Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Roger Levy.
Roger Levy is a British science fiction writer. He is the author of Reckless Sleep, Dark Heavens and Icarus, published by Gollancz. He works as a dentist when not writing fiction, and was described as the ‘heir to Philip K. Dick’ by Strange Horizons.
His latest novel, The Rig, was published by Titan Books.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ROGER LEVY
- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
I’ve been writing ever since I can remember, but somehow along the way I became a dentist, and that remains my day job. I never stopped writing, though, and it was all going well, my third novel Icarus even being shortlisted for BSFA best novel of its year, until I was seriously injured in an attack on the street just before Christmas 2004. It took me until now to get going as a writer again. All writers use their own experience in their work, and my final stretch to complete Icarus, along with several episodes within The Rig, contain thoughts and memories of that experience and its aftermath.
- How did you become a speculative fiction author? Has speculative fiction always fascinated you?
I’ve always read SF, just as I’ve always written. I grew up with LeGuin, Delany, Bradbury, Dick, Asimov, Clarke, all those greats. When I was younger, it was the short stories with their twists, and later it became the social SF novels like 1984 and the sprawling, beautifully realised novels like Dune. My first novel, Reckless Sleep, was written as a thriller set in the future. I didn’t think of it as SF as I was writing it, but I’ve found that every idea I’ve had has slotted well into an SF medium, so I’m really happy that I fell into becoming a writer of SF. SF is a genre, of course, but I’ve found that it embraces anything I might want to examine fictionally. The term speculative fiction, for example, is one I like for its openness and broadness, but of course all fiction is, by its nature, speculative.
- Your latest science fiction novel, "The Rig", will soon be published by Titan Books. What inspired you to write it?
There was no single thought or episode that inspired it. I wrote a few scenes, such as those in the Chute, and I thought of a few extraordinary characters, I was interested in good and evil, and I wondered what a society might be like that no longer believed in god. Social media was growing and it seemed to me that the technology around it was almost invisible to us. After all, our mobiles are considered to be mainly for other purposes, like communication, photography and information, even though I think most of us use them most of the time for social media. Cars are tech, computers are tech, mobiles are tech, but social media isn’t seen as tech at all. So I thought that social media was ripe for exploration in my fiction. What I wanted to do was look at it from a positive point of view, and see if it might sink itself into the fabric of society to the degree that it could replace the most basic human needs, the needs for comfort, reassurance and all the benefits that those who believe in a god receive. It took a long time to work all that into a plot and a novel, though, and it’s an odd happenstance that The Rig is coming out just as the Cambridge Analytica affair has suddenly woken us up to just how effectively social media can be used for unexpected purposes. Even so, AfterLife is a step or two ahead of the present.
- Could you tell us what kind of a novel "The Rig" is?
It’s big and fast and complex. It’s set in a far solar system to which much of Earth has decamped after its own climatic failure. There are two great organisations; a criminal organisation called the Whisper, and a social media organisation called AfterLife. One of the main characters is a writer called Razer. She searches for the secret behind a spree killing on a small planet called Bleak, and discovers bigger mysteries that lead her to a denouement on a rig in the middle of storm-swept oceans.
But what kind of novel is it? In SF terms, it has elements of hard SF, of social SF, but I really don’t know. I just hope it works.
- You write about a social media platform called AfterLife in "The Rig". What is AfterLife?
I’ve said something about it above. Subscribers - and most people in the System (the book’s universe) are subscribers) have organic memory accumulators inserted at birth. If they are mortally injured or diseased, they can be put into a form of stasis in sarcs (like individual life-support units) in Bleak’s oceans. If a cure is discovered, their memories are made available to all subscribers who can vote for them to be retrieved and saved, or not, based on the lives they have led.
- Is there anything you could tell us about the characters in this novel?
Well, the hero’s a writer, and I got a buzz from making her that. But she’s rather more adventurous and capable than I am, that’s for sure. Two of the other major characters, Alef and Pellonhorc, are extremes, one a hypergeek and the other as vicious a killer as you could imagine (as I could imagine, anyway). All my characters are eccentric in their own ways, but the two I enjoyed writing the most are a pair of humechs, Beata and Lode, whose dialogue was a real challenge.
- Is "The Rig" different from your previous novels?
It explores similar themes along the way, but it’s a very different tale.
- Is there anything you'd like to add?
Not really. Once it’s out there, it’s no longer mine. But I hope people enjoy it, I hope at least some of the twists come as surprises, and I hope it makes people think a little, too. That’s what I want from my own reading, and that’s what I imagine other people are looking for.