The Scorpion Game : Kindle ebook by Daniel Jeffries

In 2458, on a continent sized starship with its own atmosphere and an entire civilization churning inside, the poor live in rotting organic cities and the rich live in massive orbital mansions drifting in the clouds. When a hooker plunges from the sixty-sixth floor of an opulent nightclub and a senator is found dead in his room, the police call on Lieutenant Durante Hoskin to solve what swiftly becomes a string of murders of the rich and powerful. Now Hoskin must stop a vicious and brilliant sociopath, who's executing the elite, erasing their memories and exposing their lives to an angry public, before his society explodes in open class war.

Interview with author Daniel Jeffries

Q: Why did you write The Scorpion Game?

A: I wanted to write a hardcore sci-fi novel, something darker and grimier; the kind of sci-fi I loved as a kid, but updated with all of the massive advances we've seen in bio and computer tech over the last 20 years.  Sci-fi was tougher in the 80s.  It was higher tech.  These days I see a lot of near future sci-fi.  It's easier to write something that takes place twenty or thirty years from now.  Things aren't that different.  All you have to do is slap some leather pants on people, make cell phones smaller, give the Internet a gesture interface and you can call it sci-fi.  I hate that.  I wanted to stretch my imagination.  I wanted to write about a deep future, tech saturated society. How would it all work together?  How would it all conflict? 

This is different from golden age sci-fi too.  Bruce Sterling called the golden agers the masters of "ink and wood pulp," in other words analog, pre-computer tech.  To me that wasn't the only difference.  In old sci-fi, there were usually one or two new technologies that only a few people had.  Maybe one person had the special weapon or the spaceship.  That's not how tech develops.  Tech is everywhere.  It invades all aspects of our lives, develops in parallel and it's only interesting when lots of people are using it, like cell phones.  The golden agers lived in a different world, where tech developed slower, in fits and starts.  To me it's much more interesting when everyone has a spaceship. 

Now, by hardcore I want to be clear that I don't write totally hard sci-fi.  I consider my fiction "hard-ish."  I've been a systems engineer for 15 years, so I know real tech and I know its guts.  It has to be plausible for me, but I don't need to be able to explain the inner workings of every bit of tech in my stories. I love a lot of hard sci-fi, but at its extreme I think it's a limiting factor for fiction.  I prefer to take a more flexible view.  If we only write from the perspective of what we know right now, then it's hard to predict the distant future or write about advanced alien societies.  I also want my fiction to move fast.  I can't stand it when I read a hard-sci-fi book that sacrifices narrative speed and character development for four page descriptions of the inner workings of every machine that shows up in the book.  That drives me nuts.  I'll take a few well-chosen lines to introduce a new tech concept any day over a four page dissertation on the inner workings of something that doesn't really exist. 

Q: Is this book part of a larger series?

A: It's part of an ever-expanding series called the Age of Transcendence Saga.  It's based on a future history that I started writing twenty years ago.  All of my stories take place on this future timeline.  Because of the timeline, it's not limited to a trilogy or seven books or anything like that.  I could spend my whole life picking points on the timeline and still never exhaust its potential.  The time line covers everything from tech, to politics, art and cultural changes.  I've updated it with minor revisions over the years and it's gone through three major revisions.  It's a living document and I'm not afraid to change it from time to time.  But, overall it's remained largely consistent over the years, which speaks well of its predictive power.  I've been off on dates and occasionally I've missed a few developments, but it works well as a parallel future history.

The timeline offers me a good way to unify my stories with a similar ideology and aesthetic, but it doesn't tie me down to telling the same story over and over.  The stories may or may not have recurring characters.  A lot of times sequels don't live up to their expectations because the characters have already changed as much as they are ever going to change in the first book.  This results in them being static in the later books.  Lt. Hoskin, a character in the Scorpion Game, has proven to be popular with readers;  he'll probably get a few more books, but I'm not married to telling 50 Hoskin stories.  I only want to tell stories about Hoskin that matter.  He doesn't need to be a franchise.   

Q: What sci-fi category would you put the book in?

I've thought about this a lot, but I don't really have a good answer.  I can tell you that it's a fusion of high tech and detective fiction.  I know it's post-cyberpunk, probably post-post cyberpunk.  There was a tendency for pure post-cyberpunk to use a lot of comedic elements that I don't really like.  For a long time, I was using the term "bio-punk" because of my extensive use of organic technology and my story's street-savvy sensibility.  Even my cities are organic. 

Of course, no idea exists in a vacuum and eventually other people hit on the term.  Now, it means something much different than what I was thinking.  It tends to encompass books that are lower tech, that deal primarily with biotech alone and it usually has some sort of energy or ecological disaster.  At least, that's how I have perceived it.  I've never been a fan of pure disaster sci-fi where tech is crippled by a shortage of resources.  That's a little like near-future sci-fi to me.  It's easier to write sci-fi when most of the stuff doesn't work anymore, making it effectively low tech. 

Frankly, the term punk is a little archaic now too. We need something new, even if I'm not smart enough to come up with it. It covered a relatively short-lived musical movement in the 1970s.  It's evolved beyond that, but it's still something that's rooted in the past.  Honestly, I never really liked the music, but I do resonate with its aggressiveness and DIY ethic.  A lot of punk bands couldn't find an audience at first, so they self-produced and distributed through informal channels.  That's very similar to what's happening with fiction right now.  The esthetic also meant something that was stripped down, with less pyrotechnics and pretentiousness; less bs.  I like that too.  Life is dirty and uncensored.  It doesn't need to be sanitized.  In sci-fi using the term punk has gotten seriously out of control.  I saw a post on Wikipedia that said there were 15 sci-fi terms that had "punk" in it, nanopunk, steampunk, etc.  It's gotten a little ridiculous.

I can't find a good term for my work yet, but I figure other folks will come up with something eventually if they like it enough. I will leave it to them.