Author: Mark Everglade
Hemispheres, the new science fiction novel from Mark Everglade, is about a planet where half of it is always dark, and light itself is used as currency. A group of activists try to increase a tidal-locked planet’s rotation to bring light to everyone, so no one will be forced to live in darkness. They are opposed by powerful forces who desire to keep the light and dark sides as locked in their struggle against each other as the planet’s orbit.
Hemispheres Is a cyberpunk novel that paints itself across your mind in a landscape of descriptive metaphor. The stories of Severum Rivenshear, a mercenary hired by the government of Evig Natt on the planet’s dark side, and Thalassa Latimer,a rebel working to get the tidal-locked planet spinning faster to bring it daylight cycles, grow together into an adventure where allies and enemies are often interchangeable and the puppeteers pulling the strings are rarely seen. The novel has its own compelling slang, drawing you deep into its cable choked Darkside alleys with the Forever Glitched, and soaring above the Dayburn light side of the planet’s vistas of sun-bleached Windstone.
My first question for Mark was about something that, love it or hate it has been pivotal in the last few years; divisive politics. “Everything in this book centers around things that seem to be black and white at first, but then you present a third angle that shows innumerable shades of gray. The planet is harshly divided, light and dark sides, rebels and an authoritarian government, friends and enemies, but we quickly see that these absolutes are anything but. This seems to be a commentary on the current political and cultural conversation in the United States, was it your intention to draw that comparison?
Mark: Absolutely, Ben! Although I began writing the book 25 years ago, it has become more relevant every year in this regard. My goal was to show that any ideology taken to the extreme results in dystopia. Maybe it’s religious zealotry, maybe it’s conservative or liberal politics. When we cling to 100% right and wrong beliefs, then democracy dies and aristocracies capitalize on that, capitalize on our fear. In typical cyberpunk fashion, there are no 100% good guys, just anti-heroes trying to find their place in an oppressive system, but they each have to be willing to compromise something, and if they can’t, the planet will literally be torn asunder. It’s about the need for communicative action.
Severum anchors a foot behind himself for support and readies his arms. The bulge of weight hits him as he lowers his arms to absorb some of the impact. “Hopefully, you broke something, but something like your head. In other words, nothing too important,” he bends over to snatch the letter. “See you at work.”
“Go hack yourself, Sev! Sev? Hey, wait, my HUD’s out. I can’t phone for help! I can’t move! My leg…” he pleads, trying to bend it.
“I’ll make you a deal. I can either call for help and turn you into the Enforcers; I have the video right here,” he says, pointing to his head. “Or I can keep both the Enforcers and their medics out of this if you get some help for this addiction.”
“I don’t bargain. The law doesn’t allow you to shoot me down the way you did and I’ll turn you in. How about that?”
“Then maybe I should erase your datafeed,” Severum bluffs, bending down next to him with his Pulser drawn to his temple and grabbing his crumpled jacket.
“No, no, you’re right. Just leave. I’ll get help,” Trahiro replies, biting his lip until it bleeds.
“Tryin’ to assist here. No one’s answering your screams yet. City don’t care, see? But here, this’ll get you by for now,” he says, throwing him a couple temporary neuralmods the military offers so he doesn’t completely lose his mind. “I don’t want them. Have the pills call the medics for you.”
Trahiro’s fingers jump into Severum’s open palm, grabbing the mods as if they’ll vanish and popping them with a gulp. He clears his throat, jerks his head thrice, and says, “Medics? I don’t need no glitchin’ medics now. I don’t need your help or nothing, not nothing at all, not—”
The above excerpt from the first chapter led to a specific question about “modding” yourself. One of the things that struck me about the culture of the world you created is the danger posed by dangerous, addictive cybernetics. The people, even children, seem to take it for granted that some implants will fail, some software is inherently addictive and will lead to the eventual mental destruction of the person foolish or unlucky enough to get a bad piece of hardware or hack one too many neuralmods into their system. What role to you see cyberdrugs or mods or hacks having in society?
Mark: The current position of psychology is to over-medicate. This stems from pathologizing human nature itself, as if we, sculpted by millions of years of natural selection, are somehow dysfunctional at birth, which just isn’t true. In the book, these neuralmods basically mix the chemicals already in the human brain together to create drugs. When you build a pharmacy into someone’s mind, and you can order everything from an abortion pill, to the Sarah drug (named after serotonin), it can’t help but be tempting to download a quick fix, or chip-trip, just to avoid facing your deepest emotions. This quick-fix mentality leads to addiction and, while meds can be important, they don’t substitute for honest introspection and meditation. So yeah, it’s a growing issue even today.
Mark composed music specifically for the book, something rare and interesting, so I had to ask about it. I found the soundtrack you composed to accompany the first chapter, how does music influence your writing and is composing similar, different or totally entwined with writing for you?
Mark: Interesting question. When I need to write an action scene I need it to have a certain rhythm, so I blare Red Hot Chili Peppers. When I need a cold sounding scene, I blare Pineapple Thief. When I write a sex scene, well, people don’t need to know what I listen to in that case (laugh). Writing my own music, the songs inspire the emotion of the story, and then the emotion of the story feeds back into the music, so it’s a give and take between the two, a synergy.
The book ends neatly, tying up the loose ends and giving the reader a good feeling of closure, although there is room for a sequel. I asked Mark about his future projects. First, are you thinking of writing a sequel? The world you’ve created is an interesting one, and it would be interesting to see how the characters develop in the aftermath. Your writing style and your ability with multimedia makes me wonder if you might make this into an audiobook, maybe even a Graphic Audio style book with sound effects, voice actors and music. Do you have any plans along those lines? I know I’m hungry for more of your writing, and I’m sure your other readers will be as well.
Mark: I have actually just finished a very distant prequel called Digital Enlightenment which will publish in about 18 months, but it takes place on Earth and is more solarpunk, centering around our obsession with social media and our vulnerability to misinformation. A sequel would be cool, but the world of Hemispheres is a very dark place, and to write it, I have to visit that place in my mind over the course of 4,500 hours (the time it took to write). I’m not sure I want to live in that world another 4,500 hours for a sequel (laugh), but we’ll see… As for audiobooks, maybe, and a graphic novel – only if I met the right illustrator.
If you’re interested in reading Mark’s masterpiece, it is available for a limited time for free this weekend.