I've been meaning to interview Edelman ever since I read his scifi debut, Infoquake (Canada, USA, Europe) last spring, but I wanted to wait till I was done with the sequel, Multireal (Canada, USA, Europe) before doing so.
So here is a very interesting Q&A with the author. Give Infoquake and Multireal a shot, by the way. You won't be disappointed!
- Without giving anything away, can you give potential readers a taste of the tale behind both INFOQUAKE and MULTIREAL.
The idea's fairly simple, actually. It's a world about a millennium in the future where programmers are in a cutthroat competition to create, sell, and market software that runs the human body. One of these entrepreneurs, a particularly brilliant and unethical businessman named Natch, suddenly finds himself in possession of a new technology called MultiReal. Its creator claims that the software can "create alternate realities." Nobody's quite sure what that means, but it's very clear that MultiReal has the power to change the world in very fundamental (and very dangerous) ways. So the question is, can Natch hold on to MultiReal in the face of all the business rivals, government agencies and shadowy figures that come after him? Does he want to hold on to it? Will he use the power of MultiReal for selfish ends? And so on.
- Tell us a little more about yourself. What is the "411" on David Louis Edelman?
I'm a web programmer and dot-com marketing guy by trade. I spent most of the '90s working in a succession of high-tech start-ups in the Washington, DC area. I saw the same things that most dot-com workers saw during that period: a lot of greed, a lot of ineptitude, and a lot of wackiness. I also worked briefly for MCI, and did some programming on websites for the FBI and the U.S. Army. Shortly after Y2K, I got fed up with the whole thing and decided to quit my job to write a novel. Since then I've been doing web programming freelance and part-time while I've been writing the Jump 225 Trilogy.
- INFOQUAKE is not your typical science fiction yarn. Can you tell us a little more about the road that saw this one go from manuscript form to finished novel? As an hybrid between a more traditional scifi book and the cutthroat world of financial markets, was it hard to sell the idea to editors?
It was a very hard sell. Not because of the manuscript itself, but because I had no fiction publishing credentials to my name except a story I sold to an online magazine in 1995. I spent a year trying to find an agent with nothing to show for it but a stack of form rejection letters. Finally I went to a friend of mine who runs a small publishing house in Baltimore for advice. He read Infoquake and loved it. He offered to represent me as my agent, and I figured I had nothing to lose. He sent the manuscript around to the big New York publishers, and lo and behold, I ended up at Pyr a few months later.
- What can readers expect from the final volume? Are any other novels planned in the same universe?
The question I get asked most often about the third book is whether it's really the end of the story. I've left so many storylines open in MultiReal that they think it'll take another two books to wrap it all up. But no, the Jump 225 Trilogy will definitely end at the conclusion of the third book. I'm not planning to write any more books in this universe after that, but I won't exclude the possibility in case somebody wants to throw a big pile of money at me.
- What's the progress report on the last volume? Any tentative title or release date yet?
Book 3 is going to be called Geosynchron. I think I'm about 80% of the way through the first draft, and I'm really, really hoping to finish it by the end of the year. As for release date, there's nothing definitive in place yet. Infoquake was released in July 2006, MultiReal was released in July 2008, and I'm going to try to finish Geosynchron early enough so Pyr can release it before July 2010. But no promises.
- Will you be touring to promote MULTIREAL this summer/fall? If so, are there any specific dates that have been confirmed as of yet?
I've been doing a handful of appearances here and there -- I was at Worldcon and Readercon (where Infoquake and MultiReal were part of the con's recommended reading list). I went to New York to appear on the Hour of the Wolf radio show. I'm doing a reading at my hometown Barnes & Noble in Reston, VA in September, then attending Capclave in Rockville, MD in October, and then I've got a number of book club appearances sprinkled in between.
- Lou Anders has brought Pyr to new heights. How would you describe the man and your relationship with him?
Lou has been absolutely terrific. He pulled me out of the agented slush pile and put my debut novel in a lineup next to books by Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick, Ian McDonald, and Michael Moorcock. Anyone who's met him will tell you that he's clearly not just in this for the money. He really cares about science fiction and has a lot of big ideas about bringing our little niche to a wider audience. Not only that, but he's very interested in nurturing the careers of the authors in his lineup. I don't know how many editors you can say that about.
- Solaris just published the mass market paperback edition of INFOQUAKE on both sides of the pond. You rarely see different SFF publishers release trade and mass market versions of the same novel. How did that deal see the light?
The deal was put together by Pyr and Solaris. Pyr hasn't published any mass market paperbacks yet -- though they're starting soon -- and so this was a great opportunity to get Infoquake in front of a larger audience before MultiReal arrived in the stores. It seems to be working. People had trouble finding the trade version of Infoquake in the stores, but the mass market of Infoquake is popping up everywhere. I had a friend tell me that he saw three copies of the book on the shelves at the airport in frickin' Dayton, Ohio. We're all hoping that some of those mass market readers go on to find book 2 and then book 3 when it comes out.
- A wealth of information pertaining to both INFOQUAKE and MULTIREAL can be found on your website www.davidlouisedelman.com. You seem to have been extremely careful to prevent info dumps throughout both your novels. Since too much can be as bad as too little, was it difficult to find the right balance as far as how much technical and historical details to include in the narrative? In retrospect, do you feel that too much stuff might have been cut out to maintain the flow of the narrative?
It was a very hard balancing act. I tried very hard to define all of the new terms in context during the story, so you don't need to refer back to the ancillary material at all. But I wanted to make sure that readers interested in how the multi network functions or how the Defense and Wellness Council was founded could satisfy their curiosity. If I had the chance to write the entire series over again, I'd probably make it four books and take more time to weave the background information into the narrative. Science fiction readers aren't having any problems keeping up with all of it. But I do regret that some non-SF readers seem to be a little intimidated by the sheer mass of material there.
- What was the spark which generated the idea that drove you to write the Jump 225 trilogy?
Working in the dot-coms, definitely. I started out writing a much more humorous novel -- a single novel, actually, that was to be called Jump 225.7. It was more lighthearted and satirical in tone, which is why I came up with all the funny acronyms like L-PRACGs and OCHREs, and silly names like SeeNaRee and the Defense and Wellness Council. I literally finished the first draft of that book on September 10, 2001. Then a few days later I put the whole thing aside and started over. I had darker things on my mind then: the future of Western society, the longevity of capitalism and democracy, the underlying purpose of the human race. So the trilogy has turned out to be a somewhat unique mixture of those two moods.
- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?
I feel like I'm very good at the worldbuilding aspect of things. Really, structure in general. The trilogy has layers and layers of metaphor in it, and I'm really quite proud of the way it all works together as an organic whole. My tendency is to wander off into history and background and structure, and sometimes I have to curb that impulse. If I had written The Lord of the Rings, it would have been three whole books of the Council of Elrond, and nobody would have read it.
- Were there any perceived conventions of the science fiction genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write INFOQUAKE and its sequel?
Yes, I wanted to avoid the typical mindless action set-pieces that you find in a lot of bad SF, and bad novels in general. I really wanted to write an exciting novel about business. A lot of authors just use the business aspect as window dressing, and then quickly throw their characters into the same car chases and murder mysteries and gunfights. I wanted to write books that really are about the workplace, where the excitement revolves around product demos and marketing meetings and government hearings and that kind of thing. So that's what I've tried to do.
- How much of an honor was it to be nominated for the John W. Campbell Award?
Oh, it was an enormous honor, of course. There was a fantastic crop of new writers this year, and with people like Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch on the ballot I didn't expect to win. Especially since I didn't publish a single word of fiction in 2007, the year in contention. But I'm pleased I did as well in the voting as I did, and I'm very pleased that my good friend Mary Robinette Kowal went home with the award. She looks much better in the Campbell tiara than I would have.
- The fact that there is a website dedicated to your work is an indication that interaction with your readers is important to you as an author. How special is it to have the chance to interact directly with your fans?
Direct interaction is very important to me. So far I've been lucky enough to be able to directly interact with many of the people who've enjoyed my books online, through emails and blog comments and online forums. I've tried to stay active to some extent on social networks like MySpace, Facebook, GoodReads, and LibraryThing, and I've been able to chat with a lot of readers that way. (Links to all my social networking profiles are on my website -- come say hello!)
- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a Hugo Award? Why, exactly?
No contest, I'd take the New York Times bestseller. Why? Because only a very, very small number of people vote for the Hugos. A few hundred people at most choose each year's winners. But to get to the NYT list, you need to sell thousands and thousands of books. That's a vote of confidence of a whole different order. (Don't get me wrong, I'd wet myself with excitement if I won a Hugo too.)
- What authors make you shake your head in admiration? Many scifi writers don't read much inside the genre. Is it the case with you?
Actually, I've spent most of my adult life reading out of genre. I read a lot of SF as a kid and have only gotten back into it over the past ten years. The authors who have inspired me the most are people like Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Kurt Vonnegut, Franz Kafka, and Philip Roth. Inside genre, I'm particularly fond of George R.R. Martin, China Mieville, Philip K. Dick, Mervyn Peake, William Gibson, and J.R.R. Tolkien, to name a few.
- Cover art has become a very hot topic of late. What are your thoughts pertaining to that facet of a novel, and what do you think of the covers that grace your books?
Originally the cover for Infoquake was designed to appeal to folks outside of the genre, so your typical fund manager wouldn't feel embarrassed reading it on the subway. But my publisher discovered pretty quickly that the chain bookstores didn't like that cover, and the non-SF readers weren't paying much attention to the book anyway. So Pyr and Solaris both decided to go with the high-tech Stephan Martiniere cityscapes that are on the new editions. The publishers are the ones who have the final say on covers anyway; it's not up to me. But the Martiniere paintings are gorgeous and people seem to really dig them, so who am I to complain?
- More and more, authors/editors/publicists/agents are discovering the potential of all the SFF blogs/websites/message boards on the internet. Do you keep an eye on what's being discussed out there, especially if it concerns you? Or is it too much of a distraction?
Unfortunately, I pay too much attention to the blogosphere to ignore it, and not enough attention to really get a lot of useful information out of it. I do a lot of grazing and general news reading, but I don't delve too much into the SFF-specific discussions. Unless they're about me, of course. Google Alerts have proven a terrible distraction, and I'm afraid I spend much too much time reading the blog reviews and the Amazon comments. Trust me, if you mention the words "David Louis Edelman" just about anywhere on the Internet, I'll get an email about it within an hour or two. And chances are I'll be reading what you've got to say within an hour or two of that.
- Do you have any desire to write outside of the SF genre?
Definitely. I have early drafts of novels sent in contemporary Washington, DC and ancient Rome that I'd love to get a chance to finish one day. Plus a dark fantasy novel that may be the next thing on my plate. But right how I'm just trying to finish Geosynchron.
- With authors such as Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, Iain M. Banks, Richard Morgan and Neal Asher, British SF seems to be flourishing at the moment compared to a general downturn in the genre, particularly in the United States. Why do you think this may be?
Nothing against the Brits, but I think it's largely just a confluence of market factors. You get a few authors writing great, literate, money-making SF in the UK, and suddenly the publishers are pushing it and the critics are calling it a movement. Meanwhile in the US, you have Robert Jordan and Laurell K. Hamilton breaking out, and suddenly all of the publishers are pushing doorstopper fantasy novels and books about sexy vampire hunters. As a writer who networks with other writers, I can't help but take notice of these trends, but I really try to ignore them as much as possible. I'd prefer to be exploring things that nobody else is talking about.
- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.
I'd like to think so. The good news is that as the Internet pushes us further and further into our specialized niches, there's plenty of room for scholarly exploration of the smallest subgenres. In fifty years, the concept of genre won't exist like it does today. High culture and low culture will all blend together in a big stew, and the snooty academics in the white towers won't worry about turning up their noses at what you put in your bowl.
- Anything you wish to add?
Just a reminder that you can find excerpts, podcasts, appendices, first drafts, and all kinds of other fun stuff about Infoquake and MultiReal up at the websites http://www.infoquake.net/ and http://www.multireal.net/.