Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of (CON)SCIENCE! As readers head into the finale of your Philip K. Dick Award-nominated trilogy, what are you most excited for readers to experience with this upcoming book?
PJ Manney: For the first time, they can have all three Phoenix Horizon books together in the completed trilogy! That’s always exciting with a multi-book series, so you can binge the story of Peter Bernhardt and his friends and enemies to your satisfaction. And they’ll find out the exciting conclusion. That’s my favorite part of this, and any, story.
BD: Looking back at (R)EVOLUTION and (ID)ENTITY and the phenomenal critical and fan response that they have received, what has been the most fun creative aspect of bringing this series to life?
PJM: One concept underlying the books is "everything/everyone is connected," so finding and inventing those connections have been great fun. Linking real world history, science, technology, economics, politics, social structures, to my characters and future events creates idea generation and worldbuilding. This includes the music that Peter Bernhardt imagines and uses to surmount his obstacles and save his lives (because he has several) and others. Listening to music spurred story points, and story and character reminded me of music to use. It’s a creative feedback loop.
BD: How do you feel that your work as a futurist and as the chairperson of the board of directors of Humanity+ has inspired or complemented your work as a sci-fi author?
PJM: The old writing advice is “Write what you know.” For SF authors, it’s “Write what you learn.” Research is everything. SF authors build worlds that doesn’t exist yet and fill them with technologies that may happen. I got to know scientists, engineers and academics involved in the real-life work of building transformative technologies and assessing their ethics. Not surprisingly, there is no agreement amongst them whether the tech might work or should even be made. That’s the core of all technology-based storytelling: should that technology have been made and if so, how should it be used? All technology is morally neutral: you can have both swords and plowshares. It’s how we use it, and by whom that counts.
BD: What makes 47North the perfect home for this trilogy of books?
PJM: I finished the book in 2012, but had a hard time getting noticed by agents. In 2014 and without an agent, I sent a blind query to the Amazon Publishing's interim publisher. I had no idea who she was or what position she held, just an email address at Amazon that I'd been given by a mutual friend. However, my timing was excellent. The company was going through a reorganization, and I was writing exactly what they wanted. The publisher forwarded my query to the newest editor on the 47North team and we were a great match.
Part of the original pitch was my technological vision for the Future of the Book. I had thought Amazon would be a great home for it, and they loved it. Unfortunately, the Kindle engineers didn't think they had the ability to realize it at the time across all platforms, but I hold out hope that one day, you'll be able to read the Phoenix Horizon trilogy in such a way that replicates Peter Bernhardt's hacked 'n' jacked brain and experiences. That would be such fun.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
PJM: I’m working with adult, student and professional groups to guide them in new storytelling techniques under the concept of the New Mythos, as well as writing a short book on the subject. We live in a time of great complexity and diversity, and our old myths seen in the comics, adventures and dystopias our society reads or watches don't provide the inspiration we need. The old stories of simplistic heroes and villains that resolve by restoring the status quo don't inspire society to solutions. And we need solutions to climate change, inequality, injustice and exclusion. Even though storytelling creates empathy, we need to supercharge it to survive a challenging time. Many science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction writers are moving in this direction and together, we may just change how stories are told and help make a better future for all, together.
My long-term writing project is a series of linked short stories about our coming future in this century, reminiscent of Cloud Atlas. Through it, I want to explore the possibilities of the New Mythos in an entertaining way.
A group of UK-based multimedia artists called Dadamechs are creating art NFTs based on my Phoenix Horizon trilogy, and I get to have a little bit of input, but mostly, I just watch the fun. :-)
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for readers to learn more about (CON)SCIENCE and your other work?
PJM: I’m at www.pjmanney.com and PJ Manney on all social media. Please feel free to follow me and join or start a conversation. We talk about all kinds of subjects there. And if you're a storyteller interested in the New
Mythos, DM me. We have a private Facebook group of storytellers actively sharing and working on new ways to see stories.