London in 2076 is a crazy place…
That was the jumping off point I gave myself, when I decided back at the start of August – after putting away the fantasy story I’d been struggling with – to write a bit of sci-fi.
I needed to write something utterly removed from all the tropes and clichés swirling around my head, that seem to accompany everything sword and sorcery. And I’d read a bunch of excellent science fiction over the summer – seriously if you want a solid sci-fi fix check out Gareth Powell and the start of his Embers of War trilogy, or Gavin Smith, preferably both – they aren’t affiliate links, I just really, really enjoyed their work. I also managed to binge Altered Carbon on Netflix – based on Richard K Morgan’s series, featuring his excellent body-hopping character Takeshi Kovacs. Which resulted in the creative bit of my noggin firing out all these crazy futuristic concepts, thoughts and notions.
I’ve always been a bit of a futurist. My mum got me hooked on a magazine called Quest when I was a young teenager, which was basically a 1980’s introduction to STEM subjects. And though I’ve tried writing science fiction before, I’ve never sat down to write a novel length story. Reading military sci-fi is great, but the subgenre didn’t grab me. Neither did space opera.
Japan took cyberpunk straight to its heart, which is why we’ve seen so many iterations of the genre via Manga and anime. Just take a look at Ghost In The Shell or the seminal Akira. The United States does cyberpunk very well too, as can be seen in the aforementioned Altered Carbon series, but also in The Matrix and (one of my all-time favourite low-budget movies) Johnny Mnemonic, both starring Keanu Reeves.
I’m utterly convinced that cyberpunk, as a genre, is about to go through a bit of a renaissance. Especially with a new video game announced, Cyberpunk 2077, from CD Projekt Red coming sometime in the near future.
There’s a whole gaggle of genre-defining authors out there: Phillip K Dick, William Gibson and Pat Cadigan to name a few I’ve read. So, I felt like I wouldn’t just be dipping my toes in cyberpunk’s waters. I’ve got form.
And when I sat down to write, the dreaded block I’d come up against with the fantasy novel I was working on just disappeared. I’m a pretty serious plotter, or outliner. Lots of writers prefer to sit at a blank screen or piece of paper and see what comes out. I prefer to nail down every single loose idea, so I always know what I’m writing towards.
And with my latest writing adventure the words flowed out of me. Ideas that had been bubbling away at the very back of my brain for years concerning identity, society, arcologies, artificial intelligence, robotics, engineering, the future of entertainment and the idea that broadcast media is merely ‘opium for the masses’, all rushed to the fore, each clambering for attention.
There are just as many tropes and clichés within cyberpunk as you’ll find in traditional fantasy yet, as I began to explore them, I found myself enjoying tinkering with the established tropes, seeing how I might incorporate some of them and subvert others.
Thus, Warpath was born…
London, 2076. Tover Hudson, a drug-addled private investigator in crippling debt to violent underworld loan sharks, takes a missing person case from the vice president of a leading tech company that develops simulated reality games, which are broadcast across the globe.
The missing person, a software engineer, quickly turns up dead, leading the investigator down a dark path when he learns the engineer was preparing to blow the whistle on the same tech company that hired Hudson. As evidence of illegal human brain experimentation comes to light, the investigator discovers a vast conspiracy surrounding the game Warpath, that could change the face of the world forever.
Now, with a bounty on his head, an infamous assassin on his tail and a string of bodies mounting up, can Hudson kick his habit long enough to solve the gruesome killings and get to the bottom of the sinister conspiracy, before he joins the list of murder victims?
I announced on social media that I was going to write, edit and finish an entire novel in three months. November 7th, 2018 is my self-imposed deadline. As I’m writing this, it’s October 16th, which means I haven’t got long to tidy Warpath up and make sure it’s ready to go live when I said it would be. I’ve taken a week off work, a real gamble when you’re self-employed, to put Hudson’s story to bed, as the saying goes. I fully intend to meet my target and get Warpath out into the world in November.
Wish me luck.