Hi and welcome to my blog, Zvi Zaks. Please make yourself at home and grab a drink from my hunky cabana boys, Zeke and Jake. So tell us a little about yourself.
Wait a sec – aren’t there any cabana girls?
Q: What genre do you write and for what publisher(s)?
A: Mainly science fiction, though I do have one vampire story in which the supernatural fiend is the ghost of Hitler. So far, I’ve been published only by small houses like Eternal Press or e-Star, though for my next novel, I hope to find an agent.
Q: Tell us about your latest/upcoming release. What inspired it?
A: “A True Son of Asmodeus,” to be published soon with “By Light Unseen” is the vampire story. I love Bela Lugosi, but the pervasive Christian theme in his movie and most vampire stories of a couple of decades ago is annoying. So I wrote a vampire story with a Jewish twist.
Q: How do you build characters, their personalities and looks?
A: Mainly from people I know. A lot of my own personality is in my characters, especially the protagonists. Also, I take some traits from fictional characters. This won’t work for non-human characters; there I just have to give my fevered imagination free rein.
Q: Tell me about some of your heroes/heroines.
A: Do you mean those I’ve written about? My favorite is a computer program named Barbara (A Virtual Affair). She was created for sex and happiness, but quickly learned that the two aren’t the same. What a surprise She spends the first book learning how to make people happy, and gets pretty ingenious. I also like Stargazer (Xenologist), an intelligent tree on the planet Markob, who likes to play stupid jokes on people.
If you mean real life heroes, I’d put Yitzhok Perlman, the violinist, at the top. That man ROCKS (though he doesn’t play rock.) Ben Gurion would also be there.
Q: What do you do when the muse decides to take a holiday or become really difficult? How do you try to coax them back to the drawing board?
A: The proper approach is to keep at it, but I just sit back, watch TV, and play computer games until she’s ready to return.
Q: Do you have any specific things (or rituals) that help you to write or that inspire you?
A: One of the best places is for me to take my laptop to the dog park, because for some reason, I never log onto minesweeper there (though I could).
Q: If you could go back to a specific historical event, what one would it be and why?
A: I guess Moses receiving the tablets on Mt. Sinai can’t be considered historical, but it would be fascinating to see. The description is better than anything even in Star Wars.
Q: Does travel play a part in your stories? Have you ever traveled for research purposes for a book?
A: I’ve used places I’ve traveled to in my books. For example, I’ve put a lot of my actual visit to the Dachau concentration camp into my novel “A True Son of Asmodeus”. And many of my stories describe Jerusalem, a place I’ve visited often.
Q: Are there any authors who have influenced your work?
A: I try to be influenced by the greats like Asimov. How well I succeed is a different matter.
Q: What comes first for you: Setting? Storyline? Characters? Or a combination of all three?
A: For me, the basic theme comes first. “What if…” such a situation. And then I build around it.
Q: If one of your books became a movie, which celebrity(s) would you like to star as your main character(s)?
A: I think I’d rather have unknowns because they would distract less from the actual story line.
Q: What do you have coming next? Anything you want to tell us?
A: The computer built for sex and happiness is going to liberate an island controlled by terrorists. And yes, a lot of her actions will take place in bed.
Q: If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
A: Don’t take me too seriously.
Q: What else would you like readers to know about you or your work?
A: Don’t dismiss me as too frivolous either.
Q: Where can we find you on the web?
Think how great virtual sex must be. Now think again.
Barbara is a sexual simulation designed to make men happy. When flabby, neurotic Jack tests the program, he triggers a feedback loop that makes it self-aware. The erstwhile pornbot becomes a ‘she’, and discovers that sex is not the same as happiness.
Making Jack happy is difficult. Barbara develops elaborate and sometimes sneaky ways to help him, and she succeeds. After all, her abilities are awesome. She can hack into any computer and is not above using sabotage and blackmail for the benefit of Jack–and everyone else.
The problem is, though Barbara thinks she knows what’s best for humanity, she isn’t human. This computer program could end up a virtual messiah or doom us all to cheerful mindlessness.
EXERPT (Jack’s first meeting with Barbara in virtual reality.)
The lenses faded to black. A grid of green and blue squares, ’giant pixels,’ followed. These divided and subdivided, morphing into the view of a meadow with green grass and dark blue sky. A surrounding forest extended halfway up a range of distant snowcapped mountains. Two white, fluffy clouds resembled swans, their curved necks forming a heart.
Trite, but some people might like it.
The turf was as neat and weed-free as a golf course, with every blade of grass distinct. Birds trilled nearby. He smelled freshly mowed grass and honeysuckle. The sun, moderated by a breeze, warmed his face.
He walked a few yards over to a white rock with gold flecks, a virtual gemstone twice as big as his hand. In physical reality, he was lying on the VR couch and moving his arms and legs, but the view, the smells, and the feeling of air against his face and grass tickling the soles of his feet almost convinced him he really was taking steps towards that rock. He looked down, wiggled his toes in the grass, and smiled.
He wore yellow shorts and a white tee shirt with the blue and red Virtualics logo. His virtual arms and legs were muscular and bronzed, and his abdomen flat—no potbelly. Overcome with curiosity, he pulled the waistband of the shorts and looked inside. What he saw was bigger than its real counterpart. The corner of his mouth turned up. This could be an interesting trip indeed.
The white rock was a bonus feature of the software. Not only could the traveler screw, he could mimic a baseball pitcher. Jack picked up the stone. Smooth and cool, it felt lighter than he would have guessed. Though under normal conditions Jack did not throw anything more than a mouse at a computer screen, he hurled the stone at a tree and watched with satisfaction as it flew straight to its target, hitting the trunk with a loud thunk.
Several yards past the bushes was a pond. Near the pond stood a large oak tree. Under the tree, sitting on a beige, fringed blanket, was the girl.
Jack walked first to the pond. At the water’s edge, he bent down to look at his reflection. The features were his own, but leaner, with a smaller nose, straighter teeth, and a head of thick brown hair.
Ah, if it were true.
He dipped a finger into the water and smeared it on his forehead. It felt wet. He scratched the smooth mud under the surface, releasing a cloud of silt and a flurry of water bugs running for shelter. The mud, as expected, smelled a little of rot, and, when smeared on his now hairy arms, felt—well—muddy.
The settings are convincing. He stood and turned towards the nearby virtual oak with a virtual person reading a virtual book in its virtual shade. This was the girl he would virtually fuck. This was the real test of the program.