Tonight in Denton at Dan's Silverleaf local author Darin Bradley will officially release his second novel Chimpanzee complete with a live rendition of the audioplay of the novel. Bradley released his first novel, Noise, through Random House in 2010 while he was still working as a lead video game writer for id Software. Since then he's moved on to an editor position with Resurrection House publishing, the same publisher who bought Chimpanzee. We talked to Bradley about his novel, his job move, and how exactly he managed to put together a audioplay using all local talent.
First, and foremost, I have to ask. Do you hate every ape you see, from chimpan-a to chimpan-zee? DB: Well, you'll never make a monkey out of me...
In your novel you explore the concept of the government being able to repo a persons education through "therapy" can you tell us how you came up with this concept?
DB: I spent a lot of time in graduate school studying cognitive theory and phenomenology and stuff like that, so I've been carrying around a fascination with "selfhood" for a number of years. In 2009, when I began writing the book, I was teaching writing and literature at a couple of universities in the Appalachian region, and I was watching the students struggle with the reality of a mangled economy and terrifying job prospects.
As I thought about them heading out into the world to begin their educated lives as new graduates, I began to wonder what they would be able to do with all of the knowledge they'd accrued, especially if they couldn't find work. From there, I just started asking myself questions about modern education and the scarcities or surpluses of workers. The result was knowledge as a commodity, which was pretty easy to plug into an economic dystopia.
How far off do you think we are from some Rand devotee who works for Sally Mae reading your book, and deciding they need to actually start repoing degrees?
DB: Not that far. Seriously. Researchers at UC San Diego have already proven their ability to delete and restore memories in laboratory rats. There's a whole world of therapeutic memory deletion and restoration out there, and I don't think it takes a lot of imagination to dream up a world where "uneducation" could gain a lot of traction with some purist fringe elements. So Chimpanzee was one of the books bought by Amazon's Audible to be made into, an audiobook, from there you made it a point to turn it into a fully realized radioplay, can you tell us a little about that process? DB: That's correct: Audible bought the rights as part of a block of titles from my publisher, before the manuscript was even finished. When I turned it in, my editor sent it along to the folks at Audible, and they were probably somewhat surprised to see its experimental nature--there are untranslated languages and odd formulae and even textual holes that map the main character's decaying psyche. Needless to say, they weren't sure how to produce those elements as a traditional audio book, so they reverted the rights.
My editor came to Denton for a visit and to talk shop, and he saw how many talented actors, artists, and musicians were cycling through the back porch at Dan's Silverleaf during some random Happy Hour, and he encouraged me tap the local talent and produce the audio book myself. So, I decided to out-maneuver those experimental tics by producing it as an audio-play rather than a traditional audio book. That opened up a world of soundscapes, foley effects, music, and voice acting that galvanized the story and rendered it a noir psychological thriller. When I asked for help from the community, I was flooded with overwhelming offers of support, commitments of time and resources, and even discounted production costs. It's been really exciting to see the community rally around something like this.
You recruited a lot of notable Denton locals, is there anyone you want to highlight?
DB: Oh, man--all of them. But for brevity's sake, the most recognizable are probably Mike and Jenny Seman of Shiny Around the Edges; Scott Porter and Cody Jackson from Spitfire Tumbleweeds; George Neal from Hares on the Mountain; Chris Welch from Pinebox Serenade; Vanessa Welch, a local stage actress; Heather Walker, a FUNimation voice actress; Tyler Walker, sound director at FUNimation; and Grady Sandlin of the Raised Right Men.
You left id Software to work for Resurrection House Publishing, what was that transition like? DB: I did, yeah. My editor bought Chimpanzee and my next novel Totem in November of 2013. Later, in the spring of 2014, he offered me a full-time position with the company. I'd been so taken by the enthusiasm and appreciation he had brought to my work, I just couldn't resist the opportunity to revisit that experience upon other authors. I've done editorial work in a number of different capacities throughout the years, so this was a good chance to bundle all of that together into one gig.
I really enjoyed my time at id, and I still have friends there whom I'm miss brainstorming and working with, but ultimately, I'm a words guy, through-and-through, which meant I was something of a loner around so many programmers and visual designers. Those guys do amazing work, and I can't wait to see the full fruition of the projects we collaborated on. They're an awesome team, but I was ready for a new challenge, and Resurrection House offered exactly that.
What's next for Resurrection House, and yourself? You have a third novel in the works correct? DB: I do, yeah--Totem will be released in 2015: it's a science fiction story about apartheid states, class division, and radioactive rocks. Strange stuff. Resurrection House is going full tilt these days, and I've been doing my part by acquiring some exciting new talent, like Marguerite Reed's Archangel, an ass-kicking hard-SF three-part epic, which hits the shelves next year, or Srdjan Smajic's Big Bad Blues, a literary noir gut punch in a post-Katrina New Orleans, which we'll release next fall. We've got a lot more in the pipe, and we're not looking to slow down.
What can you tell someone who's undecided about making the trip to Dan's tonight?
DB: You don't want to miss this. We're going to stage some excerpts from the audio-play, and then the Spitfire Tumbleweeds are probably going to burn the place down, stage-first. Drinks are affordable as hell at Dan's, and there will be books and audio-plays for sale--art, jewelry . . . all kinds of stuff. Denton knows how to throw a party, and you don't want to be the last one to hear about this on Wednesday morning around the water cooler.
The Chimpanzee Official Release party starts at 8 pm at Dan's Silverleaf in Denton, along with a performance of the audioplay there will be a performance by The Spitfire Tumbleweeds. Admission is free.
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