Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Daryl Gregory

Daryl Gregory was the 2009 winner of IAFA William L. Crawford Fantasy Award for his first novel Pandemonium. His second novel, The Devil's Alphabet, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and was named one of the best books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly. His short fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and The Year’s Best SF.

Gregory's new novel is Afterparty.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
When I’m in the early days of writing a novel, my reading is mostly non-fiction, and mostly predatory: Can this book feed my book? When I was writing Afterparty, the stack was all neuroscience and pharmacology books, and a few about religious experiences.

Now I’ve started a new book, and I’m reading a lot about psychics—remote-viewers, palm readers, spoonbenders, psychokinetics—and the goofy government-funded programs to study and weaponize them.

The two books I’m reading right now (alternating between them based on my mood) are opposite sides of the paranormal coin. First is Reading the Enemy’s Mind: Inside Star Gate: America’s Psychic Espionage Program by Paul Smith. You know it’s serious, because it has two colons in the title. The book is a first-person account of an intelligence officer who was recruited in the 1980s for one of the army’s remote-viewer programs. (That’s right. I said “one of.” )

Smith’s story bogs down in jargon, acronyms, and endless details about government bureaucracy—which are exactly the delicious tidbits a fiction writer needs when he’s looking to add verisimilitude. I’m halfway through Smith’s book, but so far no one has read any minds, enemy or not. Or accomplished much of anything. And I already know how the story ends: with no actionable intelligence, and the eventual cutting of the program. The incredible thing is that Smith’s program, Star Gate, was funded by Congress until 1995.

Smith is a true believer, though, and he makes it clear that he thinks America has missed a great opportunity, thanks to close-minded politicians and lying skeptics--chief among them James Randi, AKA the Amazing Randi.

The second book is Randi’s The Truth About Uri Geller. It’s a thorough debunking of the Israeli psychic, written shortly after his 70’s heyday. Some of the same scientists and psychics show up in both books, but where Smith is worshipful, Randi is scathing. He’s particularly hard on the scientists who “verified” Geller’s abilities. The appalling thing is not that they were fooled by tricks you could pick up in a beginner’s magic book, but that they used methods that were so sloppy, and then were deliberately vague about those methods in print.

All this gullibility would be hard to understand, if it wasn’t still so prevalent. (John Edward, of “Crossing Over” fame, is still on TV and making bank on grieving audience members.) The James Randi Educational Foundation is still offering the Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge for anyone who can demonstrate psychic abilities. The challenge started with a $1,000 version in 1964. No one’s yet picked up the check.
Visit Daryl Gregory's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Afterparty.

The Page 69 Test: Afterparty.

--Marshal Zeringue