This week, to mark the release of The Demi-Monde: Summer, we’ve got an interview with Rod Rees for your delight and delectation. Curious about the man behind the cyber-hell that is the Demi-Monde? Read on, read on . . .
What is the working title of your next book?
The guys at Quercus have just sent me a mock-up of the paperback cover (which wonâ€™t be out until mid-2013) and I think theyâ€™ve done a terrific job capturing the flavour of the book.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
I designed the Demi-Monde (which is a virtual Victorian-esque dystopia) so that I could have some of my favourite characters from history come out to play. In The Demi-Monde: Summer these include Empress Wu (the only female Empress of China), Mao Zedong and Lucrezia Borgia.
What genre does your book fall under?
Difficult to say; itâ€™s a bit of a mash-up of genres with cyber-fiction, steam-punk and even vampires making a house-call. Basically though itâ€™s a science fiction thriller. The Demi-Monde series has been described as â€˜Discworldâ€™s savage noir cousinâ€™ which I think is about right.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Toughie this. In a world without temporal boundaries my picks would be:
â€¢ Ella Thomas (feisty African-American): Iâ€™m leaning towards Zoe Saldana, though maybe Dorothy Dandridge would be in with a shot.
â€¢ Vanka Maykov (a Russian rascal: utterly immoral and without conscience): it has to be Errol Flynn.
â€¢ Trixie Dashwood (English aristocrat and spoilt brat): Vivien Leigh.
â€¢ Burlesque Bandstand (English low-life, pimp and petty criminal): Oliver Hardy.
Give a one sentence synopsis of the book.
Impossible, so Iâ€™ll cheat. â€˜Set in 2018 the Demi-Monde is the most advanced computer simulation ever devised, a virtual world locked in eternal civil war â€“ thirty million digital inhabitants living and dying in Victorian cyber-slums and led by some of historyâ€™s most vicious tyrants â€“ Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the Holocaust; Beria, Stalinâ€™s arch executioner; and Aleister Crowley, black magician and â€˜the wickedest man in the whole worldâ€™ â€“ but something has gone badly wrong and the US Presidentâ€™s daughter has become trapped in this terrible world â€“ it falls to 18-year old Ella Thomas, black student and sometime jazz-singer, to rescue her â€“ once Ella has entered the Demi-Monde she finds that everything is not as it seems, that its cyber-walls are struggling to contain the evil within and that the Real World is in more danger than anyone realises.
All that and only one full-stop!
How long did it take to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I guess I spent a month researching the historical characters I was going to use and then another couple of months reading up on the elements I needed to incorporate into the story: artificial intelligence; the origins and spread of the proto-Indo-European Language; the ironclad battles of the American civil war; the concepts under-pinning radical feminism and so on and so on.
This world-building lark ainâ€™t easy folks!
Once I had all this organised I started to write. I generally aim to average 2,000 words a day, so a 200,000 word first draft will take three months. Then I spend another three months reworking, remodelling, reshaping and getting rid of the crap Iâ€™ve written the only purpose of which is to slow the pace of the story. So â€¦ from start to finish, nine months, a natural gestation period, methinks.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The trouble I have with this question is that (shamefully) I read very few contemporary novels, but â€˜The Demi-Mondeâ€™ has been influenced by any number of books â€“ we all stand on the shoulders of giants â€“ so incorporated into the DMâ€™s DNA are:
â€¢ The First Men in the Moon: in my humble opinion Wells was the greatest SF writer of all time. â€˜Etirovacâ€™, which features heavily in â€˜The Demi-Monde: Fallâ€™, is the antipode of Wellsâ€™s â€˜Cavoriteâ€™.
â€¢ The Man in the High Castle: Philip K. Dickâ€™s masterpiece was the first time I encountered a counter-factual story and I guess the idea of bringing disparate historical characters together came from this book.
â€¢ The RiverWorld Series: Brilliant story and marvellous storytelling, the only regret is that Philip Jose Farmer got to Richard Burton (the Victorian explorer and linguist, not the film actor!) before I did. Iâ€™d have loved to have featured him in the Demi-Monde.
Who or what inspired you to write the book?
As an admirer of the writers of Classic SF and fantasy, I have always thought that attempts to update, or, as Tim Burton would have it, to re-imagine these stories have invariably been poor. But the nadir had to be the BBCâ€™s â€˜Jekyllâ€™ which managed to eviscerate the story whilst simultaneously making it risible. Worse: it didnâ€™t â€˜honourâ€™ the story. Sitting watching that muddled mish-mash I had the same feeling every writer since the dawn of time has had at one time or another: I can do better than that!
What else about the book might pique the readersâ€™ interest in it.
As the books have a Victorian feel to them, for â€˜Springâ€™ Iâ€™ve included plate illustrations of the various fashions sported by those living in the five sectors of the DM. Hereâ€™s one of them.
This is what the dissolute and erotically-charged citizens of the Quartier Chaud are wearing this season.