NIGHTMARES ARE A DREAM COME TRUE

Boy­hood night ter­rors pro­vide in­spi­ra­tion for lo­cal writer’s dystopian novel Cy­pul­chre

Calgary Herald - - BOOKS - ERIC VOLMERS GUY FAUX BOOKS. [email protected]­gary­her­ald.com

It may seem like a bit of a cliche to sug­gest the dystopian world Cal­gary na­tive Joseph MacK­in­non cre­ates in his new novel Cy­pul­chre is the stuff of nightmares. But in this case, it’s lit­er­ally true. There were more lit­er­ary in­flu­ences for the 25-year-old au­thor: The heady philo­soph­i­cal the­o­ries of Pierre Teil­hard de Chardin about evolv­ing con­scious­ness; the for­ward-look­ing cy­ber­punk of Wil­liam Gib­son; the metaphysic­al mad­ness of Phillip K. Dick.

But the most po­tent in­spi­ra­tion seems to have been the vague, vis­ceral night ter­rors MacK­in­non has had since he was a boy.

“They were so ex­treme that my par­ents would have to wake me up,” says MacK­in­non, in an in­ter­view from his home in Toronto. “It was the first time I heard my dad swear, just try­ing to snap me out of it. But it was a del­uge of in­for­ma­tion and sim­u­la­tion. All I can re­ally re­mem­ber was the num­bers, let­ters and what seemed like wires. It’s like static on a tele­vi­sion screen. You can’t place your­self in it. I think that’s where the jeop­ardy for in­di­vid­u­al­ity re­ally lay: Not be­ing able to set any hori­zon lines.”

Which is an un­der­ly­ing mes­sage of Cy­pul­chre (Guy Faux Books, 316 pages), a sci-fi cau­tion­ary tale that shines a de­cid­edly un­flat­ter­ing light on tech­nol­ogy. It’s the fol­lowup to MacK­in­non’s 2012 de­but Fault­line 49, an Ed­mon­ton­set, al­ter­nate-his­tory story about a war be­tween Canada and the U.S. that erupts post 9/11.

The new book tells the story of ex­iled and dis­graced ge­nius, Paul Sh­effield, who in­vented a vir­tu­al­re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy called CLOUD that has en­rap­tured wealthy Los An­ge­les’ denizens and sent them into an in­di­vid­u­al­ity eras­ing “noo­sphere.” A mys­te­ri­ous en­tity has taken over, threat­en­ing the minds that are bliss­fully float­ing about inside. So Sh­effield is forced back into ac­tion to save his es­tranged fam­ily and the rest of hu­man­ity from his cre­ation.

“The thought oc­curred to me that data and mem­ory shar­ing at a time, even now, when minds can con­ceiv­ably be con­nected might mean the end of in­di­vid­u­al­ity,” says MacK­in­non. “I used the fam­ily drama to ex­plore that back­ground threat of same­ness. The noo­sphere seemed to be a per­fect fo­cal point. This hy­brid, cy­berspace and in­dus­tri­al­ized nir­vana seems to some peo­ple a great idea, to me it seems like Hell. So I wanted to ex­plore the pos­i­tives and nega­tives.”

Ex­plor­ing al­ter­nate re­al­i­ties is be­com­ing a hall­mark for the au­thor. Fault­line 49 reimag­ined Ed­mon­ton’s World Trade Cen­ter as the tar­get of the 9/11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks, which leads to a fu­ture CanAmer­ica war that finds George W. Bush send­ing troops into a revo­lu­tion-charged Al­berta. MacK­in­non wrote it un­der the nom de plum David Dan­son, a fic­tional Amer­i­can war jour­nal­ist in this par­al­lel uni­verse.

It added an ex­tra layer of fuzzi­ness but mix­ing this al­ter­nate re­al­ity with ac­tual quotes from Amer­i­can politi­cians and right-wing blowhards such as Pat Buchanan

They were so ex­treme that my par­ents would have to wake me up. It was the first time I heard my dad swear … JOSEPH MACK­IN­NON

and Anne Coul­ter about Canada.

Ac­cord­ing to the news re­lease for Cy­pul­chre from Guy Faux Books, the Toronto-based pub­lisher and col­lec­tive where MacK­in­non sits on the ed­i­to­rial board, Dan­son was “sum­mar­ily mur­dered” to sell the book posthu­mously. MacK­in­non said he was happy to write un­der his own name.

“I fig­ured it’s kind of vex­ing killing your pseu­do­nym even if it sells books and lends it­self to the al­ter­nate his­tory,” he says. “I also found, the first time around, peo­ple didn’t be­lieve me that I had writ­ten a book — even friends and fam­ily.”

So MacK­in­non has kept busy un­der his own name. Ear­lier this month, he also re­leased The Sav­age King­dom with fel­low Guy Faux artist Carlo Schefter, a pulpy fan­tasy novel about a First World War vet forced to bat­tle ne­an­derthals, Ro­man Le­gions and pre­his­toric beasts after hap­pen­ing upon a time frac­ture while out on sa­fari.

MacK­in­non says there is a pos­si­bil­ity of no less than 20 such ad­ven­tures us­ing this character, who was ini­tially con­ceived as the cen­tre of a tele­vi­sion se­ries. Alas, their am­bi­tions ap­par­ently over­shot the re­al­i­ties of tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion, par­tic­u­larly Cana­dian tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion.

“We thought it would be a great idea,” says MacK­in­non. “But (a pro­ducer), who def­i­nitely knew a whole lot more about tele­vi­sion and pro­duc­tion than us, said it would be a $1-mil­lion an episode and there’s no way that an au­thor and an artist straight out of the gate could find that fund­ing. But we had spent years work shop­ping each of th­ese sto­ries and so we had the sto­ries and ev­ery­thing we needed for the nov­els. So now we’re pur­su­ing that.”

Au­thor Joseph MacK­in­non has penned Cy­pul­chre, which is a sci-fi cau­tion­ary tale that shines an un­flat­ter­ing light on tech­nol­ogy.

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