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Writer Daryl Gregory's first sale was to Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1990, the short story In the Wheels. His first novel, Pandemonium, was published by Del Rey Books in 2008, for which he won the 2009 Crawford Award for best first fantasy book.
Gregory was hired by BOOM! Studios in 2010 to co-write Dracula: Company of Monsters with Kurt Busiek. He was additionally hired to write the Planet of the Apes tie-in comic starting in August 2011. IDW hired Gregory to write The Secret Battles of Genghis Khan, a stand-alone graphic novel published in March 2013.
Now from Tor Books, Gregory brings us Afterparty, a novel of modern-day terror ripped from today’s headlines and based on tomorrow’s chilling technology. A powerful, violent science fiction read, Gregory’s comics fans will love this novel.
To learn more, Dynamic Forces cornered the scribe in an airport and poured on the questions.
Dynamic Forces: Daryl, tell our readers a bit about your new science fiction novel, Afterparty.
Daryl Gregory: The book’s a near-future SF thriller about designer drugs, and one drug in particular. NME110 gives users the feeling that they’re in touch with a higher power. Overdose on the drug, and you might wake up with a permanent hallucination of a deity in your head.
NME 110 was suppressed by its creators, a group of five people in a startup, but now 10 years later it's out on the streets under the street name of Numinous. One of the creators, Lyda Rose, goes on the hunt to find out who released it.
DF: “Smart drugs” are already here, now. How is Afterplay’s vision different from what exists and what is the exact social reflection there?
Daryl Gregory: What Afterparty suggests is that we’re teetering on the edge of a desktop drug revolution. The combination of CADD—computer assisted drug design, now in use by Big Pharma—plus the availability of chemical precursor packs, means that you could build a desktop drug printer. In the book, I call it a chemjet. Once you decentralize the creation of novel drugs, you may end up with an explosion of new mind-altering substances.
Think of the desktop publishing revolution of the 90s. Suddenly, everyone could make their own posters and newsletters—usually awful ones. Now think of everyone creating their own drugs. We might get some interesting results, but also a lot of damage.
DF: Scary! Describe your character Lyda Rose to us.
Daryl Gregory: She’s a neuroscientist who helped create Numinous, but she’s also a victim of it. Someone dosed her and her wife with a massive hit of the drug, which left Lyda’s wife dead, and left each of the survivors with their own personal “god” in their heads. Lyda’s is the angelic doctor named Dr. Gloria.
DF: Hm … an imaginary doctor?
Daryl Gregory: Lyda, as a scientist, knows that Dr. Gloria is a hallucination. But the illusion is so deeply wired into Lyda’s head that she can’t stop talking to the doctor, or stop depending on her advice when the going gets rough. The question the book asks is this: If there was a pill that could make you a better person, even if it made you believe in a being that no one else could see, would you take it?
There are several mysteries in the book. Who killed Lyda’s wife and dosed them all? Are they the same people who are making Numinous now? But the more important question for Lyda is, can she kick the habit of Dr. Gloria, and if she can, should she?
DF: This book seems to be one long chase across North America. Why the marathon?
Daryl Gregory: There’s definitely a lot of chasing in this book, from Toronto to New York to New Mexico—from snow to sand. I love driving cross country, and I’ve always loved road novels and movies. Many stories take the form of a journey—Lord of the Rings, anyone? —but there’s something built into the DNA of American storytelling, going back to westerns and gangster movies and noir classics, that likes showing tarnished heroes on the run, with the cops or bad guys (or badder bad guys) on their trail. Think Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or Bonnie and Clyde, or Thelma and Louise.
DF: Is NME 110 eminently doable?
Daryl Gregory: There’s a researcher in Canada named Michael Persinger who designed the famous “God Helmet” that, in some cases, stimulates the brains of people so that they experience the presence of another being. There are other drugs that mimic the bliss of the numinous state. And there are plenty of studies of temporal lobe epilepsy that suggest the parts of the brain that might be responsible for generating these feelings of the divine. I think it’s only a matter of time before we find a drug that stimulates those brain areas.
DF: The process of putting this novel together, was it similar to any of your other works or something completely different?
Daryl Gregory: It turned out that Afterparty was more similar to Pandemonium than it was to my two more recent novels. The Devil’s Alphabet is slower paced, a kind of hard SF Southern gothic murder mystery. And Raising Stony Mayhall covers 40 years in the un-life of a polite zombie from Iowa. This new book, like Pandemonium, was all about velocity. I’m a great lover of crime novels, and I wanted the plot to move every chapter.
DF: What did it feel like to win the IAFA William L. Crawford Fantasy Award in 2009?
Daryl Gregory: I remember getting the call saying I’d won. It was very odd in two respects: I didn’t know about the award, and nobody had told me I was up for it. But then I looked at the names of the previous recipients, and it was very humbling. By far the best part of the award was getting to be on that list for years to come. I call all of us who’ve won it the Crawford Cousins.
DF: What reader reaction to Afterparty would gratify you as a writer?
Daryl Gregory: The first thing I hope you say is damn, that was a fun read. But later, I hope you end up thinking about all the concepts in the book. If the book gets you musing about free will, the role of consciousness, and the subjectivity of religious feeling, then I’ve won.
DF: And the next Daryl Gregory novel will be …?
Daryl Gregory: In August, I’ve got a short novel—a 38,000 word novella—coming out from Tachyon Publications called We Are All Completely Fine. It’s about a group of people who are all survivors of different types of horror stories, who gather together for small group therapy. They gradually realize their stories are more connected than they thought—and that they aren’t finished.
After that, I’ve got a Lovecraftian YA novel coming from Tor called Harrison Squared, and I’ve started work on the next adult SF novel. All the novel work has left me with less time for comics, but I am working on a creator-owned comic that I hope to announce more about soon.
Dynamite Forces would like to thank Daryl Gregory for talking with us about his latest SF novel.
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