Welcome to the latest addition of the Indie Author Spotlight! This month we’ll be digging deep into the Post-Human series by science fiction and horror author, David Simpson. In this entry, your brain will overload with artificial intelligence and your mind will be transplanted with future technology the likes of which you’ve never dreamed. Prepare to be upgraded.
I actually purchased the first three books in the Post-Human series (Sub-Human, Post-Human, Trans-Human) about six months ago as David Simpson was offering the Kindle omnibus for just $.99. At the time, I already had a long list of books I wanted to read, but I couldn’t pass up the great deal; so, I bought them with the intention of reading them at some other point in time. Well, this month, instead of reading just one book for the spotlight as I have in the past, I set aside the time to read three of David’s novels! Let me tell you: I found myself wishing I had placed my reading list on the back burner and read his books months ago. Check out the premise of the series below to get glimpse of what I mean:
It’s the story of humanity’s future, both the possible bliss, the possible torment, and all of the in between. It might expand your view of what “human” really means, it might make you consider the pleasures and pains of immortality, and reflect on the extraordinary benefits and profound danger of strong A.I. All of this delivered in an epic series, paced faster than most novels, with twists and turns around almost every page, and a set of characters with whom you’ll fall in love.
Sounds good to me! I read through the books, feeling a strong connection to the characters, wishing at times some of the tech were real, and at others being very thankful that humanity is not quite there. While making my way through his stories, I contacted David — who happens to be an extremely friendly and personable guy — and set up an interview with him to discuss his projects and what’s in store for his writing career. Check it out!
David Simpson is the bestselling author of the Post-Human series as well as the horror novel, The God Killers. He first became successful with the indie publication of Post-Human in December of 2011 and, since then, the series has been downloaded more than a quarter million times. He has a Master’s degree in English Literature from the University of British Columbia and lives with his wife, Jennifer in West Vancouver, British Columbia. He is currently working on his first book with a publisher, as well as his graphic novel adaptation of Post-Human…and on cloning himself so he can get some help.
Max Pfeffer: First of all, I just want to say thanks for taking the time out of your inhumanly busy schedule to chat a bit with the SF Signal community for our Indie Author Spotlight!
David Simpson: It’s my pleasure! I’ve been following SF Signal for a while and it’s an honor to be featured this month. My schedule is inhumanly busy, but I’m living my dream and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It would be helpful to have a clone though…
MP: I would imagine that would be helpful. I’ll see what I can do to help you out with that. Until then, it seems you’ve been having quite a bit of success in the self-publishing market over the past couple of years. What made you go the independent route in the first place?
DS: Amanda Hocking. In November, 2011, I read an article that a then twenty-seven-year-old indie author had become the second indie to sell a million ebooks on Amazon.com. I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. My wife, Jenny, had watched me toil as a weekend warrior novelist for years and I think she didn’t really understand my “hobby,” but when we read about Amanda, we just knew that the ebook revolution (and really the indie ebook revolution) was already in full swing. We got to work learning how to format our books for the Kindle that night and had Post-Human, Trans-Human, and The God Killers all ready a week later. I sold exactly 100 books in December, 2011 and I was thrilled with that. I sold 250 books in January of 2012 and I was even more thrilled. I sold 300 books in just two days in early February of 2012 and I felt like my dreams had come true.
MP: Wow! What a fantastic beginning! Can you tell us a little bit about your triumphs thus far as a self-published author?
DS: Sure! Well, I’ve had the most popular science fiction book on Amazon.com a few times over the last year and a half and spent a week back in July as the “most popular” science fiction author on Amazon.com, which I thought was extremely cool. Of course, those things are usually just temporary, but once you get a taste, it’s pretty addictive. I’m looking forward to getting back there soon! I’ve had my Post-Human series downloaded more than a quarter million times on Amazon and I’ve sold a little better than 50,000 copies, though I haven’t kept track of that much lately (way too busy!). The individual books in the Post-Human series (there are four so far) have all been really well reviewed by Amazon users and it has led to me getting a translation deal for Germany and I recently signed an audio book deal with Podium Publishing. I was also offered a deal to publish the Post-Human series with Amazon’s science fiction imprint, but I turned it down. I did, however, accept a deal to write a new six book series in the same genre as Post-Human for a publisher that is also collaborating with me on two other extremely exciting but super secret projects. I’m actually just wrapping up the first draft of the first book in that new series and I’ll say more about it below, but I wouldn’t have those opportunities if it wasn’t for my success as an indie, so I think they count as a triumphs!
MP: I would say so! What does being a self-published author look like? What kind of things do you have to do to ensure that your work gets noticed that a published author might not have to worry about? What does a typical day look like for you?
DS: Well, now that I’ve spent some time in both worlds, I’d have to say that it really depends who your publisher is. I’ve personally spoken to an author who had a nightmarish experience with one of the big six and anyone who keeps up with J.A. Konrath knows that being with a publisher probably increases worries rather than decreases them in most instances.
My publisher recognized the potential of the type of science fiction I write and made me the sort of offer that would, in their words, “get my attention.” They’ve given me the chance to team up with like-minded creators, all while still keeping ownership of my Post-Human series. It’s pretty awesome. I get to have my cake and eat it too. They understood all of the advantages of being an indie and have tried to give as many of those advantages to me within our agreement as possible. I have to create a world that conforms broadly with what they want me to create, but within that world I am totally free and have creative control. They collaborate, which is just like having a group of expert beta readers, plus I have the financial security of an advance, which is terrific. I’m basically using the same method in writing the book for them that I employed while writing all of my indie books—I’m even working with the same editor—but when I finally deliver the draft to them, that may be where I see the most difference. As an indie, I just have to worry about getting my book up and making sure I do a bargain promo to get some attention, but my publisher is going to give me marketing advantages that I can’t possibly attain on my own. We’re all really excited to see the results! Keep an eye out for Book #1 of the new series, which should be out in February or March of 2014!
As for what a typical day is like, it’s amazing how fast 24 hours flies by! I wake up, have breakfast, correspond with readers who’ve written supportive messages, then do my first batch of writing. Then it’s a shower, the gym or a long walk with my wife if it’s a nice day, then it’s time to switch gears, grab lunch, and get to work on the graphic novel adaptation I’m working on for Post-Human. After I’ve put in a few hours on that, it’s dinner, then I switch back to my novel for my second batch of writing. Then, bleary eyed, I’ll take care of any extra business. There’s often lots of balls in the air at once, like bargain promotions, which require contacting lots of book promotion blogs, conference calls with Amazon, visits to Amazon headquarters (they’re pretty good about that because I live in Vancouver and can get to Seattle on short notice) writing to my color artist, writing to my editor, writing to my publisher, doing interviews (like this, which I love!) and then, when I get all that done, I do what I do every night: try to take over the world! I need to work harder on making that clone…
MP: I hear that John DeNardo of SF Signal is a huge fan of bagels, if you help him out, there’s a good chance he could help you with your cloning problems. The man has connections. [Editor’s note: Mmm…bagels…] The Post-Human series – which seems to be a thoroughly researched science fiction series amassed with future technology, artificial intelligence, the terra-forming of planets, and much more – is, in my opinion, also a cautionary tale. I know you are only human, but how did you come up with such an intriguing concept without some form of A.I. feeding you ideas? In particular, one that, while taking cues from other genre classics, still offers such imagination?
DS: Haha! Yeah, the definition of the technological singularity is that it’s the point at which we can’t comprehend the changes anymore without becoming enhanced ourselves—that is, having some form of artificial intelligence working with our biological brains. I like to joke that I’m bringing the series to an end when I reach Book #6, but only temporarily. I’ll write Book #7 once I have an A.I. helping me out!
But seriously, I think you’re making a great observation about what makes this type of science fiction, whether you want to call it transhumanist or singularity fiction or what have you, the “new” science fiction. When we boil things down to their fundamental truths and understand that it’s unlikely anything is going to stop the rise of artificial intelligence and the melding of the human/machine civilization, you open up the door to a whole universe of stories that great classics like Star Wars and Star Trek just aren’t built to handle. At the same time, those two franchises are so successful, in my opinion, because they are so accessible. They’re both quests with likable, if also sometimes imperfect characters. You don’t need to be a science fiction enthusiast to appreciate either of those universes, and I wanted to achieve the same sort of accessibility with Post-Human.
You mention that it’s a cautionary tale and I agree. There’s tremendous peril interlinked with the tremendous promise of the technological singularity and I’m trying to get people used to the concepts while entertaining them at the same time. Plenty of people have tried lecturing about the tech I’m writing about in academic settings, but then only academics have access. The most magical thing about a great story is that it can make any concept accessible to almost anyone. I hope I’m doing that for transhumanism because, quite frankly, we’re never going to be on starships with laser pistols strapped to our thighs. The future is way more thrilling—and terrifying—and that’s the direction I’m trying to take science fiction with my work.
MP: Correct me if I’m wrong, but your self-publishing career actually began with a horror novel called The God Killers. Can you tell us a little bit about that novel?
DS: You’re wrong, but not that wrong! Haha! Post-Human was my first indie published book, but The God Killers was second. Just a few days ago, a reader mentioned to me that, even though I consider myself to be more of a sci-fi writer than a horror writer, the Post-Human series has plenty of horror. He pointed out some examples of terrible things I did to my characters and I thought, “What do you know? Maybe I am a horror novelist after all!”
The God Killers finds its roots in a conversation I had with my best friend when we were just sixteen and on a horror movie kick. We’d just watched all of The Exorcist movies and were trying to figure out why they seemed so much more terrifying to us than slasher movies. What we decided was that it was because, just for a little while, those movies played on the fears of the audience that maybe there could be something more powerful than God. That maybe, even if God wanted to, he couldn’t help you—couldn’t protect you and save you from Satan. Of course, in the end of those movies, He always overpowers Satan, but it occurred to us that a really terrifying movie would be one where God loses.
In The God Killers, I push the idea even further, and have the evil force be an entity that is impersonating God, tricking souls into going into the white light between Heaven and Earth, where homicidal angels are waiting to grab them and feed their souls to the faux God. How’s that for a crazy concept? The heroes in the tale are people who’ve had a near death experience (NDE) and who know the truth. They’re trying to “kill God,” just as the title suggests and one of them is even a priest who believes the real God is still out there, just unable to directly help. I did a major bargain promotion with The God Killers a few days ago and it went really well and I was the #12 most popular horror writer on Amazon for the day! That was awesome. I only have one horror novel (unless you count the Post-Human series as horror as well), but The God Killers is close to my heart. It’s sort of my forgotten book, but it sells well when I can give it a bit of visibility.
DS: There are plans for two more books in the Post-Human series, but then the party is over. I would never say never, but I think the series needs to have an ending so that it can stay tightly constructed as a whole. As for The God Killers, believe it or not, I do have an outline for a sequel that is as crazy as the first book. I do think I’ll eventually be able to write it (and I love those characters as much as I do the characters in Post-Human) but I’m going to finish the eight books I have planned between Post-Human and my publisher’s series first, so it’ll be at least a couple of years away.
MP: Do you have any other side projects in the works?
DS: Believe it or not, besides the new series I’m writing for my publisher, I also have lots of other things going on. Some of it I still can’t say much about, but one project I can mention is that I’m working on a graphic novel adaptation of Post-Human. It was my dream to be a comic book artist when I was a kid and I’m using the success of Post-Human, as well as the new indie comic revolution, as excuses to live out that dream. I’m about 25% of the way through doing the art (yep, I’m drawing it, inking it, and lettering it in addition to writing it, of course!) and I have two fantastic color artists (one of them is my wife) helping me get it done. As for the secret projects, I think I am allowed to mention that I’m collaborating on a new comic book series that will be coming out in the next few months, and I’m also collaborating on some other forms of entertainment outside of ebooks and comic books, but I have to keep those hush hush!
MP: How can the SF Signal community support your endeavors?
DS: Definitely watch out for Book #5 in the Post-Human series, which should be out early in 2014, as well as Book #1 in my new series (I can’t give the title away yet) which should be out about the same time. The first volume of my graphic novel will also arrive early next year. And, if you haven’t read any of my previous books but are intrigued by them, keep an eye out for them on Amazon.com. They’re cheap, but they’re often cheaper. (I use bargains to promote them quite often.) I always mention my bargain promos on my Facebook “Likes” page, so “liking” that page will keep you abreast of all the news in the Post-Human universe. And if you enjoy a book, please review it on Amazon.com. A review on Amazon is like telling a thousand of your closest friends about the book and any indie author will tell you that positive reviews immediately lead to lots of sales and more popularity. A positive review is really the best way to support any indie author! And thanks again so much for this interview, Max, and thank you to everyone who took the time to read this spotlight! It was my pleasure to be here!