Today I am interviewing Roger Levy, author of the new science-fiction novel, The Rig.
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DJ: Hi Roger! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Roger Levy:I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. I grew up with the Alan Garner books, and Ursula LeGuin, Michael Moorcock, and lots more, of course, but these come first to mind. I love stories and reading, but somehow I became a dentist, and I’m still doing that alongside writing. I guess they use different parts of the brain. My first three books, Reckless Sleep, Dark Heavens and Icarus (which was shortlisted for the BSFA Best Novel in 2007) were followed by a long pause in writing, as a result of real life intruding rather dramatically. The Rig is my return.
Otherwise, I live in London, I’m married and have two children, and I relax listening to jazz and blues, taking pictures (mainly black and white; I’m colourblind) and watching movies. And reading, of course.
DJ: What is The Rig about?
Roger: The premise is an organisation called AfterLife, which is to Facebook as Facebook is to smoke signalling. The novel has taken ten years to complete, and it’s an interesting happenstance that just as it comes out, social media is suddenly right in the news for its potential to be used antisocially. The Rig is also about a couple of kids who grow up to become a great deal more than the sum of their parts, building a crime syndicate that makes the mafia look like a gang of pickpockets. And that’s just the start of it.
And that’s also the surface of The Rig. It’s about how we need stories to give us meaning, and how social media fits into that. And I’ve always been interested in what makes us need or hold on to faith, since all faiths are at heart stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves. The Rig is a look at what social media might become if taken it to the ultimate degree, feeding our need for story, for structure and narrative, as well as other positive functions that faith provides. That makes it sound dry, and The Rig isn’t dry at all.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Rig?
Roger: The development of social media, obviously. Stylewise, Raymond Chandler. The news along with everything around me goes into my thoughts and churns around, and ideas spin out, most of them entirely useless. For The Rig, I have a friend who works in the oil industry, and his extraordinary tales fed into the climax of the novel. Whenever I meet new people whose area of work I don’t know, I ask them what can go wrong. And things can always go wrong. When I have the seed of an idea, I think, what if. . . and then, what if. . . and again, what if. . . ? That’s how AfterLife germinated, and it’s also how the Chute began. For the Chute, I started with skateboarding, and ended up with the most dangerous extreme sport I could imagine.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Roger: I don’t know how cool it is, but one of my main characters, Razer, is a writer. Obviously I think nothing could be cooler, but Razer is rather special. She really lives her stories. Then there are the two childhood friends who run the criminal organisation called The Whisper; Pellonhorc is a stone killer, and Alef is a hyperintelligent hypergeek. They were individually exciting to write, but the relationship between them made the work a rollercoaster, and I hope that comes across. Then there’s Bale, a paxer – a cop – who’s nail-hard, and a host of others, all of whom have their weirdnesses. I really hope people are hooked by these characters, since when I’m writing, I’m always thinking, Would I like to be reading this? However, the characters I’m especially fond of are a couple of sentient machines – humechs – called Beata and Lode. I’m very keen to find out what readers think of them. Getting their dialogue right was a struggle, but a worthwhile one.
DJ: What is the setting of The Rig like?
Roger: The Rig takes place when a guttering Earth has been left behind. A far solar system has been colonised, and various Earth continents, countries and financial entities have chosen and colonised planets. It’s called the System, and the planets are very different, but mainly work together. Criminality is endemic, since survival in the System is as important as the law. Much of the action takes place on the small planet Bleak, whose vast and violent ocean hosts sarcs, each of which holds a person in stable sleep, awaiting a cure for their presently incurable disease. Whether or not they get cured, if and when cures are found, is dependent on their being voted for, which is where AfterLife comes in. Also in the oceans are the rigs, harvesting core from beneath the sea bed. The System is a rough place, riddled with disease and radiation, and mortality is high. Tech is a mix of new and old, though not steampunkily so. Language is a mix, too. There is coffee.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Rig?
Roger I loved writing the scenes in the Chute. I loved writing the paxer, Bale, who’s as hard as they come. I loved the worldbuilding. But most of all, I loved writing the dialogue. Maybe that’s because I reading noir fiction and watch noir movies. I loved writing the end, too. There are some flicks and tricks I’m quite pleased with, in The Rig.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Roger: I really have no idea. I just hope it all works. I hope readers like it and want to talk to their friends about it, like I talk to mine about stuff I love. That’s the thing about sf readers; they’re curious and imaginative and they like to talk about their subject. There’s stuff in the book that’s intended to make readers want to go back and look again. On the surface it’s most definitely a mystery and a fairground ride, but there’s more to it than that.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing The Rig? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Roger: I didn’t have a message to convey at all, or at least not one that could be summarised easily. I suppose I wanted at some level to make people wonder about social media and how it works. But I don’t want them to think about it while they’re reading it. Just afterwards. At the time, I want them to want to know what happens next. Just as my writing is, What if, and then what if, and then what if?, I’d like readers to think, What next, and then what next, and then what next?
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 The Rig that you can share with us?
Roger: Well, foodily speaking, I enjoyed making what’s eaten sound as unpleasant as I could, I’m afraid, to add a sense of the place being harsh. As for quotes, they really need context, but here’s one that doesn’t suffer too much, I hope. Bale, the paxer, is telling Razer about riding the Chute and being on the edge of danger and having to decide whether to go back or ahead, and he looks at her and says, ‘You’d be the one who gets to the edge and holds it there. You’d be the one who stops, looks down and looks back. And then looks along the edge too, both ways. You want to see it all. That’s you. The storymaker.’
DJ: Now that The Rig is released, what is next for you?
Roger: Something set here on Earth, and closer to now than I’ve ever been.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Roger: I’m not great at social media, I’m afraid, which is probably a bit unexpected, given all the above. There’s an Amazon Author Page, and I’m @tapocketa on Twitter. Shortly I’ll be more visible on Goodreads, and there will be a website soon, too.
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Rig that we haven’t talked about yet?
Roger: We haven’t mentioned the cover design by Julia Lloyd at Titan. Not only is it beautiful, but it just perfectly sums the book up. I am in awe of what she has done.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Roger: Only that I’m really excited by it. It’s a big book. There’s a lot inside. Like social media, as we now know, there’s more than you think.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Roger: Thank you! I really enjoyed the questions.
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*** The Rig is published by Titan Books and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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On a desert planet, two boys meet, sparking a friendship that will change human society forever.
On the windswept world of Bleak, a string of murders lead a writer to a story with unbelievable ramifications.
One man survives the vicious attacks, but is left with a morbid fascination with death; the perfect candidate for the perilous job of working on a rig.
Welcome to the System. Here the concept of a god has been abandoned, and a new faith pervades: AfterLife, a social media platform that allows subscribers a chance at resurrection, based on the votes of other users.
So many Lives, forever interlinked, and one structure at the centre of it all: the rig.
About the Author:
I live in London. I’m married with two children. My third novel, Icarus, was shortlisted for BSFA best novel of 2007. My latest, The Rig, is published by Titan.
My other interests include photography and jazz. As I’m red/green colourblind, I especially love black & white photography, and jazzwise, I naturally like the blues. I especially love the cover of The Rig, not just because it’s a thing of beauty and perfectly fits the story, but because I think I can see the colours.