The John Christmas interview, part 3: Good guys, bad guys, Cold War politics, fiction writing and how Putin has delayed his next novel

KGB Banker, a contemporary financial-political thriller co-written by author and LFS Best Novel finalist judge John Christmas, has recently been recognized by the Best Thrillers website as the “Best Conspiracy Thriller of 2022.”
Meanwhile, Christmas’ first novel was Democracy Society, a futuristic and satiric libertarian novel about fighting corrupt government.

John Christmas (Photo courtesy of author)

In the third and final part of his Prometheus Blog interview, Christmas discusses literary styles, Cold War politics, what kind of “good guys” and “bad guys” he likes to create as characters, why he became a novelist and what he plans to write next.

Q: Each of your novels has a noticeably different style and tone. Why?

A: My first novel Democracy Society has a light style and my second novel KGB Banker has a serious style, although that’s partly because I have a co-author (William Burton McCormick) for KGB Banker and the two of us have different styles.

Q: Why did you become a novelist?

A: I love novels and always considered novelists to have an important place in society. I also like the freedom of being independent and entrepreneurial rather than being an employee within a large organization and getting told what to do.

I did that earlier in my life and it was important to learn about business from working for others, however I feel past that now.

Q: How did you develop your interest in, and knowledge of, Cold War politics, spying and espionage?

A: I grew up super interested in the Cold War, perhaps more interested than most Americans because my mother was born in Latvia and her family managed to escape as the Red Army was taking over.
Also, as a teen, my favorite movies were James Bond films and my favorite novels were by Tom Clancy.

Q: Were you and your co-author William Burton McCormick able to weave any libertarian or anti-authoritarian themes into KGB Banker?

A: Bill and I agreed from the beginning to build our story in a libertarian/Objectivist style. The ‘good guys’ in the novel are motivated by rational self-interest to make a better society and not by mystic altruistic goals of self-sacrifice.

On the other hand, the ‘bad guys’ from the fictionalized development bank claimed themselves to be altruistic but really were crooks.

The final result was a book that is fun as a thriller and also contains themes about modern-day finance and media, corrupt government, and what can go wrong and how problems can be solved by independent honest people acting rationally rather than trying to solve problems using ever-increasing government involvement.

Author, LFS judge John Christmas Photo courtesy of Christmas

Q: Your first published work of fiction was Democracy Society, a 260-page satirical libertarian novel published in 2011 (and available on Amazon), which imagines a near-future America in which a dictatorial socialist demagogue becomes president – and a heroic captain teams with a journalist to try to save the republic. What inspired you to write your first novel?

A: My goal with Democracy Society was to lampoon socialism and universal-suffrage democracy in the same way Monty Python lampoons dogmatic religion, through use of absurd examples of what can go wrong.

Q: One of the most positive reviews of Democracy Society compared it favorably to several Prometheus-winning authors: “George Orwell and Ayn Rand come to mind. Yet it’s more fun and enlightening than Orwell and more fun than Rand. The only things I think it can be called in fairness are Juvenalian and Swiftian: “Democracy Society” is “A Modest Proposal” for an America on the road to democratic socialism. With bold, broad, and sometimes blunt strokes of his satirical brush, John Christmas virtually demolishes the contradictions that deadlock today’s economics and politics.”
Did such praise spark any thoughts of writing another novel like it?

A: I’ve outlined a sequel, Democracy Society 2. Sometimes I get a new idea and add it to the outline.
However, that project has been on the back burner because the KGB Banker story, loosely based on my real whistleblowing experience against a Kremlin-linked bank located in Europe, is on the front burner. There is a novel-marketing aspect to that plus a media effort regarding the underlying whistleblowing.

My thinking now is that as long as Putin controls Russia, serious KGB Banker is my priority. When Putin is no longer, then my attention will turn back to humorous Democracy Society 2.

Read the first part and the second part of the three-part Prometheus blog interview with John Christmas.

* Prometheus winners: For the full list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.

* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.

Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.

Published by

Michael Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been an arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Michael has won Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio and Best Arts Reporting (seven times). He's written for Reason, Libertarian Review and Backstage weekly; helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades; and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword for J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among books he recommends from a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist & How Innovation Works, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

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