The Qwillery | category: MAJESTIC-12


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Michael J. Martinez Interviews Paul Weimer!

The Qwillery is extraordinarily thrilled to welcome Michael J. Martinez and Paul Weimer to The Qwillery discussing Paul's trip Down Under! The Qwillery highly recommends Paul's DUFF Report. It is beautifully written and lushly illustrated. And now over to Michael and Paul:

Fan Down Under: Paul Weimer on his DUFF experiences

By Michael J. Martinez

The absolutely lovely humans who run the Qwillery have been early and generous supporters of my work, for which I remain grateful indeed. And yes, I have a new book out Sept. 5, MJ-12: Shadows, the second in my series of super-powered Cold War spy thrillers.

But, you know, I figure if “super-powered Cold War spy thriller” didn’t grab you, I don’t know what a guest post could do to rectify that. So instead, I’m using this space to interview prolific SF/F reviewer, podcaster and super-fan Paul Weimer about his trip to Australia and New Zealand as part of the DUFF program. Because both Paul and DUFF are super cool.

What is DUFF? The Down Under Fan Fund helps American fans head to Australia and New Zealand for science fiction and fantasy conventions, and also helps fans from Down Under head to fan conventions elsewhere in the world. Paul was the DUFF delegate for 2017, and you can read about his adventures in his DUFF Report, available here for $7, with all proceeds going to the Down Under Fan Fund.

Without further ado, here’s the interview:

You've been involved in the SF/F community for a very long time. Tell me about the book, or books, that made you take the leap from reader to fan. Barring that, was there an incident or experience of some kind instead?

The advent of the High Blog Era of the Internet is what let me get into fandom in a real way, rather than just reading quietly. In the mid 2000's, I started to write short book reviews on my then-blog. This led to me participating in an online community that SF Signal was building. That got me gigs at The Functional Nerds, SF Signal itself, and I was off to the races. Podcasting came almost hand in hand with that, when I got invited to a SF Signal episode.

You're also an avid traveler. I've often thought travel has made me a better writer. Has it made you a better reader? A better community member/fan? A better reviewer?

Yes. Looking back on a travel adventure, its framed as a narrative, a story. Its moments, tender pieces, encounters, and an overall story from start to finish. Seeing how I construct my own story of my travels helps me write and think about how fictional stories work, or don't work.

What keeps you going within the fandom community? What keeps you coming back and staying involved?

Stubborness, persistence, determination and a desire to try and do good. I can try and do good, and use my powers to help illuminate authors, books, communities. Besides, I have one of the most mundane and boring jobs out there. Fandom is a way to channel my creative energies and escape the monochrome mundanity of daily life.

How different or similar is fandom in Aus/NZ? What stands out the most there?

For New Zealand, it was its tiny and very intertwined fandom/author community. The con in Taupo got 150 to attend, which means you could drop them into a Worldcon and have difficulty finding them again. There is also a strong recognition of the native (Maori) community and what that historical perspective and narrative brings to NZ SF and fantasy.

Australian fandom felt like a thousand points of light that do not interconnect as much as they themselves might like. The size of Australia meant that a National Convention (which moves every year) is mostly just the local population, with a few infusions from elsewhere. This means that the National Convention every year is a rotating set of people, rather than a repeat of the same far flung community. This gives Australian fandom the feel of a moveable feast.

For that matter, from what you've read and experienced, what perspectives to Aussies and Kiwis bring to the genre that we're missing out on?

The Aussies and Kiwis are very cognizant of being small players in the SF world. Getting visibility outside of their two smallish worlds is something they crave, and even more to the point, even New Zealand writers want more visibility just across "the ditch" in Australia.

There is also a strong ecological perspective in Australasian SF and fantasy, because climate change, invasive species, and other ecological problems are something they live with and cannot escape. It shows in their fiction, and in their panels and discussions.

What authors from Down Under should we be reading?

Plenty, but I will name just a couple: Thoraiya Dyer's debut fantasy novel, Crossroads of Canopy provides a lush world of Gods and life in the canopy of a rainforest. Cat Sparks strongly engages ecological perspectives in her fantasy and science fiction. Readers of Epic fantasy should be reading Helen Lowe, who has been quietly (too quietly from my perspective) putting out a strong, traditional epic fantasy series, the Wall of Night series. Even for its relatively comfortable lines, Lowe features strong female characters and a world where the often overweening patriarchal crap a lot of fantasy worlds revel in is nowhere to be seen.

What U.S. authors do you think would resonate particularly well with Aussie/Kiwi readers?

Kate Elliott, because I think writing in Hawaii as she does, has helped give her a perspective on worlds and societies and a global sort of understanding that Aussies and Kiwis can resonate with. Similarly, Max Gladstone, who has spent a lot of time in Asia, a part of the world very important to Australasia, has themes and ideas that will resonate well with readers down there. Similarly in the same vein, Ken Liu's fiction, both short and epic, would be something I think they could and should eat up with a spoon.

Your report has some gorgeous photography along with it. How long have you been shooting, what drew you to it, and for the photo nerds in the crowd, what rig are you using?

I came very late to photography in my life. Oh, I had a film camera since back in the early 90's, but many of the pictures I took on my first Trip to London them were plagued with pink blobs. I had no idea what I was doing and it showed. I discarded photography as a hobby worth doing for years.

Although I lost the roll and never developed the pictures, my last full day in Orange County, in 2003 was the next major attempt at trying photography again. I tried to document my trip to San Juan Capistrano, and started to feel what I had felt, and denied back on that London trip a decade earlier--that taking photographs of places, of adventures, was something I liked.

I got a digicam not long after arriving in Minnesota, ahead of a camping trip with my friends the Olsons. I thought taking some photos of our trip to Yellowstone might be fun. We went in 2005. Boy was I right. My first attempt at photography on a vacation turned out wonderfully, especially since I had a "big sister" in my friend Felicia, who had a DSLR and was not afraid to use it. I started practicing and learning more after that trip with my digicam, exploring Minnesota with my friends and on my own.

A second camping trip in 2007 to the Canadian Rockies was the clincher. Plenty of waterfalls and mountains convinced me that, yes, I liked this photography thing, especially a travel photography thing, and I wanted to capture better images. I bought a DSLR not long after that trip.

I currently shoot with a Canon 7D. My usual lens of choice is a 24mm Prime lens, although the "beast" of a 100mm macro lens got to see some good use on my DUFF trip.

Finally, waterfalls. What is it about shooting waterfalls?

Why waterfalls? First and foremost, the sound of rushing water makes them an appealing place to be around. I love visiting waterfalls because of the peace and balm they bring to me.

But why photograph them while I am at it?

Because waterfalls are in that space of being static and dynamic, remaining in place and yet ever changing, moment by moment, season by season. I can visit a waterfall in different seasons, different years, and due to the flow, the foliage, time of day, lighting and more, get an infinite variety of shots from the same cascade.

And if that wasn't enough, the sheer variety of waterfalls, from huge curtain ones to thin ones that plunge into a punchbowl means that a new-to-me waterfall will always have something I've not quite seen before.

Again, I urge you to buy Paul’s report and give it a read. It’s a very cool travelogue, has some great photos, and will make you want to book a trip post-haste. And the money is going to the Down Under Fan Fund to keep fans around the world connected.

Michael J. Martinez Interviews Paul Weimer!
About Paul

Paul Weimer is a SF writer, reviewer, and podcaster and an avid amateur photographer. When he isn’t doing any of that, he’s often found rolling dice and roleplaying. His audio work can be found on the Skiffy and Fanty Show and SFF audio. His reviews and columns can also be found at and the Barnes and Noble SF/F blog, amongst other places. Paul is best seen on Twitter as @princejvstin.

Michael J. Martinez Interviews Paul Weimer!
About Michael

Michael J. Martinez is the author of five novels, including the Daedalus trilogy of Napoleonic era space opera adventures and the MAJESTIC-12 series of spy-fi thrillers. His short fiction has appeared in Cthulhu Fhtagn!, Unidentified Funny Objects 4, Geeky Giving and Endless Ages: Vampire. He's a proud member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. You can find him online at or on Twitter at @mikemartinez72.

Michael's latest novel:

Michael J. Martinez Interviews Paul Weimer!
MJ-12: Shadows
A MAJESTIC-12 Thriller 2
Night Shade Books, September 5, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

It’s 1949, and the Cold War is heating up across the world. For the United States, the key to winning might be Variants—once ordinary US citizens, now imbued with strange paranormal abilities and corralled into covert service by the government’s top secret MAJESTIC-12 program.

Some Variants are testing the murky international waters in Syria, while others are back at home, fighting to stay ahead of a political power struggle in Washington. And back at Area 51, the operation’s headquarters, the next wave of recruits is anxiously awaiting their first mission. All the while, dangerous figures flit among the shadows and it’s unclear whether they are threatening to expose the Variants for what they are . . . or to completely destroy them. Are they working for the Soviet Union, or something far worse?

Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez and Review of MJ-12: Inception

Please welcome Michael J. Martinez to The Qwillery writing about his new series: MAJESTIC-12. The first novel in this series, MJ-12: Inception, was published on September 6th by Night Shade Books.

Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez and Review of MJ-12: Inception

Here We Go Again: Starting a New Series

By Michael J. Martinez

I won’t kid you. Starting a brand new series is daunting.

I started writing the book that became The Daedalus Incident in 2010, and I had worldbuilding notes on it dating from 2003. The book came out in 2013, with The Enceladus Crisis in 2014 and The Venusian Gambit last year.

Basically, I spent at least six years with these characters, and well over a decade with the whole notion of Napoleonic era sailing ships in space. That’s a long time to get comfortable with something, and I think if you read all three books, you’ll see me get better as a writer and storyteller as you go.

And now for something completely different.

I certainly could’ve told more Daedalus stories; there are large gaps in the timeline that could’ve been fun to fill in. Maybe I’ll go back and do that someday. But it struck me that it was time to try a new thing, to stretch writerly muscles that hadn’t been used much when writing Daedalus and the others.

I wanted to do something darker and more nuanced, and my teenaged love of spy thrillers kept popping into my head. It was time to give it a whirl. The MAJESTIC-12 series is the result, starting with MJ-12: Inception, out this week in hardcover.

The trick here, of course, was to try to make something that really was different. It couldn’t be the same swashbuckling adventure as the Daedalus series. The characters in MJ-12: Inception shouldn’t be papered-over characters from the other books. I was really conscious of trying to differentiate, and that’s the daunting part. I didn’t want to be formulaic.

If you’ve read Dan Brown, you’ll know what I mean. If you look at the plots of The Da Vinci Code and Deception Point, you’ll find some really striking similarities – a code to crack, a shadowy conspiracy, a mentor-figure that switches sides at the last minute, global repercussions. Honestly, and with all due respect to Dan and his success, I found the similarities in plot beats striking.

But you could say the same thing about many authors – there’s a formula to what they do, and it works. More power to ‘em. I wanted to be different.

That meant building MAJESTIC-12 from the ground up, with a variety of different and nuanced characters, with a different pace and different plot devices. To me, the only real similarities between Daedalus and MJ-12: Inception is that they’re both historical fantasy, they both mash-up a variety of genres, and I wrote ‘em.

I learned a lot writing the Daedalus books, and I’m hopeful that the learning has translated well into the MAJESTIC-12 series. I’m already as comfortable with these characters and this setting as I ever was with those in the Daedalus series, which I consider a plus. They feel right.

I feel like if I’m going to start a new series, then for better or worse, it’s going to be a very different thing, even if it means more work for me, and more risk as well. As my alleged career progresses, I may find I have a firmer footing in certain genres or subgenres, or a facility with certain tropes or themes more than others. But I’m still finding out. And as I do…thanks for coming along for the ride.

MJ-12: Inception
Series:  MAJESTIC-12 #1
Publisher:  Night Shade Books, September 6, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook,
List Price:  US$24.99 (print); US$16.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  978-1-59780-877-4 (print): 978-1-59780-887-3 (eBook)

Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez and Review of MJ-12: Inception
A team of superhuman covert operatives emerges from the ashes of World War II in a Cold War-era paranormal espionage thriller from acclaimed genre-bender Michael J. Martinez.

It is a new world, stunned by the horrors that linger in the aftermath of total war. The United States and Soviet Union are squaring off in a different kind of conflict, one that’s fought in the shadows, where there are whispers of strange and mysterious developments. . .

Normal people across the United States have inexplicably gained paranormal abilities. A factory worker can heal the sick and injured. A schoolteacher bends emotions to her will. A car salesman alters matter with a simple touch. A former soldier speaks to the dying and gains their memories as they pass on.

They are the Variants, controlled by a secret government program called MAJESTIC-12 to open a new front in the Cold War.

From the deserts of Nevada to the palaces of Istanbul, the halls of power in Washington to the dark, oppressive streets of Prague, the Variants are thrown into a deadly game of shifting alliances. Amidst the seedy underbelly of nations, these once-ordinary Americans dropped in extraordinary circumstances will struggle to come to terms with their abilities as they fight to carve out a place for themselves in a world that may ultimately turn against them.

And as the MAJESTIC-12 program will soon discover, there are others out there like them, some with far more malevolent goals. . .

Tracey's/Trinitytwo's Point of View

MJ-12: Inception is the first novel in an early Atomic Age, paranormal spy series by Michael J. Martinez, author of the Daedalus series. It opens with a devastating post WWII situation during a routine night patrol in the American sector of Berlin. Only Lieutenant Frank Lodge survives the ambush, but he emerges changed. A few months later in Hiroshima, U.S. Navy Lt. Danny Wallace investigates an anomaly given top secret priority. In the tunnels below the wreckage of a hospital, Wallace discovers a phenomenon of intense white light thought to have a connection with the detonation of the A-bomb. This light is believed by an elite few to be linked to the changes experienced by several unsuspecting Americans. U.S. officials call these people Variants; normal people who have been spontaneously endowed with unique abilities that they are not sure how to control and don't fully understand. President Harry S. Truman green lights a highly classified agenda designed to contain, control, and possibly exploit these metahumans' abilities and, in doing so, Operation Majestic Twelve is born.

The main characters in this story are feared because they possess paranormal powers. It's all too easy to believe that our government would go to great lengths to keep their existence a secret. It's also conceivable that they would immediately try to use them as spies. Martinez brilliantly introduces the U.S. government's first paranormal team, Frank, Cal, Ellis, and Maggie, by revealing their bios via confidential reports, and by narrating in the POVs of the Variants themselves. The story follows them through their military quarantine and training, as they learn to control their abilities and work as a unit. I was fascinated by the psychological impact that becoming a metahuman under the government's influence had on each of the Variants.

Martinez also takes the time to detail some of the social injustices experienced by his diverse cast of characters in this Cold War era tale. I was outraged for Cal, the African American factory worker who is definitely my favorite character. His interactions with the bigoted Ellis alternately made me uncomfortable and frustrated by the lack of justice in the world. Through it all, Cal maintains his compassionate nature and I never stopped rooting for him. Maggie, the school teacher who can manipulate people's emotions, is the most terrifying. Her lack of deep emotional commitment or connection to anyone makes her truly scary. Martinez achieves a perfect balance of delving just deep enough into each character to give the reader a detailed understanding while still leaving a tantalizing amount of information open for exploration in future novels in the MAJESTIC-12 series.

Martinez is truly a gifted writer in that MJ:12 Inception has a distinct and utterly different flavor than his previous series. Although I only know about organizations like the CIA from books, movies and literature, his portrayal of the inner workings of government programs seems authentic. I enjoyed reading the confidential reports written from the perspective of top officials in the CIA. Martinez, a master at genre blending, has created an exciting new series by mixing a pinch of James Bond to a dash of the X-Men and then combining that with a dose of politics and old-fashioned cloak and dagger espionage.

With MJ-12 Inception, Martinez weaves an intense tale of patriotism, Cold War politics, the U.S. spy network, and the nuances of human relationships which I simply couldn't put down.

About Michael

Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez and Review of MJ-12: Inception
Photo by Anna Martinez
I’m a husband, father and writer living the dream in the Garden State. I’ve spent nearly 20 years as a professional writer and journalist, including stints at The Associated Press and After telling other people’s stories for the bulk of my career, I’m happy that I can now be telling a few of my own creation. I’m a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and International Thriller Writers.

When not being a husband, parent or writer, I enjoy beer and homebrewing, cooking and eating, the outdoors and travel. If you’re curious about our travels,  my wife does a far better job of describing our adventures, so check out her blog at

Website  ~  Twitter @mikemartinez72

Michael J. Martinez Interviews Paul Weimer!Guest Blog by Michael J. Martinez and Review of MJ-12: Inception

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