Despite all of the Transformers mania that has gripped the site for the last week or so, I managed to catch up with Alex Irvine, author of the much anticipated Transformers: Exodus, which tells the history of the War for Cybertron and details the origins of Optimus Prime and the Autobots as well as Megatron and the Decepticons. Are you a Transformers fanatic? You won’t want to miss this interview!
Mike Braff, Suvudu: Can you tell me a bit about the book? What story are we telling here?
Alex Irvine: The story, in a nutshell, is about Optimus Prime and Megatron before they were Optimus Prime and Megatron. At least that’s where it starts. Why have they been fighting for a zillion years, anyway? This book tells that story. The civil war on Cybertron that leads to the Transformers coming to Earth has been much referred to, but the backstory hasn’t ever been told in depth. This book takes Megatron from his gladiator origins to his tyrannical destiny, and in parallel it tells the story of meek Orion Pax, who has the mantle of Prime bestowed upon him without really wanting it and then has to grow into his responsibilities while the war is tearing Cybertron apart.
Mike: Who is your favorite Transformer and why? What was your favorite character from the book?
Alex: I think Starscream was my favorite character to write in the book even though not much of it happens in his point of view. He’s fun for a writer because he’s so deeply ambivalent about everything. He’s not sure whether he wants to stay committed to the Decepticons or undermine Megatron; he’s not sure about Dark Energon; he’s not sure whether he should make a power play within the Decepticons or defect to the Autobots and try a takeover there. He’s mostly selfish but has occasional moments of actual ethical behavior. Plus his toy shoots missiles, which is cool. I also like Bumblebee, because you have to admire his pluck. And I have a soft spot for pompous old Halogen, who I created for the book as a member of the High Council.
Mike: What was the biggest challenge you encountered while writing Exodus?
Alex: You know what the trickiest thing was? Avoiding all of the normal figures of speech that refer to either parts of the human body or organic things in general. That wasn’t easy.
Mike: Is there a particular scene you really enjoyed writing?
Alex: I guess if I had to pick one, it would be the scene before the High Council, where Megatron finally gets a chance to have his say in front of all the people who think he’s just a thug. At that point in the book, he still has ideals and he still has a ghost of belief that if people would just hear him out they would understand the revolution he’s fomenting. Then, of course, it all goes wrong because the Council—and Alpha Trion—have other ideas. That’s the emotional crux of the book, the breaking of the friendship between OP and Megs and the moment when Optimus Prime becomes Prime when Megatron really thought it was going to be him.
Mike: If you were a Transformer, what would your second form be? What would your name be?
Alex: My second form would either be some kind of awesome old car from the 30s, like the Mercedes-Benz Count Trossi SSK. (Which I think, incidentally, must have been one of the inspirations for the early look of the Batmobile.) And my name would be Roadster (which I can’t believe isn’t already taken, but TFWiki says it isn’t, so there). If I had to be something other than a car, I would be a submarine named Seawolf. Or a combat helicopter named Updraft. Or I would do a sweet Transformers-Star Wars mashup and my alt-form would be an AT-AT or a Basilisk war droid.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you, Roadster.
Mike: Did you have a favorite Transformer when you were growing up?
Alex: I didn’t, really. By the time Transformers came along I was already in high school, and slowly overcoming my abject addiction to Micronauts. My older son Ian’s favorite until very recently was the first one he ever had—Starscream, who’s an interesting character to me. My younger son Abe is only two months old and hasn’t picked his favorite yet. My daughter Emma likes to make up names for Transformers; she helped me out with a couple of scenes in the book.
Mike: Who would win in a fight: Optimus and the Autobots or Cthulu? Why?
Alex: Tough one. Cthulhu’s powers over mind and insanity would run into problems because the Transformers aren’t organic and so their minds don’t behave the same way as a human’s. On the other hand, he is one of the Elder Gods and the size of a mountain and it’s hard to imagine a missile or ion-cannon blast having much effect on him. Could be that in the middle of their fight they would have to team up and meet an even greater menace, like Galactus or the Jormungandr serpent or maybe Kali. Then in the middle of that fight the Decepticons would appear on the side of the bad guys, at which point Starscream would accidentally betray them while sounding out the Autobots to see if he can cut himself a better deal there.
This is Alex’s first Transformers novel. His original novels include Buyout, The Narrows, and One King, One Soldier. You can read an excerpt from Transformers: Exodus here, or check out Alex’s original short story that reveals how Bumblebee lost his voice.