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Powell's Q&A

Richard K. Morgan

Describe your latest project.
Thirteen is set in the aftermath of a century of ill-advised and poorly regulated genetic experimentation, where an otherwise fairly successful global (and extra-global) community is struggling to come to terms with the legacy of the human damage done over the previous hundred years. I suppose you could draw a parallel with the way in which we now struggle with the human consequences of previous centuries of colonialism. Carl Marsalis, the thirteen of the title, is one of a series of engineered humans, in his case engineered for combat, who have been modified not so much in any physical aspect as in the way they think and feel. It's a specialism based on designed aptitude, and the book aims to show, among other things, that the aptitudes required or desired by our society are often very frightening things.

In tone, Thirteen is quite similar to my previous series of novels featuring Takeshi Kovacs, in that it's a fairly high velocity crime-and-conspiracy thriller with a noirish lack of obvious good or bad guys — but the book addresses issues that the Kovacs series could only ever really meet obliquely because of the technology Kovacs and his fellow characters have access to. Simply put, in the Kovacs universe physicality and death are problems that can be sidestepped. In the world of Thirteen, as in our own, they aren't. You have to meet them head on.

  1. Thirteen
    $16.50 Used Hardcover add to wishlist


    Richard K. Morgan

  2. Woken Furies (Takeshi Kovacs Novels)
    $10.95 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist

  3. Market Forces
    $3.95 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist

    Market Forces

    Richard K. Morgan

  4. Broken Angels
    $7.50 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist

    Broken Angels

    Richard K Morgan

  5. Altered Carbon
    $3.95 Used Mass Market add to wishlist

    Altered Carbon

    Richard K Morgan

  6. Black Widow: Homecoming

Writers are better liars than other people: true or false?
Well, from personal experience I'd say false. I'm a catastrophic liar, so bad in fact that these days I don't even bother to try. I think the point being missed here is that a good writer isn't lying when they lay out their fiction for you — in the act of writing, you believe in the characters and situations you're creating almost as much as you do the real people around you, and certainly as much as the semi-real people we see on our television screens day to day. You have to, otherwise you couldn't make it matter enough to write it all down (and, no, the money you make from it wouldn't, on its own, be enough to force the issue — well at least it wouldn't for me — and that's the truth, honest!)

How do you relax?
Halfway up an overhanging rock-face in brilliant sunshine — it empties your mind of every other thing but what you're doing right at that moment. It's a whole other space, a Zen step off to the side of normal existence. Given decent weather and a climbing partner you trust, there is no better way I know to clean up body and soul.

Describe the best breakfast of your life.
Probably one of the ones I had while I was traveling around eastern Turkey back in the summer of 1989 — black olives, white cheese, boiled egg and bread, and a glass of strong black tea. More importantly, I was young and travel-honed down to a hard sunburnt edge, owned almost nothing that mattered to me, and had all the time in the world to get wherever I decided I was going next. Days like that, you eat breakfast in a state of grace.

Why do you write?
Hard to say. It's a bit like breathing; I just started doing it when I was younger, and now I find it hard to imagine stopping. It does seem to act as a lightning rod for some of my more destructive emotions, though.

Fahrenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin?
Celsius — there's something very elegant about a 0 to 100 scale defined by the freezing and boiling of an abundant and elementary substance that's integral to human life. (Kelvin's all very well in purely scientific terms, but personally I rebel at a scale that has to go up two hundred and seventy-three degrees to reach a temperature most of us would define as fucking freezing.)

Name the best television series of all time, and explain why it's the best.
The Wire — because it tells the truth, and makes you enjoy the telling. There is no higher praise for any work of fiction.

Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
Dogs — loyalty's very important to me, and humans almost always disappoint.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.

Essential Reading for Modern Humans: Six Books That Will Change the Way You View the World (Though You May Not Thank Them for It)

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature by Steven Pinker

Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human by Matt Ridley

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

The Demon Lover: The Roots of Terrorism by Robin Morgan (no relation!)

The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk

Culture and Prosperity: Why Some Nations Are Rich But Most Remain Poor by John Kay spacer

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