Today I have to honour to interview William Knight, author of the exciting new book, Generation. Welcome, William!
Thanks for having me here, SJ.
This book really got me thinking. It’s so much more than what I expected. What about your novels most reflects who you are as a writer?
I asked my wife about this and she told me how to answer (lol). Pushing the boundaries of science and human nature, is how she worded it, but then added that, more deeply, apparently, the book leverages my interest in poetry and word-smithery with its lyrical descriptions of the walking-dead. Mmm… it’s true, I have a secret interest in poetry!
That’s what I mean when I say more than I expected. Poetry and the walking dead – two things you wouldn’t normally think of together. What genre would you place your books into?
When I was fourteen or so, I devoured everything by the English horror mega-writer James Herbert. Loved it. Especially his Rats and The Fog. When my English teacher confiscated a copy of The Fog, declaring its unsuitability, I think the love of horror was cemented. In actual fact, Generation is not an out and out horror, and the books of my adolescence are not really for me as a mature writer. Nonetheless, the tension and morbid fascination brought out by Herbert is definitely something I aspire to.
You nailed many of those aspects with this book. Would you ever use a pen name?
Ah. I was going to skip this question since I don’t use a pen name, but then I remembered I use the pen name “Wayne Tersely” for a book of poetry I bunged up on Smashwords last year. The poetry is my attempt at science-fiction in sonnet form, Wayne Tersely is the opposite of “Wax Lyrical” — in a sort of way. Ahem, let’s not talk about it.
I’ll have to look that up:) What is your greatest fear when you first turn in a manuscript?
I am scared silly that my work will be disliked but that nobody tells me. I imagine everybody has read it and as I walk past they’re all discussing what a rubbish writer I am and asking how could anybody with such terrible talent every imagine they could put a book together. The idea makes my skin creep, and I want to hide under the covers.
This story is a mix of genres: Zombie; Crime Drama; Sci-Fi and Psychological Thriller. (When I find the last two genres mixed I affectionately refer to it as Psy-Fi.) What section of the book store will readers find this book?
Crikey, I don’t know — lucky I’m not a book marketeer! On a more serious note, I think genres are going to get increasingly mixed up in e-publishing. The electronic shelves simply don’t have to be categorized for the convenience of the publisher or retailer anymore and the boundaries to genres are melting. I don’t have to decide if my book is crime, or sci-fi, or horror; it is all three, it can sit on all three shelves at once and further, somebody can search for exactly that mixture using Google.
You may have noticed I never used the Z word in the book, and that was a deliberate choice. I did not set out to write a zombie book, but to explore the outer reaches of acceptable science and corporate behaviour. The Zombies — if you want to call them that — are the victims and the side-effects, like the environment is the victim of burning coal. In this sense, the zombie plot evolved from the bigger themes of experimental genetics and forensic entomology. Now all that sounds dead pretentious, and it is a bit, I suppose. So, to counter the highfaluting literary nonsense, I was drawn to zombies, cos they’re a bit of a laugh.
The book explores the length humanity goes to in hope of extending life. And corporate greed in the face of that possibility. Does this reflect your personal viewpoint, or is it merely your creativity coming into play?
Corporate greed is an enormous problem for society and democracy, in my opinion. Some corporations have a turnover bigger than small countries but with little accountability. They plan for the short term and are allowed to ignore externalities such as the environment or health issues and can circumvent legal jurisdictions by operating globally. The idea of extending life has got to be one of the biggest money-spinning concepts around and even incomplete and, frankly, dubious treatments for extending life will make enormous profits. Life is one thing we’ll pay any amount to keep.
You went to great lengths to show the story from multiple perspectives – specifically that of the Zombie – sorry, I’ll call them the undead from here on out:) What made you think of giving the undead the presence of mind to retain independent thought?
Shhhh, this is a secret… I was experimenting with point-of-view for my writer’s group, and wanted a very personal in-your-head kind of experience. I mean, you can’t have a camera following a decayed body around casting judgements. You have to be in the mind, thinking and feeling what the person is going through.
There’s a fair bit of science in this book, specifically genetic modification. How did you come by your research?
The grand idea came from an article in the New Scientist as the prologue sets out. Some very clever boffins did indeed isolate the gene that allows the flat worm to regenerate. Once I had the concept, I researched the specific areas I needed to make the story believable. This included the means of producing the drug, how insects colonize dead bodies, and reading Craig Venter’s excellent biography about the discovery of the human genome. We have the internet at our fingertips, research is a walk in the park.
In 2001 scientists isolated the gene for regenerating damaged organs from the DNA of a South American flatworm. Within five years it had been spliced into the chromosomes of a rhesus monkey, transported through the cell walls by a retro-virus denuded of its own genetic material.
Attempting to regrow impaired or elderly tissues, a scientist will one day modify the DNA of human beings by injecting the gene-carrying virus. It is just a matter of time.
Before consenting to treatment, you may want to ask a simple question: could there be a situation in which you would want to die but were unable to do so?
Journalist Hendrix ‘Aitch’ Harrison links bodies stolen from a renowned forensic-research lab to an influential drug company.
Aided by Sarah Wallace, a determined and beguiling entomologist, he delves into a grisly world of clinical trials and a viral treatment beyond imagining.
But Aitch must battle more than his fear of technology to expose the macabre fate of the drugged victims donated to scientific research
William Knight is a British born journalist and technologist currently living and working in Wellington, New Zealand. He’s chased a varying career starting in acting, progressing to music, enjoyed a brief flirtation with handbag manufacturing and was eventually wired into technology where he’s been since 1989.
In 2003 he published his first feature in Computing magazine and has since written about the many successes and failings of high-tech for the Guardian, Financial Times and the BBC among many others publications. He continues to maintain a lively IT consultancy.
His debut novel, Generation, was first conceived from a New Scientist article in 2001 and has been ten years in development. It is now available exclusively as an ebook and print-on-demand since the author believes that traditional publishing has become the play-thing of celebrity authors and ghost writers, and is moribund with tired ideas and quill pens.
Buy Link: Amazon