This Week’s Prophet of Doom: Ronin Heck!

Author Ronin Heck

Our prophet of Doom this week hails from the great state of Minnesota where he’s a professor of Philosophy. In his time away from class, Ronin has penned a dystopian tale that harkens back to the dark whimsy of such authors as George Orwell, Phillip K. Dick and Aldous Huxley. Let’s learn more about his newest book, Same Song, Different Beat, and the world that inspired it.

Copper: What was the spark that urged you to write Same Song, Different Beat?

Ronin: The idea for this book began forming about ten years ago. I noticed entertainment seemed almost entirely predicated on nostalgia. Nothing new was being produced. This isn’t really true, there’s new stuff produced all the time. But the media with money behind it no longer seemed interested in doing anything new. That was at the height of the zombie craze. Every movie from the 1980s was being remade for no reason at all other than the brand recognition. This was obviously commerce devouring art. A bunch of stiffs in suits seeking a bankable title from the past. It’s a good business plan, frankly. You have what they call a ‘built-in’ audience and that audience’s children, which becomes the new audience. Nowhere has this been more apparent than with the Disney Star Wars movies. They carted out the old coots from the original trilogy and killed them off while introducing ‘new,’ younger characters. I realized a dystopian book today should point out how the general public seems content consuming the same old stuff, over and over. In the process of plotting the book, I realize the book itself was treading familiar ground, which is how I stumbled onto the dual-purpose title, Same Song, Different Beat. There’s not much ground to cover in dystopian literature anymore, so you have to present things in a way that, at the very least, seems different.

Copper: Were there any dystopian novels or movies in particular that influenced you?

Ronin: 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, I think, were the most influential. Those books have really proven prophetic. Not to discount the others, but just look at how accurate Orwell and Bradbury were. The only thing Orwell got wrong was that we carry the television spying on us everywhere we go. They’ve found so many ways to consolidate control of the masses through cell phones. Had you told me this is how Orwell’s nightmare would come true, say, twenty-five years ago, I would have laughed. I would have said, There’s no way the masses are that gullible. Wow, have I been proven wrong! The thing Bradbury got correct was the fact that we the people invited this nightmare we’re currently enduring. In Fahrenheit, the fire chief (I think he’s the character that does this, it’s been a while) points out that it was the people who asked for the books to be burned. Social media, egged on by corporations, has conditioned the masses to police each other’s speech. It’s genius, in a Machiavellian way. Another huge influence, though not as obvious, is Shutter Island. I have always hated that Teddy turns out to be crazy. Shutter Island is part of a larger batch of stories told over the last thirty years or so in which an individual detects something is very wrong in the society around him/her/them and almost always that individual ends up being insane. I think this is a very dangerous message. We know darn well individuals who point out flaws in society are persecuted all the time. Art should be championing the Cassandras out there who take the risk of speaking up. Folks will have to read the book to see how I deal with this particular concern.

Copper: What social media platform seems the most likely to usher in a dystopian world?

Ronin: That’s a great question. As I mentioned, the small, select group of people who seem to have all the power have manipulated things so that we the people monitor each other. There is no Big Brother. Just a nosy neighbor or a predatory narcissist on Twitter. And if we’re being honest, Twitter seems to be the platform the establishment is most protective of; This was demonstrated rather graphically when Elon Musk announced he would purchase it. I’ve never seen so many nasty little busy bodies shriek in terror all at once. Musk doesn’t even need to buy the platform now. He proved the establishment considers Twitter a major weapon in the manipulation of the masses. I’m on Twitter, but I rarely visit and when I do, I try to stick to promoting all things horror and science fiction, my loves outside of philosophy. If I begin to stick around and read the alleged ‘political opinions’ on Twitter, I’m compelled to tell people exactly how stupid they sound. And, of course, that’s not the correct way to go about discourse. But a platform that only allows 280 characters per communication, well, it’s begging for misunderstanding and conflict. That the current owners of Twitter do nothing about this, I think, is criminal.

Copper: If we lived in a dystopian world that permitted only one song to exist, what song would you like it to be?

Ronin: If the state were in charge, I’m sure it would be Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Or maybe REM’s “Shiny Happy People” (the State, as always, being unaware of the origins of either of those songs; similar to Republican candidates playing “Born in the U.S.A.” at their rallies). If I got to choose the song that would help me get through a dystopia, as cheesy as it may sound, I’d vote for “Sailing,” by Christopher Cross. When I was a child, I had a portable cassette recorder/player. I couldn’t afford to buy new tapes from the record store. My parents were very strict and wouldn’t let me use their record player, so I couldn’t buy 45s either. So, I kept my tape recorder by a small clock radio I had at my bedside. I’d keep a tape cued up to record on and if a song I liked came on the radio, I’d hit the record button and hope I got the beginning of the song. I had a primitive, early rendition of the ‘mix tape’ with songs like “Back in the Black” and “Give Me the Night” on it. As a child, I guess, I didn’t differentiate genres of music. If the song sounded nice, I liked it. “Sailing” was a particularly soothing tune. Today, if I need my own nostalgia fix, “Sailing” takes me right back to that time. Like all nostalgia, the feeling ignores the turmoil of growing up poor in rural Minnesota. I just remember being younger, much farther away, in terms of time, from the finish line. All existential angst disappears for the few minutes that song plays.

Check out Ronin’s book on Amazon! (links in descriptions may be affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

This Week’s Prophet of Doom: Terry Tyler!

Author Terry Tyler

Our Prophet of Doom this week is the author of post-apocalyptic, dystopian and dark psychological fiction, all available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. Terry likes sunshine, history, trees, TV binges and long, long walks, is a reviewer for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team, and is currently struggling with a sudoku addiction problem. She lives with her husband in North East England. Here’s a link to Terry’s various projects!

Copper: What was it that drew you towards dystopian/apocalyptic fiction?

Terry: I love The Walking Dead and other post-apocalyptic TV series and films, as well as books of the genre—survival in exceptionally adverse circumstances pulls me in every time, especially when those circumstances mean the collapse of society as we know it.
I’d wanted to write my own post-apocalyptic novel or series for a while before I felt confident to do so, then in 2016 I had an idea about a virus manufactured for the purpose of targeted depopulation, in which the UK is used as a pilot for the rest of the world, with each citizen’s chance of survival dependent on certain behavioural factors.
This became Tipping Point.

My books are always character-driven; what interests me most about post-apocalyptic scenarios is how the survivors adapt. Some flounder and rely on others, some accept and make the best of their new circumstances, others flourish as natural leaders—and then there are those whose dark side comes to the fore.

I wrote my dystopian series after reading about Agenda 21, now known as the Great Reset—a fictional take on how it might play out.

I think my interest in the genre also derives from a slight obsession with clearing the slate and starting again; an escape from the limitations of ‘civilised’ society.

Copper: Fictional social media platforms play a big role in your books. Which social media platform seems the most likely to bring about a dystopian future?

Terry: Hard for me to say, as Twitter is the only one I use! I write the fictional social media platforms in my books simply for realism, because the real life ones feature so prominently in many lives, and are used to influence the thoughts of the public in a much more developed way than many people realise, with thousands of fake profiles employed to push agendas. Maybe Facebook is the answer to your question, as it’s a bit ‘lowest common denominator’, but I’m not sufficiently up on the ins and outs of TikTok and Instagram to be able to comment. Then again, I do see some TikTok posts on Twitter which make me fear for the generation growing into adulthood now.

Copper: What post-apocalyptic stories (movies or books) have influenced you most?

Terry: The Walking Dead (TV rather than comics)

A little known novel called The Turning of the World by John Privilege – it’s about a pandemic, set in Ireland. Stunning book, I’ve read it a few times; it made me think, I want to write my own.

A zombie apocalypse book called Great Bitten: Outbreak by Dawn Peers, which was my first foray into the genre. The author sent me a short story that would become the novel – I didn’t think I’d like it but it was something of a ‘Eureka!’ moment.

Some people have asked if Tipping Point was influenced by The Stand; a chapter in the latter about how Patient Zero spreads the virus is not dissimilar to the scenario I produced in my own book, but I didn’t read The Stand until a couple of years later. It’s now one of my favourite books.

Copper: What one song would you hope survives the apocalypse for the sake of helping you maintain your sanity?

Terry: Oh, these one song, one film or one book questions! So hard to answer. I recently did a five part series on my blog of my 100 favourite songs, and named Black Water by The Doobies as possibly my favorite song ever. It’s so smooth and chilled out, and makes me nostalgic for a time and place I’ve never visited.

Then again, there’s One Way Street by Aerosmith. Or Gimme Shelter. No, sorry, it’s impossible!

Check out Terry’s Tipping Point, the first in her Project Renova series!

(Links in descriptions may be affiliate links. I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

This Week’s Prophet of Doom: Franklin Horton!

Author Franklin Horton

Author Franklin Horton has exactly the background and storytelling skill needed to deliver high-octane post-apocalyptic thrillers. As you’ll see in this interview and in his books, he’s seen humanity at its darkest but doesn’t fall victim to pessimism. His books are gritty, but in the end, they are tales of survival, not defeat. (Links in description may be affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you).

Copper: What was your favorite book as a child?

Franklin: Farley Mowat’s Lost in the Barrens. Written in the 1950s, it was the story of two kids surviving a winter in the arctic. I read it over a dozen times.

Copper: Prior to becoming a full-time author, you’ve held a diverse range of jobs such as radio announcer, substance abuse educator, retail store owner and carpenter. Which of those jobs was best as far as providing you with material to use in your books?
Franklin: Definitely being a substance abuse educator. Besides teaching me a lot about human behavior and motivations, it showed me that substance abusers are a good example of apocalyptic behavior because they’re already living in their own personal apocalypse. Their desperate search for drugs mirrors how people might lose sight of their own morality in the post-apocalyptic search for food.

Copper: When it comes to apocalyptic societal collapse, are you more afraid of man-made catastrophes or natural catastrophes?

Franklin: I think natural catastrophes are far more likely to impact most people. I always tell people that I don’t prep because I’m afraid of EMPs. I prep because I know that all of us will at some point be impacted by flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, ice storms, blizzards, or something along that line. Everyone should have the ability to filter water, heat their home, and cook without relying on grid power. As far as man-made disasters, I don’t fear a sudden event as much as I fear the slow erosion of freedom, our rights, our financial security, and personal prosperity.

Copper: What one song would you hope survives the apocalypse for the sake of helping you maintain your sanity?

Franklin: Probably a good strong blues song like Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Pride and Joy. Nothing like the blues to remind a person that they can find joy even in the face of despair. That’s a recurrent theme in my books. If you can’t find happiness in the apocalypse, is there a reason to keep going on?

Here’s Franklin’s latest book, The Death Dealer’s Manual: Book Seven of the Mad Mick Series!

Post-apocalyptic Non-fiction?

As we lurch further and further into a future of danger, chaos and growing uncertainty, has the idea of post-apocalyptic fiction began to feel less and less fictional? And not just because of the continued threat of COVID, but also the panic and cultural upheaval that has accompanied it. 

It doesn’t help matters that talk of an upcoming vaccine, far from quelling the political storm, has simply nudged the storm in a different direction, spurring on the rhetoric of anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists and — surprise! — political opportunists

Allow me to move the topic to a selfish place: What does all this mean to fiction writers?

If Amazon’s book charts are any indication, the pandemic’s deadly spread has been a boon to writers of viral apocalypse novels. Apparently, people like reading deadly fictional tales that mirror the real-file horror of our daily lives. Does this make sense?

It’s not usually the case that people like fiction that close to home. I’ve known a few war veterans in my life and none seemed eager to immerse themselves in the fictional accounts of violent conflict. Nor do most abuse survivors relish tales of violence and torture. 

Maybe it’s different when the apocalypse is happening generally to the world, but not to you and your family or circle of friends. 

It seems to me that people like fiction that hits close to home — but not too close. 

What do you think?

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