Exclusive Interview: “SIN:THETICA” Author Keith Anthony Baird


While virtual reality doesn’t count as reality, yet, it someday might.

Which brings me to Keith Anthony Baird’s new dystopian / cyberpunk science fiction / urban fantasy novella SIN:THETICA (paperback, Kindle), in which a bounty hunter has to hunt his bounty in VR.

In the following email interview, Baird discusses what inspired and influenced this story.

Keith Anthony Baird SIN:THETICA

To start, what is SIN:THETICA about, and when and where is it set?

Having been surgically salvaged from the last exchanges of the Sino-Nippon war in 2097, our protagonist, US Marine Balaam Hendrix, opts to stay in Tokyo rather than return to the U.S.A. post conflict. Part of a coalition force, his orders were simple: crush a Japan which had emerged as a global rising force in the latter part of the 21st Century.

Now under Chinese rule, NeuTokyo is a melting pot of cultures granted settlement rights under the international coalition agreement. This accord created a free-for-all of land grabs, corporate chicanery, and black market activity. And though under Chinese governance, the city and surrounding region became a fractious and near lawless territory.

Fast forward to 2113 and most, if not all, of NeuTokyo is mired in corruption and an out-of-control crime problem. This setting hands a former marine the means to making a new living, as a bounty hunter.

Over time, his reputation has grown to be dubbed “The Reverend” — the one who’ll be giving you your Last Rites. His distinctive look of Dakota hat and overcoat provide a kind of Old West frontier aesthetic. Morally grey and haunted by his past, Hendrix self-medicates with rum, nicotine, and a drug called Narcoplex. Offered a golden payday, he accepts a job from the city’s notorious crime lord whereby he must enter a virtual reality construct in order to find his mark. But is everything what it seems? How much of Hendrix’s past is interwoven with the present, and will the war continue to define his existence?

Where did you get the idea for SIN:THETICA?

Initially, I had two ideas: a futuristic bounty hunter and the use of an altered reality element to the narrative. How I’d approach that was the question.

Ultimately, I decided on a virtual reality mission which would be something completely alien to the character, especially one who is famed for ghosting his quarry as opposed to allowing himself to be vulnerable in an immersive experience. Also, I wanted a military element to the whole set-up.

Is there a reason why it’s set in 2113 as opposed to 2033 or 12213?

Only in the sense that I could envision the technology, infrastructure, and engineering potentially being in place for such a scenario by then. Other than that, no particular reason for that date.

And what about 2112? You have a guy named Hendrix, why not show some love to the band Rush, too?

Ha! Now had this story been written by my brother Paul then there’s a chance it may have had a reference to Rush, given they were one of his favorite bands back in the day. Me, well, I was into the more hard-hitting bands of the late eighties and early nineties such as Ministry, nine inch nails, Sepultura, et al, so there wasn’t that frame of reference for me.

We Pauls have excellent taste in music.

The press materials call SIN:THETICA a dystopian cyberpunk sci-fi story, so I assume you don’t disagree with that. But are there any other genres at work in this story?

That’s exactly what it is, but there are indeed other elements to the story. I wanted a gritty, urban quality to it and most definitely noir. As such, the book is a bit of a genre mash-up, so sci-fi, dystopian, cyberpunk, and urban fantasy.

SIN:THETICA is your third novella after A Seed In A Soil Of Sorrow, and In The Grimdark Strands Of The Spinneretthough you’ve also written two novels [The Jesus Man, and Nexilexicon], a novelette [This Will Break Every Bone In Your Heart], and a short story collection [And A Dark Horse Dreamt Of Nightmares].

Are there any writers, or stories, that were a big influence on SIN:THETICA but not on anything else you’ve written?

Well, obviously Philip K. Dick and William Gibson have to be cited, no question. But because the story has another key aspect to it, I wanted the world building to take a back seat really. Sure, it pays homage to the worlds they created but because the world Hendrix is moving through is built around his perception of things, and in tandem his imagination, it can only be built on what the character has drawn as his influences and experiences. Some early reviews seem to have missed the point somewhat on this because everything is within a construct. Expecting a story to break new ground when the whole premise is based upon that “actually not being the case” is quite backward really. The main character is the one generating the narrative.

What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? Was SIN:THETICA influenced by any of those things?

If it was then that would have been subconsciously, because as I’ve already said, Hendrix is the story creator in this narrative. I mean, of course you’re going to be influenced by everything you’ve come across as a writer at one point or another. Our brains are like sponges, in that we soak up stuff and it stays in the memory bank but not so much on a conscious level.

Dystopian cyberpunk sci-fi stories are sometimes stand-alone stories and sometimes they’re part of larger sagas. What is SIN:THETICA?

I toyed with idea of making SIN:THETICA the first in a series. I really could have played with a whole bunch of storylines involving Hendrix. There certainly would have been mileage in the character . But because I already had a planned trilogy in mind at the time — my alien invasion / post-apocalyptic title Wind Rust — I decided to make this novella a stand-alone piece.

Now, along with SIN:THETICA you also have another novella coming out in November, A Light Of Little Radiance, which you’ve co-written with Beverley Lee. What is Radiance about, and when and where is it set?

I had the idea of writing a vampire story but wanted something a little different from the standard concept. During Europe’s dark age, when the witch hunts are at their height, a new species is born amid the persecution and hysteria gripping the lands. The main character is a woman of Romany origin who is pushed to the margins of civilization for fear of falling foul of the Church’s intent. While traversing the northern wastes she is forced to evade a pack of wolves and subsequently falls down a crevasse on a glacier. Deposited into a cavern complex she comes across the remnants of an ancient culture that worshipped an otherworldly creature as their god.

It has survived down through the ages by consuming animal blood out on the steppes at night. Imagine if you will something akin to a bat crossed with a facehugger from the Alien franchise. With that in mind I think you can guess what happens to the main character when she encounters it. Essentially, it’s parasitic and so she becomes a host for its essence. I took a splash of cosmic horror and added it to the traditional gothic approach. Subsequently, the main character, Selina, makes her way back to civilization, discovering her new powers along the way. And knowing she is now immortal, she decides to make her own “family” by creating others like her to accompany her down through the ages. Thus, once assembled, the group become a travelling troupe of entertainers who move across Europe, booked to perform at pageants, festivals, and galas where they take opportunities to feed. Unfortunately for them a witch hunter becomes aware of their existence and so a game of cat and mouse begins for their survival.

Working with Beverley on this was a delight. Gothic tales and vampirism are her forte, so she was the ideal choice for a writing partner. In terms of the title and its meaning, it refers to the moon. As they can no longer travel by day, once turned into vampires, they must of course wander by night beneath “a light of little radiance.”

Did you write SIN:THETICA and A Light Of Little Radiance either at or around the same time? I ask because I’m curious how they may have influenced each other, especially given how Radiance was co-written with someone else?

SIN:THETICA was near completion when Radiance was started.

However, for both myself and Beverley, Radiance was always a back burner project, as we both had other things on the go, and it was agreed that there would be no rush to get it finished and to market.

There’s absolutely no crossover in both titles because they are so radically different from one another. I have a golden rule which I follow rigidly when working on any title anyway, which is “each story has its own dynamic and will never be reflective of anything else I write.”

Going back to SIN:THETICA, earlier I asked if it had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip things around, do you think SIN:THETICA could be adapted as a movie, show, or game?

I think it could work as a movie and / or a video game. Definitely not a board game because of the whole VR aspect of it; I just can’t see it translating to that format. It could also work as a six-episode Netflix run or something of that ilk. Taking an overarching view I’d say a movie would probably be the best choice for any kind of adaptation, provided it stayed pretty true to the source material.

And if someone wanted to adapt SIN:THETICA into a movie, who would you want them to cast as Hendrix and the other main characters?

That’s quite a tough question because I can see a number of actors being a fit for the role of the main character and plenty more for the supporting cast as well. It would have to be someone in their forties for Hendrix, say perhaps Michael Fassbender [The Killer], Travis Fimmel [Raised By Wolves], Lee Pace [Foundation], or Tom Hardy [Venom]. As for the rest of the characters there’s really only two others who feature strongly, namely Baptiste and Danzig, and for those I’d say Theo James [The White Lotus] for the former and Jeffrey Dean Morgan [The Walking Dead] the latter. I think all of the above mentioned would bring the right dynamic to a screen version of the story.

Keith Anthony Baird SIN:THETICA

Finally, if someone enjoys SIN:THETICA, what cyberpunk sci-fi novella of someone else’s — dystopian or not; your call — would you recommend they check out next?

Similar, but definitely different to SIN:THETICA, is Nick Harkaway’s Titanium Noir. It is in fact a novel, not a novella, which fuses elements of crime noir with sci-fi and fantasy. It’s cool stuff.



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