Update time：2021-07-23 14:30Tag: Stormland
Stormland is a cyberpunk detective thriller set in a maelstrom of climatic upheaval, classism, and corrupt power, Stormland paradoxically dramatizes the resilience of the human spirit.
We chat with author John Shirley about his latest novel?Stormland, writing advice, book recommendations, and more!
Hi, John! Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
It would have been soothing to have had a simpler life and career. I’ll tell you that I’m the author of numerous science-fiction and urban fantasy novels—I was one of the original cyberpunk writers with William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Rudy Rucker, Pat Cadigan, Lew Shiner;? that I also published numerous collections of multi-genre and genre-free short stories including Black Butterflies which won the Bram Stoker Award.? That I wrote a number of well-known horror novels including several that some say inspired “splatterpunk”; that I wrote the first four drafts of the movie THE CROW and am co-writer of it; that I worked for a time in television, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; that I have always had a close association with rock bands, my own and others, and I wrote the lyrics for ?two singles and three other songs for the new hit album by the Blue Oyster Cult, “The Symbol Remains”. That I’m lead singer / songwriter of a band called The Screaming Geezers, a band that fans of Iggy and the Stooges and Social Distortion might appreciate. That my new story collection is The Feverish Stars, and my new novel, coming out April 13, is STORMLAND—a fusion of cyberpunk and climate-fiction set in a dark but adventurous near future….Author of the A Song Called Youth cyberpunk trilogy…Wait, there’s more! But let’s leave it at that.
How is your 2021 going in comparison to that other year?
Two vaccines now doing their work within me; awaiting the presumed designer-vaccines for the Brazilian and South African variants.? Band has been in abeyance due to covid but I’ve been working long distance with prog rock guitar hero Jerry King to put out a follow up to our album Spaceship Landing in a Cemetery. (Which got a good review in Prog Magazine!) Writing a lot. Organized a new story collection, found a publisher for it. There was time! Despite anxieties about the environment—a plastic-toxified ocean as well as climate change going into high gear—feeling almost optimistic now that the Orange Psychopath is not in office.
Quick lightning round! Tell us the first book you ever remember reading, the one that made you want to become an author, and one that you can’t stop thinking about!
It’s been a lonnnnng time. First book ever? Some archaeological dig may turn it up. I remember Podkayne of Mars by Heinlein having a big early effect on me, and The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. I think I was inspired by A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay pretty early and by the Hornblower books of Forester. As a teenager I was really into Harlan Ellison and Richard Matheson and JG Ballard and Ursula LeGuin. Also, the imagist poets, like Baudelaire. Later John LeCarre had a big effect.
When did you first discover your love for writing?
When I discovered I could keep other kids listening to me by telling stories, made up on the spot for them. I told them, “Guess what I dreamed last night? Well…there was this tunnel that I found that I followed into a dark cavern which…” and so on…Then I learned that I could write sentences well. Since it was something I could do well, I was enchanted. “I…I am good at something!” I started publishing in underground newspapers and magazines when I was in my early teens… first professional short story when I was nineteen…
Your new novel, Stormland, is out now! If you could only describe it in five words, what would they be?
Five words? You sure you don’t mean five hundred? Okay I’ll try:
Hurricane never ends—devious doings!
What can readers expect?
A novel that dramatizes the dangers and revelations and strangeness starting maybe twenty-five years from now. A serial killer who has nanotech brain surgery and becomes, in effect, a saint. A former U.S.? Marshal who’s angry that the U.S. Marshals, in this story, have become corrupt, who delves into a far deeper darkness that embodies the sociological crisis accompanying the environmental one. A New Noir energized by action and jeopardy; a trip into that tunnel, again, but this one has silver veins of hope glimmering in the walls. Strange subcultures; weird tech. A story of diversity and unity in struggle…The pounding fist of a never-ending storm…
Where did the inspiration for Stormland come from?
Looking around at the emerging world. Reading about cities in crisis; about refugees and survival cultures of necessity in constantly stressed places. Being a person who’s pretty good at mentally crunching social and technological data and then projecting into the future with some accuracy (for example, long ago I predicted Deep Fake video and the dangers of it, and a good many other things, in the Eclipse/ A Song Called Youth novels) I was able to see an emerging national crisis clearly in my mind. So I looked for a metaphor to really make it stark and visible. I thought of the Big Red Spot on Jupiter which is said to be a permanent storm. So I posited—and rationalize—a permanent storm, literally; constant hurricanes 24/7 360 days a year, in an American city. Extreme weather conditions brought to a horrifying apex…And I thought, “Who would take advantage of a situation like that, and why? Who would stand up to them? And why?”
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Can you tell us about any challenges you faced while writing and how you were able to overcome them?
Daunting research is a constant challenge, and the fact that the technological future seems to accelerate now, and change happens faster and faster. Hard to keep up with. One has to reach into metaphor and baseline human drama to ground the story…Also Stormland is a big canvas, and there’s much to evoke. I had to try to get it across without a lot of info-dumps, without too much exposition. Always a challenge. Even more so here. But I think I succeeded…
If it’s not too spoilery, were there any favourite moments or characters you really enjoyed writing or exploring?
In Stormland? The depiction of the curious cult of the storm god in one part of Stormland; the description of the Sky Yacht, the enormous vessel that a certain wealthy person uses to surf on hurricanes for fun, and the twisted fate of that vessel; the conflict and weird confluence of two characters, a former serial killer who’s been transformed ,and our ex U.S. Marshal who is very, very skeptical about “the kindest man in Stormland”… and yet…
What’s the best and the worst writing advice you have received?
Ursula LeGuin was a mentor for me and gave me the great advice to make myself do one more revision than I feel like doing, no matter how tired I am of revising. The worst advice—I was advised to write according to what’s popular at the time, and stick to those formulas. That works for some people, but I am someone who thrives on originality, so it didn’t work for me. I soon left it behind and went on to try to master popular forms and genres but to create my own distinctive place among them…
What’s next for you?
I hope to write a sequel to Stormland. In the meantime, I’m writing in the crime genre—I’ve always been drawn to it—and I have a contract to write a novel set in the 19th century called Axle Bust Creek.
Lastly, do you have any book recommendations for our readers?
The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner. Anything by Bruce Sterling. The novels of Tim Powers.