The Many Worlds of Ulysses King (2014) – Created by Mark Beaulieu – Stories by Mark Beaulieu, I.A. Watson, Sean Taylor, and Mark Bousquet – Published by Pro Se Productions.
Welcome to Atomic Interview #20, the latest installment of my interview series with creative folk. where this time around I’m talking to Ian Watson, a fellow writer on the MANY WORLDS OF ULYSSES KING project. I have a story in this collection, too, which is now available in paperback.
The description of THE MANY WORLDS OF ULYSSES KING:
Professor Ulysses King and his companions travel the foldspace between alternate realities to thwart nefarious history-twisting plots from his homeworld Olympus. With Amazonian arena-warrior Pandora, out-of-his-depth reporter Jake Gannon, marked-for-death scientist Crystal Lee, and worlds-spanning travel machine NotTA, King faces those who regard humanity as test subjects, cannon fodder, raw material, or mere entertainment. But there are dangers in foldspace of which neither King nor his enemies are yet aware – those who seek absolute control! In the tradition of Doctor Who and Sliders, THE MANY WORLDS OF ULYSSES KING collects the talents of Mark Beaulieu, Mark Bousquet, Sean Taylor, and I.A. Watson to forge a new mythology where high adventure, high science, and high strangeness meet. Ulysees King is on his voyages – and each discovery might be his last! Featuring an out of this world cover by Terry Pavlet and stunning interiors illustrations by Chris Kohler. THE MANY WORLDS OF ULYSSES KING from Pro Se Productions.
Mark Bousquet: How did you come to be involved with the ULYSSES KING project? What drew you to want to write in this universe?
I.A. Watson: I was just getting out of my car, heading into the shopping precinct. A strange-looking chap in a leather flight jacked rushed up to me and said, “Don’t go in there. Not unless you enjoy painful lobotomies and high-tech weaponry screwed to your body parts.”
This rarely happens to me, so I responded, “Ummm…”
He pushed an oilskin-wrapped bundle of papers and floppy discs into my hands. “This explains everything. Well, most things. Nobody can explain X-Factor voting. Take it. Read it. Warn the world about what’s coming.”
“Ummm…” I offered again.
And then he rushed off, towards the mall. A short time later there was screaming and explosions and a really weird green light. I decided to do my shopping online.
Then I unpacked the documents I’d been handed, read them, shook my head in disbelief. And then I got an e-mail from Mark Beaulieu about writing for the Ulysses King “fiction series”. And here we are.
MB: What’s your story and what’s it about?
IW: The worst things that can happen to us are the things we do to ourselves and our loved ones. The very worst are the ones we do to ourselves and our loved ones with the best of intentions but horrific results.
Professor Muron Styx was a pioneer of trans-dimensional engineering. He invented the technology that freezes whole realities when they become a threat to the all-powerful Olympians. He was Ulysses’ mentor. Unfortunately, his supremacist tendencies led him to experiment – to “improve” – on his own students. He was banished from Olympus, to a forgotten reality where he would never bother anyone again.
Right. That always works.
“Absolute Control” is a tale about the consequences of using technology to compel perfection. It’s about the rise of a race of monsters with high ideals. It’s about becoming the victim of one’s own hubris. It’s got skyscraper high robot cockroaches and painful flashbacks to some of the cast’s worst moments and crawling through sewers. It’s therefore ideal Ulysses King material.
MB: What were you trying to accomplish with this story? Was there a particular inspiration?
IW: It will be no surprise to readers of The Many Worlds of Ulysses King that Doctor Who was a major influence on the writers. In fact our original brief was to create a series that occupied that same eccentric niche of science fiction that Doctor Who will always reign over. We wanted to do something in the same spirit with plagiarising or pastiching the original.
But to do that requires that much the same narrative niches be comparably filled. My brief was to “come up with something that does for Ulysses what the Daleks do in Doctor Who.”
Now that’s a tall order, given how Terry Nation and Ray Cusack’s homicidal pepperpots are the second half of the 20th Century’s greatest monster creations. Folks can read the book to find out how close I came to finding a suitable creature for Ulysses’ mythological ecosystem.
I also wanted to use the story to fill out some backstory for the characters. One of the advantages of print is that its easier to do that organically than in visual media. And we really need to feel we know and care about our travellers, so putting them through hell then making them relive it is a big help (for us, not them!).
Finally, I wanted to do the whole hero and villain meet in the control room and exchange showdown dialogue before the explosions begin scene. Ulysses is the cleverest man in the stories, but it has to be show not tell, so I wanted him up against another genius for comparison.
MB: Do you have a favorite character to write among King and his cohorts?
IW: I’m partial to Jake Gannon, who is the only non-superhero in the entire series. Ulysses is an amazing, impossible man with more skills than a small university could boast. Pandora is an Amazon cage-fighter come SF-woman warrior wet dream. Crystal’s a genius scientist in her own right. Jake’s a washed-up overweight rumpled divorcee trying to keep up. I can identify with that.
MB: What other projects do you have in the pipeline?
IW: I’ve just finished a five volume fantasy e-book series for Pro Se called BYZANTIUM, which I had a lot of fun doing. Also due out soon is my first non-fiction volume, a hefty collection of features and essays called WHERE STORIES DWELL. Sometime soon there’ll be THE NEW ADVENTURES OF RICHARD KNIGHT volume 2: RACE WITH HELL, a new novella featuring the 30s detective airman. When I finally approve the galleys there’ll be a World War 2 fantasy adventure novel, SIR MUMPHREY WILTON AND THE LOST CITY OF MYSTERY, and a modern day weird science novel THE TRANSDIMENSIONAL TRANSPORT COMPANY. I think SHERLOCK HOLMES, CONSULTING DETECTIVE volume 6 should be out soon, which as usual features a story from me. There’s a story called “Mr Lye and the Laundry of Doom” that I wrote for the online Wonderlust magazine. Later this year there’ll be a new all-I.A. Watson anthology ROBIN HOOD: FORBIDDEN LEGEND.
There’s a few other projects that are embargoed by the publishers that I can’t mention yet. Last time I counted there were seventeen items I’d written that were somewhere “in production”.
And the work keeps stacking up. Right now I owe two mystery stories, a Sherlock Holmes novel, and something for ULYSSES KING 2 – and I hate having a backlog!
This year I’ve set myself the task of averaging a publication a month, but so far I’ve only managed “Robin Hood and the Maiden of the Tower” in PRO SE PRESENTS WINTER/SPRING 2013 and THE MANY WORLDS OF ULYSSES KING volume 1. I need to pick up the pace.
MB: Where can people go to learn more about you and your work?
All my stuff’s listed and described, with some free stories as well, at http://www.chillwater.org.uk/writing/iawatsonhome.htm. That’s as good as my marketing and self-promotion get, I’m afraid.
MB: Thanks, Ian!
When I’m not talking to others about their work, I’m creating my own. Please give my latest work, GUNFIGHTER GOTHIC: UNDER ZEPPELIN SKIES a look, and visit my Author page and personal website for a complete list of my available titles. Thanks for stopping by and reading, all!