(Darrell B. Nelson) You are the head of the tourist board for your book’s world, how would you promote it to get people to stop by?
(Greg Hickey) Your future awaits on Pearl. Escape this dying planet for a utopian paradise in which all your needs are satisfied automatically.
(Darrell B. Nelson) What is your main character’s favorite animal?
(Greg Hickey) The story of Our Dried Voices occurs in a future human colony where the colonists do not have contact with animals. At the time the story takes place, no colonist has seen an animal or remembers their existence. There is an oral story passed down through the generations in which a dog is described, but that’s the extent of their experience. So by default, I would say my main character’s favorite animal is a dog, though he does not really know what a dog is.
(Darrell B. Nelson) What are your views on sentient houseplants?
(Greg Hickey) By “sentience,” I understand the ability to feel, perceive or experience. There are indications that plants have something like a nervous system which allows individual plants to respond to their environments and to communicate with one another using chemical messages. However, I’m not sure these mechanisms constitute sentience in the sense of fully perceiving or experiencing. That said, there are probably some lower forms of animals like coral that are equally insentient. In the world of Our Dried Voices, the plants are just as sentient as the plants in our real world, which is to say, in my opinion, insentient.
(Darrell B. Nelson) Name three things that you think will be obsolete in ten years?
(Greg Hickey) Radio broadcasts, landline telephones and human cashiers
(Darrell B. Nelson) If you could have a wild whirlwind romance with any fictional character from an indie novel, who would that be and why?
(Greg Hickey) I’m hard-pressed to think of my favorite indie heroine, but the novel below is a really unique and poignant love story, so I’ll say Clare, the female protagonist of that book.
(Darrell B. Nelson) Who is your favorite indie writer and book?
(Greg Hickey) I try not to distinguish between indie publishing firms and big publisher houses when I read, but I know The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger was published by an indie press, so I’ll say her and that book.
(Darrell B. Nelson) What did you edit out of this book, and what did you (or will) do with that material?
(Greg Hickey) Our Dried Voices is about the contrast between human progress and human ignorance. It tells the story of what happens after humans have cured all diseases, perfected genetic modification, ended world hunger and migrated to a new planet to escape the ravages of climate change and overpopulation. In that setting, humans no longer face any problems and they no longer need to think for themselves. There are machines that feed them and clean their colony, and as a result, these future humans live blissfully ignorant lives of idleness and play.
Because Our Dried Voices deals with intelligence, creativity, and critical engagement and the role those qualities play the human experience, I wanted to show both sides of the story. I began earlier drafts of the novel with a sixteen-page overview of the fictional history of humanity leading up to the main action of the novel: scientists curing cancer, AIDS and other diseases, two World Wars, mass animal and plant extinctions, harnessing nuclear fusion power and other non-fossil fuel sources, and advances in space exploration. I wanted this preface to offer a marked contrast in style, tone and sophistication compared to the simpler main story.
However, my original publisher feared that a lengthy preface at the start of the novel would turn off some readers. So I shortened it to a brief chronology with a list of dates and major events. The original preface is printed at the end of the novel.
(Darrell B. Nelson) If I was the Genie out of my story, The Genie and the Breadsticks, what 3 wishes would you make?
(Greg Hickey) I would wish for unlimited wishes. I don’t want to be greedy, but I also don’t think I’m wise enough to wish for anything significant right now and I worry about running out of wishes and leaving unintended consequences in their wakes. My first inclination is to ask for eternal youth or an end to world hunger. But I can imagine those wishes having undesirable consequences in the future. I might get bored with never changing over the centuries and seeing people I love constantly grow and die. And ending world hunger could lead to overpopulation, increased competition for valuable resources, war, environmental destruction and accelerated climate change. I would like to avoid needless suffering, but I can’t be sure what additional suffering my wishes might cause. Maybe one day when I’m older and wiser I could use my wishes in concert to really make a difference and block any negative ramifications.
(Darrell B. Nelson) What are your favorite pizza toppings?
(Greg Hickey) Tough question. I like a variety of pizzas—red, white, and my wife and I occasionally make pizza with pesto. And each sauce pairs well with different toppings. But I’ll say pepperoni, cheese and arugula drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.
(Darrell B. Nelson) What is the worst advice on writing that you have ever received?
(Greg Hickey) Don’t write a passion project; write what sells. Depending on a writer’s goal, this advice isn’t necessarily bad, but I always bristle when I hear a variation of this suggestion. Of course I (and I imagine most other authors) want to sell books. But I also enjoy creating the stories I want to tell. I don’t think I would enjoy the process as much if I was concerned about writing a formulaic plot, highlighting certain keywords and fitting a story into an untapped niche. I prefer to think there’s a happy medium between the two extremes. If I can turn something that interests me into a compelling story, I believe there are readers out there who will enjoy it.
(Darrell B. Nelson) How can we find your books, promotional material, any thing you’d like to say to get people to buy your books?
(Greg Hickey) Our Dried Voices is a classic dystopian novel. It was a finalist for Foreword Reviews Science Fiction Book of the Year Award. Readers have said Our Dried Voices “calls to mind Huxley and Wells’ work, is frightening, exhilarating, and ultimately hopeful” and is “recommended for fans of [The] Time Machine and Brave New World.”
In 2153, cancer was cured. In 2189, AIDS. And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a far distant planet called Pearl to begin the next chapter of humanity.
Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence.
I’d like to thank Greg for doing this, and providing thoughtful answers to my off the wall questions.
I remember someone saying once, “If there are no dogs in heaven then I don’t want to go.” My thoughts are, “A utopia without kittens isn’t a utopia.” But to each his own. I’m sure Greg handled the lack of kittens fine. Although in Japan (where else?) there is a new push for robo-pets. http://www.japantrends.com/robotic-pets-japan-revival/ Some hospitals in Japan are experimenting with having robot cats cuddle with people in the waiting rooms. Giving the emotional support needed without adding germs.
As far as the Genie question, it was a nice thoughtful answer. All I could come back with was thinking my Genie would give unlimited wishes, but make every wish no matter how small and fleeting come true so the person wishing for things would spend their whole life having fleeting wishes and then trying to undo them.
“If I can turn something that interests me into a compelling story, I believe there are readers out there who will enjoy it.” I totally believe that as well.