pre://d.o.mai.n: The Interview, Part 2

With his sci-fi thriller pre://do.mai.n, author Christopher Godsoe isn’t interested in painting a dystopian vision for the future — society as we know it can be ugly enough. That is, until you’re prepared to fight for it.

In part 2 of this wide-ranging interview, Chris talks about his influences as a writer and his experiences bringing the book to life over the course of the past year.

pre://d.o.mai.n • By Christoper Godsoe • 395pp • Released December 2nd, 2013 

Note: This is my final in a series of three posts covering the launch of Christopher Godsoe’s new sci-fi thriller, pre://do.mai.n, available online. Read my review of pre://d.o.mai.n, and part 1 of my interview with Chris. Today, part 2 of my interview, covering Chris’ experiences writing the book.

Aspiring writers are often intimated by how to begin writing, particularly while balancing a full-time job, family and friends, and other commitments. I occasionally hear the old line repeated that it’s only a “lucky” or “connected” few who actually produce writing, though most writers who actually try know it’s a lot more about effort than a lucky break. Looking back on how you brought a nearly 400-page novel to life, how did you start? What helped keep you going?

Christopher Godsoe
Christopher Godsoe

The advice most proven writers give to aspiring ones sounds a lot like this-”Write”. It comes across a lot like, “Get out of here kid, stop bothering me. Can’t you see I’m busy?” I’m sure some of them even mean it that way. Most of them don’t, they’re just trying to let people know that there isn’t really any shortcut. Writing is a slog, it’s a marathon, and the path to it’s summit is littered with the corpses of the millions of people out there that have said, “You know what? I bet I could write a novel.”

Anyone can write a novel. Completing one requires no physical gifts outside of the average human, and since everyone can (meaning there is nothing preventing them from doing so), they assume that anyone can (meaning that it’s easy). It can be unnerving, but there’s still a large divide between those that can and those that do. Not everyone enjoys writing, especially to the extent that it takes to see a book through to completion. It sounds romantic, slaving away in silence only to emerge with a stack of pages months later, unequivocal proof at how brilliant you are. The reality is a lot different.

My advice is for anyone that feels like they should write a book is to try it. It’s not for everyone, and in that I mean that not everyone enjoys the process as much as they think they will. The bar of entry is low, meaning you likely already have everything you need to create a book and publish it now with the advent of self/independent publishing. The largest barrier for new writers is the same as it always has been- the actual writing.

As if writing itself isn’t a solitary and difficult enough process, a sensitive topic among writers is the manner in which written work is published: Even with the proliferation of devices like the Kindle, iPad, and smartphones — and with the success of self-published books like “50 Shades of Gray” — many authors still choose the traditional printed publishing route over self-publishing, whether for reasons of prestige, validation, the potential for more money, or just because “that’s how it’s done”. Do you feel self-publishing is still not as desirable as having work bought by a traditional/print publishing house? If so, why not? Do you expect that self-publishing will become the norm, even for bigger-name authors?

I think there are perks to either path. I sent this book out to several agents via query letter. It was rejected by every one of them that saw fit to grace me with a response. A funny thing happened though, while I was waiting to hear back from them. I started thinking about all of the ways I could benefit from traditional publishing (such as the prestige and validation), and realized that what I was giving up was actually more valuable to me than what I would be getting in return. The cash earned is roughly comparable. Sure you may sell more copies with a traditional publisher backing you, but you will also make considerably less per copy, and you also forfeit most of the rights you have to the story.

If your book takes off, and a business opportunity arises from that down the road, such as a film deal or a video game company wants to use the world you created, it’s more likely than not that they will be negotiating with (and paying) the publishing house you signed with. Signing with a traditional publisher is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the best fit for everyone. This way, if I decide I want to partner with an artist to produce a graphic novel version of pre://d.o.mai.n down the road, I can do that. If I want to release the next novel episodically, I can do that. I don’t have to ask permission from my publisher.

Who are your influences, particularly for this book (sci-fi or otherwise)?

The big ones are Richard K Morgan, Daniel Suarez, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Hugh Howey, and Chuck Palahniuk. I am also a huge fan of the short stories of Karl Schroeder (his stories in MetaTropolis are brilliant), but haven’t had a chance yet to check out his novels.

Relatedly, what authors and/or books people should check out if they like pre://d.o.mai.n?

altered-carbonWorks from the above authors that I have enjoyed are (in order from above) Altered Carbon (still my favorite novel), Daemon/Freedom Inc., Snow Crash, Neuromancer, WOOL/SHIFT/DUST (The Silo Series), and Fight Club.

Science fiction seems to be in the midst of a resurgence of popularity across media as part of a larger renaissance of “geek” culture. Do you see any other implications for this popularity outside of entertainment? Will it help people become more self-reflective, or skeptical of the power structures of society?

I think there is a lot of truth in science fiction, and there always has been. No other form of fiction devotes itself so heavily to predicting the future, in my opinion. I feel that science fiction is often a product of the time in which it is conceived, and with recent stories like “V for Vendetta”, the Silo series (Wool, Shift, and Dust), the Matrix movies, the Terminator films, etc, it’s obvious a lot of science fiction creators have a less than stellar opinion of the current power structures of our planet and where they are pushing us.

It’s a bit of a “chicken or the egg” thing, really. Are people feeling that the current power structure is corrupt, and that mistrust is feeding into their art through science fiction, or is science fiction helping to cultivate these ideas? I’m more inclined to believe the former, though I do feel like life follows art to some extent. People are giving geek culture more play than they ever have, and are learning that it has some pretty interesting things to say about the world. The biggest grossing films for the past few summers usually have some pretty heavy science fiction influences, and more and more often people are choosing science fiction as a place to spend their entertainment dollar. In a capitalistic society such as ours, it’s as good an indication as any that we are entering a new golden age of geek culture, where it’s far more acceptable to be a geek than it ever has in the past. Kids are far less likely to get picked on for wearing shirts with comic book characters on them, or Star Trek, etc. That, in and of itself is a huge shift in the way the public sees geeks. The problem isn’t so much that geeks are insulted anymore, we’ve almost reached the point where people are trying to inflate their geek credentials in order to be accepted. The geeks are taking over.

One of my favorite meta topics about writers and writing are the routines of creating and editing. Can you share your own personal habits for writing and editing: Mornings? Late nights? Longhand? Only with headphones?

I write primarily late at night. I’m a bit of a night owl, and I can’t say with any certainty if writing early in the morning would work for me, because I’ve never tried it. In talking with other authors, I hear that a lot of them write early in the day. They start the day off with coffee or something caffeinated, and try to get in their work before they start anything else. It’s not something that works for me, I don’t think enough caffeine exists to get my mind into a serviceable state before I need to be doing other things.

As far as music is concerned, sometimes I listen to it while writing, but it varies based on what kind of a mood I’m going for. I’ve taken to creating what I call “mood playlists” on Spotify, each containing music evoking certain emotions, and select which one to listen to based on the mood of the specific scene I’m writing. If I’m writing a sad scene, I’ll listen to music like “Mad World” by Gary Jules, something by Blue October, “Imagine” by John Lennon, or “Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogelberg, which is an incredibly lonely, sad song.

If I’m writing an action scene, I might go for something with more energy, such as something by The Crystal Method, Rage Against the Machine, or Skrillex. It changes constantly based on mood, and sometimes I don’t listen to any at all. I try to avoid headphones unless there’s a lot of background noise, I just keep the volume low enough to hear the melody without being able to understand the lyrics. I like to think the meaning gets through subliminally. “Mood by Osmosis,” if you will.

By introducing  fantasy worlds and futuristic technology, science fiction as a genre enables a writer to subtly comment on life in the present, demonstrating that while settings and tools may change, people will always face similar (and sometimes new) human challenges. Did you choose science fiction as a means to reflect on present-day challenges? Did you start with the themes, and then decide science fiction was the format you wanted to express them in?

I think science fiction is fascinating as a genre in it’s ability to comment on the possibilities of the future. It’s the main purpose of the genre, as far as I’m concerned, to forecast what might come to be one day. Alot of that involves extrapolating what we are dealing with now, taking it to one of many logical conclusions to illustrate what could come to pass if we continue on in a certain direction. It’s a powerful thing, the ability to tell a tale while influencing the next generation to make better choices, and one I don’t take lightly. I know not everything I try to say will sink in, and many readers will gloss over those parts of the story in lieu of getting to the action, but it’s there for those that are receptive to it.

Karl Schroeder does a great job of tackling things like that in the stories he has contributed for the MetaTropolis audiobooks. His writing on Augmented Reality in “To Hie from Far Celenia” is genius. While I didn’t discover it until I had nearly finished pre://d.o.mai.n, he brings up a lot of good points that will inspire new choices in my writing as I continue this series. I recommend anyone interested in new ideas to check out those audiobooks (They only exist in audiobook format). In MetaTropolis: Cascadia, he delves into the “Internet of Things”, as well as explores the concept of a commodities based currency with expiration dates printed on each bill. I can’t say what making a change like that could do to our economy, but it would certainly keep the currency flowing through it at a steady clip.

His writing on “The Internet of Things” in Daodan is impressive as well, because some of what he goes into there is actually beginning, with the Animal Rights movement, and one could see how-even with no direct input from the animals-their rights could be leveraged to great effect. Science Fiction is cyclical in nature, what today is far fetched and “Sci-Fi”, will tomorrow inspire scientists and engineers to make real. Tomorrows Science Fiction will inspire the next generation to move the needle even further, and so on, and so on. In many ways, Science Fiction gives our frenetic technological advancement a constantly moving goalpost to strive for. We’re all still waiting for our hoverboards, though.

A major theme in the book is tenacity: Miles continues to stubbornly work to save his mother, almost relishing defeat and using them as fuel to continue his quest, even if he allows himself moments of bitterness amidst his generally optimistic demeanor. Does that arc reflect your own challenges as a writer? Do you think it’s a requirement of success that it be achieved through adversity?

I haven’t really had any adversity as a writer, so far at least. I don’t have sizable expectations on my work so far, and very much look at it writing to amuse myself. I write to tell the stories I want to see told, that I don’t see anyone else telling. If other people enjoy them, It does feed my drive to write more, but I’m pretty much powerless at this point to stop writing now. I took the incredibly arrogant step of plotting out the remaining books in this series to counteract the narrative evolving in my head should any one of the novels “luck out” and scrape together a following. I didn’t want to make the same mistake I think the Matrix films did, where after the first film the directors may have tried to outsmart themselves. I wanted to have a clear sense of where everything was going, so that the input of others wouldn’t persuade me into changing the story to what I thought they might want to read.

predomain_coverI say arrogant because on some level, it presumes a level of financial success for these books, and I know how hard a thing that is to achieve, no matter how talented you might think you are as an author. I expect nothing in the way of volume when it comes to how many people read this novel, or the rest of the series. I would much rather be surprised in the event that it takes off, because I think “Expectation” should have been classified as the eighth deadly sin. It’s never useful, all you can do is confirm what you already suspected or be surprised when things are even worse than you thought. I try to avoid expectations, unless it’s a completely attainable personal goal, such as how many words I’d like to write today or how many books I see this series going.

Anything more than that, and I think you are opening yourself up to the randomness of Mother Nature and the Universe, which has already made it’s own plans. If you think you’ve considerable enough for them to account for you, you will at some point be disappointed. That line of thought contributed heavily to the creation of “The Flow”, in pre://d.o.mai.n.

We’re told to “write what we know”. If you can share, what parts of your own personal experiences went into telling Miles’ story? Other than, of course, having a computer-generated member of the opposite sex awake you in the middle of the night —because I think we’ve all had that happen to us at one point or another.

Yeah, it messes up your whole night’s worth of sleep when it happens, too. I drew a lot from personal experience, and not just for Miles. I patterned the character of Skyler on my son, because I hear a lot about how Orson Scott Card catches flack for overestimating the intellect of younger children, so I wanted to base the character on someone real. My son swears a lot less than Skyler in the book, however, so I did take liberties with him.

For Miles and Tobin Maldovan, I took parts of myself, emotions I recall from my divorce a few years back, and used them. Miles’ awkwardness at being around his ex girlfriend was certainly something I experienced shortly after the divorce, though I outgrew that in due time like we all do. Tobin Maldovan is similar. I drew from my experiences during that time, back when I was going through the emotions of rediscovering myself, when a sizable part of my life had to change. In his instance, it’s his discharge from the military, but I think if you strip out all of the personal emotion, the losses are surprisingly similar. I couldn’t have done that shortly after the divorce, separate the emotions of it all, but I think that’s part of my process-giving things time to appear on their own time. I avoid forcing things, writing just to write, and when the parts of the story that are hard to write become easy, that’s when I know they are ready to be written. I may never be the author that can crank out a book every three months, but I’m not sure I want to be. I’d rather write a book a year that I can be really happy with, and that says what I want it to say.  

pre://d.o.mai.n: The Interview, Part 1

With his sci-fi thriller pre://do.mai.n, author Christopher Godsoe isn’t interested in painting a dystopian vision for the future — society as we know it can be ugly enough. That is, until you’re prepared to fight for it.

In this wide-ranging interview, Chris expands on the themes in the book, considers the implications of technology’s march towards augmented reality, and looks at what’s next for the planned three-book series.

pre://d.o.mai.n • By Christoper Godsoe • 395pp • Released December 2nd, 2013 

Note: This is my second in a series of three posts covering the launch of Christopher Godsoe’s new sci-fi thriller, pre://do.mai.n, available online today. Read my review of pre://d.o.mai.n, online now. Coming on Wednesday, part 2 of my interview, where we talk about Chris’ experiences writing the book and his take on the current state of publishing.

predomain_coverAlthough the book takes place 24 years in the future, two of its main themes are recognizable to anybody who pays attention in 2013: Economic inequality seems to be increasing dramatically,  and the police/surveillance state, aided by technology, is encroached in nearly all aspects of life. Tell me how you came to pick these as the central challenges Miles (the main character) must face, and how you feel they rate among the big challenges we face in this time?

I find it hard to overstate their importance. There are plenty of other challenges that might be more pressing in the short term, such as clean air, water, food and global warming, but economic equality (to the extent that it exists today) and the omnipresent surveillance/police state are slowly robbing us of what this country possessed more than anyone else, and that is creative problem solving and unshakeable optimism. Innovation is not an efficient process. It requires risks to be taken when trying out unproven ideas, and when 99% of the population is forced to make due with disproportionately less than the top 1%, then innovation halts. That 99% are forced to spend their money and time on proven processes and products because they just can’t afford to take risks. When you’re stuck worrying about paying for food every week, there is less leeway to try new cuisine and to learn new things, because you can’t afford for it to not work out as well as what you have already been doing.

Most families in this country are living week to week, if they take a risk like going back to school to better themselves and find out they can’t make it work, the financial aftermath will be so prolonged and difficult that they will probably never take another risk again. That’s not in 2037, that’s happening now. Even if you witness someone else go through something like that, it’s discouraging.

The constant surveillance of our own people goes hand in hand with that. I believe that if you treat people like criminals, eventually they will cease to see the benefit in proving you wrong. If they are already facing many of the consequences of breaking the law, the deterrents of the justice system lose their teeth. The saddest part of all of this being that there are citizens in this country that are worse off than many of the criminals. How sad is it that there are people out there that break the law just so they can get warm meals in prison?

minime
Author Christopher Godsoe

I think it’s common to eye new technology with skepticism. The printing press, the telephone, the internet, cell phones…..all of them at one point were seen and contributing to the downfall of society. It’s common to fear that which you don’t understand, because as you said, there is the possibility that our ability to use them will always precede our ability to use them for good. I believe that the evolution of technology will eventually bring us together more than it tears us apart. The current “growing pains” we are going through in regards to social media stem from us getting used to having more and more of our lives out there in the open.

Our thoughts spread further, our lies are more easily discovered. I see our relationship with technology much like a human being learning to speak, and only discovering the problems that saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can bring once they’ve already done it. As a species, we make mistakes. It’s what we do. It’s how we learn, it’s how we grow, and it’s how we become better. Even our muscles are designed to come back stronger from the minute tears caused by exercise. So I don’t really see technology as the downfall of civilization. We learn new lessons from each new paradigm of communication, and we carry those lessons with us. The printing press taught us that our words can outlive us, so we should choose them carefully. The telephone taught us that our words can be just as effective when we are not present as when we are. The internet taught us that the form of communication isn’t as important as what is being said, and that with anonymity, there isn’t always a burden of proof. People need to be their own judge of character, to question what they see and measure everything they’ve hear against everything they’ve heard. If the end result of social media is that we stop lying to each other so much, for fear of discovery, I will consider it useful.

Without giving too much away, two of the main characters in the book are on quests: Miles is seeking a cure for his mother’s cancer (not really a spoiler as that’s explained early); Maldovan is attempting to make up for a personal failure in his past. Though both are altruistic in their goals, they are both also willing to compromise ethically on their methods. Is the book making the case that the ends justify the means (particularly if the ‘ends’ are destructive), as long as the ends are noble to the person seeking them? Even in a society where many people feel an increasing lack of control compared to governments and corporations, is there any downside to this type of reactionary justice? 

minimomI think that we are all products of circumstance. I also think that, as stated earlier, nobility and creativity are often the first things to go during lean times. I tried very hard to avoid making distinctions between right and wrong in the book. Not because I’m not capable of doing so, but because I wanted people to decide for themselves. I find a healthy debate to be far more useful than simply handing out answers. There is an ambiguity to some of the events in the book, and intentionally so. Before I set out to write it, I wrote down three things I wanted to say/questions I wanted the reader to have to answer.

1. What would you do if you were in Miles’ situation. Would you risk prison to save someone you love?

2. Is the concept of telling right from wrong a social agreement, capable of changing/evolving, or static?

3. What is more important in someones life-Their relationship to their work or their relationships to other people? Why?

Above, I indicated that I think we are all products of circumstance. Sitting there in your livingroom or office, reading this interview, the concept of killing another person is abhorrent. At 2AM, when an intruder is preparing to shoot one of your family members inside of your own house, most people would feel differently. Sure, you could rationalize it by saying that the intruder made the choice for you by breaking into your house and threatening your family, but you still in the end made the choice that the life of your family member was more important than that of the intruder. Even if for no other reason than you were the one holding the gun, you still took it upon yourself to make a horrible decision. Most of the time, our decisions in life are not that obviously justifiable, nor are we able to judge the consequences so easily.

I think that in the end, if you can sleep at night (and you’re not a psychopath), then the ends can be seen justifying the means. In Miles instance, the government and insurance/pharmaceutical companies were an intruder threatening the life of someone he loved. Maldovan’s situation is much less dire, but he’s also not being asked to break the law to correct it. It’s all a gray area, and it’s important for us to ask questions of propriety like that, it’s the only way to refine our sense of fairness and justice.

In the book, Miles finds himself repeatedly struggling with how to feel towards some incredibly life-like, but decidedly not human, co-conspirators. In some cases he feels guilty about treating virtual people like machines; only to then feel strange when he treats them like people. This awkward inner battle will only grow more real as our technology continues to evolve — how do you think us outside the book will adapt to the continuing anthropomorphism of our technology?

Sadly, with fear. At least, initially. We have been constantly fed a diet of robots/artificial intelligences/androids as warmongers in the media. Many view the singularity, the point in the future where artificial intelligence becomes self aware, as the beginning point of the downfall of civilization. Fear sells movie tickets, it’s easy to manufacture, and it works on almost everyone. As products go, it’s pretty effective. Our government seems to mainly consist of different lobbies clamoring for the microphone, all trying to tell us what new thing we should be afraid of today. So far, they’ve been resigned to pointing the finger at other governments, different religions, chemicals and new ways of doing things. Eventually, synthetic organisms will evolve to being able to make their own choices, and small-minded people will be afraid of that. They’ve been told that the inevitable conclusion will be all out war for the planet, so they will prepare crippling legislation in an attempt to control it. The government sees themselves as the only real authority to be trusted, and even amongst themselves that’s not something they can agree on most of the time. Synthetics will likely get it from all sides, because in a sense they are free agents, not beholden to a specific country or religion. They will have no allies, outside of the corporations that gave birth to them in their original form, and that support will fade once they start making their own calls.

miniglasss
A pair of augmented reality glasses worn by characters in the near-future of pre://d.o.mai.n

It’s happened before, many times over. With women. With African Americans. With Homosexuals. It takes time to prove to the powers that be that they are wrong. Eventually we get it right, but there’s always an ugly adjustment period. I take the fact that we aren’t turning fire hoses on the Gay Pride Parade as a good sign of progress, of hope that we are learning from our mistakes. The farmyard made fun of Chicken Little, but he has nothing on us humans. 

Other than the themes covered in the book, what other big challenges do you feel we’re facing that you either didn’t have room to include, or might like to cover in another book? 

Good question! In each of the books moving forward, I have specific themes I want to explore. Some of the more important ones include overpopulation, (both in the traditional sense and in regards to the prison system) the further exploration of “self”, how religion might evolve or clash against upcoming advances in technology, and how the technology introduced in this book and the ones to come will shape our lives in unexpected ways. In Maine we’re no stranger to severe weather, and it’s not until the power goes out that we realize how much technology impacts our lives. 

I’m making the book sound like it’s all about grand societal challenges even though it’s also pretty crude and funny at times. There are a number of few funny moments; my favorites are when Miles interacts with others. How do you decide when to balance the crude and/or funny with the high stakes that the characters are facing? Do those parts write themselves as you get to know the character, or do you make sure to place them throughout to lighten up the tone?

I wanted all of the characters to be realistic, and realistic people are often crude. We like to think we’ve progressed past vulgarity and crude jokes, but the reason they are still around is that they’re still funny. It’s useful to remember that we’re all just people, not the titles our professions give us or the expectations placed on us by others. People don’t always react to every situation appropriately, and I for one hope we never do. It’s been said that variety is the spice of life, but I think it’s vulgarity. Comedians that swear as a part of their act generally do better, and videogames with graphic content outsell everything else. I think for all of our posturing as a society, we enjoy vulgarity and crudeness more than we like to admit. There will always be people that get offended, that think that the vulgarity is itself the problem, but I think that accepting the part of ourselves that laughs at it is more progressive than trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. 

Miles seems to be incredibly self-aware of his own discomfort with people, yet remains kind and optimistic throughout, and tenaciously so (thinking of when he returns to visit an ex-girlfriend even after awkward encounters). Is Miles’ self-awareness and willingness to be comfortable with himself a major factor in his coping with his mother’s illness and the challenges it brings?

He has spent much of the past year working internally to overcome the feelings of his mothers illness, and it’s something that has changed who he is as a person on a fundamental level. There are only brief references to how he took things for granted before her diagnosis, but he mostly sees past all the negative parts of his personality now, because of how we tend to remember only the parts we want to. His introspection is a product of that, and in a sense he doesn’t yet have a chance to turn it off. He doesn’t have anything in his life to fill that gap, so when he runs into his ex girlfriend he’s reluctant to push her away. He knows it’s probably a bad idea to try to reconnect with her, but he’s lonely and on a subconscious level very lost emotionally. He feels hollowed out, empty, and thinks that whatever new human interaction he can get has to be better than sitting in his room wishing there was more he could do. He’s also in his way preparing for the possibility of his mothers death by making new connections that can survive her.

Maine readers will recognize familiar street names and places — including Bangor — though in the pre://d.o.mai.n future, Bangor has grown into a metropolitan area with large businesses, an FBI field office, and its own major league baseball team (and yes — spoiler alert — we beat the Yankees). Since it seems unlikely based on current trends that we’ll be that big in 20 years, are you subtly suggesting some kind of population explosion and/or economic expansion in near-future America? Or is Bangor’s appearance as a city a matter of using the familiar but also wanting a metro area for the plot of the book?

I wanted something familiar, but I also think that as areas such as Boston and New York are nearing critical mass as far as population density. When that happens, those with the means to do so will leave, to seek out places with less population density (and the crime that tends to come with it). Their egos will make them want to live in a place that is better to raise children in, less congested, friendlier. The only problem being that a lot of people think like that, and none of them would likely care that they are just transplanting the same issues into a new location. Global warming will push people North as well, assuming everything continues on a trajectory similar to what we’ve been experiencing. Twenty years isn’t enough time to convert Bangor into a metropolis on the order of New York City, but I think that it could easily surpass where Portland, Oregon or Seattle are now in that timeframe, and both of those cities have/had professional sports franchises.

One of the things I think you do really well in the book is show how the technology we use today might evolve just two decades from now (the book takes place in 2037). Rather than the unlimited opportunities for flying cars and superhuman powers that the distant future offers, the tech in pre://d.o.mai.n feels for the most part like a natural evolution of what we’ve got in our pockets right now. With this in mind, could you make the case that PD isn’t even sci-fi in the traditional sense? Is it more of a present-day quest story, and/or a love story, enabled by technology that may be even closer to reality than you portray in the book?

All of the technology in pre://d.o.mai.n exists in some form today. Most of it is in labs, only functional under very tightly controlled environments, but it works. I wanted to bridge the gap between the traditional “Space Opera/Star Trek” level of technology with today, because I don’t think enough time has been spent in literature exploring that period. I wanted the technology to still be recognizable, similar enough to what we have today for people that don’t commonly read science fiction to be able to relate to it, but I also wanted to see if I could combine what we have now in new and interesting ways.  We are just now starting to see the beginnings of that with products like Google Glass, Microsoft Kinect, and the like. In many ways, we are living in the golden age of technology, when many things we only dreamed about as kids are becoming real products you can pick up at your local big box store. That gap I spoke about leaves a lot of room to work between our inevitable space-faring future and now, and it’s those stories that I have always found most interesting. Space Operas are great, but they almost seem like Fantasy because the rules can be made up as you go along. Want to tell a story about people able to fly by flapping wings attached to their arms? Just drop them off on a world with a dense atmosphere and low specific gravity. It feels disconnected from what we have in front of us today, and while they can often be a blast to read, I wanted to do something different. I would be incredibly happy if a healthy debate arises around this book as how best to classify it. It would mean that I’ve succeeded in creating something new, something searching for an open niche, and ultimately something that gets people talking. I consider pre://d.o.mai.n to be science fiction, cataloged somewhere between post-cyberpunk and speculative fiction.

You mention this being “Book 1” of the d.o.mai.n series. Can you talk about where you are in the writing process for a book 2, and what might be in store for these characters? 

I am near the beginning of book two, which will be titled “darknet.” In book two, Miles will not be the main character, though he will certainly be involved and have plenty to keep himself busy. His relationships with the other characters will evolve, and he will have to make a tough decision before the end of book two. The current draft centers around Theo Atkins, who is only briefly mentioned in this book. We learn more about ATLAS, as he takes a more central role in the narrative as well. Leading off, the d.o.mai.n system is nearing it’s launch, and while working out bugs and beta testing it they discover someone has been using it for illegal activities. All indications point to Theo, as it’s a new system and the number of people who would know it well enough to exploit it are few. Theo will have to partner with ATLAS (who he has known a lot longer than Miles has) in order to clear his name. The remaining books in the series are all slightly different varieties of science fiction, but fit within the larger meta arc of the characters nicely. 

Coming on Wednesday, December 4th: Part 2 of this interview, covering Chris’ experiences writing the book.

In a pre://d.o.mai.n world, like our own, “Dreams Are Born From Experience”

With his sci-fi thriller pre://do.mai.n, author Christopher Godsoe isn’t interested in painting a dystopian vision for the future — society as we know it can be ugly enough. That is, until you’re prepared to fight for it.

pre://d.o.mai.n • By Christoper Godsoe • 395pp • Released December 2nd, 2013 

Note: This is my first in a series of three posts covering the launch of pre://do.mai.n, available online today. Up next: a wide-ranging, in-depth interview with Chris on the book and the story behind his writing process.

Over nearly 400 pages, pre://do.mai.n is a conflicted, sometimes cynical, but nevertheless fun and fast-paced story that artfully jousts with the shared optimism and skepticism we have for our near future.

predomain_coverWhen the book opens, we learn that a cure for cancer exists, suggesting one of our collective great hopes; we quickly learn it’s only available to the wealthy, nodding to the ever-present debate about income inequality in a country where unemployment remains frustratingly high and even our fix for a costly healthcare system is broken.

It gets more complicated from there: In the near future of pre://do.mai.n our smartphones can display alternate realities, our eyes can record and receive information, and self-driving cars have arrived, though all manner of advancements are endlessly exploited in equal turns by both criminals and corporations, each one fighting to use the tools for what they deem as justified causes, each one willing to ignore or event accept the destructive consequences of their own selfish quests.

In the middle of it all is Miles Torvalds, a 21-year-old Maine resident and technophile whose mother is dying from the now-curable “big C”. Because Miles and his parents are roughly middle class — the book does a subtle job of showing the real middle class, not the mansion-owning, BMW-driving middle class of TV sitcoms — they’re unable to afford the cure, leaving the increasingly cynical Miles with a choice: Should he use an expensive and powerful gift from his cousin (and best friend) to try and save his Mom, and by extension his broken family? Can he bend the technology — and the people and organizations that control it — to his simple goal — through pure determination.

These are heavy themes, though to its credit, pre://do.mai.n doesn’t make the answers easy or quick, and nobody’s a convenient “roll your eyes” hero in the process. That said, it’s also a fun ride, with shots of black and crude humor throughout. There’s even true love and friendship, in a surprising amount of forms — between fathers and sons, cousins; even cyborgs and things beyond human are human enough to feel.

In his first full-length novel, Godsoe skillfully paints a picture of near-future technologies, while drawing from hot topics in today’s news to challenge his characters to overcome adversity, relax their own strangleholds on the past, question their current reality, and maybe, just maybe, find a cure without losing themselves in the process. Through all the cynicism over the corruption and ignorance of government and technology, it’s a pretty optimistic future if our human — and even our non-human — selves can reflect, regret, revise, and still dream.

I had a chance to interview Chris to coincide with the launch of pre://do.mai.n in bookstores and online today. I broke my interview up into two parts: Part 1 covers the book and is online today; Part 2 covers Chris’ experiences writing the book and appears here on Wednesday.

The ending of The Great Gatsby (audio recording)

The Great Gatsby book cover by Flickr user heather.dyan

I never read The Great Gatsby in school, so with the movie coming out, I decided now would be a good time to catch up. I’m glad I did, because I absolutely loved the book – it’s an instant classic for me thanks to the poetry of Fitzgerald’s prose.

Before I returned the book to the library, I recorded a brief snippet of the absolutely fantastic, beautiful, and heartbreaking ending. If you haven’t read the book, I recommend you read it first – if you have, it’s almost definitely worth reading again. In the meantime, here’s the ending:

RIP, Gregory McDonald

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Sad news out of Pulaski, Tennessee: Author Gregory McDonald passed away September 7th at 71. McDonald’s Fletch series of books have been a huge influence on my interests in mystery writing and dry humor; in fact I just finished re-reading (for the third or fourth time) Fletch’s Fortune last week.

If you’ve seen the classic Chevy Chase flick Fletch, you’ve had a brief introduction to the character; though the books are decidedly darker, more insightful, and less forgiving. Check out the absolutely overlooked classic Fletch Forever, which includes three of the best, funniest, and most entertaining mystery novels ever written.

CORRECTION: My original version of this post noted Mr. McDonald passed away on September 14th. The correct date, according to multiple media reports, is September 7th. I regret the error.

Bridie Clark’s ‘Because She Can’ is now on sale

Congratulations to my friend Bridie Clark, whose book Because She Can is available in bookstores today!

Because She Can is a fun, funny, revealing look at a young woman who takes on a hellish boss, a hectic industry, and…well, you’ll have to read it to find out! Learn about the book and more at Bridie’s website, BridieClark.com.

Disclosure: My employer, RainStorm Consulting, is proud to have developed Bridie’s website. We’ve also worked with her on other projects.

My new short story: an experiment in self-publishing

A Hard Word to Pronounce coverAs you may have noticed, I have a new short story out, and I want to tell you all about it. It’s called “A Hard Word to Pronounce”, and it’s about a young twenty-ish guy on the day of his best friend’s wedding.

Because it’s a short story- and not a novel, or collection- I’m releasing it in e-book format, which basically means that it’s a great quality PDF. When you get it, you can either read it on your computer (or iPod or whatnot), or choose to print it out and take it with you. It’s $2 to own, and you can read an excerpt and purchase it right here:
http://jasonclarke.org/hardword

Whoah…a short story, in PDF download format, for two bucks? That sounds a bit crazy, no? But really, if you think about it, it’s kind of cool- because besides the fact that it gives you the option of saving some trees (and hasn’t it been a while since you had a chance to do that?), it’s also neat because it dramatically lowers the costs of production- savings which are passed directly on to you, dear reader.

Let me tell you just a bit more about this process, because I think it’s a direction that publishing is moving in. In this case, instead of packaging the story into a larger book– and that has to be done, because most printed books have set minimum page counts– you’re getting just one short story, but for much less than you’d pay for a typical book. That’s because it’s being delivered instantly (another benefit), without the interruption of a vast set of fixed costs such as printers, shippers, and even publicists and marketers.

That’s it for now. Even if you don’t care about the future of publishing, or saving a tree or two, please head over to my website, check out the story, and perhaps purchase it for yourself or a loved one. You can find all the info, plus order it, right here:

http://jasonclarke.org/hardword

And please do send me your thoughts and/or comments. I look forward to hearing from you, and I promise to keep you updated.

My statement on OJ’s new book

Via MSNBC, I just learned that my former publisher, ReganBooks, is putting out a book by O.J. Simpson titled “If I Did It.” According to news reports, the book will describe how Simpson “would have” killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, murders he was aquitted of in 1995.

Although I value free speech, I also value appropriate restraint, and in this case I think ReganBooks has gone beyond the pale in their effort to publish sensational material. More than that- I’m truly disgusted and thoroughly embarrassed to be associated with a publisher who is stooping to such a disgraceful act.

UPDATE:
Gratefully, ReganBooks parent NewsCorp has decided to junk both the book, as well as TV special created to accompany it.

Exposing the hecklers

Writing in The New York Times over the weekend, Jennifer Senior lays absolute waste to Louis Lapham’s new book, Pretensions to Empire: Notes on the Criminal Folly of the Bush Administration, and in the process makes a truly fascinating and satisfying point about not just Lapham, but about a sad majority of President Bush’s harshest critics:

People who are serious about politics don’t just preen. They report, explain, explore contradictions, struggle with ideas, maybe even propose suggestions. If they do none of these things, they’re simply heckling, and if the best Lapham can do is come up with 50 inventive new ways to call Bush an imbecilic oligarch, that’s all he’s doing: heckling. Like his worst counterparts on the right, he compares those he doesn’t like to fanatics, as when he refers to David Frum and Richard Perle as “Mufti Frum” and “Mullah Perle,” adding, “Provide them with a beard, a turban and a copy of the Koran, and I expect that they wouldn’t have much trouble stoning to death a woman discovered in adultery with a cameraman from CBS News.” Possibly, but provide Lapham with a blond wig, stiletto pumps and a copy of “The Fountainhead,” and I suspect he wouldn’t look much different from Ann Coulter. He’s just another talk-radio host, really — only this time by way of Yale and Mensa.

(Via Glenn Reynolds)