Today, I have the honor before duty, to interview Gus D. Cadle, the author of”Duty Before Honor”. First and foremost, I want to thank Mr. Cadle for sending me a copy of his Panoramic short-story which was excellent. His writing style reminds me of many Forgotten Realms books I read when I was in high school mixt with the futuristic universe of Warhammer 40,000.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Gus D. Cadle and I am an aspiring writer from Mansfield, Ohio. I am married to my best friend Dusty Rose, with whom I have three beautiful children, Lincoln, Eli and Penelope. Back in May of 2020 I released my first officially released short story”Duty Before Honor” set in what I have come to call the Panoramic universe. I am drawing near to the release of my first original comic book with Excited Comics, “Geomancer” with art by Arnaldo Perreira. The story for Geomancer was inspired by Arnaldo’s incredible character designs and it has really blossomed from there. I have also recently signed a contract with Malü Studio to write an original comic book for them entitled “Femme Fatale” with art by Antonio Ramirez Diaz and María Gabriela. I guess you could say I’ve been pretty busy as of late!
Can you start by telling us what was your inspiration and how this whole universe came to be?
I have always wanted to write science fiction and fantasy stories as both genres set no limit on imagination and creativity. I also knew that my favorite scifi/fantasy stories were set in a real universe with continuity, history and consequences. So, before I set out to write DBH, I spent almost an entire year creating the Panorama itself as its own living and breathing galaxy. Planets, species, cultures, arts, history, trade, commerce, etc. I worked night after night on a ‘Panoramic bible’, defining terms and describing events that shaped the galaxy from an idea into something real. Now, future stories will benifit from the continuity and cohesion that the Panoramic bible assures. As I write these new stories, even newer ideas and terms will be added, and readers will feel the world grow with them. When someone opens a Panoramic story, I want them to feel transported, something my favorite stories did for me growing up.
Do you see yourself in one of your characters?
(Laughs) You know, its funny you ask that. I normally stay away from imbuing my characters with my own characteristics, but when I wrote the Prologue there was a definite inspiration from both myself and my frequent writing collaborator Cody Adkins. As you know, the story opens with our heroes as children pretend swashbuckling with wooden sticks. I think theres a line in there detailing the many scars and cuts on their hands from games past. That’s definitely inspired by our own swashbuckling days as kids. So to a certain extent, yes, theres certainly some inspiration for both characters, though I wont disclose who is who.
Were there any challenges that you had to overcome in writing this short story?
Writing while also working full-time is always a great challenge, especially when you’re providing for a family of five. But if you really want something, you’ll either make it happen or you’ll make excuses. The forthcoming birth of my daughter Penelope at the time was also a challenge, as any parent will tell you. And then there’s the aspect of wrestling with the story itself. I like to compare it to Jacob wrestling with God in the Hebrew Bible. The man has no right to wrestle with a deity, but he has the gall to do it. And of course its difficult, everyone’s arms are too short to box with God, yet it is not victory but the fighting spirit that impresses Him. Fortune favors the bold, as Vergil says. Eventually, just as you’re ready to give up, God dislocates your shoulder and gives you a blessing. (Laughs) That’s how writing this story worked for me. Right as I was about to throw my laptop, the story came together. It began to feel much more like discovery than creation, I began to feel like a journalist uncovering truths rather than a fiction writer inventing his own. That was a very rewarding process for me. Very meaningful.(Rubs shoulder)
Do you have a favorite science fiction author and did he or she influence your work?
Timothy Zhan is a favorite. Frank Herbert, Matthew Stover, Robert A. Heinlein, etc. Another big source of inspiration for me are comic books. Artists such as John Byrne, Jim Lee, Frank Cho and Moebius continue to inspire me. Superman was a seminal work for me. The idea of a stranger from another planet coming to earth as a hero attracted me to the story, but it was the science fiction aspects and backstory of Krypton that have kept me coming back. I’d love to do my own version of a Superman story/mythos one day, its on the bucket list. My favorite fiction author writes historical fiction and his name is Conn Iggulden. He wrote the Emperor books based on Julius Caesar as well as the Conqueror books based on Genghis Khan. I would say he’s definitely influenced my writing the most. He has a way of communicating the passion and the angst of a young man coming of age that is unapologetic and honest, as it should be, flaws and all. I really loved that when I discovered it.
Would you say that the Corporate Infantry in your story could be compared to the Empire in Star Wars?
(Laughs) I think its fair to make that comparison. Anyone that knows me would tell you that I grew up loving Star Wars. So yeah, of course there’s an element of that in there, but I also took advantage of an opportunity to fix what I saw as flawed aspects of Imperial characteristics. Most notably, I hope, is that the Corporate Commandos can actually aim, which means they’re a credible threat.(Laughs) I also wanted to show that the person wearing the helmet isn’t necessarily a faceless bad guy, that good people are fooled by evil ideologies and do terrible things all the time. The most obvious and overused example in our own world’s history is Nazi Germany, but I see it every day on both sides of our current political spectrum. The point that I wanted to make with DBH is that we always have a choice. Including right now. In fact, its always right now. We can choose to do what is right in this moment, no matter the mistakes made in the past that have led us to it. It is the very heart of the story, I think. It is my sincere hope that readers will take that home with them.
Is the death of your protagonists permanent or do you plan to bring them back to life with a technology of some sort?
Oh, they’re dead-dead. Or are they? You’ll have to tune in next week. All kidding aside, I wanted to show the likely consequences of changing your mind in that moment and standing for something. Quite often, standing for something when it matters most means dying for it as well. Cody and I felt it would be cheap for our heroes to do what was right in that predicament and live happily ever after. The Corporate Infantry is a large, well-oiled machine, and its going to take much more than a small group of individuals changing their mind to change the status-quo. What their example will do to those who hear of them, only time will tell.
What are your future plans regarding your short story’s universe?
Currently I am hard at work on”Ringrunners”, a brand new story set in the Panoramic universe, though it should be noted that it is not a sequel to “Duty Before Honor”. It explores a completely different aspect of the Panorama on the very edge of its borders. This time I brought in my aforementioned collaborator Cody Adkins to help co-write the story and develop the characters and setting. Last time, he helped read my edits and gave amazing suggestions, which netted him a thank you in the dedication page, but this time around he will be much more involved, which makes for an even more immersive and compelling story.
The ships and technology of”Ringrunners” are inspired by our incredibly talented friend from across the pond Chris Sargant.
It was the Sarg’s original painting of the Corporate Warship that initially inspired the story for “Duty Before Honor”. When I first saw his science fiction artwork, I immediately recognized his’used-universe’ design sensibility as the exact look and feel of the Panorama that was trapped in my mind’s eye. Chris is a 3D artist and professional model maker from the UK. I had the gall to contact him online and ask him if he’d be willing to read a short story I was writing that had been inspired by his painting of the Warship. Eventually, Chris was the first to read the story when it was completed, and he loved it so much, he sent it to his son who read it and loved it as well! After that, I had the gall to ask him to join the team and help us write new stories in the Panorama. We’re so excited he’s decided to join us as a visual storyteller, and he’s been working on the front lines with us to develop the look and feel of the story.
One of the things that really caught our attention was his hobby of kitbashing everyday objects into unique sci-fi designs. Cody and I were so impressed with Chris’ kitbashing that we ourselves began to look at everyday objects for inspiration for other ships. There’s a very late 70’s era Industrial Light and Magic kind of exploration and experimentation going on within the team thats very grassroots and practical. We’re using what we have at hand, drawing inspiration from things hiding in plain sight.
What’s truly amazing is that his visual imagination further informs and inspires the story in a way we’ve never previously enjoyed. The sense of synergy between the three of us has pushed the story forward in a very short amount of time. Chris is the Ralph McQuarrie to our George Lucas/Lawrence Kasdan, if I may be so bold. While I am proud of “Duty Before Honor” and always will be, it is very clear to me even in these early stages that “Ringrunners” is going to take everything readers liked about Duty Before Honor and take it to the next level. From the setting, to the characters, to the ships and beyond, we’re working extremely hard to bring you a new sense of adventure and excitement that will be the continuation of this unique brand of immersive story-telling that began with “Duty Before Honor”. Add to that the invaluable contributions of artists like Cody Adkins and Chris Sargant, you have a sci-fi story thats bound to be special.
What would you say to someone that wants to write a book or a short story?
Do it. Quit thinking about it, and do it. Stop spending your money on dumb stuff and chase your dreams. Learn discipline. Sacrifice the comforts of your current life for the uncertainty of something new. Chip away at it every day until it is done. Set goals and deadlines for yourself or you’ll never finish. Ask people whose opinions you respect to read your work and really listen to their constructive criticism. Oh, and read, read, read. Refresh the wellspring that is your inspiration and influence. You should highlight the things that really stuck out to you, made you laugh or cry. Find what it is about those passages that worked and apply them to your own writing. Always remind yourself, ‘these authors did it’. That means you can too. Last, support other independent storytellers. Actively seek out new and unique voices and support them. Eventually, the karma will come full circle and others will find and support you.
What would you consider to be the best sci-fi story of all time?
Man, thats a tough one. Some of the most influential for me were, of course, the original Star Wars stories, Superman stories, Gene Roddenberry Star Trek, Dune, Starship Troopers, the list goes on. I’ll give you a political answer, even though I hate political answers: I think the best sci-fi story is yet to be written! And I’ll be honest, at any given time, I hope that the story I’m writing is the best sci-fi story of all time in embryo. If that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t be writing at all. This time last year it was “Duty Before Honor”. Right now, that story is”Ringrunners”. But maybe I’m wrong and that’s okay. Hopefully people enjoy the stories anyway. Its always been my MO to shoot for the moon and land among the stars. Maybe the best story is yours and you’ve yet to write it. Time will tell. The likely difference between us is that I’ve already started and maybe you haven’t. So get started and let’s find out together. As my wonderful wife likes to remind me, ‘the time will pass either way’.