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Nick Cole on 'Soda Pop Soldier'

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Nick's new book brought to you by Harper Collins

1. I see gaming is a big influence on this book. Could you go into why this is for your new book Soda Pop Soldier?

ANSWER: I like to write what I'd want to read. Or, said another way, I write the adventures I want to have. After The Old Man and the Wasteland and The Wasteland Saga I needed to go on vacation from the dark, gritty Fallout-esque Post-Apocalyptic world I'd written three novels in. I play a lot of video games (after my daily writing session of course) and I wanted to imagine what video games might be like in the future. I took three of my faves (Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Diablo) and mashed them up into digital worlds with high stakes and jaw dropping production value. In other words, if these games existed, they'd be a blast to play.

2. Would you give us some background on who gamer PerfectQuestion is and how is he involved in Cola Corp's Warworld?

ANSWER: PerfectQuestion is an everyman with a penchant for online gaming. He prefers the modern warfare style of gaming, i.e. machine guns and grenades, running and gunning through digital representations of the war torn Third World. But, he understands games on an intuitive level and so he can enter illegal online tournaments like The Black, set in a twisted gothic fantasy RPG called The World of Wastehavens (Think Warcraft meets the seedier parts of Vegas) and try to earn some big prizes and extra dough. PQ (PerfectQuestion) plays for ColaCorp in a corporate sponsored army in WarWorld where he fights for real world advertising space. He got recruited by ColaCorp because he had a huge amount of in-game kills on the home version of WarWorld and got a chance to fight for free in a previous ColaCorp match against McBucks in the Jihad City campaign (NOTE: That's not even in the novel. It's a special spoiler for a future PQ novel and I've only shared it with Examiner.com).

3. What can you tell us about the villains of this game to give our readers a glimpse into their insidiousness?

ANSWER: I can tell you about two villains. I have to leave out another villain 'cause I'd ruin the book for you if I told you about that one. The first villain is a person. The other is a team. So, Faustus Mercator (I know, I was totally SteamPunking the day I made that one up) is a very tall, very thin man with tight skin. He's almost skeletal. He's broadly drawn, slightly Dickensian, and he's intent on hacking the global economy by manipulating Game Advertising Warfare so that he can wield one of the more important powers man has ever had: the power to tell people what to buy. So what's Game Advertising Warfare? Well, in short, corporations field armies of gamers to fight for real world advertising space inside digital battlegrounds. It's a sport like the NFL, except with auto-rifles and dropships. Oh yeah, and there are mechs and tanks and super labs and... Anyway these teams fight a series of matches over the course of a campaign. The winner gets advertising space and the loser loses even more advertising space. It's the ultimate marriage of sports, commerce, and blood sport (Digitally speaking on that last bit.).

So ColaCorp and PerfectQuestion are the good guys. The team they're fighting is WonderSoft (like Apple and Microsoft merged or something). The gamers PQ fights all go by their gamertag just like our hero. So some of their names are BangDead, UnhappyCamper, CaptainCarnage and so forth. WonderSoft's best player, and in fact the best player in WarWorld, is a gamer girl tagged Enigmatrix (Hint: I used to name my Rogue "Enigmatrix" in Diablo 2 Multiplayer back in the day.)

4. How does PerfectQuestion get dragged into against his will stealing via hacking?

ANSWER: Basically Mercator, the Dickensian villain who wants to hack the global economy, needs PerfectQuestion to start throwing matches so that WonderSoft can keep winning. Mercator's approach to gaming would best be summed up by the motto: "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'." He's a jerk that way and hence a villain.

5. What is the story of China selling their in game items for cash in World of Warcraft and how did that effect our reality versus virtual reality?

ANSWER: Well, this is nothing new in the world of gaming. This kind of stuff has been going on since probably Diablo 2. Gold grinding, item grifting, and all kinds of nefarious stuff has been going on in large scale multiplayer games for quite awhile. I think one of the craziest things I ever heard was about an EVE Online (A Space trading, exploration, and warfare sim) Admiral for one of the largest guilds. He flipped sides and decommissioned all his former guild buddies' star bases and production factories along with a lot of ships and money in one evening. When the guild woke up the next morning they'd basically ceased to exist. So, along with the Chinese gold scams, all this nefariousness points toward the growing relevance of these digital worlds in our real world lives. Someday I wouldn't be surprised to find that corporate head hunters and security clearance types were reviewing your gaming records to develop a more accurate assessment of just what kind of dual axe wielding sociopath you actually are.

6. How do you feel about video games in our modern society and what are some favorite games of yours you like to play?

ANSWER: I love them, obviously, but at the same time I have some issues with them. I think one of the saddest things happening to video-gaming is the adult-ification that's going on in the digiverse . There is a fun innocence about gaming, whether it's online shooting at each other like cops and robbers when were kids, or puzzle platforms and epic RPGs of make believe. A lot of developers are taking the time to put in political or social agendas that serve their world specific views, or straight up adding porn. To me that's sad. Wouldn't it be nice to keep games free of all that adult garbage? I mean, couldn't we just have a place where we could play cops and robbers and go on quests and slay dragons? Could we just be kids for one more day without having to worry about the correct sexual preference of our pet? I didn't think about these things when I was in the fifth grade. I was too busy having an adventure.

7. This is a wild card question. What would you like to share with us from the book that our readers might find interesting?

ANSWER: I think readers might find two aspects, besides the story, really interesting. One, I wrote the entire novel in 1st Person, immediate. So basically you're living inside PerfectQuestion's skin. I wanted to do this so that a novel about a guy playing video games didn't get too distant and feel as though you were sitting on the couch watching your friend play a video game. But, I didn't want to go all VR suit and basically nullify actual video gaming with the seduction of Virtual Reality. That's not gaming. That's just digital Double Dare. A year ago IO9 put out an article talking about some things from SciFi past that they'd like to see make a comeback in modern science fiction. 1st Person storytelling was one of those things. I think it was very effective for putting the reader right in the middle of the action, and so far that's been the feedback.

8. What are you up to next book wise or projects wise and any links you'd like to share?

ANSWER: My publisher and I are talking about future projects. There are three novels written and two of them deal with zombies. I've also given them a pitch list of everything from robots to Post-Apocalyptia. There's even some space opera. So, I've got a lot of stories I want to tell. Thank you for having me over, I really enjoyed this and if you want to get in touch with me, just go over to nickcolebooks.com or friend me on FaceBook at https://m.facebook.com/nick.cole.1654

or on Twitter @nickcolebooks

Thank you!

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