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By Patrick (2007-10-08)
Q: For the benefit of those not familiar with you and your work, can you give us the "411" on Jeff Somers?
Sure. All you need to know: Born in Jersey City, New Jersey but no one believes it because I am not very tough-looking; went to public grammar schools where I learned to curse extravagantly and a private Jesuit High School where I learned, well, Latin, mainly; was an Eagle Scout though my main memories of the Boy Scouts involved being dirty most of the time, drinking cheap blackberry brandy in the woods, and living life on the edge of a Lord-of-the-Flies situation any time we went camping; majored in English during college because I suspected (rightly) that this would allow me to sleep in and skip most of my classes; have been writing since I was about nine when I crafted a ninety page exercise in Tolkien plagiarism titled The War of the Gem; married above my station in life and am living peacefully with stronger-than-she-looks wife and three cats.
Q: Without giving anything away, can you give us a taste of the story that is THE ELECTRIC CHURCH?
It's set in an unspecified future after the world has undergone Unification—the forging of a single world government and the destruction of all national borders or distinctions, resulting in The System of Federate Nations. This wasn't an easy or even popular process, and the whole word was rocked by riots which were eventually brutally put down by the newly formed System Security Force, a world-wide police force with extremely wide latitude, well-trained officers, and very little oversight or restraint.
Unification had a disastrous effect on the economy, and the world has settled into a split between the haves and the much more numerous have nots. Droids do most of the labor, so there aren't many jobs. It's a pretty bleak life, and most people feel completely justified in becoming criminals just to survive.
Another option has been creeping onto everyone's radar: A new religion, preaching that a single human lifetime is not nearly enough to attain salvation—only by becoming a cyborg, a robot body with a human brain—can you live essentially forever and have enough time to contemplate your sins. And despite the fact that everyone agrees that is one extreme and freaky decision, this new religion—The Electric Church—is the fastest growing religion in the world.
That's the world in which our narrator, Avery Cates, lives. Cates is a contract killer. He likes to think he's a little better than a thug, but the fact is he kills for money, and feels justified in doing so because he lacks any other realistic options.
Naturally, when Cates and the System Police and The Electric Church get mixed up with each other, things go downhill. Fast. And in very entertaining ways.
Q: As one of their launch titles, is it a bit daunting to realize that Orbit USA are relying on you to make an impression on the market?
I don't think about it, to be honest. Thoughts like that lead to madness. I just mutter a Serenity Prayer and drink heavily.
Q: Are you happy with the advance reviews you have seen thus far?
Sure—they've been more or less positive, so I can't complain. I read reviews, but I don't ponder them too much—good or bad. I mean, there's no point in making little fists of rage when you read someone who dislikes your work—just as there's no point in shooting your guns in the air when someone likes you. Like Cliff in Singles says, all that negative energy just makes me stronger.
Q: What can readers expect from the sequel, THE DIGITAL PLAGUE?
If The Electric Church is fast-paced, The Digital Plague is warp drive. I intentionally hit the ground running, more or less in media res and never let up. It was fun to write. I had a time frame for the story that's kind of ridiculously short, as far as what happens in a matter of days, but that was how I saw it.
It's a story that involves a plague of sorts, after all, and a lot of times what people do with plague stories is take their time, show the collapse of civilization, explore how people respond to it. I wanted to do it a little differently, where everything happens so damn fast you never get that sense that you know what's about to happen. Or at least I hope that's what I've accomplished.