An interview with Gareth L. Powell

Written by / Interviews

Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing the science fiction author Gareth L. Powell.

Gareth L. Powell is an award-winning science fiction and fantasy author from Bristol. His third novel, Ack-Ack Macaque, co-won the 2013 BSFA Award for Best Novel. His books have been published in the UK, Germany, the USA and Japan, and have all received enthusiastic reviews in The Guardian.

Click here to visit the author's official website.


- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?

GLP: I’m in my early forties. I’m a father of two and I live in the West Country near Bristol. I used to co-manage a half a million pound marketing budget for a large software company, but then gave it all up in 2008 to become a writer.

- You've written several science fiction novels and stories, including the Ack-Ack Macaque series. What inspired you to become a science fiction author? Have you always wanted to be an author?

GLP: I’ve wanted to be a science fiction author for as long as I can remember. I grew up reading and watching science fiction, but I only really started getting serious about it in the last few years. I had my first short story in Interzone magazine in 2006, my first published short fiction collection in 2008, and my first novel in 2010. In the past four years, I’ve had a further four novels published, and have written another.

- What inspired you to write the Ack-Ack Macaque series?

GLP: I had an idea for a murder mystery set on board a giant Zeppelin, and I wanted to use the story to examine what it is that makes us who we are, and what it is that makes us human. To do that, it made perfect sense (to me, anyway) to have a character capable of walking and talking and thinking like a human, but with a different outlook, different associations and reflexes. In 2007, I had written a short story called ‘Ack-Ack Macaque’ that had been very well received by the readers of Interzone, so I took the main character from that story and built the novel around him.

- What kind of a series is it?

GLP: I find it very difficult to describe exactly what the series is. It certainly has elements of cyberpunk and plenty of page-turning action, but it’s also got a serious side, with real characters working through real emotions, and some serious speculation about the nature of humanity, the nature of families, of loneliness, love, loss and grief.

- Could you tell us something about the protagonist of this series?

GLP: Ack-Ack Macaque is a force of nature. He’s the Hyde to our Jekyll, the monster from the Id. He’s the angry child in all of us, lashing out at an unfair world. And, at the same time, he’s on a journey. In the first book, he’s disorientated and adrift, trying to adjust to a strange new world while seeking vengeance on those who made him. He is Frankenstein’s monster let loose. But by the second book, he’s begun to mature; he’s started to let people into his life and build relationships, to gather a kind of ersatz family - or troop. In this way, the series is very much about the process of growing up and becoming an adult, which means learning to care for those around you, allowing yourself to be vulnerable to them, and wearing your scars less as prizes and more as cautionary reminders.

- How would you advertise this series to readers who are thinking of reading it?

GLP: On Twitter, somebody compared it to ‘Tank Girl meets Neuromancer’ and I kind of like that description. It captures the books' mixture of knockabout fun and serious science fiction speculation. I’ve also seen it compared to Philip K. Dick, which also makes sense, in so far as it tackles questions of identity and reality.

- Could you tell us something about the forthcoming Macaque Attack? What can readers expect from it?

GLP: As the final book in the series, Macaque Attack ties up all the loose ends and resolves the character arcs from the previous instalments, and it takes everything up notch. There’s the same quotient of action and adventure, but there are more monkeys that ever, and also surprising revelations - not least of which is the revelation of Ack-Ack Macaque’s true identity!

- Are you planning on writing more novels or stories about Ack-Ack Macaque?

GLP: I don’t currently have any plans to write anything else about the macaque. For the moment, he’s off fighting the good fight in some distant corner of reality. Perhaps he’ll return one day, I’m not going to rule that out. But for now, it’s time for me to move on. I’ve told the story I wanted to tell, and I don’t want to go on churning out more monkey books unless I think of something new to say about the character.

- Is there anything you'd like to add?

GLP: Thank you for having me. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow the monkey himself at @AckAckMacaque