Since the original Star Trek TV show, people have wished we had transporters so they could go to The Ivy in London for Sheppard’s Pie. Or maybe that’s just me. But they might rethink their dinners plans after reading Peter Clines’ The Fold (hardcover, digital), in which some scientists invent a transporter they call The Albuquerque Door. Though in talking Mr. Clines about his new novel, it’s clear his inspiration for this sci-fi tale went beyond wanting to eat British food.
As you know, I always like to start with the basics. So, what is The Fold about?
It’s about four hundred pages. And it’s my first hardcover, which I’m alternately amazed and kind of terrified by when I think about it.
Past that… The Fold is about a government teleportation project that actually works. Except it’s not exactly teleportation. And even though it works, the scientists who built it are insisting it’s not ready to be released. So our hero, Mike Erikson, is recruited to find out what’s going on with them and with the machine.
Where did you get the idea for it?
A big chunk of it’s been rattling around in my head for ages. Back in college I wrote a story called “The Albuquerque Door” for a junior year writing class. The teaching instructor hated it — I was clearly a hack, even back then — but I stashed it away for possible later revisions. About eight or nine years ago I first played with expanding it into a novel, which I called Mouth. I got about a third of the way through it, and then put it aside for another project. This thing about zombies and superheroes.
Then, about two years ago I was thinking about new book ideas and realized the basic idea of Mouth would work very well with some other ideas I’d been playing with around that time. And after a bit more tweaking and wrestling, that became The Fold.
When you were figuring out how the transporter would work in The Fold, did you model it after any real world teleportation experiments, or did you stick to fictional depictions?
I actually did a fair amount of research on it. Lots of books and articles about teleportation and quantum teleportation. There’s a surprising number of physicists who’ve written articles about Star Trek transporters. It all made me flex a lot of muscles I haven’t used since college.
In the end, though, people are reading to be entertained more than educated, so there are a few places where things got tweaked and openly cheated to make for a better story. I’m sure someone will still run the numbers, do some math, and write a long review on Amazon about how I got all of it wrong.
Probably. The hero of The Fold, Mike Erikson, is described in the press materials as being “one of the smartest people in America,” but for reasons no one understands, “he’s chosen to let the potential of his amazing intellect go untapped.” Did you get the idea for this character from my mom?
Your mom and I talked about it a lot. She as okay with me using you as the basis as long as I changed a few key details.
Seriously, though, I’ve always been kind of fascinated by superintelligence stories. I’ve always liked the Doctor Who-type characters who can outsmart their opponents rather than outshoot or outpunch them: Batman, The Riddler, Sherlock Holmes, Reg Barclay in that one Star Trek: The Next Generation episode…. The idea of someone operating on a completely different level than everyone else.
Prior to The Fold, you wrote four books in your Ex- series — Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots, Ex-Communication, and Ex-Purgatory — which are centered around a super hero during a zombie apocalypse. The Fold seems like a much more serious book. Am I wrong?
I guess it depends on what you mean by “serious.” I mean, the Ex- series is about most of the Earth’s population dying horribly and the survivors trying to deal with millions of reanimated corpses before everyone starves. That’s not really cute and fluffy material. The Fold is a little more scientific, but not drastically so.
For me, it’s not about whether or not a story is “serious,” it’s whether or not it’s true to itself. If it has a consistent tone in how material is presented or explained. If a writer, any storyteller, is honest, they can do a lot more. It doesn’t matter if the story is about technology or magic or aliens or zombies.
Do you think the way you wrote The Fold is different from the Ex- books? And I don’t mean your writing process, but the way it’s written.
I don’t think so. I mean, the Ex- books have a pretty set format of alternating settings and points of view, and I didn’t do that here. But I think the storytelling basics are all the same. I like characters that people can relate to and believe. I’m a big believer in showing over telling, though sometimes…yeah, sometimes you need to tell rather than show. I don’t like action that drags from over-description. I like a good twist that catches people off guard. All those things were pretty much the same.
So why did you decide to take a break from the Ex- novels now?
I didn’t, really. I know the release schedules make it look like I just plowed out the Ex- series, but actually I had another project between almost all of them. There was a Robinson Crusoe mash-up novel [The Eerie Adventures Of The Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe] between Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots. Between Ex-Patriots and Ex-Communication I wrote a kind of popular book called 14 and a miniseries-novella thing called The Junkie Quatrain. So really, this is me settling back into my regular pattern.
During our previous interview, you said, “I’ve already sketched out notes for Ex- books five and six.” I assume those books are still coming, yes?
I just finished Ex-Isle, book five, a few weeks ago. My editor just got his notes back to me the other day, and I think we’re on track to have it out in early October. Just in time for New York Comic-Con. I haven’t signed anything for book six, but we’ve talked about it a bit and writing Ex-Isle let me firm up a few things, story-wise.
But I’ve got something else on my slate before that…
Ah. What impact, if any, do you think writing The Fold had on Ex-Isle?
It works better for me to go back and forth between different projects. Writing different kinds of stories is like working out different muscle groups: I can’t improve or get well rounded by doing the same thing all the time. I need to spread out and work different groups. So in that way, I think shifting back and forth helps me improve, and I’d like to think the overall quality of all my writing is improving as I go.
One thing that writing The Fold changed is that it took a lot of work because of some plot and story things, and it ended up spilling quite a bit into the time that was already allotted for Ex-Isle. And even though my editor offered it, I didn’t want to ask for more time because we’d attached it to the NYCC date. I’m usually a bit of a “panther,” as some people like to call it, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to work through everything the way I normally do. So this was the first time I really sat down and outlined the whole book, because I wanted to move faster. And it ended up being the same thing it always is when I try to outline: I wrestled with it almost every step of the way. And then ended up asking for a few more weeks anyway.
During our last interview, you said that there were talks of making the Ex- books into a movie or TV show, but all you had to show for it at that point was “a fantastic cheeseburger during one lunch meeting.” First, do you happen to remember where you had that cheese burger? And second, but obviously less importantly, has anything come of this?
You have no idea how hard I’ve tried to remember where I had the cheeseburger. It was so good. I’m sure part of it was that, at the time, I was an actual starving writer and it was probably the largest meal I’d had all week, definitely the first time I’d had meat in about a month.
Cheeseburger aside, though, the Ex- books get a lot of little nudges here and there, people reach for them, but nothing ever happens. It’s a very cinematic series, but it’s also very expensive. Superheroes, zombies, post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. It’s not that it can’t be done, but I think the number of good directors and producers who could do it on a budget is very low. Too many folks would just be completely dependent on CGI for everything, and then suddenly every episode costs more than Game Of Thrones.
What about The Fold, has anyone expressed interest in turning it into a movie or TV show? Or even a video game?
A few folks in Hollywood have read it already. There’s been some passing interest that amazed me. Some serious interest that’s made me very happy. And that’s probably all I should say at this point in time. I don’t want to jinx anything.
Finally, if someone’s already read The Fold and all your other books, what would you suggest they read next and why that?
I don’t know, it feels like there’s so much good stuff out there right now. A friend of mine, Craig DiLouie, wrote a fantastic book called Suffer The Children that got a Stoker nod for best novel of 2014 [you can read my interview with Craig about Children here]. I’m loving Mira Grant’s “Parasite” books [Parasite, Symbiont]. Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger books are always amazing [Patient Zero, The Dragon Factory, The King Of Plagues, Assasin’s Code, The Extinction Machine, Code Zero, Predator One]. Another friend of mine, Eloise Knapp, has a really creepy series called Pulse [Pulse: Genesis, Pulse: Retaliation]. I understand Cullen Bunn’s comic series, The Sixth Gun, is wrapping up soon and it’s just been magnificent. Armada by Ernie Cline is right on the horizon, too, and so’s the sequel to Phoenix Island by John Dixon. Lee Child, G. Willow Wilson, Dan Abnett…there’s just too many good things to list.