Today I am interviewing Francesco Verso, Italian SF writer, editor of the multicultural project Future Fiction and author of the novel Nexhuman, just published by Apex Books.
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DJ: Hi Francesco! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Francesco Verso: After 8 years spent in IBM, the PC Division where I was working as IT Specialist has been sold to Lenovo and 2 years later I’ve decided to quit working in the IT sector to dedicate my whole life to writing and publishing Science Fiction.
Over the last 10 years I’ve won 2 Urania Mondadori Award (e-Doll in 2009 and Bloodbusters in 2014), 1 Odissea Award (Livido in 2012) and 1 Italia Award (Livido in 2013). Livido in particular has been published in English as Nexhuman, first in Australia by Xoum and now in the USA by Apex Books.
So far, I’ve published 5 novels and around 10 short stories in three, four languages. On top of that, since 2014 I’ve started the Future Fiction multicultural project: a no-profit small press dedicated to publishing the best SF authors from all over the world in translation from seven languages so far (Chinese, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Russian and Italian of course).
DJ: What is Nexhuman about?
Francesco: The main idea of book was inspired by a real fact that I’ve experienced some years ago: I was going out of a flea market in Rome with my wife when we noticed – inside a big garbage bin – an 8 year old boy who had just found a doll as tall as him; he was cleaning it, taking care of it and caressing it as if it was his own girlfriend. Then his mother came along protesting to move along and don’t waste any time with the doll as he should have been searching for more valuable things. This image, touching and terrible at the same time, started Peter Payne’s personal drama and his seemingly impossible love. It is no secret that hyper-consumerism and overproduction is leaving on the ground of every city the price that we have to pay for our neglect and lack of respect for the environment. In Nexhuman I’ve pushed this alarming situation to the extreme consequences of a process that is already visible almost everywhere.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Nexhuman?
Francesco: It took me some years of research to write “Nexhuman” mostly because I like to write highly probable SF with a necessary “sense of wonder” otherwise it will be mainstream fiction, so I’ve started to collect books that were dealing with the concept of trash. The first reference is of course the “kipple” that can be found in Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”. The second source of inspiration is J.G. Ballard and his body of works on “inner space” and object fetishism, while the third influence comes from Nick Bostrom’s books on human enhancement and the philosopher Max More on transhumanism. This is just to mention some clear inspirations that can be easily found reading the book.
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?
Francesco: The italian title of the book is “Livido”, which means livid. That’s the reaction the main character – Peter Payne – has every time he’s overwhelmed by emotions impossible to control. He turns “livid”, he gets discolored, as if growing a sort of inner bruise, blackish-and-blueish. That’s because life is not easy on him, living on the trash left by other people, but he’ll find some incredible ways to overcome such problem.
His body might be weak – he’s missing two limbs, a hand and a foot (and I won’t say how it happened now) – but his own willpower and firm determination will take him very far (at least from the situation where he started).
DJ: What is the world and setting of Nexhuman like?
Francesco: The setting is an imaginary city – The Megalopolis – which could be any big city in the world under the subtle attack of trash; something we all see everyday but still don’t do much about it. So it’s a very dark environment, dirty and polluted, where weather conditions can play a big role. The scenario is not post-apocalyptic but rather pre-apocalyptic, meaning that we should prepare for the worst before even start talking about how we might react and survive. The technology in the book is important but it’s always under the influence of the people that uses it. Even the Nexhumans – the few uploaded people living next to the humans – are treated in ambiguous ways: some people like them, some people hate them, as it’s often the case if any technology we still don’t fully understand. Let’s say that Nexhuman could be represented as a huge “uncanny valley”…
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Nexhuman?
Francesco: I really enjoyed writing the growing conflict about Peter Payne and his big brother Charlie that develops along the story, from the beginning to the end. Even though I don’t have any brothers or sisters, people told me that their relationship feels so real that I might as well have one or two!
In general, I work a lot on dialogues because for me they are the best way to engage the readers. Even when there’s the need to describe a place or deliver some crucial informations, I try my best to insert the necessary data using visual scenes, so much so that an Italian screenwriter approached me to write the screenplay of the novel. It’s difficult to get bored in Nexhuman as I’ve used the first person POV so the reader can really be there, feeling and living anything – good or bad – that happens to Peter.
DJ: Nexhuman was originally published in 2013 in Italian. What have readers, bloggers, and reviewers been talking about most once they finish it?
Francesco: Nexhuman has received wonderful reviews on Strange Horizon by Rachel Cordasco, SF Review Association by Fernando Porta (pag 35) and the Italian Online Magazine Carmilla by Emanuele Manco, just to mention a few. On top of that, SF scholar Jana Vizmuller Zocco based in Toronto has written a very thorough essay about it on Quaderni d’Italianistica (the afterword in the book is part of her essay). So I am very happy that an Italian SF book is being published by an established and highly valued SF publishing house like Apex since a very long time. The US market is very hard to enter into if you don’t write in English, which means that the costs of translation are often on the shoulders of writers or the foreign publishing house that decides to invest in it (except maybe for mainstream and literary books that have a slightly better treatment thanks to funds and grants). So paradoxically, in SF, where there should be more openness and desire to overcome boundaries and limitations than in any other genre, we see a totally different picture: it’s been formally addressed by the University of Rochester as the “3% Problem”, meaning that only 3% of what is published in the US market comes from Non-English speaking countries and in that 3% are included all the languages of the World!
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Nexhuman? 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?
Francesco: The main idea of the story is that no matter where you come from, no matter your initial position, if you really believe in something, if you’re prepared to make sacrifices and give up anything of what you consider essential and unavoidable, you could get there. Just like Nexhuman, that took eight long years to go from Italy to the US (and maybe hopefully to China where some editors are currently reading it!). So the theme could be: never give up on your dreams, no matter how hard reality gets.
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 Nexhuman that you can share with us?
Francesco: There’s a phrase I’d like to quote. It’s about how Peter feels when he’s next to Alba: “When I look at her, I don’t see crude, inorganic matter, atoms assembled by who knows what rules of model-making. On the contrary, I enjoy the purity of her energy trapped in this artificial form. I see a creature designed for a better future. I see the suspension of time, the end of all rules, a union between natural and artificial that leaves me troubled and impotent.”
DJ: Now that Nexhuman is released, what is next for you?
Francesco: I’ve just published in Italian on Future Fiction the first book of my latest novel called “The Walkers” which is made of two stories: “The Pulldogs” and “No/Mad/Land”. The first book has been already translated in English by Jennifer Delare and I hope to find a publisher for it outside of Italy.
Then on the editing side, I’ve worked with Bill Campbell, editor of Rosarium Publishing to publish an anthology called “Future Fiction: New Dimensions in International SF”, where we’ve selected stories from the best SF authors from the world coming also from Non-English speaking countries. And I’ve done the same thing in China with Guangzhou Blue Ocean Press selecting SF stories for an anthology that will be out next year in high-schools and universities.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://goo.gl/kRLnGB
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Nexhuman is published by Apex Publishing and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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There is Alba. And there is everything else.
In a future threatened by the spread of “kipple” (garbage trash), Peter Payne is part of a fringe society that scavenges junk to survive. His days are spent in the refuse of humanity and running with a teenage gang called The Dead Bones lead by his brother Charlie. But when Peter finds beauty in the world in the shape of Alba, an advanced model female nexhuman, he finds purpose…and love. When Charlie and The Dead Bones destroy Peter’s dreams for the future, Peter embarks on a quest to rebuild the object of his obsession.
Exploring themes such as cybernetics, consumerism, robotics, and transcendence, Nexhuman expands on classic science fiction to build a world as deep and searching as its main character.
About the Author:
Francesco Verso was born in Bologna (Italy) in 1973.
Graduated in Environmental Economics in 2001, he started his career in IBM. In 2008 he quit the business world to devote himself to writing.
In 2004 “Antidoti umani” was finalist at Urania Mondadori Award. His second novel, e-Doll, marked his success with the Urania Award in 2009 as Best SF novel. His third book Livido (published in Australia by Xoum as Nexhuman), won the 2013 Odyssey Award and the 2014 Italy Award for Best SF novel.
In 2015 he won a second Urania Award with BloodBusters (ex-aequo with Sandro Battisti) a contemporary grotesque thriller novel. He’s currently working on a-two novels story, “I Camminatori” (The Walkers), that will deal with the consequences of the substitution of food with nanotechnology. Beside writing, Francesco Verso is the Editor of a multicultural Small Press called Future Fiction, scouting and publishing International authors such as James Patrick Kelly (US), Ian McDonald (Northern Ireland), Ken Liu (USA), Cixin Liu (China), Ekaterina Sedia (Russia), Michalis Manolios (Greece), Ken MacLeod (UK), Clelia Farris (Italy), David Marusek (US), Xia Jia (China), Pepe Rojo (Mexico), Olivier Paquet (France), Tom Crosshill (Latvia), Ekaterina Sedia (Russia), Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe), Pat Cadigan (U.S.A).
He lives in Rome with his wife and daughter.