Felix Gilman's epic urban fantasy Thunderer was published in hardcover by Bantam Spectra earlier this year, to a rousing round of praise from the likes of Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and SciFi Weekly. Realms of Fantasy reviewer Paul Witcover wrote in part, "Gilman exuberantly plunders sources literary, historical, and mythological in bringing his protean labyrinth of a city to life, and the mysterious act of creation by which the imaginary is made real, and the real imaginary, becomes one of the novel’s main themes...This masterly first novel is as stunning and unexpected as a thunderclap out of a clear blue sky..." I recently interviewed Gilman via email about being a first-time novelist, our mutual contacts, and much else.
Amazon.com: Can you describe where you are while answering these questions?
Felix Gilman: In the day-job office, on a weekend. I am somewhere near the top floor of a very tall jet-black building. Through porthole-thick pressure-sealed windows I can see fog, wintry haze, the topmost parts of the Brooklyn Bridge, hundreds of thousands of other, more distant windows. Inside the office things are mostly beige, with some patches of grey or powder blue and highlights of brushed steel and glass. Document heaps flourish in the corners. Computers are hunkered down on every flat surface, whirring, watching. Beetle-like BlackBerrys rustle through the carpety undergrowth, foraging for scraps of unoccupied Time. Beware! There are lawyers here.
Amazon.com: Is being a published novelist everything you thought it would be? What didn't you expect?
Felix Gilman: I don't know what I expected, particularly. I'm very psychologically self-defensive, so I went into this with cringingly low expectations. I was genuinely surprised to see the book On Shelves! In Stores! Like A Real Book! But of course one’s expectations only ratchet up. I believe social scientists call this the "hedonic treadmill." Before you're published, you think if only I can get this turkey published, that'll be OK, I don't care what happens after that because I will be PUBLISHED and then everything will be OK forever. That lasts about three days, then you get used to being PUBLISHED, and it starts to seem normal, just an unremarkable background fact about yourself, like height or gender. And then you start thinking screw this, why haven't I got a bestseller? Life is so unfair.
Amazon.com: What's the most absurd thing that's happened to you since the book came out?
Felix Gilman: All the pressure to join the Scientologists. You know how it is, I'm sure--your name gets out there a bit, you've got a bit of a public profile, you’ve given one or two interviews, next thing you know the bloody Scientologists come calling. "Tom," I keep saying, "I'm sorry, I just don't think it's right for me." He won't take no for an answer, and he's so eager. I always end up letting him leave some literature and saying he can come back next week, just to be polite, you know, but I haven't read any of it yet and it's getting really embarrassing.