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Interview: Morrison West, author of The Artificials

Morrison West is a decorated veteran who wrote poetry on the battlefield and recently published his first novel, The Artificials. He prefers to write under a pen name and is still performing military training services that involve a good deal of travel, so we conducted this interview online.


Morrison, thanks for taking the time to answer some of your readers' questions. Tell us a little bit about your military background:  


I joined the US Army in 1985 and was retired from active duty in 2008. During this time, I served as both an Infantry and a Special Forces soldier.


When did you start writing?


I started writing when I was in junior high school and continued to write as I traveled in the military.


What is it you love about writing?


I love the human connection to stories and how the narrative technique is such a powerful teaching and sharing tool. It is hard to imagine ourselves existing in a either a different time or in some other culture, but a story provides the insight that we need to connect with the experiences of people that are different from our own.  Stories not only bring us closer together by giving us insight into the lives of other people, but they also help us learn and can help us modify our attitudes and potentially even improve our behavior towards others.


Who are a few of your favorite authors?


I have always loved the imagination and wit of Kurt Vonnegut and, as I look on my shelf for fiction authors, I find that his name pops up repeatedly. I am an ancient history buff so I have quite a few Graham Hancock books mixed in with Will and Ariel Durant and quite a few other authors including Michael Shaara. And I do generally have at least one book containing Voltaire handy most of the time, including the one that is currently in my vehicle and the one that is in my computer bag.


When is the next book in your series coming out? The first book is The Artificials, is that also the name of the series?


The next book should come out in Spring 2025 and the working title is “The Privateers” or some variation on this that includes an aspect of AI. The Artificials is the series name and there are 4 books currently planned.


What gave you the idea for your first book?


There I was: minding my own business writing a book about a former Cuban spy turned drug and arms dealer who won the frozen body of Adolf Hitler in a poker game (Der Franken-Fuhrer – release TBD), while I was on a sales channel call that included discussion of IBM Watson and some other AI platforms. The story that I was writing featured a lead character who had the ability to constantly adapt to situations and to be very intuitive when it came to predicting what people would do.


My thought was literally what this wily and shady Cuban character, who always seemed to be two steps in front of everyone else anyway, would do with instant access to AI. The character had the uncanny ability to be right most of the time but he was only guessing about the future, what if he had better information? And then that led me to ask myself whether the proliferation of AI will actually assist humanity for the betterment of all, or if it will be used like every other advance to only secure more power for some? And then I had the hopeful thought that thinking machines may actually be more virtuous than their programmers one day, and this led me to the concept for the AI Voltaire.


Do you see yourself as "the rat", Voltaire, in your book?


No, he is not me, he is simply a better version of “us” most of the time.  Voltaire the human philosopher stayed busy railing against what he saw as the key issues of his time as well as some bad ideas, and he was brilliant with a pen so he influenced many people to at least think harder about the assumptions they make as they form their beliefs.


My choice to place the AI Voltaire in a rat’s body was quite simply to make him as unappealing as changing one’s mind has now become even when we are confronted with the cold, hard, facts. Challenging our own beliefs in any way, especially now when opinion has truly become our “fickle empress,” is so disgusting to us that it literally makes us angry when anyone challenges our assumptions. Since we now have the illusion of being well informed with our constant access to incomplete, inaccurate, and often propagandized information on our cellular phones, we believe in our own beliefs so much that challenging them is patently offensive. So, we create camps where we erect thought silos and only allow information to enter if it conforms to our pre-formed ideas.


But in reality, we need to listen to those with different opinions than ourselves more than we listen to those that always agree with us in order to avoid being indoctrinated into an opinion cult. And so in the book the remnants of humanity, in order to survive, must listen to an AI speaking truth from the body of one of the lowliest and most reviled creatures on earth: a rat.


How many languages do you speak?


I speak English in a semi-fluent fashion but I have studied other languages such as German and Arabic and now, occasionally, I mix them all together when trying to communicate.  So, we will say that I speak one language but that I have a working knowledge of some others, and that perhaps I like the dead and unspoken languages most of all.


What is one of your favorite things to do when you are not writing?


I like being outdoors so hiking, camping, dog walking, fishing, hunting, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, skiing, traveling, and hammocking are some of my favorite things to do.


Where is your favorite place to write?


Anywhere that I can put a laptop on my lap and type. Sometimes when I travel on planes I will put on headphones and just go into the story.  So, if I have headphones I can literally write anywhere.


How many countries have you been to?


I have lost count but quite a few and I hope to continue to travel and meet people from different backgrounds so that I can hear their stories and experience more cultures.


What is one thing you would like to accomplish or do in life that you have not already done?


Publish my second book of fiction, a children’s book, and my first book of poetry. Alternatively, I do dream of owning my own kayak one day and of doing some kayaking in Ireland and the British Isles.



Read more from Morrison West at www.morrisonwestbooks.com



3 Comments


Guest
Jun 01

I read “The Artificials “ twice , looking forward to “The Privateers “.


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Guest
May 31

Can’t wait to read this book written by a guy who has truly served his country!! True patriot!

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Guest
May 31

Sounds like a really interesting series! Thanks for the intro.


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