From an online interview on January 14 through 17, 2019.
First off, tell us a little about yourself. How do you see yourself as a writer?
I’m a homegrown author with a desire to publish a book traditionally one day. It would be cool to make money from it, but it’s not my main aim. I was as a kid, and am now, heavily dyslexic. I also have a highly active imagination. So these two things don’t always mix, as I wanted to write stuff down but found it really hard to even see words on paper. I’ve been very lucky with lots of patient people helping me as a kid, that I’ve got people interested in helping me publish my first serious book: The Faculty of Matter.
I imagine growing up with dyslexia was difficult in more ways than one. Do you find that experience creeping into your fiction at all? I know I’m always seeing things in my writing that are easy to trace to my childhood.
Great question. The first time I wrote what I thought then was seriously, I was deep in Tolkien/fantasy land. Many of the character in there took on natural characteristics of me and friends and family. Events too. Obviously we all bring personal experience and opinion to our writing.
Maybe directly for dyslexia two things: Overcoming everyday obstacles with imagination and determination. But as importantly, the memory part of the tower in The Faculty of Matter is alive and well, as are many other parts of the tower. It started as an organisational construct. Memory tower. Floors A-Z, each floor corridors of letters to spells names. People had rooms but words too. For example, because it was hard for me to spell at all. So I would use the corridor turns to remember the word till I got to the door. Long answer to a short question, sorry.
Not a problem. Long answers are good. That’s an interesting strategy, using your spatial memory to compensate. Reminds me of something from a Borges story. On that note, who would you say are your favorite writers and/or biggest influences?
Then Iain Banks had a profound impact on my appetite for space opera. The list is long, but Peter Hamilton has been a recent big influence although his last book Salvation dropped far too deep into descriptive writing, which may be an age thing, but I felt like he was trying to write Tolkien-style monologue, but it didn’t fit the genre.
I hear you. I’m not much of a believer in traditional genre distinctions, or even really the idea of “genre” as anything more than a convenient, descriptive label, one way of many to organize things… Now, bear with me; I do have a point here. How would you characterize the genre of dreampunk? What fits, and what doesn’t?
The million dollar question. Let me start by saying that I like the genre more than most because it’s pretty flexible.
That said, I’m sure you don’t get many similar answers. Probably we start by saying it should be linked to something to do with dream. In my head it replaces the use of the future in sci-fi as the vehicle for bending the rules.
Then I see it as usually pretty esoteric and eclectic, as dreaming can really be anything you want. So once you get into the dream—all bets are on.
Punk is there in my view as an indicator that this isn’t necessarily mainstream. It’s going to be cultural, or gritty, punchy, taboo, or a whole mix of all of them.
That’s probably a good short version of how I see the genre.
In this context, what would you say constitutes a “dream”? Would a mystic vision count? A psychedelic trip? A system of delusions, as in Don Quixote? How about an immersive computer simulation?
All of the above. In The Faculty of Matter it’s a line that gets crossed in many ways. Sometimes permanently! I think of it as simply not completely conscious. Again, I think this can take many forms. I use daydreams sometimes to get into a dream and give a load of background or context or whole chapters before the person “pops” back to the initial POV.
You see something like that technique in a lot of fiction, actually. So what led you into this weird little niche genre of dreampunk? Where did you first hear the term?
I was lucky to work with a very talented editor who was ex- Time magazine. She specialises in smaller genres and was recommended to me. She talked me into the dreampunk label. It felt right as she was talking me through it.
Oh, wow! That’s a first. So far, I hadn’t heard of anybody but dreampunk writers using the term, let alone recommending its use. Maybe it’s finally catching on! Are you aware of any other dreampunk writers I ought to ask for an interview?
I know some but not well enough to intrude probably, but Amelia will. I can ask her.
We’ll talk later. 😉 Can you think of any examples from books, movies, art, or music that capture the particular feeling you’d like your own work to evoke?
Natural affinity with the normal to begin with, with technology as an afterthought. I want people to leave the book exploring their own dreams and thinking about the future of AI. The dreams should seem somewhat matter-of-fact… not too weird. I thought about this and discussed it with the editor. it would be easy to make up a lot of very off-the-wall dream scenes but not tell a story.
Music… Definitely progressive house and trance… I have a DJ who is about to release a track for me on an album called Faculty of Matter!
That’s awesome. I love to see fiction connecting with music and visuals. So considering how nascent this genre still is, how do you hope to shape it with your own contributions? What kind of “dreampunk” would you like to see more of in the future?
For me the biggest, lever over other new genres is it’s the most accessible for sci-fi writers to branch out with new gateways into whatever they desire. As you will see from The Faculty of Matter, we use dream as a gateway to FTL, the future, the past, quantum entanglement, and pretty much any place you want to go. I think also fantasy and vamp genres can exploit a huge amount of power and sex appeal from the use of dream. After all, we’re only limited by our imaginations, right?
Very true. How can we support you in your work? Do you have any books for sale?
I will soon… but they are taking it traditional, online, and audio. That takes more effort. For now just keeping in touch is cool.
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