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Hi Reddit! I used to write code for an audience of machines, but then I self-published my first thriller, Daemon, which went on to become a NYT bestseller. Now I write books full-time.
My latest sci-fi thriller, Change Agent ( http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/536914/change-agent-by-daniel-suarez/ ), explores the implications of CRISPR genetic editing technology. I'm ready to answer your questions about that or other topics.
Let's do this!
Hi, Daniel! You are a fantastic author. Thank you so much for your amazing books and for doing this AMA!
In "Daemon" and "Freedom™," we had Loki. In "Kill Decision," we had Odin. What inspired you to use these Norse mythological names? Did you foresee the popularity of the names increasing so much with the release of Marvel's Thor films?
Thanks! As a D&D player from way back, I always enjoyed Norse mythology. It figured prominently in my own campaign, so I suppose that's why they came to mind in fiction.
More than Loki and Odin, other Norse mythological terms also made it into my books: the Ragnarok module of the Daemon, and Hunin and Munin -- the ravens in Kill Decision.
It's kind of a bummer that Loki is no longer an obscure name due to the Marvel films. I sometimes get teased by new readers for 'lifting' from Thor. :-)
Do you think Ernest Cline was inspired by "Daemon" as he wrote his best-seller "Ready Player One?"
There are a few similarities between your Sobol and Cline's Halliday:
A billionaire gaming mogul dies, but his spirit lives on in the virtual world, guiding others to carry out predetermined tasks in his absence.
I hear this from time to time -- sometimes reversed (where I'm told I 'stole' from Ready Player One!) [chronology notwithstanding.]
Our stories and books are quite different -- regardless of any similar hook. They both go in very different directions, and so it doesn't concern me.
Hi Daniel, been enjoying your books as long as I've been aware of them. Wondering about your idea generating process; how do you turn a general field of knowledge into something that's a story? Where/how are you inspired? Out walking, taking a shower, starting at the blank page? Also, curious about what tools specifically you use for note taking, organizing and actually writing. Thanks. I'll be seeing you around G+ ;-) -Sean Lally
It's the ideas that keep tugging at my mind that wind up turning into books -- some subject or topic that just won't let me go. I routinely scour all sorts of information sources to learn the latest developments in tech, economics, entertainment, legal, environmental, etc, etc. . That's something I did well before I began writing. I accumulate articles that interest me, and after a while trends and patterns begin to emerge.
I then identify some key aspect that I'd like to address about an emerging trend and the 'hook' for the story typically comes from there. For example, the Daemon monitoring the web for Sobol's obituary -- or the drones hitting America in Kill Decision. I then flesh out the characters and the rest of the story structure follows.
As for tools: I keep it SIMPLE. Stripped down Ubuntu laptop with an air-gap to the Internet. Disabled wifi. Helps me focus.
What is your favorite beer and why?
This is a tough question -- depends on the situation. Generally I like Weissbier, but I've been digging some sour beers lately, too. Brands? Who the hell knows -- but craft brewers. I drank enough dirt cheap beer in college to never do that again (Old German...it was so cheap even the cans felt thinner than normal).
How long do you have an idea (for example Daemon) running around your head before you decide to start writing something? Any tips for aspiring authors? Thanks!
Daemon was probably in my mind two or three years before I started writing. The idea would not let me go.
My chief advice to aspiring writers is to write the sort of book that you would like to read. Others might disagree with me about this, but I think it's a rule that's served me well. I know how to write a book that I like, and I can only hope that enough readers share my tastes that the resulting audience is large enough to allow me to continue. So far, it has been (for which I am grateful).
I love your books, and am currently listening to Change Agent. You write thrillers, which usually have a dark view of our possible near future. Do you personally have concerns about a lot of these subjects, or are you generally optimistic?
I love technology, and I'm mindful that people are on average better off now than they were a century or two ago (human lifespan has nearly doubled, for example). That said, I tend to explore the near future as if I'm searching for icebergs in the sea; that doesn't make me pessimistic, it means I'm actively engaged in trying to avoid calamities.
There's also this: no matter what we think of technologies like genetic editing and AI -- they are upon us and are not going away. We will need to deal with them. A pessimistic person wouldn't bother to try and affect the outcome -- so even those urging caution are in that sense optimistic.
I, for one, look forward to a fascinating future -- but one that we actively create, instead of one we blindly stumble into.
I've only recently started reading your works (currently finishing up Freedom), and I'm wondering how you approach "future-proofing" your writing for when technology catches up with fiction?
This struck me a few weeks ago when I was listening to the chase scene in the Daemon audiobook in my car, and suddenly realized that the two cars next to me were autonomous Ubers.
Similarly, a lot of the current AR games are very similar in theme to the factions, etc. Are you worried that in ten years from now people will have a hard time enjoying the books because the technology would be "old"?
It's hard to future-proof stories -- especially when you're doing near-future sci-fi like I do. However, it's not just the technologies in my books , but how they're used that (I hope) makes them interesting. Hopefully that will serve as a form of future-proofing.
Also, it pays to get one's predictions right. I've been fortunate thus far -- but then again, it's because I do lots of research. For example, when I suggested in Daemon that autonomous cars would soon be a reality, that stemmed from interesting projects I saw underway at various universities. Lots of readers chided me for the AutoM8's being 'impossible' for the foreseeable future, but by 2009 I was standing in Victorville, CA watching the DARPA urban grand challenge. I still think autonomous cars are interesting, and I suspect they'll still be interesting a decade from now.
Mr. Suarez, do you think it's possible that we could independently develop the sort of local community-focused/self-resourced societies formed by the populace in "Freedom" without needing a crisis to get us there? All the parts seem to be available now and the need is there in many places, but it's unclear how we might catalyze development of theses outposts. Would you want to see these sorts of communities formed today and if so what would you do to try to jumpstart creating them? And thank you for your spectacular writing, looking forward to reading Change Agent!
I think about this a lot. It's the reason I wrote the Daemon books -- because the question of what's 'next' for modern civilization fascinates me. I've had a lot of interesting conversations with Silicon Valley folks, academics, hacker collectives, you name it. There have also been interesting efforts (like Ethereum, etc.).
I think there will be many experimental and abortive efforts before we get a resilient, distributed civilization right. I've always thought that these efforts needed to be 'pull', not 'push.' In other words, they should entice people to participate because they offer some real-world advantage. And I suspect people will participate in both the old economy and a new one simultaneously for a while -- eventually moving over completely if the platform and timing seems right.
The main incentive to keep experimenting with them, of course, is that the current establishment is unwilling to adapt to new realities. Read a book called "The Evolution of Civilizations' if you're curious about this recurring dilemma. (Warning: it's a dry tome...but carries a punch. Written in the 1960's by a Princeton historian...so the question isn't new.)
How to jumpstart them: that's been the really difficult part. But blockchain tech will be key. Keep an eye on that space. Hell, experiment with it. Learn it.
Mr. Suarez, thanks for doing this AMA. I've been a huge fan of yours since you went by the name Leinad! My questions are:
You mention deathless meat in your new book - do you see this technology as a sort of postern gate for vegetarians and vegans to enjoy foods they would otherwise be unable to enjoy?
Beyond CRISPR, what upcoming technological breakthrough are you most excited about?
There are rumors about an Influx movie, can you tell us if this is really happening and how much involvement you have in the process?
1.) Your choice of 'postern gate' got my attention. ;-) Yes, I think cultured meats will become a significant point of contention among vegans -- with some swearing it off, while others accept it. The fact (and I do think it's a fact) that unless we change the way we produce meat we will devastate the environment will be a big factor. Bottom line: you want to save nature? Well, cultured meats is one way to help.
2.) I never discuss the book I'm currently writing. :-)
3.) Influx has been under development -- but that doesn't mean it's definitely happening. Tim Miller has been kind enough to involve me in stages of the development process -- I've read scripts. I've seen amazing concept art. They haven't greenlit it yet, but let's keep our fingers crossed. I think it would be an epic film.
How often are you on Reddit browsing and what are your favorite subreddits?
Damn near all the time. That's why I've got an air-gap on my writing machine. :-) I won't tell you all my favorite subreddits, lest I give clues to my real Reddit handle -- but let's just say PC gaming figures prominently.
Daniel love your work. Utterly brilliant! Will you ever go back to the Daemon Freedom universe ?
When the time is right, yes. That time might be approaching.
How often do you get mistaken for Daniel Suarez the NASCAR driver https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Su%C3%A1rez ?
It happens -- although, let's face it: it takes effort to confuse us.
There's another Daniel Suarez who was/is a video game producer over at Electronic Arts. Our IMDB pages were conjoined for a time, but we finally got it straightened out.
What did you study in college to help.you become a good author?
I have an BA in English literature, but to be honest, whatever skill I have as an author came from writing, writing, writing. I wrote long before I published, and to this day I probably write two book's worth of material to get one book (I take a machete to it in editing).
Would you like to see your books be adapted into major motion pictures?
Yes. Daemon is a special case for me, though.
what is your view of world-building across your books as other authors have done e.g Stephen King?
I found myself reading this book thinking about the others looking for hints of a Suarez universe. Basically, I read this book after having read all your all of your other books looking for commonalities across your other books and hope to see a link with specific characters or technologies.
World-building across books can be interesting (the Dark Tower series, especially), but I haven't actively engaged in myself. There's a sort of meta aspect to it that risks throwing the reader out of the story and back into reality.
Do you see one of your books being a better TV show or Movie?
I think Daemon would work better as a TV series (R-rated, no commercials). Most of my other books would work better as feature films. I tend to write cinematically, and producers seem to respond to that.
I'm approached all the time about Daemon, but that adaptation would need to be done in a certain way for it to be worthwhile. A common mistake is that Daemon is about 'a dead guy killing people', and that couldn't be more wrong.
What games have you been playing? Do you know about star citizen? xD
Regarding Star Citizen: I have purchased ships that...well..that are not strictly 'necessary.'
BTW - Are you going for the Banu Defender while it's on sale?
As for other games -- so many: among the more recent - I have over 1K hours in Rust. I don't KOS, but 'I'm friendly!' is not a phrase I tend to believe.