Tuesday, August 30, 2011

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An Interview With Samhain Publishing’s CYBERSHOCK Authors


Samhain Publishing’s CYBERSHOCK, a cyberpunk romance anthology, is now out! Editor Sasha Knight is the brains behind this snazzy collection. To learn about the anthology's evolution, read this interview with her at The Book Pushers.

I decided to celebrate the release with a totally epic interview feature. Toward that end, I asked each author—Stacy Gail, Nathalie Gray, and Barbara J. Hancock—four identical questions so we could discover what their stories have in common as well as what makes each of them unique. To read each story blurb and excerpt, just click on the title.

Welcome to the world of CYBERSHOCK:

Stacy Gail – ZERO FACTOR

What does cyberpunk romance mean to you?

I firmly believe that romance is romance, no matter the setting.  In any romance, there must be that visceral attraction – the brain-scrambling, heart-thumping awareness that comes from two people whose personalities and shared chemistry fit together like long-lost puzzle pieces.  But what makes that even more romantic, in my opinion, is a cyberpunk background.  To me, the term “cyberpunk” generally represents a human-created dystopia where “connecting” with someone happens only virtually, and the basic human elements such as compassion, loyalty and even intimacy have been run over by the speed of a high-tech cyber-driven universe.  If two people can meet, fall in love, and try to change the world for each other in that sort of emotionally detached environment, it’s about as awe-inspiring as the human condition can get.

Name the standout features of the hero and heroine in your story.

I chose their names very carefully.  For my militia-man hero, cybernetically enhanced Locke has been “locked” into his life since he was plucked from an orphanage and taught that everything but the mission was a zero factor.  Until Via came along, it had never occurred to him that there could be anything more – or that he could anything more.

As for my heroine Via, many elements of the story – including the way this imagined future society is set up – are introduced via… well, Via.  Her standout feature is that she was born with a double-whammy of a problem: one, she has two psionic gifts that meld into one powerful ability, and two, she exists in a military-run society that hunts psionics down.  Until the world itself somehow changes, she has no choice but to hide what she really is.

Cool tech is a mainstay of the cyberpunk subgenre. Please share an example of the tech/gadgets that readers can expect from your story.

I love Locke’s cyberoptics!  I would seriously love to have eyes like these.  With a mere blink, normal vision is traded out for facial-recognition mode (or x-ray, or thermal imaging, etc.).  A set of those eyes would really come in handy.

What type of tone/mood/setting did you create for your tale?

I originally wanted this to be sunless and moody and choked with ruined buildings and acid rain – Blade Runner meets Escape from New York.  But somehow it wound up in the nuclear-blasted wastelands in Nevada.  It’s a tense tale of survival coupled with the discovery that love can take root even in the rockiest soil, but… I still don’t know how it wound up in sunny Nevada.  Honestly, it’s got me baffled.  Maybe I’ll be able to reach that sunless world in the next cyberpunk romance I’ve got simmering away in the back of my mind.  We’ll see, won’t we?

Nathalie Gray - GRIDLOCK

What does cyberpunk romance mean to you?

Cyberpunk used to mean dystopian societies, black latex outfits and shiny guns. And it still means those things. But over the years I realized that without some romantic elements, no amount of shiny black latex would make finish the book (or movie). In the end, it’s all about the people for me, no matter the settings.

Name the standout features of the hero and heroine in your story.

Steel is the anti-thesis of the hero in a lot of points. She smokes, curses, dresses in PVC and is angry at the world in general and men in particular. Conversely, Dante listens to classical music, wears vintage clothing (as in a hooded cloak and riding boots) and thinks before he acts. But they have one crucial affinity: guns. And lots of them.

Cool tech is a mainstay of the cyberpunk subgenre. Please share an example of the tech/gadgets that readers can expect from your story.

In Gridlock, expect Montreal (and the world, really) to have been conquered by a sentient A.I. called the Grid, much like our World Wide Web only much more sinister, omnipresent and lethal. It knows everything about everyone. Also expect metro networks a thousand feet in the air, bullets made of conductive gel (for better electrification) and food made of protein-based compounds that even my Labrador Retriever wouldn’t eat.

What type of tone/mood/setting did you create for your tale?

Dark. Really, really dark. The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo-dark. Violent, raw, no holds-barred. But in the midst of all this doom and gloom, there’s a shining, unspoiled love story between two outcasts. Dante is about my most romantic character (even if he blows up a research station and half the city with it).

Barbara J. Hancock – GHOST IN THE MACHINE (View the book trailer here.)

What does cyberpunk romance mean to you?

Cyberpunk worlds are usually dark and gritty futuristic settings with technology that impacts the story.  Think of a classic like Bladerunner…which was also a romance, by the way.  It seems people always forget how important relationships are in storytelling!  Would Bladerunner have been the unforgettable groundbreaking flick that it was without the complicated, forbidden romance between Decker, the hunter, and Rachel, the sentient robot?  So, to me, a cyberpunk romance should be this hauntingly edgy and dark futuristic world paired with a complex relationship that’s complicated and driven by the world itself.

Name the standout features of the hero and heroine in your story.

My hero is a rogue Shadow that is somehow able to resist the control of the computer that created him.  But that resistance is constantly put to the test.  He walks a fine line between being the hero or becoming the villain.  My heroine is a survivor.  Plain and simple.  She was born into a dark and dangerous world and she deals with that, everyday.  When her little brother is captured, she realizes dealing isn’t enough. 

Cool tech is a mainstay of the cyberpunk subgenre. Please share an example of the tech/gadgets that readers can expect from your story.

The coolest tech in my story are the Shadows themselves.  They’re physical avatars the computer uses to patrol a conquered city, but they’re also like ghosts of the humans they once were.  And the haunt comes in when they glitch.  Because they’re tireless hunter-killers, but they also get caught up in repetitive actions from their past lives.  Standing in line at the coffee shop.  Swinging on a deserted playground.  My editor called it “creepy and beautiful”.  Best compliment ever!  Oh, and there’s also a pretty wicked homemade tazor weapon my heroine uses to send Shadows back to their maker.

What type of tone/mood/setting did you create for your tale?

Dark and haunted.  Scary and beautiful. In the words of Jane Austen “…loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.” 

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Happy reading!

Joyfully yours,

Heather