Ren Warom is the author of Titan’s recently released ‘Escapology’. It is her debut novel and the first of two that she has coming out as it will be followed by ‘Virology’ in 2017. Prior to the novel’s release, she has had a slew of short stories published in both science fiction and horror as well as the novella ‘The Lonely Dark’.
Her debut novel is described as:
Shock Pao is the best. There isn’t a system he can’t crack into, nothing he can’t steal for the right price. Outside virtual world the Slip, though, he’s a Fail—no degree, no job, no affiliations to protect him from angry ex-customers. Of which he has quite a few. So when his ex brings Shock a job which could help him escape his miserable existence, he accepts, little realizing that it will turn out to be his most impossible, illegal and insane assignment yet.
Set in a brutal underworld, Escapology is a fast-paced thriller which is as much about a search for self and family as it is a desperate race for survival.
Science Fiction (SF): Ren, thank you for joining us today. If you could start by sharing a little bit about what readers can expect when cracking open Escapology?
Ren Warom (RW): Thanks so much for inviting me! It’s safe to say that the most useful thing to expect when cracking open Escapology is the unexpected. Cyberpunk is the loose framework rather than the foundation; I go off piste pretty quickly and never really look back. It’s loud, colourful, hella fast, violent, grimy and tends toward the ridiculous but there is a heart beating under all the chaos. At its core it’s about the family you choose, about friendship and about learning to accept who you are, warts and all. All the important things.
SF: What inspired you to bring Escapology to life?
RW: It started life as a story; I called it my cyberpunkafunkadunk story. Fun. Silly. Riffing off cyberpunk into weird and beyond. Then the novel I had out on sub went nowhere and I needed to write something that wasn’t a follow up to it, and that ended up being a larger, crazier version of the cyberfunkapunkadunk, because I wanted to be light, have fun, not get too heavily invested. I failed in the latter, but succeeded in all the former in spades. Escapology was a blast to write.
SF: What were the challenges of crafting both a ‘real’ and digital world for the novel?
RW: That’s the easiest part of writing for me, the making stuff up bit. Probably because I’m allergic to research, so I’m all about the easy option of running wild with imagination. The one thing that was concrete for me was that the digital world had to reflect the real in some way. So I have a world that’s mostly ocean filled with shards of broken continent, with Foon Gung being the only land remaining––hence the Slip was made an ocean and everyone given a sea creature as avatar and the Hive at its centre is like the Gung, a vast rise of towers, aloof and oppressive. It’s a way to make people feel small. Helpless. Conversely, the digital world used by the Fail J-Hack community is the J-Net, a huge, bustling cityscape full of life and colour, where their avatars are on two or four wheels––speed and freedom. In control, rather than controlled.
SF: Did you draw on any real life experiences when creating Escapology?
RW: Some of my mental landscape is in it for sure, but as for real life experiences only the odd bit here and there.
SF: Has your work on YouTube at all played into creating the digital experience in Escapology?
RW: Great question. Yes, in the sense that YouTube doesn’t feel digital and still has this wonderful homemade, real, interactive quality to it. You can still see the cracks behind personas, even with some of the biggest YouTubers––if their façade doesn’t break on the main channel you often get the real deal on a vlog channel or gaming channel. The person behind the media presence. I like that. I think I’ll lose all interest in YouTube if it becomes nothing more than façade. That’s why my characters are the way they are, because behind all our strictly edited digital presences are real people––flawed, broken, struggling, striving and often failing spectacularly. I want to reflect that more than anything else. No matter what we end up getting to hide behind, or how we’re able to edit ourselves, however real it may end up feeling we’ll still only be people behind it, and that’s fine. It’s enough.
SF: Is there anything you can share about Virology that won’t be a spoiler?
RW: Cryptic clue time! The trouble with EVaC gets a bit critical, and I think one of those ‘out of the frying pan…’ type phrases could probably be applied across the board. Shit gets very real. If anything Virology is denser, darker and about ten times more violent. Sorry not sorry.
SF: If you could work on a novel with any author who would it be and why?
RW: Oh man, gonna get a bit deep. I was in the process of planning a series of kickarse weird SFF mash-up novels with my mate Stephen Godden before he passed away in 2014. I would have loved to write those books with him. They would’ve rocked!
SF: If Escapology ever was brought to the big screen who would you want to have play the leads?
RW: Ooh fun! Shock Pao would have to be played by Justin Chon, no question. Celina Jade from Arrow would be the best fit for Amiga Tanaka, I think. I’d call Dave Bautista for Petrie in a heartbeat; he’s got the right build and presence, the right charisma. I think Doona Bae would rock the hell out of playing Mim. And after seeing James McAvoy in Filth, he’s definitely my Twist Calhoun. Suit. Slicked hair. Deviant smile. Cold b*stard. Yes indeed.
Oh wow, I could go on forever here, so I’ll stop, but yeah, I’d want a proper cast, no ScarJo as Kusanagi situations. My character cast is diverse and the film should reflect that, or no dice.
SF: What projects are you planning on working on next?
RW: After Virology I’m really spoilt for choice. I have a sort of City and the City meets Suicide Squad fantasy type thing I’ve been chewing over. Or there’s more cyberweird, one of which is a flavour of Dark City done Judge Dredd stylee with some Iron Man overtones––basically high octane, blood-spattered chaos with a thriller-style plot. Then I have my serious project, a Girl, Interrupted meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest meets cyberweird tale about daughters. I also have a couple of deranged novellas I want to spew out if I find time. I’m excited to see what wins out!
SF: Is there anything in closing that you’d like to share with our readers?
RW: Just thanks for reading the wafflings herein and do go forth and try Escapology. It’s a bit marmite, but if you don’t take it deadly serious and you strap in nice and tight, you’ll have a whale of a time! (Slip puns ftw)
And thanks to you for having me here! It’s been good fun answering these.