Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews. The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" will be coming out on April 2, 2017! (Pre-order Altered Europa Here!) In preparation for this grand release we'll be running interviews of various contributors.
MTI: Today I'm interviewing Ryan McCall, who contributed Shaken, Shot, and Stirred, to the collection as well as Megali Hellas.
It has been 3 years since we did an interview. Let's start off by telling our readers a little bit about yourself.
RYAN MCCALL: I’ve been writing for a few years just as a part time thing. I had written one novel and sat on it for a few years until I decided to self-publish it on Amazon. After that initial book I made sure that I kept writing as a continual hobby.
MTI: Your first story to appear in this collection is Shaken Shot and Stirred. Tell us a little bit more about this contribution, particularly, how does it deviate from known history?
RM: Essentially it’s a James Bond inspired spy story in a Soviet dominated Europe. I don’t state it in the story but the point of divergence is the Allies having a disaster on D-Day. This eventually led to the Soviets conquering everything the Germans had all the way to France. Thus the UK now sends spies to France in this different Cold War.
MTI: Tell us a little bit about your other contribution, Megali Hellas. What's the premise behind it?
RM: In the simplest of words, a Greater Greece. I was inspired by a scenario I read about for Avalanche Press’s Third Reich board game where someone had asked about adding in a Byzantine Empire. Instead Avalanche Press created an enlarged Greek state that could be used. I was intrigued by the idea that a monkey bite had changed history so profoundly, so I removed that and allowed Alexander I of Greece to survive and win against the Turks and create a greater Greek state. The long term outcomes for the rest of the region are greatly affected as a result.
MTI: Before Altered Europa, there was Altered America. You had a story in that collection called Guns of the Green Mountains...
RM: That one was quite fun to write. Of all the alternate history scenarios for America I think a divided America is the most interesting. Guns of the Green Mountains is a small scale story in what could be a fascinating world.
MTI: If you could go back in time and change any historical element, which one would you alter?
RM: Go back and have a conversation with Marx, get him to make it more about people than worshipping the idea of working class and revolution. I’m in favour of equality for everyone but his ideas were abused radically in the twentieth century.
MTI: For further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?
RM: I’m too much of a pragmatist for that. I’d certainly love to study it and see what we can find out form a safe distance via robots or drones being sent through but I have too much of a life here to just drop at a whim.
MTI: Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
RM: I’m very slowly plodding through the early chapters of an Arthurian tale. I decided that most Arthurian stories I see keep the magic and supernatural out of it so I’m adding more in. In addition I’ve reversed the roles, so Arthur is a brutal tyrant and the Knights of the Round Table his overlord thugs.
MTI: Intriguing. Other than your work appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?
RM: I self-published another alternate history, Cutting the Deck, last year. It’s more of a non-fiction style alternate history and shows what would happen if the roles of the communists and nationalists were reversed in the Chinese Civil War.
I have a few stories for some monster hunting anthologies waiting to be published but they are well overdue. Word is Amazon has upset the cart for anthologies for small presses due to the payment by page counts.
MTI: I'm not sure about this payment by page count thing, but I'll be sure to look into it. Rest assured, Martinus Publishing gets paid for every kindle or print copy actually sold.
On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?
RM: The Man in the High Castle is quite simply the best non-literate alternate history I have ever seen. They captured an alternate world so perfectly in this show. I also really like the TV adaption of The Expanse, based on the novels by James SA Corey.
MTI: How about music?
RM: Can’t say I follow any particular music. I just listen to whatever is on the radio usually.
MTI: Can you name three movies that you've enjoyed watching in the past year?
Taken. I know it’s getting on, but for some reason I had never watched until recently. As for new films I liked, Captain America: Civil War and Sausage Party.
MTI: Readers love samples. Do you happen to have a story excerpt you'd like to share with us today?
RM: This is an excerpt from Tyrants of the Round Table (working title for my Arthurian novel)
A quick and sharp whistle echoed through the trees. Mordred released the arrow he had been holding steady in his bow. It whizzed through the air with a remarkable accuracy and pierced the chest of the large buck he had been aiming at.
The deer went down in a crumpled heap. The sound of footsteps indicated his friend’s approach. Drest emerged from a thick clump of dark green bushes. He was in green and brown clothing that blended in with the forest colors. “Good shot” he said to Mordred as he walked over and clapped him on the back. Drest was a Pict and he had a thick accent, though Mordred had grown accustomed to it by now. He had lived all of his nineteen years in northern Lothian, along the border with Pictland and he had been friends with Drest since they had been ten years old.
Mordred had encountered him in the () Forest when he had gotten lost there. He had been scared and crying and had no idea where to go when Dress had found him. Despite his initial amusement at Mordred’s fear of being alone in the forest, he had helped him find his way back home. The had met up several more times in the forest and quickly become friends. Drest had eventually revealed that his father was none other than Talorc the current King of the Picts. He explained that the Pictish royalty didn’t coddle their young gently the way those in the south did. King’s didn’t inherit the right to rule, they had to win in it by displaying strength, courage and leadership. If Drest wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps he would have to do the same. So he developed his skills of tracking and hunting in the forest from a young age.
“Thanks” replied Mordred. The two teenage hunters moved towards their downed prey. They were of a similar height, but while Drest had blazing red hair, left to grow long, Mordred had short black hair. Drest was fat and thick-muscled all over his body; Mordred was thin, with lean muscle only in certain places.
Drest pulled the arrow out of the deer and inspected it. Deciding it was still usable he wiped the blood off on the ground and returned it to his quiver. It was actually quite ingenious-animal hides that had been stretched and hardened, then sewed together with hair, to form a cylindrical shape.
Mordred didn’t have a quiver or a bow. His mother wouldn’t allow him to have one, though she had let him train under a local smith in the use of a short sword, for self-defense. She always fusses too much thought Mordred. Maybe she needs to get out more.
“Come on help me with this” said Drest, snapping Mordred out of his thoughts. The Pict boy had broken a thin branch off a nearby tree and wanted to tie it to the deer’s feet so they could carry it.
Mordred bent down to help him. “You and your mother will be eating well for the next few days” said Drest.
“Don’t you want any?” asked Mordred. The buck was far too large for just him and his mother. Even if they shared it with the nearby village, there still enough that the meat would likely spoil before it could be finished.
“Aye. I’ll cut off some when we get back to your home. All’s I meant was that, you probably not used to eating as fine fare as this.” For the Picts, eating meat from a hunt was the finest way one could dine. Of course they didn’t have much in the way of farming, herbs or spices, so Mordred didn’t blame Drest for thinking this way. He didn’t bother correcting his friend. Once he had gotten him to sample taste of southern style-food and Drest had almost choked trying to spit out the taste.
Once the branch was attached they hoisted to their shoulders and started walking south through the forest. It was heavy, but not overtly so and they soon found a good pace.
As the sun started to set, the lowlight glinting between the tree-lines, they were almost halfway to the southern edge of the forest. The forest around them was quickly growing dark, so Drest lit up a torch. There were wolves in the forest and although both of them had swords to defend themselves, the fire from the torch would deter most animals from them. The wolves here did not roam in very large packs and Mordred was more worried about slipping while carrying the deer and injuring his foot.
He heard several howls from the east. That had definitely been wolves. They sounded to be a good distance off however, so Mordred and Drest didn’t try to move any faster. Then another howl split the air. This one was nothing like that of a wolf. It was deep and monstrous, Mordred had never heard anything like it before. The wolves could be heard giving off quick high-pitched yips and then the howl rang out again. The wolves were suddenly silent. One more monstrous howl rang out.
Mordred felt Drest stop and he had no choice but to stop as well, or drop the carcass. He looked back at his friend “What’s wrong?”
Drest’s face had a look Mordred had never seen on it before, not in all the time he had known him. He was afraid. Drest dropped his end of the carrying branch and put his hand on his sword hilt. “The Cù Sith” and he pulled his sword out of its sheathe.
Picts and their superstitions. Mordred had, of course heard of the Cù Sith. It was a legend that popped all over Britannia with small differences. The Barghest, the Black Shuck and the Gytrash. All of them centered around unnatural black dogs that would chase down, kill and devour anyone in their vicinity. The Pictish legend portrayed Cù Sith as a hound as large as a bull and a species of fey.
“Drest there’s no such thing as black dogs. There about as real as mermaids or trolls” replied Mordred. He wanted to get home. “It was probably just an alpha wolf or a bear.” Even as he said it, Mordred didn’t believe it. No wolf or bear could have made the noise they had heard.
Either way it didn’t convince Drest. He refused to pick up the carcass. “Three howls. Three howls it gives off. As the Cù Sith gets close its prey become overwhelmed with fear and cannot fight it off.” He looked at Mordred. “We must run as fast as we can. It will be headed this way.” He was completely serious.
Mordred didn’t move until Drest started pushing him. “Run Mordred. Now!” he insisted. Another terrible howl rang out, this time it was much closer. Mordred started running with Drest following close behind him.
The howl let out again. Whatever beast was making the noise was very close. The sound of the two of them running through the low-lying bushes and fallen logs made it hard to tell which direction exactly. Mordred ran as fast as he could. He may not have believed in the Cù Sith, but he knew the sound of a violent animal when he heard one.
The light from Drest’s torch gave him just enough vision to see where he was going, though he could easily miss a sudden slope in the ground. A long black log loomed in front of them. They didn’t have time to go around; Mordred could hear the sounds of the beast not far behind them.
MTI: An excellent sample. Thank you for sharing it! People interested in reading Ryan's latest alternate history shorts can pick up Altered Europa!