Friday, June 12, 2015

Talking Madness, Delusion, and Epic Fantasy with Michael R. Fletcher (Beyond Redemption)

Michael R. Fletcher is a Canadian science fiction and fantasy author who first hit the shelves 2 years ago with a cyberpunk novel called 88. It was a novel that garnered some attention and rave reviews, but I predict it's next week's release of Beyond Redemption that will establish him as a dominant force in the genre. It's a book that's been called darkly imaginative, gritty, and mind-bending - but that only scratches the surface.

I'll be sharing my enthusiastic review next week but, in the meantime, Michael has graciously agreed to stop by and set the stage . . .


Q: A huge thanks for taking the time to stop by today, Michael. For those who haven't yet had a chance to give 88 (your cyberpunk debut) or Beyond Redemption (which blew my mind), please tell us a little about yourself and give us an idea of what we can expect.

Thanks for having me! I love being had. Wait...what?

Right, me: Nah, fuck it. I'm not all that interesting. I'm just a dude sitting around without pants (or socks) who likes to two-finger-type the strange stories he dreams up. I don't even leave my office unless hunger or the need for more caffeine drives me out. Totally boring. All those rumours about secret ninja training and how I used to kill for CSIS are so much bullshit.

Beyond Redemption is a book about madness and as such you know it's going to be dark. When most of the characters are varying shades of bug-fuck crazy, you can't really expect a happy ending.

I was tired of fantasy books with beautiful people with nice hair on the covers. I was tired of fantasy books where people learned valuable life lessons and came away as better human beings. Most people don't learn. Pick a topic like religion, politics, or economics and go out and try and convince someone of the opposite of whatever their opinion is. Beyond Redemption isn't a neat new fantasy world, it's where we live.

Q: While I fully expect to see the ‘grimdark’ label all over Beyond Redemption, I think you’ve created something of a new ‘mad-dark’ subgenre. I’ve got to ask, where did the idea of a world of Manifest Delusions come from?

I'd never heard of grimdark until my agent used it in reference to Beyond Redemption. I was a little irked until I realized who the other authors being labelled as grimdark were. These folks are writing my favourite fantasy! Go ahead, throw me in there!

The initial idea came from a song by a local Toronto band called Dirty Penny. It was about the conflict between the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro and Atahualpa, the emperor of the Tawantinsuyu (the Incan Empire). The twist was that it was viewed as a war of ideologies rather than muskets and spears. I took that neat idea and then totally fucked it up.


Q: This is, without question, a twisted book, and one defined by madness, delusion, and insanity. How hard was it to keep it all straight in your head, and do you look back and see any madness of your own creeping through?

I am Bedeckt. My belief in my sanity is unshakeable.

I'm a role-playing nerd from way back. I treated this as a gaming system and built the rules defining this reality and the effects of madness before I started writing. Some of that made it to the Wiki I've been building, along with a lot of other random babbling.

Geisteskranken (the delusional) absolutely had to be defined in detail before I started writing. For reasons I am unwilling to discuss I very much wanted this to be a world defined by insanity and yet working to immutable laws. From the Ascended deranged to the common sane, all bow to those laws.

This book was far too much fun to write. I didn't see how deplorable most of the characters were until it was finished. At that point I figured I'd written an unpublishable novel.

Q: Full credit to Harper Voyager for taking the chance! Bedeckt, Stehlen, and Wightig are far from what anybody in (or out of) their right mind would consider suitable protagonists, but they’re utterly fascinating and almost as entertaining as their primary antagonist, Konig. Did you go into the world of Manifest Delusions knowing who the players would be, or did they develop alongside the story?

I started with a vague idea as to who the cast would be but let them develop alongside the story. Much as I like detailing the background I don't plan the plot at all. I start with a simple story (kidnapping!) and then throw the characters into it. I schizophrenically become each character while writing their sections (did I say I was sane somewhere?). The entire novel came out of crazy people reacting to the choices of other crazy people.

Q: Crazy, but it works! There are some truly bizarre aspects to the novel, and they’re not always born of madness. The scene that sticks in my mind right now involves a certain fiery Gehrin flirting with mirror-studded Velorener. Was there ever a thought that a scene might go too far – and, if there was, can you give us an idea of what you pulled back?

I wrote that scene telling myself my mom would probably never read the book. At that point it never occurred to me it would be published. Now she's definitely going to read it. Sigh.

I'm not interested in writing insane erotica (eratica?). I wrote the scene I needed to write to tell the story I wanted and gave no thought to pulling it back. I write by visualizing scenes and then trying to capture them. I saw that scene and knew it had to happen. Sometimes it's better to leave some things to the reader's imagination.

Q: I know you’re just about unleash the madness upon the world, but have there been any early reactions to Beyond Redemption that really surprised you?

The reviews so far have been amazing, unlike anything I could have hoped or dreamed. A starred review from Publishers Weekly, and Booklist said "…there aren’t many fantasy novels as smart, ambitious, and excellently written as this one." I did not see that coming. And reviews from independant bloggers have been equally amazing.

Some of the themes aren't exactly subtle and it's damned dark. The book crashes into a lot of ideals and beliefs (and delusions) that people hold close to their hearts. I kind of expected some anger. I'm sure it's not too late.

Q: If we can turn the clock back for a moment, your debut (88) dealt with some high concept ideas as well, particularly the harvested brains of stolen children. Where did the inspiration for that one come, and as it pre- or post-fatherhood?

I'd read other stories where human brains were used as computers. It occurred to me that adult brains (bogged down by preconceptions, learned responses, odd beliefs, and a general malaise when it comes to learning new things) made shitty computers. I started with the assumption that Artificial Intelligence wouldn't happen (not an opinion, I just needed that for the plot) and that humanity's need for computing power would someday outstrip technology. Human brains would be used as biological computers and eventually a black market would spring up to supply the needs of those outside the confines of the law. I realized these people would see a young autistic child as the perfect computer and not at all see that she might have plans of her own.

88 was written prior to fatherhood. I do wonder how I might have written it differently if it came after.

Q: Well, there goes my next question. In early praise for Beyond Redemption I’ve heard your name mentioned in the same breath as another fellow Canadian, R. Scott Bakker, but I can see something of Steven Erikson and Peter Watts in the story as well. Would you count any of them influences, or is that just a happy coincidence?

I've read them and love their books, but they weren't an influence. At least not consciously. I'll have to go with happy coincidence.

Q: On the topic of influences, you list “All the SF/F that came before me” among your literary influences. If you were facing a down a trio of Doppels and were forced to choose, what would you say are your 3 biggest literary influences?

Michael Moorcock definitely influenced the kind of story I want to tell, though I don't think I write anything like him. Elric. 'Nuff said.

Neal Stephenson showed me that it was okay to go for over-the-top gratuitously cool. Snow Crash broke my mind.

Hemingway taught me to carve a sentence to its essentials.

I'm not claiming I achieved any of this.

Q: You also list death metal as an influence. As a fellow metalhead, I have to ask – what are the top 5 death metal albums you listened to while writing Beyond Redemption.

Burst: Lazarus Bird
Hypocrisy: Virus

These days I can not get enough Sylosis. I pretty much put all four albums on constant repeat.


Q: Speaking of metal, I have to admit that I checked out your website, threw caution to the wind, clicked on ‘Don’t Look Here’ and have been listening to the likes of The Letter, Burn Witch, and Promised Land while working on the interview. Any chance of a Sex Without Souls reunion tour? I see an awesome tie-in with an audiobook soundtrack for Beyond Redemption!

A reunion pretty doubtful. Everyone has (kinda) grown up and has jobs and lives and responsibilities. If I ever have free time I'd love to write and record and instrumental soundtrack for Beyond Redemption. Unfortunately I'm not sure I play enough these days to keep my chops up to par. Though I do throw some sweeps into the acoustic ninja-princess adventure songs I make up for my daughter.

Q: Acoustic ninja-princess adventure songs. Awesome. Looking forward, I know you’re working on two more Manifest Delusions novels with The Mirror’s Truth & The All Consuming. Any interesting teases you can offer us there?

The Mirror's Truth (Manifest Delusions #2) was originally titled When Far-Gone Dead Return (stolen from a Wilfred Owen poem). If you've finished Beyond Redemption, that might make some sense. It takes place shortly after the end of the first book. Initial test-reader feedback has been extremely positive.

The All Consuming (Manifest Delusion #3) is an unrelated story taking place in the same world. New cultures and city-states and delusions to explore. Great fun...if you like seriously messed up and dark stories. One of my test-readers asked, 'what the fuck is wrong with you?'

Eventually the two story lines will crash together.

Q: Finally, are there any book tours or signings in the works? I’d love to be able to add a signed copy to my shelf-of-fame and be able to tell people “Yeah, I knew him when . . .”

Yes and no. There's a blog tour in progress. The details can be found on the Pump Up Your Book page.

There's no book tours or signings currently planned, though if Beyond Redemption does well, that might change.

I see you're in the Niagara area. My wife and I leave our daughter with the in-laws and head out there to do winery tours and get sloshed whenever we have something to celebrate. If Harper Voyager buy the next two books we'll definitely be celebrating. Maybe we can hook up for a pint and I'll bring you a copy.

Now that sounds like a deal. You bring the pen and I'll buy the pints!

Cheers!

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About the Author

Michael R. Fletcher is a science fiction and fantasy author. His novel, Beyond Redemption, a work of dark fantasy and rampant delusion, is being published by HARPER Voyager and is slated for release June 16th, 2015.

His début novel, 88, a cyberpunk tale about harvesting children for their brains, was released by Five Rivers Publishing in 2013. 88 is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and elsewhere.

The next two Manifest Delusions novels, THE ALL CONSUMING, and WHEN FAR-GONE DEAD RETURN are currently in various stages of editing while Michael tries to be the best husband and dad he can be.

Michael is represented by Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

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About the Book

Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher
Paperback, 512 pages
Expected publication: June 16th 2015 by Voyager

A darkly imaginative writer in the tradition of Joe Abercrombie, Peter V. Brett, and Neil Gaiman conjures a gritty mind-bending fantasy, set in a world where delusion becomes reality . . . and the fulfillment of humanity’s desires may well prove to be its undoing.

When belief defines reality, those with the strongest convictions—the crazy, the obsessive, the delusional—have the power to shape the world.

And someone is just mad enough to believe he can create a god . . .

Violent and dark, the world is filled with the Geistrekranken—men and women whose delusions manifest. Sustained by their own belief—and the beliefs of those around them—they can manipulate their surroundings. For the High Priest Konig, that means creating order out of the chaos in his city-state, leading his believers to focus on one thing: helping a young man, Morgen, ascend to become a god. A god they can control.

Trouble is, there are many who would see a god in their thrall, including the High Priest’s own doppelgangers, a Slaver no one can resist, and three slaves led by possibly the only sane man left.

As these forces converge on the boy, there’s one more obstacle: time is running out. Because as the delusions become more powerful, the also become harder to control. The fate of the Geistrekranken is to inevitably find oneself in the Afterdeath. The question, then, is:

Who will rule there?

1 comment:

  1. Great interview, After reading it, I am definitely going to pick up "Beyond Redemption", sounds like some fun, twisted reading.

    ReplyDelete