By Rob H. Bedford (2006-09-15) Rob Bedford: Let's start with the usual -- a bit about yourself and a bit about Infoquake and the Jump 225 trilogy.
David Louis Edelman: I'm a web programmer and marketing guy who worked for several dot-coms in the '90s. After seven or eight years in the trenches, I decided to quit full-time work and write a novel about my experiences. That novel was Jump 225. Eventually the book grew big enough to split into three volumes, the first of which is Infoquake.
Infoquake takes the crazy dot-com scenario of the '90s and fast forwards it a millennium into the future. The protagonist, Natch, is an entrepreneur in the field of "bio/logics," the programming of the human body. There are hundreds of cut-throat businesspeople competing in this frantic software market, and Natch is basically the most cut-throat of them all. When you first meet him, he's spreading false rumors about terrorist attacks. Then, of course, Natch finds himself in over his head, and he has to ask himself that basic question: how far should you go to make a profit?
I think Barnes & Noble Explorations summed it up best when they called Infoquake "the illegitimate love child of Donald Trump and Vernor Vinge," a quote I'm quite proud of.
RB: In your other interviews, you've mentioned how 9/11 changed your story. Do you want to elaborate a bit?
DLE: Before 9/11, there was a lot of talk about how we had left the standard economic cycle behind and were living in this fairy tale land of perpetual wealth. People really believed this, and the original draft of Jump 225 reflected this attitude. It was much lighter in tone, and that's when I came up with a lot of the more tongue-in-cheek terms sprinkled throughout the book. Drudges for journalists, L-PRACGs for governments, that kind of thing.
Then the planes hit the World Trade Center. And suddenly the world didn't seem like such a rosy place. Like everybody, I started thinking seriously about mortality. Not just my own mortality, but the nation's mortality and even humanity's mortality. I started to wonder whether capitalism was the best system to preserve our longevity as a species. And so I put a lot of these reflections into the rewrite, and the book became much darker and much more introspective as a result.
RB: The depth of your imagined future is considerable. How much of it was mapped out before the book took form?
DLE: Very little. In the early drafts -- which I've posted online http://www.davidlouisedelman.com/jump225/infoquake/drafts/ -- I was just throwing terms out there without any idea of what they were or how they worked. But my goal for Infoquake was to create a believable future, even though there's teleportation, advanced nanotechnology, orbital colonies, and that kind of thing. So I spent a lot of time as I went along fleshing out the world and building a realistic history behind it. There are several technical appendices in the back of Infoquake with a lot of detailed information about the history and technology and basic concepts. I've posted several more online, and there will be even more in books 2 and 3.
Sometimes these articles would suggest a direction for the story to go, but for the most part it worked the other way around. I would have a situation in the book that needed explaining, and so I would go write a background article about it.
RB: Infoquake is one of the more widely praised SF debuts in recent years. How much anxiety did this give you leading up to the book's publication?
DLE: Well, before Infoquake was published, the only review that I had seen was the Publishers Weekly review. I mean, we had gotten some blurbs from other authors, but that's not quite the same thing as an objective review from a third party. So of course I was somewhat nervous that nobody would like what I was trying to do, and Infoquake would just get panned.
Once the first good reviews started coming in, I knew I could relax. Of course, no book is going to please everybody, but I knew that as long as the book pleased somebody it would find an audience.
RB: Pyr is one of the new kids on the genre block, what can you say about working with Lou Anders and the company? Is it how you envisioned the author/publisher relationship?
DLE: Lou has been absolutely terrific, and Pyr has been absolutely terrific. Pyr definitely seems to care about every book they put out. It's a relatively small line-up, and there's not a placeholder in the bunch. They've signed Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Sean Williams, Ian McDonald, John Meaney, and lots more.
Before you're published, you hear all of these horror stories about publishers who don't care and editors who dumb your book down to meet the lowest common denominator. But I got to have long conversations with Lou about cover designs and I was in constant touch with the copy editor, Deanna Hoak, during the entire process. So it's been a much better relationship than I had imagined it would be.
RB: You are obviously a very savvy marketing guy. Did your background in marketing prepare you sufficiently for being a published author or were there some surprises about publishing?
DLE: I think it did prepare me. I worked for a small publishing company and a literary agent right out of college, so it certainly helped that I knew what to expect. But I was still very new to the whole world of SF. I had to learn most of that from scratch, which I did largely by studying other young authors like Tobias Buckell, Brandon Sanderson, and Cory Doctorow.
Regardless of my experience, I think the recipe for successful marketing is the same whether you're promoting a book or a can of soda or a Hollywood movie. Do your homework and keep trying new things until something sticks. If something doesn't work, try again. If it still doesn't work, move on.
RB: Do you feel the book reviews you published (Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City Paper, and Publishers Weekly) prepared you for criticisms you might receive on your own work or to be more critical of your own work?
DLE: There are a few of those reviews I wish I could take back now. I wrote an absolutely scathing review of some woman's first novel in the Washington Post about ten years ago, and if someone gave my book that review today I'd probably burst into tears.
But listen, you definitely need to have a thick skin to be a novelist. Infoquake has gotten some great reviews, true, but there are always going to be people out there who sneer at it and think it's crap. I think if you're going to write a novel at all, you have to be prepared for the worst, because your odds of getting published at all aren't good. I'm extremely lucky to be where I am.
RB: What can you tell us about the group blog DeepGenre?
DLE: DeepGenre has become a great place to hang out and talk about the definitions of genre. What's science fiction and what's fantasy, and why? How far should we, as genre writers, follow the standard conventions and tropes? The whole thing was really Katharine Kerr's and Kate Elliott's idea, and I'm just lucky to be along for the ride. It's taken off much, much quicker than any of us had anticipated.
Probably the most popular part of the site is the 13-Line Critiques, where rookies can submit the first 13 lines of their novel or story and get honest criticism from real writers like Katharine Kerr, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and Sherwood Smith. I think there have been around 75 critiques just in the past three months.
RB: Will we ever see what happened between the 'now' of our world and Natch's time?
DLE: I have drafts of a few stories set in the Jump 225 world. I've got a great story brewing about Sheldon Surina when he was young, and one that takes place just a few years before Infoquake. Ideally I'd like to delve into all of the major events in the back story if I get the chance. The Autonomous Revolt, the formation of the Council, the lives of Sheldon Surina and Henry Osterman -- there's a lot of fertile ground to cover. There are even a few surprises lurking out there that really throw the rest of the series into a different light. But at the moment I'm just trying to finish MultiReal, the second book in the series, before I work on the stories.
RB: You've recently returned from WorldCon in LA, how was the experience? Did people recognize you from the hat?
DLE: WorldCon was terrific. I didn't make it onto any programming except the Pyr panel -- and I pretty much fucked that appearance up -- but I had a blast anyway. I got a chance to meet many of my fellow authors, particularly the Pyr authors, for the first time.
A few people did recognize me from the hat, but most people had no idea who I was until someone would say, "you know, the Infoquake guy." They seemed to recognize the title of the book. I guess it's a good thing I decided on something short and punchy rather than the book's original title, Randomly Generated Pleasurable Startle 37b.
RB: What books have you enjoyed lately, either in our out of genre?
DLE: I was pretty blown away by Robert Charles Wilson's Spin, and I'm very pleased to see that it won the Hugo. I was also very impressed with Justina Robson's Silver Screen and am looking forward to picking up the rest of her books. Plus I'm finishing up China Mieville's Looking for Jake and Jeff VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen. Both of those writers are just dizzyingly good stylists.
RB: What writer, living or dead, would you feel most honored to have read your book?
DLE: My favorite living writers are probably Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Kurt Vonnegut, and William Gibson. If any one of those writers had something nice to say about Infoquake, I'd be quite over the moon. As for dead writers, I would love to be able to press Infoquake into the hands of J.R.R. Tolkien or Franz Kafka. Never mind if they read the book, I just want them to touch it.
RB: How is the writing of MultiReal coming along?
DLE: MultiReal is turning out to be a real bear of a book. I've got all the standard "middle book of a trilogy" issues. How do you write a story that has no real beginning and no real end? How do you continue the vibe of the first book without repeating yourself? How do you deal with readers who may not even have read the first book? And so on. The whole complex back story makes it that much harder, because everything I worked so hard to slip into the first book needs to be introduced all over again. Plus there are about half a dozen new characters, lots of complicated plot maneuvering, and a few real curveballs that have to be timed just right or they'll fall flat. In short, I'm having a lot of fun.