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Free Radical

By Shamus
on Tuesday Mar 28, 2006
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My self-indulgence apparently knows no bounds: I’m going to play Dream Cast with my own book.

My book is based on the 1994 video game System Shock. I hesitate to call my book fan fiction. To most people, “fan fiction” means stories where Councilor Troi and Princess Leigh team up with Harry Potter to solve a mystery and/or have sex. In other words, much of it is painful-to-read dreck. But I can’t pretend my book isn’t fan fiction just because fan fiction has a bad rap. That’s what the book is, and I’m still (mostly) proud of it.

While I was writing the book, I sometimes had famous actors in mind, if only as a point of reference. I have no illusions about the probability of the book ever becoming a movie. Heck, it’s never going to get published as a book, for crying out loud, so musing about a theoretical movie adaptation is even more preposterous. But preposterousness fits in well with the spirit of the game.

Characters marked with an asterisk* are characters that I came up with on my own, and who were not a part of the original story.

The Hacker

In the game, your character was faceless and nameless. One of the reasons I wrote the book is to explore who this guy was and why he did the things he did. The book describes Deckard Stephens as bald, with a box beard. Neal Stephenson (left) inspired this look, although I wouldn’t say this is what Deck looks like in the story. Take ten years and twenty pounds off that picture (Deck is very wirey) and you’ll have Deck more or less as I’ve pictured him.

We need someone thin, with dark hair and in their late twenties. I can’t think of any actors that look and sound just right for the part.

Nomen Nescio*

Nomen Nescio, the wise, calculating, and bald-headed mentor of Deck has always been played by Laurence Fishburne in my mind. I started the book in 2001, and the character of Morpheus from The Matrix had greatly influenced how this character developed.

Nomen is introduced in chapter 4, about a quarter of the way down.

Rebecca Lansing

The description of Rebecca in the book is that she’s in her mid/late twenties, with short black hair and an athletic build. That doesn’t really narrow things down by much when choosing an actress. I have a very clear perception of her personality, but I’ve never had a face to go with it.

So let’s start by listing who I wouldn’t cast in this part. Milla Jovovich, Charlize Theron, and Carrie-Anne Moss need not apply. This isn’t a part for an ass-kicking action actress. Rebecca has some combat training, but she’s level-headed and down-to-earth. I would look more towards the Sandra Bullock / Cameron Diaz end of the spectrum.

Dr. Victor Coffman*

David Hyde Pierce looks very much like I’ve always pictured Dr. Coffman. He appears in chapter 18, and has one of the key conversations in the story. This conversation and the ideas it puts forth about AI are one of the reasons I wrote the book.

I should note that while Pierce looks a great deal like Dr. Coffman, you should not think that Coffman is anything like Dr. Niles Crane, his most famous character. The two are very different men.


Terri Brosius did the voice of Shodan in the original System Shock game, and I can’t imagine anyone else doing it. In much the same way that the voice of HAL 9000 was believeable as that of an AI, Brosius as Shodan simply works.

The Suit*

The Suit was packed into his crisp tie and jacket like a shrink-wrapped anvil. His neck was thick and his shoulders were wide. It was a safe guess he spent his younger days either guarding or hurting people’s bodies for money. His face was a hard, square mask beneath his gray-streaked receding hairline. The deep lines on his face revealed that he had spent very little of the last forty years smiling. He was obviously running the show.

From the moment I came up with the character, I pictured him as being played by Michael Rooker. The photograph to the left is perfect: That’s exactly how I’ve always imagined him.

Edward Diego

I didn’t have anyone in particular in mind when I wrote Edward Diego, although this picture of Greg Kinnear is a really good fit. He looks smart and likeable, which is one of the reasons he’s so dangerous.


I didn’t have a specific actor in mind when I wrote the part of Marshal, but Daniel Cudmore looks about right. He played Colossus in the second X-men movie. It was a small part, but he got enough screen time for us to see that he is immense. He’s both tall and muscular, and yet doesn’t have that pro-wrestler steroid-pumped look about him. He looks like a decent guy. Just really, really big.

Comments (3)

  1. You got me confused for a while there; I thought you were talking about this kind of Dreamcast.

  2. Asaph says:

    Heh, ‘nomen nescio’ means “I don’t know the name” in Latin.

  3. Henry Crawford says:

    In System Shock I, they actually showed a picture of the hacker at least twice. He seems to be a guy with long brownish hair and he wears a tee shirt with a yellow smiley face on it. See if you can update your information on the Hacker. Cheers from Henry Crawford.

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