Interfacing with the Future: An interview with author Lucy Mihajlich

I was lucky enough to work with Lucy Mihajlich on her new novel Interface, which is released this month. You should check out the novel here, which was successfully funded Lucy’s great Kickstarter campaign.

Lucy was kind enough to do a Q&A with me for STP Editing, where she answers questions about the technological, sexual and satirical themes of the excellent Interface:

INTERFACE:

The future always seemed bright, but it turns out
that was just global warming. Meals don’t come in pills,
shoes don’t lace themselves, and there are flying cars,
but the gas mileage sucks. There is one difference.
People have always searched the internet for answers.
Now they actually worship it.

Pen Nowen’s father was the founder of Interface,
a computer company so big and powerful that people
began praying to it. Especially when his death almost
tanked the economy.

Seven years later, Pen’s just finished her junior year of
high school. For their summer vacations, all of her friends
are going to Disneyland, Tijuana, or Disneyland Tijuana,
but Pen’s going on a pilgrimage to pray for what’s left
of her family. She’s on her way to the Interface flagship store
when she gets kidnapped.

It’s the second time this year. She’s about to begin the
ransom negotiations when the kidnapper says that he
doesn’t want money. He wants something else from her.
Before Pen can text 911, he says something even creepier.

He knows the truth about her dad’s death.


INTERVIEW WITH LUCY MIHAJLICH

author-photo

DB: Interface is set in the near future. How do you envisage the future – as it’s depicted in the novel, or something different?

LM: I sincerely hope the future isn’t like the one in Interface, although I did a lot of research on the future to write it. The scariest prediction I read:  Chocolate decline by 2020. I’m not even touching that one. I don’t write horror.

DB: The novel is a satire, particularly of social media. How do you feel about the current online world?

LM: I’ll preface this by saying I love the internet and may have to marry it just to make it an honest network, considering how much time I spend on it. Interface is not a critique of social media or the people who use it. That said, Facebook scares the hell out of me.

Social media adds a level of performance to our lives, and there have been a lot of studies done on the psychological effects of celebrity. I read about a study about how often people like Kurt Cobain used the first-person pronoun before and after they became famous. Their use of the word “I” increased dramatically. So did their struggles with substance abuse and depression.

I don’t think social media is the only reason my generation is struggling with what some people are calling an anxiety epidemic (student loans and Donald Trump are definitely a factor for me), but I think it’s a contributing factor.

DB: You have described Penny as an asexual character. What does this mean, for you and for the novel?

LM: I made my main character asexual because I wanted a character that I could identify with. I’ve known I was ace ever since I learned about asexuality. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen until I was in my twenties, because there’s very little asexual representation in the media.

When I started submitting Interface for publication, I received an offer from my first-choice literary agency. Ten months later, the agent changed her mind. She said that she believed romance was crucial to my book’s success. So I decided to try Kickstarter, where Interface was 122% funded. The response was overwhelming, especially from the asexual community. I wanted a character that I could identify with, but somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that other asexuals might want the same thing.

DB: I found the novel to be fun, fast-paced and original. What inspirations did you have, if any?

LM: I could never list all the writers who inspire me. There are some who write in completely different genres, like Oscar Wilde and Terry Pratchett. In my genres, my biggest inspirations are probably Ernest Cline, Cory Doctorow, and Andy Weir. I’m also inspired by fanfiction writers. Some of their work is better than the published fiction I’ve read. Plus where else are you going to find a Hannibal/Doctor Who crossover?

DB: Interface is the first part of a trilogy. Can you give us any (spoiler-free) hints as to what might be next?

LM: More drugs and rock ‘n’ roll (but still no sex.) If you want to know more, the first chapter of the sequel will be included with Interface!

DB: Your Kickstarter campaign got a lot of attention and there are a lot of excited people out there. Is there anything you’d like to say to them?

LM: Thank you so much! I literally could not have done it without you. I hope Interface doesn’t disappoint.

DB: What are you reading/playing/watching at the moment?

LM: My current obsession is The Martian by Andy Weir, but since you can only reread a book so many times, I just finished Stranger Things on Netflix. 10/10, would be freaked out again.

DB: What’s next for you?

LM: The sequel! Maybe a nap first.

 


front-cover

Pre-order Interface on Amazon before its November 22 release: LINK

Check out Lucy’s website: LINK

—db

 

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An evolutionary basis for storytelling

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A recent article by Helen Briggs of the BBC tells how the human love affair with stories might have an evolutionary basis: an almost cathartic effect that releases ‘natural painkillers’ in the form of endorphins and fosters social bonding. According to the article:

The human fascination with story telling was forged in ancient times when we began to live in hunter gatherer communities, said Prof Robin Dunbar, who led the research [into why we’re attracted to dramatic, and even upsetting, narratives such as tear-jerking films].

“Fiction is widely studied by humanities academics as it is an important feature of human society, common to all cultures,” said Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University.

“There are good social reasons: folklore enables us to pass on wisdom or ingrain community values, bringing us together. While that is important, it does not fully explain why we are willing to return again and again to be entertained.”

He thinks our affinity for emotive fiction may have evolved in the context of cohesion of social groups, as the endorphin effect has also been seen in comedy, singing and dancing.

“This is not to say that this one chemical effect alone is the only reason for dramatic fiction – there are other aspects of human psychology at work – but we believe that it is an important reason for our enjoyment of fiction,” he added.

—db

Why I’m boycotting Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’

Doctor Strnage Tibet.jpeg

The Internet has been over this before. In April, Marvel released the trailer for its next blockbuster superhero film, ‘Doctor Strange’, a story about an arrogant surgeon who, after his hands being irreperably damaged in an accident, learns the error of his ways and becomes a powerful scorcerer. Stephen Strange finds his spiritual awakening in Tibet, with the help of a Tibetal mystic known as the Ancient One, and thereafter protects the world from all forms of mystic badness as the Sorcerer Supreme.

Marvel’s first trailer brought accusations of white-washing after it appeared to show that the huge studio, now owned by Disney, has scrubbed all mention of Tibet from the story. In the film, Tibet has become Nepal and the Ancient One is now a white person. The reason seems obvious: to appease the government of the People’s Republic of China, a country that represents a huge cinemagoing audience and has the world’s most notorious wall of censorship, forbidding any mention of politically-sensitive situations like Tibet.

I won’t re-tread old ground too much, but link to some articles here:

(Lionsroar.com) The Strange Case of Doctor Strange’s Tibet

(The Guardian) Tilda Swinton cast as Tibetan to placate China, says Doctor Strange writer

‘Doctor Strange’ Writer Says China-Tibet Remarks Don’t Represent Marvel

(Screenrant.com) Doctor Strange’s Erasure Of Tibet Is A Political Statement

(The Guardian) George Takei on Doctor Strange controversy: ‘Marvel must think we’re all idiots’

If you didn’t know, Tibet is technically part of China – ever since China invaded and stomped all over Tibet in the 1950s, and has been crushing it underfoot ever since. Before I get accused of exaggeration, let the world be reminded of an independant ICJ  Human Rights Report into the brutalities of the 1950-51 invasion of Tibet, which led to the exile of the Tibetan government, its spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and over 100,000 desperate citizens. The illegal and well-guarded path over the freezing Himalayas has killed many fleeing Tibetans. They were and purportedly are still escaping beatings, brainwashing (thabzing), wrongful arrests and killings, torture,  mutilation, dismemberment, disembowelling, vivisection and crucifixion (yes, you read that correctly). Following the 1959 uprising, those shouting “Long live the Dalai Lama” were reported to have their tongues torn out with meathooks.

Children have been spirited away from villages to be indoctrinated at Chinese schools. Han Chinese have been urged/bribed to move into the “Tibet Autonomous Region”, displacing the native Tibetans an attempt at cultural erasure. Thousands of Buddhist monasteries were looted and destroyed (purportedly 8 of 6,000 remaining, as Potemkin tourist attractions), and celibate Buddhist monks were forced to have sex and marry one another. Nomads with generations of nomadic existence in their blood were told to stay put. Communism brought famine to the near-barren lanscape of the Tibetan plateau.

In Tibet, people are punished just for keeping in touch with their exiled relatives, even though this is now official legal. Self immolators who protest the enslavement of Tibet are thrown, still burning, into trucks and disappear, and may take a day to die. During the 2008 Tibetan uprising, which failed, bodies of protestors were piled high in the courtyards of monasteries. 1.5 million Tibetans have died in defence of their human rights. I’d heard stories, but the facts I found this year when researching my latest novel about Buddhism and Tibet made me sick to my stomach.

But Marvel wants to make money off its latest film, so it continues to pander to the Chinese film requirements. Censors in China only approve 34 foreign films per year, and some censorship requires that a film contains a scene set in China, has the casting of Chinese actors, has Chinese investors, or shows “positive Chinese messages”. Marvel already got into bed with Chinese film studios for ‘Iron Man 3’ to avoid those requirements (and, incidentally, adding additional scenes in which genius Chinese surgeons fix a superhero’s heart problems, adding Chinese product placement, and changing the Chinese villain The Mandarin to a British actor ‘playing’ a villain with a false American accent). You might have noticed a rash of films the last few years with scenes set in China or in which China saves the day, such as Looper (2012), Red Dawn (2012), Gravity (2013), Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), and The Martian (2015). Why? Because this doubles box office profits from China, as well as allows the film to be shown in the first place. Forget politics, there’s dough to be made.

Weirdly, in the latest comic book issue of Doctor Strange, Marvel has confirmed the Tibetan origin:

untitled

Doctor Strange #011 (Sept 2016)

What’s going on there? Appeasement to fans? A small sacrifice, considering the films are making far, far more money than any comic book run ever could. Not good enough, Marvel.

I don’t know about you guys, but kowtowing to a tyrannical government for profit in light of genocide and cultural suppression sounds pretty uncool to me. If you’ve read my previous travel posts you’ll know that I have a lot of love for historical and present day China, but I despise its government. I have a great love of Marvel, whose comics and characters have brought me some of my greatest joys in life, but I can’t in good conscience see a film I’ve always hoped to be made, with actors I adore. I was hoping that the newly-released second trailer might correct some assumptions – but sadly not. And already people seem to have forgotten about the controversy and are all set to pre-order their tickets. I don’t blame them – but I would blame myself.

—db

New paperback releases!

I’m thrilled to announce that my novels ‘The Gun of Our Maker’ and ‘Cycles of Udaipur’ are now available as actual, physical, smell-the-pages paperback editions!

David Brookes author

Don’t have an e-reader? Now you don’t need one to experience the literary wonders you see before you. Already have the e-book versions? Get a hard copy too and then your friends will be impressed by the taste of your bookcase!

Order your paperback of ‘The Gun of Our Maker’ by clicking here.

Order your paperback of ‘Cycles of Udaipur’ by clicking here.

You can see my original e-book release posts here (‘GOOM‘) and here (‘COU‘).

As always, if you read either version of the novels then please leave a review so that other readers can see what you thought of them. Sales are massively affected by positive reviews and, since I have no marketing clout, I rely on reviews almost exclusively to keep these novels from slipping into oblivion.

Thanks to everyone who’s given me their support over the years!

—db

Paperback for more

News!

To date my novels Cycles of Udaipur and The Gun of Our Maker have only been available for e-readers like Kindle.

Coming this Sunday, you’ll now be able to order them as actual paperbacks made of actual paper, thanks to Amazon!

If you already have the e-books, feel free to get a lovely tangible version too for your bookcase. They look real pretty.

—db

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What is the REAL future of the ESL CLASSROOM? — from AIYSHAH’S ENGLISH PAGE

(Photo credit: http://bit.ly/29LnaH1) One of the greatest phrases I have heard in recent times is, ‘If a computer can take over your job – it should’. Makes you think doesn’t it? For some people it is worrying because they are not entirely sure that they are good at what they do, but they are sure […]

via What is the REAL future of the ESL CLASSROOM? — AIYSHAH’S ENGLISH PAGE

What the Brexit EU Referendum results could mean for the arts

cBREXIT EU scrabble

Like almost half of the UK yesterday morning, I was aghast, troubled, disgusted and angry to learn that the British public, in their wisdom, has voted for the UK to leave the European Union. There will be almost endless ramifications for both Britain and Europe for decades to come – but how will this affect writers and other artists?


1. Funding for the arts will be harder to obtain
Let’s face it, the attempt to secure arts funding from nepotistic organisations like the Arts Council is a pessimistic shot in the dark in any case. For two reasons, writers and artists will now have an even tougher time.

Firstly, the economic uncertainty of leaving the EU will plunge the UK economy into another recession, which already seemed inevitable as part of a predicted “double-dip” following the horrendous austerity in the wake of the 2008/9 crash (which incidentally resulted in plans for my second novel, signed off for publication by my publisher, being scrapped). The government has always been tight when it comes to funding the arts, but when times are tough and artists are most motivated to create, those opportunities will shrivel further.

Secondly, much of the arts funding available to artists is provided by the EU. We can probably say a regretful goodbye to any real help from the likes of the European Cultural Foundation, who despite their adoration of the arts and artists from around the world may have to limit their grants and other support to EU members only. Britain is European in the geological sense, but soon no longer in the political sense, and often that is what matters. According to WelcomeEurope.com, there are 62 funding bodies available for cultural projects, but only a fraction of these include the arts, and they will likely soon be withdrawn for British artists.

One of the biggest organisations, Creative Europe from the European Commission, replaced the European Union Cultural Programme in 2013 and was intended to last until 2020, but whether British artists will be able to continue to apply after the separation remains a mystery. I have contacted them for comment.

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, has this to say: “The Art Fund is deeply concerned at the impact leaving the EU will have on culture in the UK, and particularly on its museums and galleries. At one level there is obviously now great financial uncertainty – the effect on European funding for the arts, for example – but quite as important is the potential effect on the spirit that drives a myriad of international partnerships in the arts.”

For more info on grants for writers, check out FundsForWriters.com.


2. We will lose the love of those who have helped our literature in the past
At the latest European Literature Festival, held in London April and June this year, author Kate Mosse pointed out that “the fundamental building blocks of this country you could say come from the nature of translation,” citing the Magna Carta, “written in Latin not translated into English until the middle of the 16th century”, and the King James Bible, which eventually appeared in English in 1611. “So all of us here, wherever we come from, have grown up with this sense of other voices, other languages, in our head. But sometimes we forget that.” Her 2005 bestseller, “Labyrinth”, has been translated into more than 37 languages.

It is a ridiculous stretch to think that novels written in European languages other than English might not get translated, but there are many projects that bring lesser-known non-English writers to the English audiences, and those UK citizens living and working in Europe may now have to face expensive and difficult visa processes to remain where they are if they wish to continue to work.

Source: The Guardian: “Kate Mosse speaks up for European literature in face of Brexit”.


3. Our most-loved artists and creative teams might be affected
The much-adored Game of Thrones may be in trouble, since it is partly filmed in the lovely landscapes of Northern Ireland. It has been speculated that HBO may lose its EU funding due the separation, however the studio has recently reported that this is unlikely to happen. HBO now gets funding from the UK for Game of Thrones, not from EU sources, so non-fans like me can continue to hear about that damned show for years to come.

However, Fortune states that the Referendum result could “discourage Hollywood studios and cable networks to film shows and movies in Britain, in part because the country would no longer have access to European subsidies”. The likes of Film4, which continues to make some incredible cinema, doesn’t rely on EU funding, but with austerity measures looming they may already be thinking about reducing their budget, which was only increased from £15m to £25m this February.


4. Artists will have more opportunity to build bridges – a step backwards
In a heartbreaking article from The Guardian yesterday, artists decry the sorry state of affairs that now blights the UK. Sensational pianist Stephen Hough, who has played on all the world’s greatest stages and released over 50 recordings of his classical performances, hits the nail on the head:

“Whether in or out of Europe, we will always need to be building – and repairing – bridges. Sometimes the arts can be the only way a connection can be made across turbulent waters.”

Actor and theatrical Artistic Director Barry Rutter, OBE adds, “For artists, it will only increase dynamism and creativity – hungry artists are always creative.”

Philip Pullman presented this scathing account of the causes of the Brexit separation, which at the very least evidences how trauma can inspire literary works, as well as being precisely damning and entertaining.

One of my personal reasons for voting Remain was the strong feeling that, as a global community, we should be striving for togetherness, not division, even if there are minor compromises. The pain of separation may have inspired the greatest art and literature of all time, but I would much rather that pain not be put into the world – by a vote.

–db


Added 30th June 2016 One of the Creative Europe desks kindly responded to my query with the following, which was to be expected:

“Thank you for your enquiry. Given the complexity of the issue and the number of partners involved, Creative Europe Desk UK are hoping to issue a statement later this week.”

Since there is still talk about a second referendum, and that the shambling remains of the British government have yet to initiate the ‘divorce’, there may be hope yet for creative souls across the UK and Europe.

–db


Added 3rd July 2016: I received a further replace from Creative Europe:

“You can find Creative Europe Desk UK’s statement on the Creative Europe and the impact of the UK’s EU referendum outcome on our website. The statement also contains contact details for any further enquiries you have about Creative Europe’s MEDIA and Culture sub-programmes.

You can also read Creative Scotland’s statement in response to the EU referendum result on the Creative Scotland website.”

–db


For further reading, see my follow-up from February 2017 here.

Now you can support your editor!

Occasionally, clients ask me about how to provide a tip for a job well done. This makes me extremely flattered and grateful. The best bonus is a smashing testimonial for this website (read them here), but if you’d like to palm me a little extra, I’ve now made it super easy.

If you’d like to help feed/clothe a starving writer/editor, there is now my fancy new ‘Support’ page (here) where you can drop a little something into my tip jar with just a few clicks.

A huge thanks again to those lovely people who suggested this!

—db

Free short stories from David Brookes!

About a year ago I chose to give up writing genre fiction, which I’d been writing since I was 13, and focus on what I considered more ‘literary’ fiction. With the exception of the re-release of ‘Half Discovered Wings’, my first novel (2009) and a fantasy, which was more for nostalgia than anything else, my efforts have been towards more meaningful (and marketable) fiction:

I also discontinued sale of some of my other material that was available on Amazon and Smashworlds, namely the science fiction short story collection ‘The Gas Giant Sequence’ and the steampunk fantasy adventure stories in my ‘Professor Arnustace’ series. Although I’m super proud of these works, which were a lot of fun to write, and despite the fact that they sold far more than my other releases, they weren’t fitting with the direction I wanted to go in. I know, how arty of me.

It’s both pleasing and distressing that I’ve had such a response from readers about this. The second ‘Professor Arnustace’ story in particular had some of my best reviews, and I still get messages asking whether there will be a third. Although I don’t have plans for the gentleman detective, as a thank-you I’ve decided to make all my discontinued stories available here for free. Yay!

You will need to connect your e-reader to your computer to copy across the files to your device.

Happy reading!

–db


The Gas Giant Sequence

Krill Split Omnibus cover

Part 1: Krill
Part 2: Split
Part 3: Tranquil Sea
Part 4: Tulpa


The Professor Arnustace Stories

Professor Arnustace

Story 1: An Account of a Curious Encounter
Story 2: Iced Tea for Professor Arnustace


 

Available for pre-order: ‘Cycles of Udaipur’ by David Brookes

I’m thrilled to announce that my new novel, ‘Cycles of Udaipur’, is currently available for pre-order! It will be published in ebook format to coincide with Maha Shivaratri, the Hindu festival in honour of the deity Shiva, occurring on Monday 7th March 2016.

You can read more about the book and pre-order your copy here on Amazon (for Kindle) or here on Smashwords (for non-Kindle e-readers).


 

Final Cover 01


 

CYCLES OF UDAIPUR
David Brookes

Rajasthan is a vivid land of colour and spice, Maharajahs
and gods. But the vibrant city of Udaipur is not the peaceful
Hindu refuge it once was, and as India races towards
modernity its youth faces a cultural identity crisis.

When young Raj hits a cow with his motorcycle, little does
he know that he has started a chain reaction that will
obliterate his close-knit group of friends. Mariam is a Muslim
artist forbidden to paint Hindu deities. Her paramour Shiv
aches to be a politician in a city ruled by gangland overlords.
And lovelorn Vansh finds himself sucked into a mystical
vortex from which his mind may not recover.

Set against the sweeping grandeur of Rajasthani history,
Cycles of Udaipur spins on the axle of tradition and
progress: a tangled web of hope, faith and enduring passion
that epitomises a new India heretofore unknown to the West.


 

Thanks again to everyone for their encouragement and support. Happy reading!

—db