Today I am interviewing Adam Rakunas, author of the new science fiction novel, Like A Boss, second book in the Occupied Space series. The first book in the series, Windswept, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award.
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DJ: Hey Adam! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Adam Rakunas: Thanks for having me here! I’m a stay-at-home dad who writes science fiction. I grew up in Southern California, and I now live in the Pacific Northwest. All of these things are related.
DJ: What is Like A Boss about? What can readers of the series expect in the latest installment? Anything new? Any surprises?
AR: Like A Boss is the next episode in the continuing adventures of everyone’s favorite two-fisted labor organizer from the future, Padma Mehta. At the end of the last book, Windswept, Padma got everything she wanted: retirement, the deed to her favorite rum distillery, her own theme song. She also got nailed with a one-trillion-yuan debt, thanks to what she did in the second-to-last chapter of Windswept. In the opening of Like A Boss, Padma has to deal with the headaches of being an employer who’s also up to her eyeballs in debt. Oh, and there’s also a looming planet-wide strike that threatens to upend everything. I like to think of this book as a love letter to everyone who thought that Windswept had too much science fiction and not enough labor politics.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Like A Boss?
AR: Getting paid for it.
That sounds facetious, but this was the first time someone gave me money for a book before I started writing it. I worked on Windswept for two years before submitting it, and the whole time I thought, “Is anyone going to read this? What if no one wants this book? What have I done with my life? Oh, God, I’ve wasted it, haven’t I?” Getting an advance for Like A Boss was a tremendous confidence booster. It said that Angry Robot Books believed in my books. Getting paid for writing isn’t everything, but, man, it’s sure important.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
AR: Knowing my luck, they’ll probably say, “You know, there was a lot of labor politics, but not enough science fiction.”
DJ: For readers that have not yet started the Occupied Space series, but are interested, what is the Occupied Space series about? Why should they check it out?
AR: It’s about work. I was tired of reading about brave and daring space captains and their brave and daring space captain adventures across the vast reaches of adventurous space. I wanted to know about the people who made the daring space adventures possible. Who took the ships apart? Who processed the fuel? Who makes sure the toilets worked?
Padma and her pals are all people who’ve had enough with the dehumanizing effects of runaway corporate greed but also realize they still have to hustle to put food on the table. They’re engineers, con artists, plumbers, brewers, musicians, doctors, cops, messianic charlatans, and dreamers. Anyone who wondered how Mos Eisley worked as a city will want to check out Occupied Space.
DJ: What is the Occupied Space universe like?
AR: It’s just like ours, only weirder and bigger. We already live in a corporate dystopia. Amazon is trying to become the sole provider of our material needs, Google and Facebook are fighting to control our data, and a bunch of craven people in Congress are sitting back and letting it happen. It’s not hard to see history arcing in a way that cuts out the middleman (ie government) and gives us rule by corporations. It’s a cyberpunk idea, but I don’t think those cats in the 80s could have imagined how strange our present is.
So, take all the people who are tired of feeling like widgets but still have to work because there’s no such thing as matter replicators or sentient AIs which means someone has to make the great systems-spanning economy run, and what do you get? If it were someone else’s series, it would be a bunch of savagery and face-stabbings and might-makes-right speechifying. With me, you get a universe where all these misfits have bound together in one great big Union because they recognize that negotiating as one with their former corporate masters is a better option than the aforementioned face-stabbings. Now, there’s plenty of back-stabbing, because that always makes for better drama, but I don’t want to give away too much.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
AR: Padma Mehta was once a rising corporate star. She bought into the Life Corporate, living like a good little consumer and fighting her fellow executives to claw to the top of the pyramid. She was going to manage a planet until her employer damaged her brain, because even management is expendable on the altar of Increasing Shareholder Value. Padma believes in doing what’s right, especially if it helps her stick her thumbs into her former employer’s eyes. Think of her as carrying on the great noir tradition of Sam Spade and the Continental Op: the tarnished knight still slaying dragons, but now armed with cutting remarks and a cynical side-eye.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Like A Boss and the Occupied Space series?
AR: Screwball comedies, Ian McDonald, and Iain M. Banks. I love the snap and crackle of Rosalind Russell and Katharine Hepburn, and I love the full-blown gonzo ideas of McDonald’s and Banks’s novels. And, yes: the character Banks and the company called McDonald Heavy are meant to be tributes to their namesakes. Please don’t sue me.
DJ: What was your goal when you began writing the Occupied Space series? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when the story is finally told?
AR: I just wanted to write an entertaining story, and if it got people to think about the future, that would be bonus. The future is going to be very harsh and very weird, and it might turn out better for more people if we all listen to each other and work together instead of trying to punch each other in the face. I think we need more unions in our lives, and not necessarily the kind in Occupied Space.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Like A Boss that you can share with us?
AR: “I think talking instead of working is crap. I think trying to organize people without listening to them is crap. And I think hearing the same recycled labor theory glurge over and over again is complete and utter crap.”
DJ: Now that Like A Boss is released, what is next for you?
AR: If the sales gods are willing, a third Occupied Space book. I don’t think Padma’s done yet. After that, I got ideas about giant robots and family secrets and talking guns.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J0P5VA0
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Like A Boss that we haven’t talked about yet?
AR: You can buy it with money.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Like A Boss is published by Angry Robot Books and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Nook
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In this breathless and hilarious followup toWindswept, former labor organiser Padma’s worst nightmare comes true: she gets yanked out of early retirement.
After buying her favourite rum distillery and settling down, she thought she’d heard the last of her arch nemesis, Evanrute Saarien. But Saarien, fresh out of prison for his misdeeds in Windswept, has just fabricated a new religion, positioning himself as its holy leader. He’s telling his congregation to go on strike, to fight the system. And unfortunately, they’re listening to him.
Now Padma’s summoned by the Union president to help stop this strike from happening. The problem is, she’s out of practice. And, the more she digs, the more she realises this whole strike business is more complicated than the Union president let on…
Adam Rakunas has worked a variety of weird jobs. He’s been a virtual world developer, a parking lot attendant, a triathlon race director, a fast food cashier, and an online marketing consultant.
Now a stay-at-home dad, Adam splits his non-parenting time between writing, playing the cello, and political rabble-rousing. His stories have appeared in Futurismic and the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Windswept, his first novel, was nominated for the 2016 Philip K Dick Award.