Monday, June 10, 2019


Today on the Altrix Blog, we're talking to James K. Maddox about his Unearthed story "Quadrireme." In a book focused largely on the past, Maddox travels to the future for his interpretation of the brief!

Altrix Books: What about the UNEARTHED concept made you want to pitch a story? 

James K. Maddox: "What's in the box?" is a concept which provided a huge amount of creative freedom—my initial idea generation produced possibilities as varied as the missing link, an unpublished Agatha Christie, a new colour and, inexplicably, a milkman—so it was great to let my imagination run wild. Knowing that the anthology would help to support the American Research Center in Egypt made things even better; it was good to know that writing about excavation and discovery could help support the real thing.       

Altrix: Tell us a little about your story.

Maddox: Astronaut Maria Shelby is travelling on a solo trip around the Solar System, accompanied by the morbidly-acronymed Microcircuit Operated Rendezvous Terminal A.I. But when she receives a call from Earth telling her that a strange, spherical object has been detected near her position, Shelby finds herself unearthing something beyond her wildest dreams—and from far beyond the stars...     

Altrix: What books, shows, or real life events inspired your work, if any?

Maddox: It's always interesting to think what would remain if we suddenly went extinct. What would happen to the movies, the paintings, or the music that we've made over the years? The Golden Records of the Voyager space probes are floating around out there and might, one day, provide other civilisations with a glimpse of our own. And if we've sent our culture out into space, who's to say that others haven't to? There's something really inspiring about the Golden Records—even if the human race goes boom, we'll still endure culturally in the wider universe, preserved on those phonographs. I think being a Doctor Who fan is bound to make you a bit skittish about media preservation (too bad about all those missing episodes, eh?), so it's nice to think that the works of the Earth might endure, to some extent, even after we've gone. 

But what would happen if somebody from another planet found those records, or we found somebody else's? There's an episode of the short-lived Babylon 5 spin-off Crusade ("The Needs of Earth"), which I've got to give credit to for setting the gears of my brain in motion on this subject. Would they inspire fear, hope, or something else entirely? Those are the questions that were buzzing around my head while writing, and hopefully "Quadrireme" will do a decent-ish job of answering a few of them. 

Altrix: What was the most challenging part of creating your story?

Maddox: Coming up with an acronym that spelled out M.O.R.T while sounding sufficiently kitschy was a pain. I had to do a fair bit of research into the time-delay when transmitting radio signals in space (hopefully I got it right!). I'm indebted to Tim, April and my long-suffering mother for helping to polish the toe-curlingly bad early drafts into something halfway readable.   

Altrix: Where else can our readers find your work?

Maddox: I've had a few short stories published here and there: "The Counterfeit Man" in Asymmetry Magazine, the purple-prosed "Morpheus" in Storgy Magazine, and "Sense of Self" in the Doctor Who charity anthology Unbound: Adventures in Time and Space, which is cheating because I co-edited it. You can find me on Twitter @bottleuniverse, where I'll try and stay on-topic with writing talk and probably go off on tangents about tv-tie-in novels and 90s sci-fi shows. 

Order your copy of Unearthed from Altrix Books!


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