My excitement for Afterparty has been growing since the moment I read the book's synopsis back in December. It was a lock for my most anticipated Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2014. Then, I started reading... and I just couldn't stop. Daryl Gregory has combined addictive elements of multiple genres -- the adrenaline rush of a race against time and enemies, the challenge to distinguish between good and bad guys, the inventiveness of a near future world -- to tell a story that's at once frightening and funny. Some chapters are so well-imagined I've gone back and reread them out of context, just to be there again. Ultimately, I chose Afterparty to lead the Science Fiction & Fantasy list for April, and it earned its place on our Best of the Month list, as well.
What's the elevator pitch for your book?
Numinous is a smart drug that puts you in direct contact with God, giving you that feeling of oneness that you only get once or twice in your life. The drug was suppressed a decade ago, but now it's back on the street, and the woman who helped create it is trying to track it down--with the help of her own permanent hallucination, the angelic Dr. Gloria. I was trying to write a thriller that was one part Philip K. Dick, one part Elmore Leonard, and one part a TED talk by Oliver Sacks.
What's on your nightstand/bedside table/Kindle?
If the stack of books on my bedside table falls onto me, I'm a dead man. I keep buying books on neuroscience to steal ideas from, so near the top of the pile is Oliver Sacks' Hallucinations (which came out, frustratingly, too late to help me write Afterparty), as well as Inside Jokes by Matthew M. Hurley, Daniel C. Dennet, and Reginald B. Adams, Jr., which tries to explain the evolutionary and neurological basis for humor. I wanted to make sure to mention those because they make me sound smart. Lower down is The Best of Cordwainer Smith, Francine Prose's non-fiction book Reading Like a Writer, and Iain Banks' Stonemouth. But there are many more instruments of death teetering next to me. One good thing about the dozens of ebooks on my tablet, it's nearly impossible for them to crush my skull.
Top 3-5 favorite books of all time?
The list changes every day, but three that are touchstones for me are Little, Big by John Crowley, Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks, and Resurrection Man by Sean Stewart.
Important book you never read?
I've taken three runs at The Brothers Karamazov. I will conquer you some day, Brothers.
Book that made you want to become a writer?
I can't separate reading from wanting to become a writer. As soon I read a great book, I wanted to write that book. My first "novel" was eight handwritten pages that I only later realized was a direct steal from The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. I was 32. Just kidding. Eight. Pretty sure I was eight.
What's your most memorable author moment?
The afternoon I opened the acceptance letter to my first short story sale. "Letter" is too strong. It was a check and a piece of paper with one sentence from Ed Ferman, the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. But that sentence was a phase change.
Preferred reading format: print? digital?
I still prefer print, but like the rest of the world, I'm reading more and more in digital. Now if only they can get that new book smell into my tablet.
What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?
I'm a comic book geek, and I spent way too much time as a kid thinking over this question. Teleportation, definitely. I was a Nightcrawler fan.
What are you obsessed with now?
Thanks to that last question, all I can think about now is teleporting. Bamf!
What are you stressed about now?
I have to go online and schedule a bunch of flights. This drives me crazy. The Internet says, Here are 300 flights, in all combinations of price and date and time and carriers, now please imagine Future Daryl not hating one of these. It's one of those computational tasks that we need quantum computers for. Or a Downton Abbey butler.
What are you psyched about now?
I just want the Ant-Man movie to come as soon as possible.
What's your most prized/treasured possession?
Speaking of comics… I most treasure the statuette of Captain America that sits on our mantle. (It's golden age Cap, before he had the round shield, for you geeks in the audience.) It was given to me by a friend when I was moving out of town. Then I moved back, but kept it. Because, Captain America.
Author crush -- who's your current author crush?
Emily Dickinson, DM me back, 'kay? 'Cause I totally get you.
Pen Envy -- Book you wish you'd written?
Glen David Gold's Carter Beats the Devil. God, I love that book.
What's the last dream you remember?
This isn't exactly a dream, but I was recently at the Rainforest Writer's Retreat with 38 other writers. I was sleeping in my cabin when something woke me. I opened my eyes and saw a woman dressed in black standing beside my bed. I may have screamed like a 12-year-old girl in a Korean horror movie. It was then I realized (a) I wasn't quite awake, (b) there was no one there, and (c) it was a really good thing I was in a cabin by myself. Any roommate would have been really annoyed.
What's your favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?
I have to write in coffee shops, because if I'm home and the writing's not going well, I EAT ALL THE THINGS. Then I take a nap.
What do you collect?
Doubts, fears, the usual.
Best piece of fan mail you ever got?
In my short story "Second Person, Present Tense," the main character wakes up in the hospital after a drug overdose and knows that even though she has the same memories as the girl who previously inhabited her body, she's a new person, not the "owner" of those memories. I was proud of myself for inventing this disorder. Then I got an email from a professor in Tennessee who'd experienced the same thing, though his change was caused by a head injury after a motorcycle accident. For my next trick, I will invent some space aliens, and wait for them to call.
Favorite line in a book?
I live in a town that in the winter is grayer than Seattle, and whenever the sun does come out, I think to myself, "T'was Brillig!" It makes me feel better. Then I go outside and slay a jabberwock.
What's next for you?
I'm really looking forward to lunch. Then in August I have a short novel about horror and small group therapy called We Are All Completely Fine coming out from Tachyon Publications. Sometime after that Tor will be publishing my Lovecraftian young adult novel. And then dinner.