of mainstream Christian fiction--and I wonder, if the anthology did go “mainstream” in popularity, would that somehow take away from its coolness factor in the eyes of the naysayers? You know there’s always that garage band that gets a Billboard Top 100 hit and everyone accuses them of “selling out” :p
Frank: I do hope the Underground gets the chance to “sell out”! It would mean a great deal to me if our work reached that kind of exposure.
Greg: Grace, what are your thoughts? Do some things belong on the fringe--not for lack of quality, mind you, but just because some people won’t touch “mainstream”, no matter how pure-grade awesome it is?
Grace: I don’t subscribe to that at all. Yes, some things are weird, but weird is becoming ever more mainstream. The weirder the better, even. And those who won’t touch it for whatever reason--they’re missing out.
Greg: I agree. I think that anyone--whether they “get” cyberpunk or not--can be really encouraged by this book. A) It’s refreshing to see the level of talent and B) it’s talking about things people can relate to—the loss of freedom and how we fight to hold on—it just happens to be set in the future.
Tim: The Underground world makes the point that everything matters to The Boss (as God is known in the Underground books), and he is in control. That’s why I liked the series. It made me think.
Greg: Frank, fans get a special treat at the end of the anthology--You’ve got a sneak peak at Book 3! What’s in store for the next installment, Devil’s Hit List?
Frank: In War of Attrition: Book Two of the Underground, the heroes lose their HQ because the Ash Megacorp is turning it into a Rehab Ward, to produce something called “Virtual-e”, which is a virtual plague. In Devil’s Hit List, the saints battle production of virtual-e.
Greg: And how far are you into the writing process on that one, O Slow Writer?
Frank: It’s about halfway done. I hope to have a release date around August 2012.
Greg: So, what’s next for everyone? What projects are you guys working on?
Steve: I’m working on a few projects, but I’ve become increasingly skeptical of “Christian” fiction. It’s usually no such thing. That’s why I largely stopped doing reviews. But I’ll probably publish online now and then. Evolutionists excuse the lack of transitional forms by “punctuated equilibrium,” which posits occasional change at the margins of genetic society. I think that’s how Christian writing will have to work for the foreseeable future.
Grace: I’m barreling towards the end of Godspeed, the sequel to Faith Awakened. It stands at 47,000 words out of a projected 60k, and I’m deep into the tangle of virtual reality once again. All going well, it should be out late next year. I’m also very excited about the Avenir Eclectia project, where Frank and Greg are participants. There will be an anthology for that next year, too.
Frank: Good news.
Greg: Tim, what are you cooking up?
Tim: Thanks, I’m working on a supernatural story about a medieval piece of stained glass that shows a person’s true spirit. Forces don’t want things known. But the killer needs to be found.
Frank: How about you, Greg?
Greg: Lots of different stuff, but most immediately, the second book in my The Coming Evil Trilogy comes out in February. It’s entitled Enemies of the Cross and is chock full of drooling monsters. Frank, what say you? Might there be an Underground Rising 2 in the future?
Frank: Perhaps. It depends on how Underground Rising sells. If there’s a demand, there must be a sequel!
[To this, Tim gives a thumbs-up]
Greg: So, I open this up to you guys, here at the last. Anything you want to ask each other?
Frank: Greg, do you have any other Dupree stories in mind?
Greg: Ha ha, not at present. But give me about fifteen minutes and I bet I could come up with something ;) That was a pretty easy character to write! He wrote himself, practically.
Tim: What about a cross-over story between story worlds? Underground meets Faith Awakened?
Frank: Grace’s time setting is ahead of mine.
Grace: Mine is in 2079.
Frank: We would need a Tardis, no?
Grace: Well, in fact I have a very enhanced character in Godspeed... Frank, we should talk.
Frank: Oh, Grace is already on this!
Greg: Closing thoughts?
Frank: Underground Rising has taken at least three years to compile--I want to thank everyone for their patience as this has come together.
Greg: Thanks for the opportunity!
Tim: Yes, thanks Frank. It was nice meeting everyone here tonight.
Grace: Yup. Awesome!!
Steve: It was good to be around Frank and Grace again, and to meet the rest.
Greg: Thanks for participating everybody.
Frank: Cool--thanks for moderating this thing!
Greg: Well, folks, that’s all we got. We hope you were entertained, enlightened, and inspired to go out and buy this book! Go! Go now! Quick!
Thanks to everyone who hung out in the chat and thank you all for reading :)