Interview with Nicholas Pichach, Author of Seastate Origins

What inspired you to start writing?

I have always loved reading from a young age that it was only natural for that to result in some writing with new adventures and characters. Writing allows me to put together a love of history, politics and technology and mix them together in an high stakes action adventure where characters can overcome great hardships and excitement without actual blood being spilled. 

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

I love technothrillers, science fiction and historical fiction with epic stories that involve high stakes conflict, action and adventure incorporating politics, ethics and technology. Tom Clancy, Larry Bond and William R. Forstchen are three authors I think that have been able to successfully write exciting epic stories while maintaining a character focus. I am also inspired by J. R.R. Tolkien who managed to build an epic world and then within craft character driven stories integrated with some epic strategic action.

Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?

I am a Professional Engineer and MBA that fictional writing is not my full-time career. The plan is to continue to part-time write fictional stories to build my skills up and hopefully attract some attention and build some market demand over the coming decades. I’d love for this to eventually become a full-time career.

How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

I have always been world building in my mind be it exploring the Eastern Roman Empire in 700 or considering what the far future will look like complete with relativistic interstellar flight. Maps, geography, military structure, political factions – all these are fun to develop. I have come to realize that the world building however is only as fun as the character driven stories you can tell within it, the trick being how to connect the epic strategy conflicts to the characters personal story.

What was the inspiration for the story (Seastate Origins)?

I enjoy exploring modern politics and military technology however it is hard to setup a high stakes geopolitical conflict without resorting to the usual superpower battles. Also difficult to factor is the rise of stagnant statism and socialism in the West versus our traditional defence of free peoples and free markets. Unlike say the Age of Sail or in science fiction you cannot just go out and colonize a new world to escape the usual players.
Seastate works around that by introducing characters on a whole new nation at sea that you can play “Civilization” in the modern era. This little sea state can find itself engaging in epic naval combat without triggering a full-scale nuclear war. The US can continue a decline into socialism, the rest of the world can engage in World War 3 but the new sea state can go on that the possibilities are endless.

What is the key theme and/or message in the book?

There is a historical cycle that repeats where individuals wanting freedom and a better life leave a stagnant state and end up prospering. Then unfortunately prosperity breeds laziness, the state ends up stagnant and the cycle repeats. The key message to readers is that the time has come to adjust to the fact we are out of land and that innovation maybe required if future generations are to continue to enjoy an improved quality of life.

In North America we believe we are special and will avoid this cycle but given recent events I am not convinced. 

People came to the United States to escape stagnant statism hoping to build a new better life regardless of hardship. The end result of these people persevering through hardship free people with free markets was prosperity.

But what is happening now? We see the United States government expanding out of control wrecking the real economy printing and redistributing capital while leaving liberty and capitalism behind. If this continues the United States will take the world with it into decline. Soon the US will not be competitive nor productive enough to maintain a competitive advantage for instance against China. Then what? 

In the past this would be alright given those who value freedom would run away to some new colony in the Americas, develop new technology and save the world. But there is no new land.  One has to wonder where those who enjoy freedom should run?

Well, Elon Musk I guess would say Mars and long term he is probably right that space is the solution but is generations off regardless of his success at SpaceX.

A potential answer is seasteading. But how are we going to afford that? How are we going to work together to accomplish that? That is what seastate tries to explore. How would a sea state work? Could it maintain freedom and liberty? How will the economy function? How will a sea state defend itself? 

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?

I’ve learned to trust my gut a lot more in extrapolating technology. For example, in the novel I use drones a lot doing what I thought was practical but would come off farfetched. I am surprised that in the Ukraine only a year into the novel being published that drones are pretty much delivering on the electronic warfare and strike capabilities such as with the destruction of the Moskva. Using drones to take out capital ships apparently not so far-fetched!

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have a massive manuscript about a refugee who saves the entire Eastern Roman Empire, and with it changing the world, by inventing Greek fire in time to deploy it at the 669 siege of Constantinople. This is probably my favorite but I think would require a lot of market demand to get published so I am holding onto this one for now. I feel my writing is getting better with time as well that I might go over it again.
I have also written a science fiction novel, whereby a young crew discovers their memories were not real but a simulation to prepare them for colonizing a new solar system. Unfortunately for the characters their interstellar ark is being hunted. This too I might publish if there was demand.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers?

I am working on a sequel to Seastate which continue the story of New Liberty as they try to survive in international waters as the world falls apart around them. I am looking for some reader feedback on how apocalyptic the story should get. There is a lot of variety that could come with a series. You basically have a new country to play with. 

A lot of stories could revolve around the hardships of seasteading, the politics of the sea-state, how do they keep the economy going? How would they deal with an economic blockade, can a seastate survive? Are they doing sea launches to put up satellites to ensure internet connectivity? What currency do they use? How do they police the community? How do you repair these ships at sea? Where do you get your raw materials from? You’ve got a nation-state as well that can find itself in the middle of todays conflicts and political arguments but from a new fictional perspective.

As the world goes authoritarian and communist can you keep a free-market democracy functioning? Given the left always hates how free markets and free peoples end up with higher quality of living and shining examples of the failure of stagnant statism such a seastate would encounter a lot of push back from traditional nation-states.

In a Chinese-US-Russian nuclear exchange you could end up with this sea state emerge as technological power and relatively functional democracy among the ruins. Could the seastate function post World War 3 and help survivors in a chaotic post-apocalyptic world? The stories there are endless.

A side track was the start of a science fiction novel exploring thoughts on relativistic flight and the Fermi paradox. The Earth ends up purposefully destroyed and a crew is tasked to seek revenge. The novel sets up with a massive conflict around the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. Will be interesting to see if I can finish the novel which tackles some big themes on our place in the universe.

Excerpt from Seastate Origins

Seastate: Origins Nicholas Pichach
Seastate: Origins by Nicholas Pichach

“If you’re not making waves, you’re not under weigh.”
—Chester W. Nimitz

FEBRUARY 16, 2068

When it came to describing the situation west of the Rio De Lois River, one word immediately came to mind. “It’s genocide,” Rear Admiral Richard Davidson hollered over the roaring rotors of the AH-72 Defiant compound helicopter gunship. The fast-moving AH-72 maneuvered just above one of the few permanently flowing rivers in the lush green forests and rugged peaks of East Timor. Over the horizon to the west, Davidson could see pillars of smoke multiplying and advancing on the river. A glance at the heads-up display projected map confirmed to Davidson that the town of Balibo was being overrun.

As if to reinforce the tragedy in Balibo, on the display beside the map still played a video of a US drone flight over the city of Pante Makasar almost a hundred and fifty kilometers to the west. The city skyline was aflame with running gun battles in the streets. The militias invading from West Timor—regular Indonesian troops or not—had overrun the Oecusse exclave and were set to take the rest of the country in a matter of days. Once a Portuguese colony, East Timor had been quickly invaded and occupied by the Indonesian military in 1975 upon declaring its independence. After decades of human rights abuses, Indonesia relinquished control in 2002. Now after half a century, army units out of Indonesia, officially claimed to be irregular and unauthorized militias, were back as if they had never left.

The helicopter pilot to Davidson’s right, Army Captain Rodriguez, nodded his head in agreement with a somber “Roger.” The AH-72 Defiant built by Sikorsky and Boeing was nimble and, compared to conventional helicopters, fast with not only counter-rotating main rotors but a rear-mounted pusher propeller that allowed it to cruise at more than four hundred and sixty kilometers an hour. Rodriguez lifted the helicopter in altitude as a bridge came into view, jampacked with refugees in vehicles and on foot, pushing their way south toward the small town of Maliana. The town offered hope with its still picturesque setting, attractive town center, and location across the Rio De Lois river where an American company, CanHarvest Renewables, operated a renewable energy facility. Rodriquez reduced the throttle of the pusher propeller as he swung the helicopter to the south where the renewable petrochemical plant stood out from the rainforest landscape of mountains and wet rice fields. “Approaching the CanHarvest facility.”

The chief executive officer of the company, Grace Jaden, had informed both the Indonesian and American embassies that she would offer refuge to any who came to the facility. The word had apparently gotten out to the general public as crowds of poor and homeless fleeing the invading militias crowded to get behind the concrete wall surrounding the facility of office trailers, warehouses, storage tanks, and distillation towers.

Davidson could feel the onset of a headache as he considered if Jaden was a hero to be commended or a reckless pain in the ass. Probably both, he quickly concluded.

The heads-up display flickered with a projection of the uniformed and helmeted Colonel Chris Florzone in the Combat Information Center of the amphibious carrier Bonhomme Richard one hundred and forty kilometers to the south east on station in the Timor Sea. As the marine commander of the 26th marine expeditionary group, Florzone was anxious to get his men off the ship and on the ground. “Does it look as bad as it sounds?” the Colonel lamented.

Rear Admiral Davidson rubbed his forehead to make it clear he was in desperate need of Tylenol. “Worse, though not sure how we can help,” he solemnly admitted.

“You’re the political brain on this mission. I’m just the muscle.”

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Rear Admiral Davidson said with a frown. He gave a quick salute to conclude the discussion, interrupted by the blinking of an incoming high-priority satellite relayed communication. “Washington finally getting back to me. I’ll let you know how it goes.” With that, communications with the Bonhomme Richard were terminated.

“Identify for retina scan,” the feminine-sounding computer announced. Davidson held his eyes open wide while the computer scanned his retina and relayed biometric information confirming his identity back to the satellite. “Identify confirmed. Communication from the White House, Washington, D.C. This communication is classified.”

To the admiral’s surprise, the new heads-up-display window didn’t reveal the secretary of defense but the rather young at thirty-five and well-dressed secretary of state. With his black suit and perfectly combed hair, only the obvious scowl on his face betrayed that the man wasn’t a fashion model. “Let’s make this quick,” the secretary of state began, full of frustration. He raised his hand in the air. “I’ve got riots over foot stamp program limitations in New York. Simultaneous bombings by extremists in Houston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Not to mention the bloody stock market being frozen again. In keeping the public calm, I’ve got no time for high-risk military adventures, Admiral.” It was well known that Secretary of State Harris had a disdain for the military reinforced by his all-but-spitting of the word Admiral. “So, quickly and without any conflict, secure that facility and await my orders.”

Davidson decided to stick to a simple question. “To what end, sir?“

The eyes of the secretary of state squinted with anger. “That corporate shrew is recklessly putting American interests at risk. She is violating the Neutrality Act of 1794 and engaging in unauthorized freebooting and filibustering. She is to be arrested.”

What he was to make of the secretary of state’s rant left the admiral speechless. He looked down at the refugees and found it hard to contemplate anyone offering sanctuary being considered—having engaged in unauthorized warfare. “Is that really the place of my forces?” He took a deep breath. “Is that even legal?” With his fingers, Davidson enlarged a dossier of Grace Jaden on the screen. Quick facts jumped out at him. “Her husband and eldest son were in the Navy, killed in action in Armenia. The surviving son still serves in the navy.”

After a scoff from the secretary of state, safe and sound an ocean away, he virtually pointed directly at the admiral. “You secure that compound and await the president’s orders. No engaging any non-American forces.”

Before Admiral Davidson could react, the screen went blank.


The familiar hum of equipment converting biomass into renewable crude was surpassed by the cries and screams of civilians packing into the petrochemical complex. The operations center was usually quiet for the four operators at the panels that controlled the highly automated plant. The abnormally loud shouts and activity beyond the control trailer were unnerving.

The plant was still operating through the chaos that the disheveled and balding fifty-two-year-old chief operating officer of the company had personally come to observe, overseeing the volunteer operators. “Keep on your screens,” COO Luke Zenuck ordered the operators. He partially succeeded in trying to sound calm, but the visible sweat on his oil-stained blue coveralls betrayed that he was anything but. After another look at a camera monitor, which showed the parking lot and warehouse areas crammed with civilians pushing toward the process equipment, he decided there was only one course of action to take. Zenuck turned over his shoulder and declared, “I’ve got to shut her down.”

The tall and slender woman standing to the back of the control room frowned at the request. Grace Jaden, president and founder of CanHarvest Renewables, contemplated the situation. Since meeting decades ago in an engineering class in Wyoming, Zenuck and Jaden’s work relationship and friendship had blossomed to the point she always considered his advice. All eyes in the operations center turned to her. She betrayed no hint of emotion, though. Even her dirty blue work coveralls couldn’t hide her feminine attributes. “You shut down the plant, we will be on batteries and lose power in a matter of hours.” Their air conditioning, communications and the remote-controlled machine-gun placements her security team had rushed into place around the complex were dependent on power from the operating facility.

“But with no one hurt crowding around heat exchangers,” Zenuck said. “I’ve got all the production tanks full of fuel now. And after cooldown, we can let more civilians into the plant.”

“Will we lose the gun emplacements and missile defenses?”

Standing next to Jaden, the Chief Security Officer of the company, Andrew Lawrence, shrugged. A tall black muscular former US Army lieutenant, he looked the part of security lead with the demeanor of someone no one in their right mind would ever want to confront. “We can use some on batteries, others on manual.”

“Would we have a chance?”

“If they attack the facility with an all-out offensive?” Lawrence asked rhetorically. “No, not really.”

A contrast to Lawrence was the slender uniformed Soldier to his side who was anxious to see more civilians in the compound. The East Timor military representative by the name of Jose Guterres gave a tilt of his head. “I have a battalion of troops deployed on the bridge into Maliana. My men will help yours,” he said in a pleading tone. His family was among those fleeing the paramilitary groups.

Jaden glanced over the panels showing the facility properly running using the process that had made CanHarvest Renewables a billion-dollar company. One side of the complex produced biomass, which was shredded and slurred, then pyrolyzed in the absence of oxygen to produce a crude oil. The other side consisted of hydrotreaters deoxygenating the pyro-oil, which was indistinguishable from petroleum. Not only was the process making a renewable crude oil but fertilizer and power as well. The fact that shutting down the process would cost them their ability to generate power made the decision difficult. “Do it.” If the invading forces weren’t dissuaded by the sight of the multinational-owned facility guarded by armed personnel and decided to take the complex, there was little her small security detail could do anyway.

The operators called up operating procedures on their tablets and began the process of safely shutting down the facility. The lights flickered as the gensets shut down and the emergency power supply systems activated.

A corner of the main display screen to the front of the operations center flickered and was soon replaced by the image of Jord Laboucan. A larger built man, Laboucan had served as the chief financial officer of the company since its founding decades ago. Jaden had a hard time convincing the man to stay behind and manage the corporate headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. “Media interview time,” Laboucan announced with a forced smile.

There had been a time Grace Jaden had loved presenting to the public—be it board meetings, technology conferences, or media interviews—and it was a surprise even for her to have a racing heart, dreading an interview. She had done countless interviews on the afternoon business news circuit but never from a potential war zone with the media so hostile.

Laboucan saw the look of discomfort. “You’ve got to fight back. These people need you to tell the world what’s going on,” the chief financial officer urged with what sounded like the combined wisdom of all the aboriginal ancestors on his father’s side. Laboucan was in nothing less than a fighting mood, tired of Jaden staying away from the politics while their corporation was being targeted. “Think of it not as an interview but a debate.”

But did politics even matter? Both parties seemed to have virtually the same platform, plus or minus a few percent on tax rates. All ran deficits. All used quantitative easing to pick winners and losers in the private sector. Nationalization of company after company was now a normal occurrence. Those who protested foreign interference, the printing of money, and debt found their election results would take days to come in only to at best have lost by slim margins. Jaden closed her eyes and took a deep breath before solemnly making her way into a nearby conference room. They had to at least try to do something. She owed it to her husband and eldest son—both lost to the ideals of freedom.

Grace Jaden stepped out of the main operations center and into the facility board room. The smart screen artificial intelligence automatically detected her presence, activated the wall display, and brought up the visual of Laboucan.

Zenuck took a moment from directing the plant shut down to shout in Jaden’s direction as she left the room. “Knock ’em dead!” The engineer took comfort in knowing that safely shutting down the plant was probably far more enjoyable than dealing with the media.

As the conference room door slid shut, there came an uncomfortable silence. The display screen flickered from an image of Laboucan to the network news transmission. Jaden’s relationship with the media hadn’t always been so strained when she first started CanHarvest Renewables two decades ago at the age of thirty-five. Back then, the interviews had been about the business, climate change, and the science of renewable energy. Now at fifty-five with money and power, she found that it was always about the politics.

The news reports were all filled with images of the simultaneous bombings in Houston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Was it a terror cell? The motives and organizations were no longer reported, so as not to inflame extremists. The stock markets remained closed as a result of the bombing. Was America too busy with its own problems to worry about the situation in East Timor?

“You should be on in five,” came the voice of a producer. “This will be a live broadcast.”

“Looking forward to it.” Jaden tried to fake a smile.

The corporate executive got her first look at the handsome young anchorman (with his perfectly groomed brown hair, Italian-made suit, and high-tech anchor desk) who would be conducting the interview.

“And now live over satellite we have Grace Jaden, chief executive officer of CanHarvest Renewables. She is joining us from one of their facilities near Maliana in East Timor, which sits on the path of advancing militias. Thank you for joining us.”

“Thank you for having me.”

“Grace Jaden, you are opening up your facility to refugees during this attack?”

“Yes,” she said and took a deep breath. “We strongly urge the international community, especially that of the United States government, to come to the aid of the legitimate government of East Timor.”

The anchorman leaned forward in his desk, reading off a prepared statement. “As we reported last week, you issued formal complaints to the United States government and the United Nations, noting a buildup of activity on the border between Indonesia and East Timor. You also sent letters to the Indonesian government that you will not respect the authority of any forces that cross the border.”

“That’s correct.” Grace Jaden nodded her head. “This facility is operated under the government of East Timor and will answer only to that government.”

“If these paramilitaries enter your facility—”

Knowing she had to appear resolute, Jaden immediately cut off the question. “I will instruct our security to prevent that.”

“Grace Jaden, politicians in Washington are saying this is a distraction and a stunt meant to distract from negative media attention to your vocal lobbying in opposition to the Accountable Capitalism Act legislation.”

Jaden rolled her eyes at how quickly the interview had turned to domestic politics. “Apart from the question as to why the administration has ignored border skirmishes and opened the door to this invasion, the situation in East Timor has nothing to do with the reckless Accountable Capitalism Act that should be defeated,” Jaden strongly contested.

Given the impact on the stock market, the debate on the bill before Congress was the focus of the interviewer. “You continue to oppose the Accountable Capitalism Act?”

She tried to slow down her breathing to remain calm and focused despite the surge of anger this line of questioning prompted. “Although we are not on the stock exchange, the act would punish us with high royalties on wells—wells that we use to sequester carbon and generate renewable fuels. The legislation would also require us to accept government-appointed board members.”

“To enable you to utilize biomass, which is a public resource,” the reporter pressed.

She raised an eyebrow at his matter-of-fact response. “We produce biomass from our private land and wells that we invested in, drilled, and completed using our technology to accomplish both a market and public good. Land and wells we have paid royalties on for decades.”

“Making you substantial profits in the process?”

“Yes, profits which we use to fund our operations and allow us to invest in other new technologies.”

The anchorman gave her a dismissive look as he gazed over his teleprompter. “Isn’t that what the Accountable Capitalism Act calls for? Charters to be approved by the government? Provision for board diversity? Use of corporate funds to help pay off the national debt?”

“We should have the freedom to use our funds as we see fit. We feel that generic government-provided charters and board members would reduce us to yet another average corporation without technical skill or high-risk tolerance, leaving us mediocre and irrelevant.” Grace Jaden turned to the camera, sure that Laboucan would be upset if she didn’t take advantage of the airtime to talk up the corporation. “We have been a major supplier of carbon fiber, which at half the weight of steel yet four times the strength, has allowed for electric cars to supplant traditional automobiles. At the same time, our renewable fuel division provides for carbon-balanced power and transportation fuels. In meeting market demand, we are doing public good.”

“Would not the government ensure that these profits are used for the general good?”

“The government would serve itself first and foremost without the need to take risks for economic gain or enhanced quality of life. Power consolidation always results in economic stagnation and decline.” Jaden shook her head, given what she felt was the obviousness of her statements. “The state cannot manage the market as well as a competitive marketplace. If you think you can do a better job, go and do it, but leave our success alone. Statism and out of control bureaucracy has already left the United States with a record-high unemployment rate—twenty-five percent—and unmanageable debt—”

The anchorman obviously didn’t like where she was taking the conversation, so he immediately cut her off. “What of your diversity?”

“I believe in equality and a merit-based system, period. That is one of our successes.”

“But what of historical wrongs. Don’t you have—”

“You mean historical wrongs by the state? Isn’t that the state’s responsibility to deal with? The corporate tax rate has already been raised twenty-three percent in the last two decades. Isn’t that enough to—”

The anchorman again cut her off, this time almost smiling at what he was reading off the teleprompter. “We have received information that the US Internal Revenue service is going to review the finances of CanHarvest Renewables over the past decades.”

Not wanting to give the anchorman any satisfaction by showing emotion or a hint of discomfort, Grace Jaden leaned back in her chair. “Outside”—she waved her arms—“are twenty thousand people escaping potential death at the hands of an invading army. These are some of the poorest people in the world. We urge the international community to come to our aid.”

Knowing that he was not going to get the knockout punch he wanted, the anchorman decided to cut the interview short. “Thank you, Miss Jaden.”

Grace Jaden raised her hands in frustration. The transmission cut off, and all she could do was storm out of the conference room.

The chief operating officer had ensured his panel operators were good to proceed with the shutdown without him so he would be free to help calm Jaden down. “You did good,” said Zenuck. “That’s about as good as it was going to go.”

The shockwaves of an echoing explosion thundered down the valley of the Rio De Lois River. Danger was coming.

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