Beyond the Story - The Black Wall
This interview is from one of the major characters from books Two and Three of the Tides Trilogy, The Black Wall and The Grace’s War. Ves is a sometime-companion and occasional friend of Kalis Syrina, the main protagonist.
Tides takes place on Eris, in a steam-powered civilization risen on the ruins of a much more advanced ancient past, ruled by theocracy and oligarchy, and at the mercy of the massive tidal forces caused by its giant moon, known as the Eye.
While this interview takes place during the events of the soon upcoming The Grace’s War, there are no major spoilers about what is to come (but there are some hints).
SJJ: My guest today steps out from the pages of The Black Wall Tides Trilogy by Author R. A. Fisher.
Hello and welcome to Beyond the Story. Please tell our guests today your full name and where you’re from?
Ves: Vesmalimali, but everyone who’s not from Ristro calls me Ves, so you can, too. Right now, I live on a steamship I, well, acquired and renamed Heaven’s Compromise, not that I remember what it was called before. But I’ve lived pretty much everywhere these past twenty-some-odd years. Everywhere but Ristro, because down there is nothing but insects and assholes. I can say that here, right?
SJJ: (Smiles) Of course you can, Ves. So, no last name, eh? Kind of like Sting or Bono.
And how would you describe yourself? What makes you… you?
Ves: How would I describe myself?
SJJ: Um, yes.
Ves: I’d say I was the most reasonable goddamn pirate on Eris and a respectable business man on top. My crew might have other ideas, but since none of them are here, let’s go with that.
SJJ: OK, sure. (Under her breath) Not sure I’d equate a pirate with a respectable business man.
So, you’re a self-professed pirate, but what were you like as a child? And what about your family life growing up?
Ves: Most people don’t know this, but the Corsairs are taken from their families when they’re young; trained at sea. They took me from my mum when I was maybe seven or eight, and I never saw her again. Voluntary, as in she volunteered me, since I sure a shit didn’t have a say in it. I don’t really hold it against her—I’m sure she had her reasons, though there’s plenty of times I wish I could have asked her why.
That’s all to say, I didn’t have much of what most people would call a family life. My family was the Corsairs. Right up until they weren’t.
SJJ: I’m sorry to hear that, I can imagine the questions you must have.
Now, you said earlier you are a pirate; can you elaborate on your career path a little?
Ves: I was what you might call a crime lord for a good long while, and I was goddamn miserable, fat, and lazy. I’m still fat and lazy, but at least I’m happy again.
SJJ: And what about other aspirations – anything you would truly love to do?
Ves: Nah, my dream job is what I’m doing now: riding the seas on a real ship, not a fucking sail boat, and relieving others of their excess belongings. Not regular folks unless I’ve got no choice; they’ve got it bad enough without me making it worse. But the Church? The way I see it, once they convince all those poor assholes to give up what’s theirs in Salvation Taxes, those taxes belong to me and mine. You can be sure the Church isn’t going to do anything useful with all that extra tin. And Ristro, too, because fuck those miserable shits. They taught me how to be a pirate, now I’ll show them what good teachers they were.
SJJ: Let it all out.
Ves, what is your biggest obstacle that is preventing your from achieving your goals?
Ves: Well, I’ve got this… I don’t think I could call her a friend. I’m pretty sure her kind don’t have friends. But she’s more than an acquaintance, too. A business partner on very good terms, maybe.
Anyway, Syrina has this knack for talking me into doing real stupid shit, which almost always means by the time it’s over I’ve lost my ship, or my barge, or my fucking raft, or whatever else I managed to scrape up since the last time, and I wake up one afternoon broke, drunk in a tree somewhere, and need to start all over again. And yet she’ll show up later and I’ll go along with it every fucking time, because despite the fact she’s made out of more lies than blood, and she looks like a different person every time I meet her, I think deep down under all the tattoos and bullshit she really does mean the world well. That’s rare enough these days, and ships are easy enough to come by, if you’re as good as I am at stealing them.
At least that’s what I tell myself, because otherwise it would mean I’m actually an idiot, and I have it on goddamn good authority that’s not the case. She was the reason I ended up as a miserable-ass crime boss down in Valez’Mui for twenty some years, though I didn’t know it was her at the time. That should give you some idea of how long she’s been fucking with me, though.
SJJ: Uhuh! I can’t help but wonder who this “good” authority is.
Anyway, tell us something about you that not everyone knows.
Ves: There’s nobody alive anymore that knows why I left the Corsairs and turned against Ristro. I suspect there never will be again, since I’m not telling, and the Astrologers that run that miserable swamp aren’t known for disclosing personal details. And yeah, it was personal. That’s all I’m going to say about it, though.
SJJ: Fair enough.
Do you have any regrets, Ves?
Ves: I don’t think anyone can live a life the way I’ve lived mine and not have more regrets than they could pack into this ample gut of mine. But what can we do besides try to do better next time? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Just like sometimes I drink to forget my grief, and sometimes I drink to remember it.
SJJ: Well, you are human. Er, maybe not. But a conscious being. So, it makes sense you’d have some big regrets.
And what about someone you admire. Is there anyone in your life you consider to be a mentor, either in the past or right now?
Ves: There was someone, once. Not a mentor, but he knew me better than anyone is ever going to know me again. Kept me pointed the right direction; knew when to laugh at my dumb ass, and when to tear me a new dickhole… but he’s… well, he’s not around anymore.
SJJ: I’m sorry about that. Ves. It sounds to me like you could use someone like that again.
Now for a couple of lighthearted questions. What’s your idea of the perfect day?
Ves: A day of full fuel tanks, plenty of food and drink to go around, no land in sight, and everyone I care about is still alive at the end of it. You’d think I’d be an easy man to please, but I get days like that a lot less than I’d like.
SJJ: It’s nice to know you have a soft side.
What do you do for fun?
Ves: I drink, and sometimes I blow shit up. Sometimes I like to rile up my new first mate, just because. He’s a good guy, but fuck if that old man doesn’t have even more baggage than I do. If it wasn’t for me, he’d never loosen up.
SJJ: (laughs) You and I have different ideas of fun.
And after your perfect day and all that fun, what do you do to relax?
Ves: Isn’t that the same as fun?
Ves: No? Not for everyone?
SJJ: Not mine, anyway.
Ves: Huh. Fair enough, I guess. Anyway, They’re the same to me.
SJJ: Well okay, then. To each their own.
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?
Ves: That’s a tough one. Maybe Ving Rhames? He’s got the voice for it, but he better start drinking the hard shit now to get it just right.
SJJ: And what about The Black Wall Tides Trilogy Are you happy with the way your story was told by the narrator?
Ves: He did alright with what we gave him, I guess. He fucked a few things up, but they always do, eh? I don’t hold too much against him, anyway.
SJJ: Well, maybe you should have spoken louder, gotten his attention. He can only write what you give him.
And, on that note, if you could change one thing that happened in your story, would you?
Ves: There was that not-mentor I mentioned earlier. Remember him? Well, I love life, but I’d end mine at noon if I could spend one more morning with him. So, one thing I could change? That’s the easiest goddamn question here. I’d bring that man back to my side where he fucking belongs.
SJJ: Thank you, Ves, for being so candid with me today. I’m sure you’re eager to get back to that steamship of yours.
Robert Fisher has lived in Hiroshima, Japan with his wife and five-year-old son for the past four years, where he occasionally teaches English, writes, and pretends to learn Japanese. Before that he lived in Vancouver, Canada where he worked in the beer industry and mostly just cavorted about, getting into trouble and eating Thai food. He placed fourth in The Vancouver Courier’s literary contest with his short story The Gift, which appeared in that paper on February 20, 2009. His science fiction novella The God Machine was published by Blue Cubicle Press in 2011.