Hey everyone, Brunch is back! Don’t confuse it with the guy on YouTube who started a new brunch, this is the Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series! We are now into year three of interviews featuring indie and traditionally published SFF authors hanging out and talking books, publishing advice, nerding out, random everything, and of course Brunch.
Episode 28 features indie author JCM Berne! He is the author of the Hybrid Helix series, a wonderfully readable and witty sci-fi space opera adventure with superheroes!
Read on for JCM’s thoughts on superhero sci-fi roots, sentient AI, his favorite Star Trek, and so much more. Enjoy!
🥞Welcome to the Sunday Brunch Series! As an introduction, can you tell everyone an interesting thing about yourself that isn’t in your author bio?
🎤My college and grad school roommate, John Chu, is a Hugo award winner. It’s extra funny because we weren’t really involved with writing at the time – it’s not as if we were in a creative writing program together; he was an electrical engineering student and I studied philosophy. I have one biological child and one adopted child; my wife, who I knew in high school (a very long time ago), also has one biological and one adopted child. All coincidence!
🥞What’s your brunch order today?
🎤 I’ll start with a bottomless mimosa and I’ll end up on the floor. Something about brunch mimosas makes them irresistible to me!
🥞Hmm let’s jump into talking about The Hybrid Helix and your superheroes in space, space opera! I love the concept of bringing big action figures into sci-fi. What led you to this mashup?
🎤I don’t really think of it as a mashup! Superheroes and sci fi have always gone together. Superman came here from another planet in a spaceship. The Fantastic Four got their powers from an accident in space. Jim Starlin wrote stories set entirely on other planets with no human characters whatsoever back in the 70’s (he invented Thanos and told a ton of Warlock stories that were amazing). More recently you have films like the 3rd Thor movie and Guardians of the Galaxy. I wanted to tell stories that honored those antecedents, mostly because I think superheroes fighting spaceships is cool. I do it in prose form because I can’t draw and because I’m too much of a control freak to share my vision with other people (like artists!)
🥞 This had me thinking, and he is 100% right! So much superhero content that we know and love is based in sci-fi. It’s cool, it works, it’s classic
Ok, so did you have any part of the whole series mapped out when you started, or was it a play by play writing each book?
🥞I get ideas for future books as I write. When I started writing Wistful Ascending I knew I wanted Rohan to grow and change, but I wasn’t sure how. I thought of the rough outline for Return of The Griffin while writing WA, and so on. Right now I have a very detailed outline for book 4 and a very loose idea for 5 and scattered bits and pieces for later books. I know how I want the series to end, and I thought of that while writing Return. So it’s a combination – I know what I want the characters to be in the broadest sense, but I didn’t try to fill in every detail before writing the first book.
🚀💢🚀Book….5? I love that more is coming🚀💢🚀
🥞One of sci-fi’s long running themes with first contact stories, is, I guess – who or what else is out there? I liked your bear-people (and their anatomy 🤣), how did that alien race form in your mind?
🎤I’m not entirely sure! There was a manga I read back in the 80’s or early 90’s in which a bunch of characters had animal heads – wolves, bears, etc. – for no apparent reason. It wasn’t explained, not that I remember, it was probably just something the artist thought was cool. (I want to say it was Outlanders but honestly I’m not sure). I remember a scene of a bear-headed character with his mouth hanging open, shocked by something, and it stuck in my head. I have no idea why. It wasn’t even my favorite manga or character.
I didn’t really intend for the Ursans to be a big part of the series past the first four chapters or so of Wistful Ascending. But they became useful, and now I’m stuck with them! But they’re fun to write, so no complaints.
I’ll tell you a secret – when I wrote them I didn’t have a clear idea about their origin. I figured that out while plotting Blood Reunion.
As far as that particular anatomical detail… I’m pretty sure Ursula was teasing. Never rely on narrators in my stories!
(🤣I took it as Canon 🤣) You’ll have to read to find out what this refers to
🥞Your ships and space station were sentient! What characteristics should a well written sentient AI have?
🎤I love this question. All organic things have such a vast array of drives that we evolved with. Hunger, thirst, pain, etc. An artificial being doesn’t have to have any of that. Their drives are going to be whatever they were designed to have – maybe an urge to serve, or to be useful, or to follow orders – and/or drives they choose themselves, if you imagine that they can self-program.
Which just means that a well written sentient AI has to have desires and needs, but there’s no reason to make them similar to organic creatures. You have a blank slate! If you think about whoever designed and built them you can figure out a lot about how they’ll behave.
Then, it’s always fun to have them malfunction in some way. After all, not every organic creature works ‘right.’ So I throw in a few AI’s that are not quite sane.
🥞I love audiobooks and I’ve heard it’s a bit hard for indie authors to connect with good narrators and have a good production experience, can you talk about yours at all or offer any tips?
🎤 My narrator, Wayne Farrell, did a fantastic job. I’m not sure whether finding him was skill or luck. I simply put my book up on ACX and offered money, listened to 50 auditions, and he was the best of them all. And while he’s worth every penny, I had to shell out quite a bit to pay him, and that came out of pocket. I’m lucky to have a fairly well-paying day job. Not every indie author has those kinds of resources.
I think if I had less cash to invest I’d try to find someone with less experience who would be willing to work more cheaply or for profit sharing. I know a couple of narrators looking to break in right now!
🥞Wormholes, sentient space stations, and the mention of a transporter incident in Wistful Ascending ‘s book plug… Would you like to share your favorite Star Trek series and why 😆
🎤 Hmm… probably DS9! I was raised on the original series and I haven’t really watched the shows that have come out over the past five years, just because I don’t subscribe to the right streaming services. I like DS9’s level of grit and the way the setting (a space station instead of a traveling ship) allowed for long term stories to develop. With something like Voyager, the recurring stories felt very forced – after all, the ship was traveling in a line, trying to get home. I’m a fan of big plots, not standalone episodes.
🥞 💯💯💯💯. Yep. DS9 is the only acceptable answer in my book 🤣
🥞 What other nerdy things are you into right now?
🎤 Generally, I read a lot of comics (mostly Marvel and a few independents), manga, manhwa, and sci-fi and fantasy novels. I watch a lot of martial arts and science fiction movies and tv shows, South Asian action movies and comedies, and cartoons from all over. I go through phases. My eyesight deteriorated a little in the past decade and I’ve read a lot less print than I did when I was younger (it’s nothing serious, just makes it inconvenient). I played quite a bit of D&D in my younger days, but not recently. On the creative side, all I do is write – I don’t paint miniatures or anything like that. I’m not much of a gamer, either.
🥞Do you have a favorite book, author, series of all time? (I know how hard that question is😅)
🎤I don’t know! Probably Malazan Book of The Fallen. There’s so much depth and complexity to it, if I could only read one thing for the rest of my life, that would be it.
“Favorite” is such a tough word. Master of Kung Fu comics were super meaningful to me when I was young, but I don’t know that they hold up as well as some other things. I really like the first 35 or so volumes of Naruto. Jhereg, Dresden, and P.I. Garrett loom very large in my mind
🥞Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! This last is an open forum for you so feel free to talk about anything else you might want to say!
🎤Thank you so much for this opportunity!
Book 4 of the Hybrid Helix, Shadow of Hyperion, should be out this year. I’m hoping for September.
I just finished a wuxia fantasy novel that is very strange. I’m not sure if it will ever see the light of day, but if it does, you can bet I’ll plaster it all over social media.
It’s been an absolute thrill to become part of the indie book community this past year! Reviewers are so important, because without you, readers have no easy way to find stories that will work for them. I’m so grateful for you all!
You can find the author online at
Thank you so much for tuning into the Sunday Brunch Series! I’m opening back up to authors so do feel free to contact me if you’d like to feature. As always, thank you all for supporting indie authors and do check out the link if you are interested in JCM’s books!