By Rob H. Bedford (2008-07-29)
For readers who may not have had a chance to read Infoquake (and shame on them, since Solaris just published the mass market paperback), what would you say to hook them into reading that or MultiReal?
Iíve actually got a number of nice Hollywood-style hooks to use for the books. My original tagline for Infoquake was ďDune meets The Wall Street Journal.Ē Then Barnes & Noble Explorations came up with ďthe love child of Donald Trump and Vernor Vinge.Ē Now Peter Watts has called MultiReal ďa thoroughly-successful hybrid of Neuromancer and Wall Street,Ē and Fantasy Book Critic has called it ďThe Matrix meets Boston Legal.Ē If none of those taglines intrigue you, then Iíd say you should buy the books for the shiny cover art by Stephan Martiniere.
Some readers may be thrown as the narrative shifts focus from primarily Natch as the POV character to him splitting time with Jara. How organically did that evolve for you? That is, when you planned this trilogy did you realize that Natch would not have Ďcenter stageí to himself in volume 2?
Well, donít forget that the first six chapters of Infoquake are actually written from Jaraís perspective, not to mention a good bit of the bookís last third. So itís not so much that she gets more POV time in MultiReal. I think the difference is that Jara really becomes an independent person in this book; sheís not just focused on what Natch thinks and what Natch wants. Theyíre actually very interconnected characters in a thematic sense. Natch is so narcissistic that he canít see anything outside of his own self-interest; Jara has spent so much of her life serving the whims of others that sheís lost herself. You canít really have one character without the other.
As for how Jaraís role evolvedÖ In the very early drafts of Infoquake, Jara was clearly a secondary character. It was only when I came up with the idea of writing part of the book from her perspective that the whole thing started to blossom. By the time I finished Infoquake and started writing MultiReal, I was pretty confident how I wanted to structure the POV.
Did you find Jaraís voice more difficult to capture than Natchís, considering, well, you are a man and Jara is a woman?
Honestly, I feel like I understand Jara better than I understand Natch. Heís somewhat difficult and remote, and heís not really like me at all. Jara is much easier to relate to. Sheís approaching middle age, sheís fed up with her career, sheís sexually unfulfilled, and sheís hit a romantic dead end. I know plenty of people, male and female, who fit those descriptions. So I didnít worry too much about gender differences. I just tried to make her a well-rounded character.
Some critics felt that Jara was underwhelming or just a ďPOV characterĒ in Infoquake, but I think part of that was deliberate. I wanted the character to sneak up on you a little bit. I wanted you to really feel the impact of Jaraís transformation during MultiReal . If you re-read the two books carefully, I think youíll be surprised to discover that thereís an awful lot of background about Jara in the margins.
What has changed for you now that you have two books published and how (if at all) did it affect your approach to MultiReal and Geosynchron?
The main thing thatís changed is that I have a publisher -- two of them, actually! And while thatís not a guarantee, it does give me a certain amount of confidence in trying risky things. Iíve gotten my judgment validated twice by highly respected publishers and multiple times by awards committees. So that does make me feel like I know what Iím doing to some degree.
And itís given me the confidence to try some very unusual moves in Geosynchron. Most of the bookís last fifty pages are going to be straight dialogue, for instance. Itís not something I would have tried without some experience under my belt.
Science Fiction is a language of mirrors by which we (readers and writers) can compare and contrast our own society and its problems. This is clearly the case with the Jump 225 trilogy, so when you created this future history, how necessary do you feel it was to sort of destroy everything and restart?
Wiping the slate clean with an Armageddon scenario five hundred years before the events of Jump 225 was really just a narrative trick. It enabled me to focus on the things I wanted to focus on -- namely, software and business and sociology -- and conveniently ignore the things I didnít want to talk about. AIs? Boom! They were destroyed in the Autonomous Revolt. Nuclear weapons? Boom! Used in the Revolt and then subsequently abandoned. Cloning and genetic engineering? Same thing.
Itís one of the things science fiction and fantasy do really well. If I had set the Jump 225 trilogy in todayís world, I would have gotten sidetracked by lots of issues that I just didnít feel like dealing with. Itís funny, but I think setting the books in an imaginary world allowed me to get a tighter focus on the real world.
How long of a shadow did Infoquakeís success cast on you and pressure you in writing MultiReal?
There was a lot more pressure, which is typical for a second novel. With your first novel, nobody knows what to expect. But suddenly on your second, youíve got some fans who donít want to be let down. Youíve got a publisher and book buyers who expect you to sell more. Youíve got critics who want to see you stretch and grow artistically.
So I felt like it was crucial to get the details just right in MultiReal. My editor would have certainly been happier with me if I had finished it nine months earlier. But I needed to make sure MultiReal raised the bar. And I think I did that; itís a better book than Infoquake in many respects. What I keep telling friends is that itís maybe only 90% as polished as Infoquake was, but itís five times as ambitious.
Some readers get a bit fussy when the cover design changes from book to book in a series. Why the change in cover designs? Was this a decision from Pyr or should this question be directed to your editor, Lou Anders?
The final decision about covers always lies with the publisher, but Lou let me have a lot of input into the process. I felt very strongly that Infoquake should have a ďcrossoverĒ cover that appealed to SF and non-SF readers alike. I wanted the book to catch the attention of the Wired and the Slashdot crowd. But even though I really dug the original Infoquake cover, it didnít attract the high-tech readers, and the chain bookstores didnít care for it either.
So the new Stephan Martiniere covers were meant to give the series a shot in the arm. To position the books in the same space as authors like Vernor Vinge, Charles Stross, and Ian McDonald -- all authors that Martiniere has painted covers for. It was totally Louís call, and I think he made 100% the right decision. Everybody seems to love the new covers, and they catch your eye from across the room. I havenít heard any complaints yet.
If you could give the David Louis Edelman of 2006-ish just as Infoquake is about to be released to the wild any kind of advice, what would it be?
Hmm. How about, ďDonít tell everyone you know that of course itís going to be Hillary Clinton against Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 presidential raceĒ?
A lot of people ask writers what the most difficult aspect of writing is. What do you find the easiest/least difficult?
The easiest part for me is writing the revisions. I always find the first draft of a novel very difficult to slog through. But when I start fresh with a blank screen on that second draft, I have a much better idea where Iím going and what I need to do to get there. Once Iíve got a framework for the story, I feel like I can really dig in and get creative. It seems to go much faster.
The Jump 225 world seems almost tailor-made for multimedia deployment Ė do you envision any film/TV/game possibilities for Natch and crew?
Iíve gotten the question about film adaptations a lot, and there is actually an Infoquake script floating around out there somewhere. Personally I donít think feature film is the way to go for Jump 225. Hollywood would just muck it up by adding in a lot of unnecessary action scenes and casting Will Smith or Keanu Reeves in the lead.
Where I could imagine the trilogy working is on HBO or something like that. I mean, come on -- science fiction about cut-throat businesspeople, without a huge special effects budget. Itíd be like Mad Men directed by George Lucas. Call me, HBO!
Youíve published a couple of short stories, any more plans for shorter tales?
I have half a dozen short stories sitting around in various stages of incompleteness that I tinker with from time to time. Some of them are set in the Jump 225 world, and some of them arenít.
My big problem is that Iím rarely satisfied with the stuff that I write. Besides which, short stories arenít really my format of choice. I make the joke that I solve every writing problem I encounter by tacking on another ten pages. But itís true. I originally envisioned Jump 225 as a 125-page novella, and now eight years later, itís three 400-page novels.
So yes, there will probably be more short stories dribbling out here and there at some point. But I donít know when.
Original short stories or snapshots of the Jump 225 world?
I have some original short stories set in the back story of the Jump 225 world, during the days of Sheldon Surina and Henry Osterman. Then there are some I have planned which take place just a few years before the events of Infoquake. Ideally Iíd like to go back and fill in all the gaps in the history, put a face on the characters mentioned in that timeline in the appendices. But realistically, I doubt Iíll ever get more than a couple of them finished.
If you could take any pre-existing fictional character and plunk them into the events of the Jump 225 trilogy, who would it be?
Dr. Strange. Heís a guy who hops dimensions all the time. He ought to know how to handle MultiReal.
Wow! Thatís a very unexpected answer. Is that a little hint that youíd like to try your hand at scripting comics, like a good number of prose authors are doing nowadays? Or is that just a fanboy pipedream?
Oh, Iíd love to give comic books a try, though Iím really not very knowledgeable about the medium. I suspect itís one of those things that looks easy from the outside but is very difficult to get right once you get started. Iíd be very interested in doing screenplays as well, or even combining the two and doing adaptations of comic books. But if I just ended up writing plain olí prose books for the rest of my life, that wouldnít be such a horrible fate.
Anything else youíd like to add?
Only that Iím going to be doing my promotional thing at Worldcon in Denver from August 6-10. Sitting on panels, doing readings, signing autographs, etc. If any readers are around, feel free to come on up and say hello.
© 2008 Rob H. Bedford