I normally publish one Take Five a week here on Suvudu, but I recently had the opportunity to solicit five facts from Alan Dean Foster about his newest book The Human Blend. I was too excited to wait any longer to share it with you, and I hope that you’ll enjoy this “bonus” Take Five with one of science fiction’s most prolific authors.
Alan Dean Foster and I go way back. Not that he knows that. The very first science fiction novel I read was Foster’s novelization of 1979’s ALIEN. I saw the movie not too long after reading the book (my parents were weird) and felt special when I realized that Foster had created details about the ALIEN’s Xenomorph and the Nostromo’s crew that weren’t in the actual movie. It was like I had an insider’s knowledge of what was happening on the screen. Back then I had no understanding of “canon,” and frankly wouldn’t have cared anyway if anyone had explained the concept to me. What Foster had created was awesome, an addition to a universe only hinted at in Ridley Scott’s 117 minutes of terrifying footage. The fact that I took so readily to Foster’s invention is both testimony to his talent as a writer and the catholic nature of a young boy’s imagination, and as this same young boy grew into a man, Foster’s work continued to entertain.
As a pre-teen I sought out Foster’s Spellsinger books, having seen them mentioned glowingly in the pages of Dragon magazine, the official magazine of the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. As I was just discovering the world of music, I was receptive to Foster’s stories of a magic weaving rock-and-roll musician. I believe that I played more than a few Bards inspired by Jonathon Thomas Meriwether in my D&D games. Later, in high school, I stumbled upon a copy of Foster’s novel Glory Lane on my local grocer’s tiny shelf of paperback books. I remember seeing the cover illustration of a human punk rocker surrounded by wild looking aliens and thinking “This. This is my book.” I must have read Glory Lane a half dozen times before finally loaning it out to a friend and never getting it back. Foster’s story of a misfit punker who stumbles into a galaxy full of adventure appealed deeply to a kid who always felt like a bit of an alien himself. Although I myself was never a punk rocker, there was plenty of Glory Lane’s main character “Seeth” in me, and there still is. I keep watching the skies…
Foster’s latest, The Human Blend, is a crime thriller set in a future America ravaged by climate change, whose citizens use genetic modification and other advanced technologies to shape their bodies into forms hardly recognizable as human, and where a mysterious silver thread holds a secret that some would kill to keep. It is the first volume in The Tipping Point, a new series.
Alan Dean Foster:
1) When I was writing The Human Blend and describing a southeastern U.S. coast flooded as a consequence of global warming, I worried that I might have raised the sea level too much too soon. Based on recent scientific extrapolations, it appears I might have been too conservative.
2) The ability to reshape and remold the human body into something you want has always been a dream. Over the past sixty years or so it’s gone from being infrequent to common. The next step will be for more extreme manipulations to become cheap.
3) Fans of everything from science-fiction to fantasy to anthropomorphics delight in dressing up as favorite characters. Were it not for the social approbation attached, many would enjoy doing so not just at conventions but in their daily life. As society becomes more accepting of body modification (tattooing and piercing, for example) I look for more and more radical mods to become socially acceptable. Pondering such possibilities was a strong influence on the book (and its sequels).
4) Having spent some time around real scientists, I’ve always been fascinated by their ability to completely shut out the outside world while devoting themselves to their work. If a true scientist gets an idea in his or her head, nothing stands in the way of them following it to its source. I always wanted to write a character whose scientific obsession had to be followed to the exclusion of anything and everything else, including common sense. You’ll recognize that character in The Human Blend immediately.
5) I always wanted to write a “caper” film in which the main characters were played by actors like Wallace Shawn and William Macy instead of Schwarzenegger and Stallone. Because the successful criminals and killers are the ones you don’t read about or see portrayed on the evening news (if you did, they wouldn’t be successful, would they?). Such professionals disappear into the background. They look…ordinary. Everyday. The kind of people you don’t look at twice on the street. They slide through life unnoticed. In their profession, that makes them a success. And not all of them are thirty years old, either. In most professions, experience counts for more than muscle.