Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Interview with author David Simpson

I am fortunate and pleased to feature an interview with David Simpson, author of the Post-Human series of science fiction novels.  I have read this man's work and it is brilliant.
Given that Simpson has a combined interest in science fiction, transhumanism, and the written word, he was a natural guest to have here on Esoteric Synaptic Events.  So being very gracious with his time and understanding of my need for a recent hiatus, David Simpson granted the following interview:
1) For us writers, tell us about your writing process. Do you outline, do character sketches, have a routine or regular place for writing?

Yes, I do outline. Before I write every book, I do what you might call a "treatment," which is something I picked up from my screenplay training at the University of British Columbia. I have a pretty strong idea for the characters, so I usually don't write character sketches because I see character as a crucial aspect of plot. I'm really lucky in that I naturally seem to "think in plot." I know a lot of writers struggle with that, but it's one of the aspects of writing that I enjoy most. As for a place where I write, yep, either at my desk with my comfy massage chair or sitting on the couch next to my wife with the fireplace glowing nearby.

2) You're at a place that many writers would like to be. How did you go about establishing yourself as an e-book author? What are your marketing suggestions?

Well, not to get all Tony Robbins or anything, but a huge part of it is staying positive, even in the face of the inevitable attacks you get from people you don't even know, and really believing in yourself. If something doesn't work, stop doing it, and focus your energy on the things that do work. The Post-Human series is really successful, so I'm focusing more of my energy on that for the near future, whereas my only other book, a horror novel titled "The God Killers," is selling only modestly—this despite all the people close to me telling me that it's my best book! So, you never really know what will hit. Just write something you love (I love the Post-Human series) and try to find your audience. I'm still in the process of doing this, but it seems like I keep taking these leaps and finding more and more people who are very kind and really enjoy the series. Also, if you're published on Amazon, make sure your categories are the right ones—switching categories can really make a difference. Also, if you join KDP Select, get to know the major blogs that can promote your free giveaway days. Those are some of the moves that have worked the best for me. I hope they help the people who read this interview!  

3) One of the aspects of "Post-human" that I found fascinating was the idea of being human, or mostly human, in an environment where there are no humans left. Almost like you're "left behind" if I may borrow a dreaded phrase. In that light and given that there have been comparisons between transhumanism and religion, what is your view on the similarities/differences between the two concepts?

I'm definitely very interested in the link between transhumanism and religion. In fact, you don't really have to look hard to find religious allusions in the series. Though most people read it for the pace, the actions, and likable characters, readers can definitely find some deeper connections. In the books, and in transhumanism in general, you'll find concepts of resurrection, heaven, god-like beings, rapture, etc.. One question that remains is, is the link between transhumanism and religion like the chicken and the egg? What I mean by that is, have we taken religious concepts and applied them to transhumanism subconsciously, or is it that religion is simply an older, pre-science version of transhumanism, in which the same fundamental desires that humanity has for a better life and to not be separated from loved ones by death, express themselves? I think it's an open question, but one that I wanted the readers to consider in the series for sure.  

4) How aware do you think most people are of the coming Singularity and transhumanism becoming a greater part of their lives?

I don't think they are very aware, but I also think that, like the technology that will spur the singularity, awareness is increasing exponentially. So, while only a small handful of people might be able to converse with you on the topic today, we are probably less than a decade away from a time when, essentially, everyone is aware of it, whether they are skeptics or fanatics or not. I think a strong analogy would be climate change. Regardless of your views on the subject, one can't argue that, pre-2006, when Al Gore's movie came out, global warming and climate change were ideas that were mostly in the realm of academics, and were occasionally discussed in the media. A movie like, "The Day After Tomorrow" helped to get the concept into the mainstream for a little while, but it faded again quickly, which is what I think we are going to see from movies like the upcoming "Robocalypse." However, my guess is that, when IBM announces they have a supercomputer with the same processing power as the human brain, (and they've announced their intention to accomplish this by 2019) you're going to start hearing about the singularity in every corner of the globe. Strong A.I. is the one issue that I think the general public is going to have a lot to say on—once it is no longer science fiction.

5) What would you like to see contemporary science fiction address that it maybe hasn't already?

I'd really just like to see science fiction continue to progress. I think, both in fiction and in the movies, there has been too much of a tendency to go back to the well. We see popular books out now where people are living in a dystopian world and the government is monitoring them—well, that's all fine and good, but Orwell did that back in 1948, with "1984" and I just don't think anyone's going to do it better. By all means, go back to the well, but it just doesn't interest me that much. Movies are far worse. Although I love science fiction movies, it seems like the majority of movies that are green-lighted are sequels and reboots of concepts from the 70's or even the 60's, in the case of Star Trek. In fairness, there is a lot of great transhumanist fiction out right now. My favourite is definitely Curtis Hox's "Versim," which is just mind-blowing in its scope, especially for a relatively short novel. It looks like he's setting up for a series, and with the H+ web series (which is ridiculously similar to Post-Human in the concept) and Robopocalypse on the horizon in movies, it looks like things are moving in the right direction. Forward!

6) Have to ask, was there a significance to naming your protagonist "Keats?"

Yep! It is after John Keats, whose poetry was often fixated on the idea of immortality. I felt like that was the right name for an immortal protagonist. James, the protagonist's first name, is after James Dean, who is, of course, also immortalized as eternally young. I liked mixing the classical romantic poet with a figure from pop-culture. It seems like it suits my writing style—I'm versed in literature, but I want my books to be fun and popular.

7) What's coming up next from you?

Lots. I'm working way too hard! I'm just days away from the big release of the prequel to Post-Human, "Sub-Human." I can't wait to get it out there. It will answer a lot of people's questions about how we got from the time frame we're in now, to the one we're in at the outset of Post-Human. It also answers a lot of questions that are hinted at in Trans-Human, like, how do Aldous Gibson and Old-timer know each other. Why does Aldous harbour such a strong hatred against Purists? What is the origin of the A.I.? Amongst others!

On top of that, I have another novel that is completed but I'm holding back for a bit that isn't related to the Post-Human series. It's called "Blood and Noir," it's a zombie/vampire romp, and I hope a few people might check it out after the dust settles from Sub-Human.

Last, I've been helping out on a pilot that is being filmed in Vancouver next month for a new web-series. The series will be called "Citizen" and is definitely in the transhumanist genre. If the series gets picked up, I'll likely be a regular writer for it. So keep your fingers crossed for me!

 If you could have any kind of cybernetic implant or transhuman enhancement, what would it be?

Definitely the flight systems. I know that's something that is somewhat unique to my series, but it's just the coolest addition, in my view. Of course, immortality comes first, but as soon as that is taken care of, I want to fly. I get such a kick out of watching the "Jetman," Yves Rossy's videos and hearing him talk about flight. He said that it's all about thrust, and "give me Ironman, give me nuclear, and we'll all be flying around." That's exactly what they have in the Post-Human series, so it's nice to know we were thinking along the same lines!

Thanks so much, David.  Now everybody go check out the books!

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