Q: What’s Alec’s origin?
A: Alec arrived the same day as Caren, on that very first day I started writing The Phoenix Effect. I always make sure he and Caren are always standing on equal ground in whatever they do. I based their work relationship a bit on Mulder and Scully from The X-Files, but more of it came from Kusanagi and Batou from Ghost in the Shell, as well as Deunan and Briareos from Appleseed. They work extremely well together and are very close, and yet their personalities are quite different.
As for his name, I wanted one that sounded slightly out of fashion from everyone else’s. He’s almost always referred to as “Poe” by Caren and his fellow agents.
Q: He’s got a Mendaihu name as well. What’s that origin?
A: Alix Eiyashné [ey-YASH-ney] is not just a Mendaihu name, it’s his given birth name. Alec was given up for adoption almost immediately after he was born. His adoptive parents, Angela and Daniel Poe, are both academics and gave him a very robust education growing up. He chose not to follow up with his birth parents and never met them, though his adoptive parents did keep in loose touch with them, if just to trade information on health issues and whatnot. He finds out more about them, and himself, in The Persistence of Memories, much of it quite unexpected.
He very rarely uses his Mendaihu name, for very personal reasons.
Q: That’s Kiefer Sutherland in that picture. Is Alec based on him?
A: Almost from the start, I envisioned him playing the role. Strong but soft-spoken, good-looking but weathered by life. Out of all the characters, Alec is the one that’s changed the least physically throughout the various drafts. Whenever I wrote a scene with him, I pictured Sutherland acting it out so I’d be able to get the mannerisms down correctly.
Q: He certainly does seem to smoke a lot, doesn’t he? People still smoke in the far future?
A: I’ll totally cop to the fact that I wrote most of Poe’s scenes for the first two books while I was a smoker back in the late 90s-early 00s. I needed to give him a nervous twitch, and that was the first thing that came to mind. He’s extremely aware of his habit and how it may bother some characters, so he’ll only light up if others around him don’t mind. Caren isn’t the biggest fan of it, but she lets him do it anyway because it’s a release for him.
And yes, that’s a very good question! You don’t see smokers as much as you did fifteen or so years ago, thanks to state laws forbidding it in certain public places, but back when I first wrote many of these scenes, it was rarely frowned upon. It’s a habit/pastime that has evolved over the centuries but never quite went away. Even now, vaping already has fans and detractors. I chose to keep it in the Mendaihu Universe, having it still a thing. It’s still not that healthy, but it’s not a taboo either. It just is.
Q: He has a unique relationship with Akaina Shalei, the Mendaihu agent. What’s with that?
A: This was a relationship that took me some time to figure out. At first I was worried that I was forcing a match on him (after all, I’d put Caren and Anando together not that long before), but there was something about his first meeting with her that stuck with me, so I chose to play it out. He’s quite the moody guy, and I wanted someone other than Caren to give him some kind of mental/spiritual stability and balance. Kai is full of patience and positivity, and she immediately noticed Poe’s startling lack of it. She willingly opened herself to him almost from the start, and he wasn’t used to that, at least not outside his immediate friends, which intrigued him and attracted him to her. In the process, Kai learns calm her sometimes overexcitable spirit by learning to slow herself down when he’s around. Poe changes the most in the trilogy, mainly because of Kai.
Q: Anything else?
A: He still lives in the same apartment that he grew up in with his adoptive family; he bought it from them when they moved north to New Boston Province. His demeanor can be off-putting sometimes, especially when he’s distracted by his thoughts. [His habit of not finishing a sentence is totally me, which drives my wife nuts!] Like Christine Gorecki, he feels more comfortable being on the periphery than being the center of attention. He’s a voracious reader, thanks to his adoptive parents. He has an older brother in that family, David; he also had a blood-relation sister from his birth family but she died during the last Embodiment. He’s quite the cook at home, when he has the time for it. He might be a smokestack, but he rarely touches alcohol. He loves both Caren and Denni like family, and will do anything for them. Despite his gruff outer shell, he’s a big ol’ softy.