Not to be too cinematically cliché about it, but imagine a world... one in which your wish list of futuresque inventions actually existed. Imagine now that an organization has suppressed the items on your list, hidden them away so that nobody knows they're really possible. Worse yet, imagine you're the one who invented something world-changing.
That's the sort of position into which author Daniel Suarez puts his genius scientist Jon Grady. Told that "Some technologies are too dangerous to be allowed to spread on their own," Grady is suddenly privy to the fact that advances in fusion, gravity, genetics -- countless examples of scientific progress -- have been made and kept secret. Given the choice to join or be jailed, our hero declines the invitation. Perfectly balancing science, fiction, and thriller, Influx is an intense and engaging sum of its parts.
If you're familiar with Suarez’s bio, you know it's an understatement to call his technological background impressive. We wanted to find out more about him beyond his expertise. Here he tells us about the book report a former lit teacher has reason to be angry about, one way Kurt Vonnegut was ahead of his time, which future inventions he’s most looking forward to, and more.
What's the elevator pitch for your book?
A brilliant young scientist develops a technology that can reflect gravity. It's a breakthrough that could transform society as we know it. But instead of receiving widespread acclaim, he's taken prisoner by a secretive organization that covers up his work. It turns out the human race is more technologically advanced than commonly believed. Disruptive innovations like fusion and artificial intelligence are being concealed to 'prevent social and economic upheaval.' But keeping a 21st century Einstein imprisoned is harder than it sounds...
What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?
Alain de Botton's The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work -- it's beautiful, insightful, and fascinating all at once.
Top 3-5 favorite books of all time?
This is almost impossible to answer because there are so many, but at this moment:
(and a thousand more...)
Important book you never read?
Wuthering Heights (what's the statute of limitations on falsely submitting a book report?)
Book that changed your life or book that made you want to become a writer?
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut. I read this while still in grammar school, and then reread it several times throughout high school and college. The premise: that technology would advance to the point where most humans no longer needed to work--and that this would rob life of its meaning. That was counter-intuitive to me at the time, and I was endlessly fascinated by such a thought-provoking fiction. Up until then I'd read plenty of science fiction but those stories were usually far into the future. This one stayed with me, and still does to this day. Incidentally, we're seeing shades of Player Piano becoming reality as robotics and automation expands in society. I'd say Vonnegut was on to something way back then...
What's your most memorable author moment?
The first time I saw a stranger reading one of my books in a public place.
Preferred reading format: print? digital?
I prefer print because books on shelves often spark conversations and their spines tell a story about who I am. However, I'll still buy digital versions if I'm traveling. Nothing beats the portability of digital.
What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?
I would like to possess profound mastery of a musical instrument such as the piano or guitar. Music has so often transported me and inspired my writing. I can only wonder what it would be like to have the talent to create and play music for others. Alas, I don't seem to have the patience or the knack, and I suppose knowing this has spared others much suffering -- particularly my cats.
What are you obsessed with now?
I'm really digging "True Detective" on HBO. The writing is sharp and the cinematography evocative, the performances powerful. Did HBO make a deal with the devil somewhere along the way? They're just about the only reason I still have cable.
What are you stressed about now?
I'm stressed about this question... :)
What are you psyched about now?
Clearly I'm psyched about my new book, Influx. The launch of a new book is always exciting, and I often ponder the new people I'll meet as a result of my book entering the world. Books are like that; they go places that are hard to anticipate, and then some time in the future someone will contact me and say, 'Hey, I read your book, X, and I just wanted to reach out to you...' I have met innumerable fascinating people because of my writing -- and that, in turn, leads to ideas for new books.
What's your most prized/treasured possession?
My memories of loved ones. That might sound glib, but as the years go by, there are less and less physical possessions I treasure, and more people whose company I miss. I'm by no means old, but both time and distance work against us here.
What 3 pieces of technology can you not live without?
- The Wheel
- Mastery of Fire
- Wet Wipes
What 3 future inventions are you most looking forward to?
- Warp drive
- Perfect interpersonal communication (mind-meld).
That third invention will be necessary to keep humanity from wiping itself out with the other two inventions.
Author crush - who's your current author crush?
Recency is a big factor here, since I'm most enamored of things I've liked most recently. That would mean Alain de Botton (currently on my nightstand).
Pen Envy - Book you wish you'd written?
George Orwell's 1984. The relevance of this book to our times is astounding, and unfortunately, I think it's only going to become more prescient.
What's the last dream you remember?
It involved an ambulatory butter squash being chased by a wood chipper...
What's favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?
The Internet. What makes it so insidious is that it's also the perfect research tool for authors. So I'll start a book project by doing focused research, and the next time I look up, it's February...
What do you collect?
I seldom throw away tech gadgets -- phones and laptops in particular. I've got a mini museum of every device I've ever used, and it's interesting to see their evolution. For instance, going through the layers of laptops, one can see that for the longest time I was striving to obtain the largest screen -- so the machines kept getting wider and deeper. Then at some point I valued portability more, and they started getting smaller. Also, somewhere along the way phones got as fragile as Tiffany glass--quite a few broken. But I've got an old Mitsubishi phone the size and shape of a brick that you could drive nails with. If I could find the charger, I bet it would still work.
Best piece of fan mail you ever got?
A reader once wrote me to say that my books had gotten him through the darkest period of his life, when he didn't have a friend, and couldn't see any reason for continuing. And eventually he worked through his problems and just wanted to thank me for being there for him. I keep a print out of his email on my office wall. Strangely, whenever I feel my writing is pointless, he now gives *me* encouragement.
Favorite line in a book?
"Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs their eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens." -- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
What's next for you?
Of course, another book. I'm always writing or doing research because there is nothing like the feeling of finishing a book--and then soon enough you want to start all over again.