David Simpson is the author of “Post-Human”, which I just finished recently and really enjoyed reading. It’s set in the future and there is a battle between good and evil. I have been fortunate in that David agreed to partake in an interview with me and this is what I bring to you today. The interview itself is a great read and I have to thank David for the answers he has provided, informative and entertaining. Thank you, David!
For those who are yet to read the book could you please explain a little about the title “Post-Human”?
Post-Human has a double meaning in the book. On the one hand, “post-human” describes the condition of the vast majority of the solar system’s population; they have taken control of their evolution, having achieved perfect beauty, immortality, and synergy with computers and, therefore, can’t really call themselves human any longer.
On the other hand, this is a book in which nearly everyone in the solar system is wiped out early in the story, so most of the plot takes place in a time that is literally “post-human.”
Who is your favourite character in “Post-Human” and why?
There are so many characters in the novel that readers tell me they love and I think that is one of the book’s greatest strengths. I find many readers identify with certain characters — a lot of women identify with Thel because of her romance with James and her devotion to him while some others identify more with Katherine and see her as an innocent victim. My wife’s favourite character is Rich because he’s the comedic relief in the book (and she is definitely the comedian of our family) but also the most vulnerable of the post-humans.
Personally, the most fun character to write is the A.I.. He’s a megalomaniac to the point that he sees himself as God, he’s extremely evil, and yet he also enjoys his dirty work immensely. As he says, “I can find things amusing, I programmed myself to,” and I find him the most amusing character to write. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to create a better character.
Are any of the characters based on real people and how did you come up with their names?
The short answer is yes, although only a few characters have real life inspirations. James Keats is a combination of James Dean and John Keats, each of whom are symbols of eternal youth, one in pop culture and one in literature; I thought that was fitting for an immortal protagonist.
Old-timer’s real name is Craig Emilson, which is a combination of the names of two of my former professors and current friends — I saw both of them as wise, positive influences on my life and since I wanted Old-timer to inhabit that role in James’ life, the name made sense.
Katherine is a nod to George Orwell’s 1984. Early in that novel we discover that Winston Smith is actually married but separated from a woman with whom he had a cold, loveless relationship. I thought the name was perfect for James’ wife, since they were trapped in a loveless marriage for eternity.
Rich is named after one of my childhood friends — they’re extremely similar in personality types — Rich is one of the funniest people I’ve ever known.
Aldous Gibson’s name is probably obvious to science fiction fans. Again, I just wanted to give a little nod to the genre and recognise two of its great masters.
I have read some reviews that mention there are quite a few biblical references in the book, was this intentional?
Yes and no. Some of them are obviously intentional such as the A.I.’s admission that he has modelled himself on the Christian God. He and James have an exchange in which Paradise Lost is alluded to and the A.I. is referred to as an electronic Satan on a regular basis.
Some of the biblical references were not done consciously. I can’t write about most of them without inserting too many spoilers, but the similarities between James Keats and Jesus Christ were unintentional — at least at first. Perhaps I was being influenced by my super-ego? At any rate, once I realised that James’ life paralleled that of Jesus, I just embraced it — it’s kind of cool!
How do you feel about the future you have depicted in “Post-Human”; would you like that future to happen and do you think it will ever happen?
A future very similar to the one depicted in the novel is inevitable in my opinion. Unless we are wiped out first by a comet, a disease, or climate change, we eventually have to take drastic action to preserve life. Whether we discover immortality in 5 years or 500 years, I have no doubt that the species will eventually be immortal. Even if it does take 500 years, we have to face the fact that in less than a hundred years (so during the lifetimes of many of the children born today) the Earth’s population is likely to quadruple — meaning we are going to have to terraform. We’re also going to run out of oil — fossil fuels were old technology 100 years ago. Therefore, alternative modes of transportation and creating power are going to be necessities. Also, the synergy that is depicted between people and their computer technology is already happening at an alarming rate. Just look around at the explosion of the internet, blue tooth, iphones, and it becomes clear that we are becoming more “wired.” Nanotechnology is becoming a reality too — it might frighten some people to know that every invention in post-human is something that I researched from the real world. This stuff is coming. Really, as crazy as it may sound, if we look far enough down the timeline, the post-human world isn’t just a possibility — it’s an inevitability.
How did you go about researching the technical stuff? Did you already know a bit about the subject matter? Is it something which interests you? Was it fun to research?
Most of the research for Post-Human came from both my honours thesis in my fourth year of university and my Master’s thesis after that. During my research, I came across a documentary called “No Maps for these Territories” that was basically an extended interview with the founder of cyber punk, William Gibson. He was asked “what does post humanity mean to you?” and I highly recommend that people listen to his answer. What he said and the world he described blew my mind and it is basically the road map for Post-Human. About a year later, I read an interview with Ray Kurzweil that was about immortality. Even though he was 50 at the time of the interview, he felt sure that nanotechnology would improve enough in his lifetime that our species would achieve immortality. That was the first place that I heard of being able to download upgrades directly to our bodies and the instant I finished that article, the plot of Post-Human flashed into my mind. I wrote the outline that night in a flourish of intense inspiration unlike anything I have ever experienced and wrote the first chapter before I went to bed. The rest of the research was supplemental, but it was all fun. Post-Human was an intensely fun book to write and I think that translates into the experience of reading it.
There are a couple of romances in “Post-Human”, why did you decide to include these?
The romances are crucial to the plot and the message in Post-Human. The love triangles involving Thel, James, and his wife Katherine, as well as the one involving Alejandra, Old-timer, and his wife Daniella, are foils for one another. They are both explorations of the dynamics of relationships in the post-human world, where commitments take on a whole new dimension thanks to immortality. Each love triangle has a different outcome, but there are similarities. Both James and Old-timer, in different ways, suffer the same feelings of guilt, despite not having done anything wrong. One of the integral messages of the book is that “feelings are never wrong,” as Alejandra says. Readers can debate whether or not this is true.
Also, let’s face it, the romances give the book a dimension that I think it really needs. We care more about the characters because they care about each other — we identify with them more because they can love each other just as we love each other. The very last line of the book is very telling — being human, which is something that these characters cherish, is really all about love.
Will we be seeing any characters from “Post-Human” in any future novels?
You bet! I’m currently writing a sequel to Post-Human that I am very excited about. Just like Post-Human, it is extremely fun to write and it is taking the concepts and themes that are established in the first novel to new extremes that no readers will be expecting. I cannot wait for the people who have read and loved Post-Human to read the sequel!
In addition to that, I’m currently adapting Post-Human into a graphic novel format that I will be posting online so that people can read it for free as it is created. It’s a blast!
Would you change anything about the story now if given the chance?
I might insert a little more foreshadowing. Unlike many writers who write a series, I never planned for Post-Human to have a sequel. When the idea for the sequel came to me, I was really excited that I would get to open up the story and explore the characters and the world further — it was like getting to visit with old friends again. Luckily, a lot of what I had written looks like ingenious foreshadowing now, but I honestly hadn’t planned another book — it must have just been floating around in my subconscious somewhere.
I read this as an electronic book. How do you feel about ebooks and do you believe they have a profitable place in the market?
On the one hand, I love e-books. I’ve been able to exploit them as part of my marketing campaign and have attracted over 200 fans to my Facebook fan page with the promise of a free e-copy of Post-Human. For me, the e-book has been an indispensable tool to expose people to my writing since the novel is not readily available in bookstores (something that I am working towards changing soon).
On the other hand, I do have reservations about e-books. I do worry that as e-readers and the iPad gain traction in the market, it will become more difficult for writers to make a living. I can imagine a future in which, just like movies and music now, popular books become available online almost as soon as they are published and are read by a population that has adopted the e-reader as its main apparatus for reading. I can see this happening within a decade as university and high schools begin requiring students to bring an e-reader with all of their text books and required reading stored on it to school — I think that generation may grow up with a disdain for paper books.
But then again, movies and music are still extremely profitable despite the fears that actors and musicians were exhibiting not long ago. Comparing books and music might be like comparing apples and oranges, but if Lady Gaga still has a profitable career, hopefully Stephanie Meyer, Dan Brown and David Simpson will in the future too!
I understand “Post-Human” was born out of your Master’s thesis. How long did it take you to complete your thesis? Was it received well? How long did it take you to write “Post-Human” the novel?
My thesis took me well over a year to write. It was much more difficult than writing a novel. I researched it for many months and when people would ask me how much of it I had written I’d have to say “nothing” and then gulp. The good news was that the writing process was actually relatively quick and I had a command of the subject because of all the hard work I’d put into the research phase. It was received well on the day that I defended it — it was actually a very pleasant experience — but prior to that it was like hell. My supervisor absolutely trashed my original introduction (about twenty pages) and I had to scrap it and start over. In the end though, it was all worth it — though I still like my original introduction better! muhaha!
Writing Post-Human was a breeze after that. I had written half of it about a year before I started my thesis and then had to stop once grad-school became more intense. When I was finishing my thesis I realised that I had become a lean, mean, writing machine! I was only sleeping a handful of hours each night and I went to a wonderful cafe near my apartment that would let me buy a cookie and a cup of tea and sit all day typing away. I repeated this every single day (the only other thing I did was train for a marathon that I ran later that summer) and I promised myself that when I finished writing the thesis I would reward myself by keeping up my routine a few weeks longer and finishing that science fiction book I was writing. The first half of the writing only took about 3 weeks, interrupted by two years of working on my Master’s, followed by another 3 weeks to finish the first draft. I revamped it a couple of times over the next few months as I let close friends and professors read it, but overall, that first draft is very close to what is in the published version. I write very quickly — I’m lucky!
Was it a scary process getting your first book published?
I can’t say that it was scary. I’d written a book as a teenager — it was a self-indulgent book about teenage angst really — but the experience of getting about twenty rejections for that novel steeled me this time around. I felt very confident throughout the entire process of writing Post-Human that it was a special book and I felt fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time to have the idea. I never worried that it wouldn’t be enjoyed. I must say that I still get a little nervous when it is reviewed for something like a blog like this one, but I’ve had enough terrific reviews by now that I’m pretty comfortable.
When did you first begin to write with the hopes of getting published?
I fell in love with writing in the first grade. The very first time I wrote a short story was a euphoric experience for me. My family is rife with writers. I have an aunt with a Master’s degree in literature, another aunt who wants to be a writer, my mother is a writer, and my little brother is an aspiring science fiction writer — in addition to all that, Robert Burns is one of my ancestors. So wanting to be a writer just came natural to me and I always felt that one day I’d be able to do it for a living. It’s been a lot of hard work and a long journey, but I think I am right on the path on which I was meant to be.
Where is your favourite place to write?
The aforementioned coffee shop where I wrote my thesis and Post-Human was my favourite place to write but, unfortunately, it went out of business (it’s a Sushi place now). I write in my apartment these days with my wife and a pot of tea close by. I also sneak a little writing in here and there when I am giving my students a test!
Are there any future books currently in the making?
Yep! As mentioned above, I am about 2/3 of the way through the sequel to Post-Human. I’ve also completed a sci-fi/horror novel that I’m hoping to publish sometime very soon — I can’t say much about it because the concept is actually so controversial and shocking that I’m keeping it top secret.
On top of that, I have outlines for ten more novels. One of them is a prequel to Post-Human that focuses on Old-timer as a young man and tells the story of how the Post-Human world really got started. The others are too numerous and varied to describe, but I’m excited to write all of them! I wish I had more time to write (what writer doesn’t?) but at least I’m not short on ideas!
What are you reading now and how are you liking it?
I’m actually reading two unpublished novels that were written by a good friend and former professor of mine. I can’t divulge the titles or too much information here but I’m loving both of the books and can’t wait to see them published. One of them is a Western and it combines a tough-guy, hardboiled bounty hunter with an Oscar Wilde-ish aesthete sidekick. I love it!
How many books would you read in a year?
I’m not really sure anymore. In the first year of my Master’s degree I must have read 5 books a week, but these days I spend far more of my time writing, drawing the e-comic book, and working on my book trailers. I can guess that I’ll probably read anywhere between 5 and 10 books.
What do you do in your spare time when you aren’t writing or working?
Spare time? You don’t actually believe in that myth, do you? All kidding aside, when I get a glimpse of spare time my favourite thing to do is spend time with my wife. She’s truly my best friend and we have an enormous amount of fun together every day. We both love movies, going for walks, and frequenting the gourmet cupcake shop down the street — but don’t tell anybody!
I also love playing ice-hockey and working out — I was an avid runner until a recent knee injury put an end to that but I still get my cardio in at the gym as often as I can.
Who would you most like to meet (dead or alive) and why?
It’s not even close. The more I learn about him the more I am convinced he is the greatest man who ever lived. We were lucky to have him on the planet with us — he touches our lives every single day and yet most people have never even heard of him. If you haven’t heard of him, google him and look him up on Youtube. The documentaries will blow your mind and the insidious reasons that he has been virtually erased from our cultural memory will blow your mind too.
I read that you are teaching English Literature, are you enjoying it and do you find it rewarding?
I never thought that I’d enjoy teaching, but when I first taught as a T.A. at the University of British Columbia, I fell in love with it right away. I think it’s the writer in me that makes me love it. Chinua Achebe, the famous African writer, wrote that “Writers are teachers.” I couldn’t agree with this more. To me, the main point of writing, what gives it its meaning, is that it is an opportunity to change the culture in which the writer is writing in a positive way. Sometimes the writing can even teach decades, centuries, and even millennia later — just look at Orwell, Shakespeare, and Sophocles for examples. I look at teaching as a way of doing the same job that I do as a writer but just on a smaller scale. When I teach literature, I’m helping students understand the lessons that the masters of the past were trying to teach and, hopefully, making each student a little bit better and wiser as a result. That makes me feel really good and sure beats selling shoes any day!
Who/what is your favourite:
Author? Raymond Chandler
Book? The Catcher in the Rye
Genre to read? Hard boiled detective fiction
Quote? “Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine.” — Nikola Tesla
Movie? The Matrix
Film star? James Dean
TV show? Curb Your Enthusiasm
Holiday destination? Someday, I would really like to go to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico — not necessarily in that order.
Band? Bruce Springstein and the E-street Band
Song? Radio Nowhere
Meal to cook? Spaghetti with garlic toast!
Drink? Red bull — yes I am an addict.
And last but not least, what one question would you ask yourself in an interview and what would the answer be?
I think I would ask which writer is my biggest influence and the answer is Raymond Chandler. I have nowhere near the stylistic mastery that he exhibited but the one thing that I think I do very well is, like him, I can write a story that combines the depth of literature with an entertaining surface plot. I learned a lot from screenplay writing and I’ve always felt that too many writers sacrifice the fact that reading should be pleasurable so that they can express a didactic message. I think a truly great book can have the didacticism and be extraordinarily entertaining at the same time — basically you can have your cake and eat it too. Many of the readers that have read Post-Human and given it a five star rating have, nevertheless, written reviews describing the story as light and action packed. I find this gratifying — it means that the surface design of the book is working because people get hooked and can’t stop reading — but I hope that sooner or later more readers will begin to recognise that there is as much depth in Post-Human (just as there is in Chandler’s work) as there is in any piece of “high-brow” literature that they will read. As a teacher and a literary scholar myself, I know the book is very, very teachable.
Thank you again, David, for participating in this interview, I loved reading every word of every answer!
Click here to go to David’s profile on my website where you will find links to the blurb of Post-Human, my review of Post-Human, David’s website, his Goodreads profile and a link to purchase Post-Human.