Interview: Alex Paknadel on BOOM! Studios’ Turncoat

Turncoat #1 cover by Artyom Trakhanov

Turncoat #1 cover by Artyom Trakhanov

Alex Paknadel, the writer behind BOOM! Studios’ Arcadia, is back with a new science fiction tale, Turncoat. Westfield’s Roger Ash contacted Paknadel to learn more about this upcoming series.

Westfield: What was the genesis of Turncoat?

Alex Paknadel: Well, I can’t pinpoint its genesis precisely, but much of what ended up in there emerged from discussions with my wife, Lia. I’m British and she’s Irish born and bred, so naturally she was raised with a very different narrative regarding the British Empire and its shameful conduct around the world. The legacy of our presence in countries like India, Ireland, Sierra Leone, etc. is still felt to this day, and we were by no means the sole perpetrators. What fascinated me during my research were the true believers in the indigenous populations, you know? The converts. The big colonial powers usually made a point of installing an administrative class made up of locals. They did this so the locals would effectively police their own. Anyway, with Turncoat I really wanted to set the alien invasion thing on its ear, so I figured I’d focus instead on the administrative human class they installed to run their remote outpost (Earth) on a day-to-day basis. That was far more interesting to me than the actual invasion itself.

Turncoat #1 preview page 1. Art by Artyom Trakhanov

Turncoat #1 preview page 1. Art by Artyom Trakhanov

Westfield: This sounds like a very dark story. What is the appeal to you of dark science fiction?

Paknadel: Good science fiction is about tweaking the dials on the world around us, just as good crime fiction is about tweaking the dials on human psychology. A writer will usually take something observable in the world around them—social media, say—and dial it up to eleven. Anyway, for me the appeal lies in in the license the genre gives you to isolate social and technological phenomena from their usual context and place them under the microscope. To give you an example, Cronenberg’s dazzling remake of The Fly uses its generic trappings to amplify and then scrutinize reproductive politics and the human aging process. It’s just super effective.

As to the darkness of the material I’m working with, rightly or wrongly I think we live in a world that’s getting darker by the second. I can only work with what I’m given, man.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the story and who are some of the characters we’ll meet?

Paknadel: Turncoat’s a sci-fi crime book set in after the withdrawal of an alien race we simply called “Management.” Management ruled over us for 300 years, influencing our culture, religion and politics. They even manage to recruit human loyalists to aid them in their efforts, one of whom is our protagonist, Marta Gonzalez. She was a cop under the Management regime, so she did some very questionable things. However, for reasons that will become clear, she betrayed Management to William Mann, the charismatic leader of the human resistance movement. Then Management left.

Five years later and Mann is now mayor of New York City. Indeed, most members of the former resistance apparatus have positions of power under the new human government. Attempts have been made to absorb Management loyalists into the new regime in the spirit of forgiveness, but angry holdouts remain. Marta, meanwhile, is ostracized by loyalists and resistance fighters alike. Her act of betrayal/heroism came too late to look anything other than opportunistic, so she’s considered something of a Benedict Arnold by both sides. Accordingly, she’s set herself up as a private detective. When a member of the old Management regime comes to her with a unique missing persons gig, all the old wounds from the occupation get reopened.

Turncoat #1 preview page 2. Art by Artyom Trakhanov

Turncoat #1 preview page 2. Art by Artyom Trakhanov

Westfield: You’re working with Artyom Trakhanov on the book. What can you say about your collaboration?

Paknadel: I can tell you that I lucked out big time! Artyom’s been on my fantasy artist hit list ever since I read Undertow, his collaboration with the slappably brilliant Steve Orlando. As soon as I saw he could handle a nine-panel grid, I knew he’d be able to do anything I asked of him blindfolded. That trust is so important because it means you can lean into the work secure in the knowledge that a solution will be found for even the most outlandish requests.

In short, it’s been a dream. I’m incredibly lucky that BOOM! saw fit to let me borrow Artyom from greatness for this series.

Turncoat #1 variant cover by Johnny Dombrowski

Turncoat #1 variant cover by Johnny Dombrowski

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Paknadel: If you like sci-fi with a bit of ambition, and if you’re a fan of painstaking world-building, then Turncoat’s going to be your jam. Furthermore, Artyom Trakhanov is on the cusp of stretch-limo hugeness, so I urge you to get on board now while it’s still cool and edgy to dig his stuff.


Turncoat #1


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