It's my pleasure to be here with the administrator of this very blog, the one and only Silent Hunter. You know him from his writings, his characters, and his finely realised sim concepts. But what about the man behind the alias? This blog post tells you more!
Q: Let's start with a few ice-breakers. Circle or square?
A: Circles. They're easier to hold.
Q: Fairy lights; white, or multi-coloured?
A: Multi-coloured, of course. Ideally flashing on variable patterns.
Q: And finally, what is the airspeed velocity of a laden swallow?
A: African or European?
Q: Very nice. Now time for the serious stuff. You're probably currently best known as a prolific sim creator, running sims set in widely diverse genres. What gives you your inspiration when creating sim concepts?
A: A lot of things really. I'm an avid consumer of fiction, particularly cop shows and techno-thrillers. Some things I read in the news also give me ideas. For example, Sierra Charlie Four owes a fair bit of inspiration to the now-ended ITV1 cop drama The Bill.
Q: To what extent does RL inform your sim creations?
A: It depends on the sim. I try to use RL geography and history where possible. In my more contemporary sims, namely the British policing sim Sierra Charlie Four and my planned naval/aviation sim Carrier, I pay a good amount of attention to developments in those respective worlds. There's a lot of procedural stuff that's important for the realism of Sierra Charlie Four, as well as the impact of spending cuts and an increasingly globalised world. There are some developments in the latter that will be of great importance to the story; China's carriers, Russia's stealth aircraft, Iranian ballistic missiles…
My "historical" sims stick as closely to the historical background as I can, although I admit I do make mistakes. At the end of the day, one should not let the facts get in the way of a good story. ;-)
The Triple First is far looser; Doctor Who is far more a fantasy show than some of my more original concepts. Kvant, my Firefly sim, will owe some stuff to RL military organisation.
Q: You're also known for playing a large number of characters. Tell us a little about the genesis of some of these favourites.
A: OK, I'll pick three – Sue Ling, Romana VI and Samuel Arkwright.
With many of my characters, I tend to take an actor and create a character around them. Sue Ling is an example of that. Created to fill the rather undermanned Fire Team on Atlantis, she was inspired by Renee Felice Smith, who plays Nell Jones on NCIS: Los Angeles. I found the character so quirky that it inspired me to create another character. The name came from another female gunslinger, Soolin from the cult British science-fiction series Blake's 7. The concept of the character itself – rich girl runs away to become a merc – was inspired by Domino Harvey, a female bounty hunter who was the subject of the film Domino (which I haven't actually seen). I wanted a character who was still wide-eyed and innocent, to be gradually broken down by the business.
Romana VI, from The Triple First, is somewhat different. Romana is my favourite companion in Doctor Who and as a Time Lord, she seemed an obvious character to use in a sim. Conscious of the "rules" about canon characters; I bent them by creating a new incarnation. In a way, Romana is intended to be the "opposite" of the Eleventh Doctor. Matt Smith's Doctor has been described as "an old man in a young man's body" and I decided to reverse that. The Valley Girl persona was taking a classic fictional stereotype and turning it on its head a little – she may appear dumb but it's a front. I actually had intense difficulty choosing an actor for her.
Samuel Arkwright, who will be appearing in Kvant, is actually a fairly long standing character of mine; he first turned up as a Royal Marines officer several years ago in another work. He's evolved since then and is now a hardened veteran of the U-War, with a few ships after that. He was my first character at our old home. I made him a caring man, who knows the value of loyalty, but also decency; he attempted to instigate a mutiny on his old ship when his CO murdered a Dockmaster. His wife died in the war, so he knows its cost. He's now settled for "stability" in his old age; he's gained a company command in The Eagles of Warsaw. His actor, Serge Soric, makes fairly frequent appearances in British cop shows; using a Slavic actor was part of my vision of a future where names are longer limited to one ethnicity.
Q: How do you keep your various characters distinct and individual? How much interplay is there between your characters and your actual self?
I use pretty broad brushes to begin with and then work from there. A good memory helps to keep them distinct.
There's actually fairly little interplay between them and my RL self. I can't shoot straight if my life depended on it. That said, I may appear as a politician in the near future.
Q: Which brings us neatly to another facet of the legend that is Silent Hunter! Some have called your political career in the old country fractious, while others would say it was characterised by compassionate activism for members against tyranny. What motivates you politically, and how do you decide when and how to act? Where do you draw the lines?
A: Well, I'm active-ish in RL politics; being a member of the Labour Party. I'm motivated by a desire to see justice done. I don't really have a set of fixed criteria about when to act and when not to act; it's kind of personal feeling. However, I have a fairly strict moral code and there are certain behaviours that I will not do. I generally try to avoid deliberate violations of site rules. If I can't win a political struggle on a site fairly and the struggle is impacting RL (as happened in the old country), it's probably best for me to go.