Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Interview with Collin Piprell

* What inspired your story?

Thinking about the “grey goo scenario” – where self-replicating nanobots turn the planetary surface into nothing but more of themselves – I found myself trying to imagine how anyone or anything could ever survive such a disaster. Plus I’d encountered intriguing notions related to nanotechnology, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, virtual realities, theories of complexity and emergent order. As though against my will – I’d never thought of writing a science-fiction novel – characters and settings began to emerge in my mind and I wrote some stuff.

Wisely enough, I then relegated this stuff to a bottom drawer and went back to other writing projects. One of these I showed to a good friend who hated it; he asked me whether I didn’t have anything else to show him. So I dug out some chapters of what was to become MOM, the first novel in the Magic Circles series, and he claimed that this was what I should be doing.

I didn’t really believe him but, what with one thing and another, including his offer to let me use his lakeside cabin in the mountains of Japan for a solitary writer’s retreat from all the chaos of my life in Bangkok, I went back to MOM with a will. And here we are today.

I knew I had a series on my hands the moment I wrote MOM’s concluding chapters. They pretty well demanded I discover what happened next.

Genesis 2.0 is what happened next.

* Is the setting to your story important?

Yes, to the extent that Earth’s biosphere/noosphere is evolving as the narrative unfolds, and the worlds I’ve created are an essential part of that story. But the settings as they correspond to present-day political and cultural entities are not. It isn’t especially important that some parts of the story are set where the eastern seaboard of the USA, the eastern seaboard of Thailand, and Utah used to be. Circumstances have changed on Earth to the point such descriptions don’t mean much at the time the Magic Series story unfolds.

* Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?

My first ambition was to be a garbage man. In case that strikes you as unlikely, I refer you to the following post for an explanation: ‘How to write a novel that flies’

* When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?   

I’d been teaching at a Bangkok university and freelancing as a hobbyist feature writer/journalist. My income from writing had approached that of my university salary, plus a local publisher had asked to see the manuscript of what was to be Bangkok Knights, my first book.

One night I was having dinner at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, and two people at my table turned out to be European doctors with laissez-passers from a rebel army to cross the border into northern Burma and, on horseback, visit a bunch of remote villages. They asked whether I’d like to come along. Of course I wanted to go, but I’d be in the middle of university exams, and there was no way I could abandon my students. So I thanked them and said no, at the same time proclaiming to one and all that this would be the last time I’d ever have to say no to such a proposition.

Shortly thereafter I gave the university three months’ notice and asked for a letter from a magazine to support my application for a foreign correspondent’s visa and work permit. One morning not too long after that, I awoke one morning to the amazing thought that, after years of telling people that’s what I wanted to be, I was actually a writer. I had to run that notion past myself a few times, testing it for hints of dream or delusion, but no. I was a writer.

Of course now nearly everyone’s a writer, so it might not have had the same impact today. J

* How long did it take to get your first book published?

Not very long. A British doctor in Bangkok read the manuscript for Bangkok Knights and passed it to a publisher friend with the recommendation he take it. But the market for fiction was very different in those days – there were far fewer writers and, I believe, more readers.

* What were your goals as an author and have any of them come true?

I’d like to believe that my skills as a writer improve the more I write, and I aim to make each successive story better than the one before. So far, I think I’m succeeding in that. That’s not to say I’m confident this is the way things are going to turn out as I write. On the contrary, I typically suffer doubts and hyper-critical reactions to my drafts while they’re in progress. But I keep hammering at them till they feel as right as I can make them.

More specifically, I’d like to see how far the Magic Circles series goes before returning to other novels I have in mind.

* What genres do you normally write in?

I’ve written both comic thrillers and science fiction. But I don’t think of myself as a genre writer. I want to feel free to write any story that interests me in any style I choose.

* What was the first book you ever published? 

I’ve already mentioned Bangkok Knights, which is a collection of short stories that had earlier appeared in local publications augmented by a series of longer stories written specifically for the book. The stories include overlapping themes and characters. A plot-like development also unfolds behind the scenes. The nameless narrator, who seems to maintain an ironic distance from the foibles and pratfalls of the male characters (the women are the stronger, more mature characters), himself is finally seen to fall even more radically victim to all the pitfalls. Asia Books, its last publisher, described the book as a novel, and, though it has an unconventional structure, I guess it is.

Here’s my backlist, most of it out of print:

* MOM (Magic Circles Vol. 1, Common Deer Press, 2017).
* Kicking Dogs (Bangkok: Asia Books, 2000; bookSiam, 1995; Editions Duang Kamol, 1991), a novel. (Available in a self-published version on Amazon.)
* Bangkok Knights (Bangkok: Asia Books 2001; Bangkok: Editions Duang Kamol, 1989, 2nd ed. 1991; published as Too Many Women by bookSiam, 1995). Out of print.
* Yawn (Bangkok: Asia Books, 2000), a novel. Out of print.
* Bangkok Old Hand (Bangkok: Post Books, 1993), a collection of stories and essays. Out of print.
* Thailand's Coral Reefs (Bangkok: White Lotus, 1995). Photos by Ashley J. Boyd. Natural history and conservation of reefs. Out of print.
* A Diving Guide to Thailand (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish; USA: Hippocrene Books, 2000; Singapore: Times Editions, 1994). Photos by Ashley J. Boyd.
* Thailand: The Kingdom Beneath the Sea (Bangkok: Artasia Press, 1990). Photos by Ashley J. Boyd.  Out of print.
* National Parks of Thailand, in collaboration with Denis Gray and Mark Graham (Bangkok: IFCT, 1991; 2nd ed. 1994). Out of print.

* What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done when it came to a storyline in your book?

A short, vaguely ‘magic realist’ novel I’ve written has the story itself writing the main protagonist, who is himself ostensibly the author of the book. If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the novel, should I find a publisher for it.

Genesis 2.0
Magic Circles Series
Book 2
Collin Piprell

Genre: Sci-Fi, Mystery Thriller

Publisher: Common Deer Press

Date of Publication: October 5, 2017

ISBN: 9781988761039

Number of pages: 660

Cover Artist: Ellie Sipila

Book Description:

A nanobot superorganism lays waste to the Earth. Is this the apocalypse? Or does the world’s end harbor new beginnings?

Life will always find a way. Though some ways are better than others.

Evolution on steroids and crack cocaine —the most significant development since inanimate matter first gave rise to life.

You can’t predict novel evolutionary developments, you recognize them only after they emerge.

Then you have to deal with them.

Excerpt 3 (675 words)

when you’re hot

“DO THE TOES still hurt?”
“Not really.” Dee Zu looks down at her naked body, smeared with dried mud from the cave, scratched by thorns, burned by satrays, bruised by who knows what. “But I’m filthy. I’ve never been this dirty.”
Cisco sits beside her, also naked, also the victim of violent encounters with his world. He’s enthralled by a symphony of odors and scents, some of them Dee Zu’s. What he smells now bears scant resemblance to what he was given in his encounters with this woman in GR Worlds. “Generated realities can appear realer than real,” Leary once told him, back in his holotank in the Mall. “But real reality still offers something the qubits don’t.” And he’d been right.
He misses Leary. That’s the Leary he spoke to in Aeolia not many hours before, the same one, more or less, who died in Living End a few hours before that. Cisco remains amazed at all that has happened since he fled the disintegration of Eastern Seaboard, USA (ESUSA) Mall. Could that have been only two days ago?
Dee Zu is charming when she wrinkles her nose. “You stink,” she tells him.
Keeping an eye on their surrounds, Cisco is engaged in an internal confab, a Lode-assisted orientation. Bacterial wastes, he learns, are responsible for most of the smells. His WalkAbout also conveys grounds for surprise that he and Dee Zu are so thoroughly colonized by bacteria this soon after escaping the Mall.
It’s surprising that any bacteria survived the PlagueBot. For sure, few survived internal mall operations management, where all but the most essential bio and machine microorganisms were anathema. Admit the wrong bio-engineered or mutant virus, or a feral nanobot self-replicator, and it would have quickly sterilized the malls, the last human enclaves on Earth, of higher biological life. But never mind all the defenses, all MOM’s neurotically careful management. Now the malls, both ESUSA and ESSEA, maybe the last of them, lie breached and ruined. Yeah, well.
Dee Zu conducts a nuzzling investigation into local species of Cisco stink. He finds this at once embarrassing and, despite residual shock from what they’ve just witnessed, nice.
Here they are, both of them still alive and pretty well here in this anomalous patch of life on the other side of the planet from their former home. However alien this still-smoldering oasis with its tame PlagueBot and all its subterranean installations lying wrecked beneath them, what lies beyond the border, back the way they came yesterday, looks worse still. Much worse. It could be another planet, or a GR World gone bad — the type of nightmare, in fact, that both Cisco and Dee Zu, in their capacity as Worlds UnLtd test pilots, were trained to identify and, where possible, fix.
Dee Zu also stinks, much of it a good stink. Cisco inhales the heady perfume and feels himself invaded with power.
“Maybe you should put that away for now.” Dee Zu points and little Cisco points back.
“Come on,” Big Cisco gives her his most boyish grin. “Let’s do it. Wet sex.”
Dee Zu is Dee Zu, after all, and she straddles him without further ado. This isn’t entirely reckless, mind you, since they do it sitting up so Cisco can watch behind her while she watches behind him. It doesn’t last long, but it’s good. It has an urgency and depth he never experienced when they did it in the Worlds, no matter how imaginatively. Maybe the threat of imminent death, so recently demonstrated, has something to do with the way things go.
They sit there a bit longer, Dee Zu’s legs still locked behind Cisco. He breathes deep of her, buries his face in her hair. Meanwhile she scents this strange world, still burning in patches, smelling of charred wood and flesh and things. She feels good. At the same time she continues to watch.
And this world, their world now, watches back. Though it’s anything but clear who or what might be watching. Or from where.

About the Author:

Collin Piprell is a Canadian writer resident in Thailand. He has also lived in England, where he did graduate work as a Canada Council Doctoral Fellow (later, a Social Sciences and Humanities Fellow) in politics and philosophy at Pembroke College, Oxford; and in Kuwait, where he learned to sail, water-ski and make a credible red wine in plastic garbage bins.

In earlier years, he worked at a wide variety of occupations, including four jobs as a driller and stope leader in mines and tunnels in Ontario and Quebec. In later years he taught writing courses at Thammasat University, Bangkok, freelanced as a writer and editor, and published hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics (most of these pieces are pre-digital, hence effectively written on the wind). He is also the author of short stories that appeared in Asian anthologies and magazines, as well as five novels (a sixth forthcoming in 2018), a collection of short stories, a collection of occasional pieces, a diving guide to Thailand, another book on diving, and a book on Thailand’s coral reefs. He has also co-authored a book on Thailand’s national parks.

Common Deer Press is publishing the first three novels in his futuristic Magic Circles series.

Collin has another short novel nearly ready to go, something he only reluctantly describes as magic realism. Less nearly ready to go are novels he describes as a series of metaphysical thrillers. Not to mention several Jack Shackaway comic thrillers, follow-ups to Kicking Dogs. He also has a half-finished letter to his grandmother, dated 10 October 1991, saying thanks for the birthday gift.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Jennifer Herrington said...

Thanks so much for the great interview with Collin! Thanks for hosting Collin and Genesis 2.0!

Common Deer Press

Collin Piprell said...

Thanks for posting the interview and excerpt. Hope they inspire interest among visitors to your site.