Daryl Gregory is an award-winning writer of genre-mixing novels, stories, and comics. His novels include The Devil’s Alphabet, Pandemonium, Raising Stony Mayhall, and the collection Unpossible. His new novel is Afterparty, a near-future SF novel about neuroscience, drugs, crime, and the numinous. (For more information about Afterparty, check out Daryl’s Afterparty Tour page.)
Andrew Liptak had the opportunity to speak with Daryl about the genesis of Afterparty and more…
Andrew Liptak: Afterparty takes place in a reasonably near future US where computer and pharmacological technology has reduced the cost for manufacturing drugs. How did you come to a story about this?
Daryl Gregory: I like how you asked that: How did I come to this? And now all I can hear in my head is David Byrne shouting, “Well? How did I get here?”
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Books have the power to make us laugh, cry, and everything in between, and there are those books (you know what I’m talking about) that can actually change the way we think and influence us in very powerful ways, even changing the course of our lives. I asked our panel this question:
Here’s what they had to say…
We’re pleased to bring you an excerpt from Daryl Gregory’s new novel, Afterparty (available today from Tor Books), which gives whole new meaning to the term “designer drugs”.
Here’s how the book is described:
It begins in Toronto, in the years after the smart drug revolution. Any high school student with a chemjet and internet connection can download recipes and print drugs, or invent them. A seventeen-year-old street girl finds God through a new brain-altering drug called Numinous, used as a sacrament by a new Church that preys on the underclass. But she is arrested and put into detention, and without the drug, commits suicide.
Lyda Rose, another patient in that detention facility, has a dark secret: she was one of the original scientists who developed the drug. With the help of an ex-government agent and an imaginary, drug-induced doctor, Lyda sets out to find the other three survivors of the five who made the Numinous in a quest to set things right.
A mind-bending and violent chase across Canada and the US, Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty is a marvelous mix of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, and perhaps a bit of Peter Watts’s Starfish: a last chance to save civilization, or die trying.
Read on for an excerpt!
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A woman who long ago overdosed on the designer drug Numinous sets out to discover who is pushing the drug on the streets.
PROS: Amazing characters traveling through a diverse and convincing near future based on speculative neuroscience.
CONS: A possibly overly optimistic view of mental illness.
BOTTOM LINE: Fast-paced and engaging with a great narrative voice, perfect for those who like their science fiction to explore the borders of human consciousness.
With the title of his fourth novel, Daryl Gregory has given his game away. In his four novels so far he starts his stories where other people might end theirs–after the party, after the crisis. In his Crawford-award winning debut, Pandemonium, the main character is still a mess twenty years after being possessed by a demon. In Devil’s Alphabet, a town has settled into a new ‘normality’ after a mutagenic plague hit them; the protagonist comes back to try to heal his old wounds. In Raising Stony Mayhall, the zombie plague was intense but short lived; the few remaining zombies have been living underground, and the title character is the only zombie baby to have grown up. In the hands of other storytellers, these stories would be centered on the demonic possession, the mutagenic plague, or the zombie apocalypse. For Gregory, those moments of drama are back story, traumatic events that haunt the main characters for the rest of their lives.
NOTE: This installment of Special Needs In Strange Worlds features a guest post from author Daryl Gregory! – Sarah Chorn
Daryl Gregory is an award-winning writer of genre-mixing novels, stories, and comics. His first novel, Pandemonium, won the Crawford Award and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. His other novels include The Devil’s Alphabet (a Philip K. Dick award finalist), Raising Stony Mayhall (a Library Journal best SF book of the year), and the upcoming Afterparty. Many of his short stories are collected in Unpossible and Other Stories, which was named one of the best books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly. He lives in State College, PA. You can learn more about him and his books by visiting his website.
Let’s start on a down note, shall we?
My junior year of college, early in the spring semester, I walked into what I would later call the Black Tunnel. Suddenly I was exhausted all the time. I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, and sometimes stayed in the dorm room all day. When I did go to class, I couldn’t concentrate.
My memories of those days have the quality of tunnel vision. The edges of the world seemed to have closed in. When people spoke to me, they seemed to be talking from the far end of a rifle barrel.
What was happening to me felt physical, and externally imposed. I knew that my problems were only going to get worse the longer I slept, but I could no more “snap out of it” than I could decide to stop having the flu.
Then the tunnel opened. I don’t know why. One day I woke up with a little more energy, and started repairing the damage I’d done to my grade point average. I felt like I’d survived an attack from my own body.
Maybe that’s where my fascination with the mind/body problem began. I kept wondering why, even though I knew the depression wasn’t rational, that I couldn’t just pull my self out of it.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
This week we asked out panelists the following question:
Here’s what they said…
Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside of the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine.
I don’t listen to many audiobooks, but ebooks have definitely changed my reading habits. As a combination of being a poor university student and living in tiny quarters, I avoided buying most books I read because there would be nowhere to store 100 books a year. I limited myself to the occasional splurge but mainly relied on libraries, friends, etc. Now, I still live in tiny quarters but I’m not as poor as I was as a student. I buy a lot more of my books as ebooks, and I’m a lot more diverse in my reading. I also read more books and read them quicker because I don’t have to lug myself to the library or bookstore or wait for the book to arrive. If I read a great review of an SFF book, 5 minutes later I can be curled up on my sofa reading it with a nice cup of tea. I’m able to support authors I admire without running out of room to turn around in my tiny flat. At first, I found reading on the Kindle distracting, but now I’m used to it, and I could never go back to not having an e-reader.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
Book reviews have been as contentious since the days of mimeographed fanzines. In the age of the Internet and an explosion of blogs, Amazon, and more, reviews are more important than ever. But what makes reading and trusting a review worth it?
So we asked this week’s panelists…
Here’s what they said…
Most often where reviewers go astray for me is when they forget their core mission. I’ve read a lot of reviews that were more about the reviewer’s wickedly sharp language skills than about what they were critiquing … it becomes form over substance, and while it may be entertaining, it isn’t informative, and it doesn’t help the reader decide whether or not the book (or film, or music) would be right for their needs.
Every book (or film, or concert, or album) is a personal experience, so it’s fine to talk about how the work moved you, and why. But please, reviewers, if you consistently have a burning, fiery hatred for what you’re seeing in the genre (or medium) you’re reviewing, maybe you’re just burned out, or the style has moved past you …(it does this for writers, too, you’re hardly alone). Rather than just become the surly curmudgeon, find another thing to be passionate about — in another genre maybe. You’ll feel better, and so will your readers.
And on the flip side, if you love everything you read/see/hear, maybe you’re not quite critical *enough.* Being a critic isn’t about making friends, it’s about telling the truth even when it’s a harsh truth. Don’t be faint-hearted. You won’t last long if you are.
written by Daryl Gregory, art by Carlos Magno, published by Boom! Studios
This new ongoing series is written by the (rather talented) speculative fiction author Daryl Gregory and drawn by Carlos Magno. I figured it might be worth a try, the whole apes-as-overlords thing being one of the most fun ideas in science fiction. Honestly, if you don’t get a little buzz out of gorillas riding horses and brandishing guns as they herd humans around … well, I don’t know if I can help you.
The story’s set 1300 years before Charlton Heston’s unscheduled arrival in the 1968 movie. Ape society is at its steampunky zenith, with humans making up a somewhat rebellious underclass. Things turn ugly when the Lawgiver, an ape champion of species equality, is mown down by a human assassin wielding lost ancient technology (specifically, a machine gun).
What follows is an entertaining, if not yet especially surprising, yarn as ape and human authorities hunt the assassin and the simmering pot of ape-human relations boils over. (Actually, one surprising thing, which you rarely see in any kind of fiction: the leading female human protagonist is heavily pregnant. Intriguing.)
The mystery of the assassin’s identity won’t puzzle readers for long, but it’s not really supposed to. This is less of a ‘Whodunnit?’ and more of a ‘Let’s get this revolution started!’ thing. It’s traditional, straightforward comics story-telling; a long form linear narrative, adeptly paced and splendidly illustrated (some gorgeous ape imagery here). Early days, but there’s enough potential to persuade me back for at least one more volume, to see how things develop.
[Editor's Note: A while back, SF Signal published a Mind Meld feature on Tomorrow's Big Genre Stars. Patrick at Stomping on Yeti has been profiling these writers and has agreed to cross-post them here.]
There’s been a brief hiatus of Keeping An Eye On… entries as I’ve already had the pleasure of talking to most of the authors on SF Signal’s Watchlist and there are only a few authors still escaping my completist grasp. When I first saw the list I checked out a few of the most repeated names that I hadn’t heard of. At the top of the list was an author by the name of Daryl Gregory. A little google research led me to an unassuming book by the title of Pandemonium. A few hundred pages later, I had finished my favorite read of 2008.
So it was no suprise when Pandemonium, Gregory’s debut novel was nominated for the World Fantasy Award, The Shirley Jackson Award for best dark fantasy or horror novel, the Locus Award for Best First Novel, The Mythopeic Award for Best Adult Fantasy Novel, and helped Gregoy take home the 2009 Crawford award for “outstanding new fantasy writer.”
And that was just his first novel, not counting any of his other shorter work which has been nominated for various awards as well. It might sound like I’m a huge fan of Daryl’s but I actually hate him. I read his stuff and I know that I could never write anything of comparable quality so I probably should just give up trying now. He’s a veritable SoulCrusher.
But that doesn’t mean I’m going to quit reading his stuff. I’m vitriolic not stupid.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A young man goes home to wrestle with his issues, while his home has to wrestle with even larger issues.
PROS: Strong characters, world-building, mystery. SFnal elements perfectly complement the character-based parts of the story.
CONS: Main character can be hard to sympathize with, doesn’t quite live up to my favorite parts of Gregory’s short fiction.
BOTTOM LINE: The strengths of this book vastly outweigh any reservations I may have about the future trajectory of the author’s literary career. Great for near-future sf readers who appreciate world-building and unique characters.
We’ve already covered first science fiction books, now it’s time to flip the coin with this week’s panelists. So we asked them:
Check below to see their responses. And tell us what book got you hooked!
Brandon was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. That book, The Gathering Storm will be available in October 2009 and can be sampled on Tor.com.
The first fantasy I was ever given was Tolkien. For many, perhaps, that would be the end of the story. But I wasn’t a terribly good reader at the time, and though I read and enjoyed the The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings was like a big brick wall. I slammed right into it and couldn’t get past the barrow scene.
And so, I figured fantasy was boring stuff and went back to video games. (Atari 2600–state of the art.)
The real breakthrough came when I hit 8th grade. A teacher assigned me to do a book report, and I tried with all my conniving little heart to get her to let me do mine on one of the Three Investigators novels (which I’d enjoyed reading in second or third grade.) The result of this little power struggle was me, sullenly slinking to the back of the room where she kept her cart of books, bearing the instructions that I HAD to pick one of those to read.
And there, sitting in full Michael-Whelan-Covered-Glory, was Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly. I think angels might have sung (though it was probably the school choir class next door.) Anyway, that was beginning of the end for me. I LOVED that book; and right next to it in the card catalogue at school was a listing for Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey.
Eddings, Melanie Rawn, and Williams came next. I was thoroughly a fantasy super-geek by the time 1990 rolled around, and Eye of The World was published.