Don’t you just hate it when you find out you’re covertly connected to some machine from an alternate dimension? But while this is super annoying in real life, it can be super fun in a sci-fi novel like Nathan Tavares’ A Fractured Infinity (paperback, Kindle, audiobook). In the following email interview, Tavares discusses what inspired and influenced this multiversal mechanical mayhem story.
Photo Credit: Holly Rike
To start, what is A Fractured Infinity about, and when and where does it take place?
A Fractured Infinity is about a troubled filmmaker who discovers he’s connected to a weird predictive machine from another universe, and then he goes on the run to save the life of the man he loves, even if that means causing a world-ending tragedy.
It takes place in a few different settings, but mostly a well-past-its-prime former America in the near-future. Namely, a secret compound in the Commonwealth Of Great Basin Nations, which is a union of Native American tribes in the former state of Nevada and the surrounding areas.
Where did you get the original idea for A Fractured Infinity?
I started with an image very late in the book, and then thought a while about who these characters would be and how they got there. I really love sci-fi stories that center on a weird technology that’s discovered, or first-contact stories. Like, Contact and Stargate.
Is there some significance to Hayes being a documentary filmmaker as opposed to someone who makes different kinds of movies, or does something else in the movies? Or, for that matter, has a completely different job like a barista or a fireman or a guy who interviews authors on his website?
Yeah. I think of it as a novel about storytelling, and it’s all framed in the device that Hayes is telling this documentary or screenplay-like story to an invisible audience. I chose for him to be a documentarian specifically because of the idea that they visit communities and tell a story about them, and there’s a lot of editing and narrative decisions on the part of the filmmaker. Like, how much of a documentary is “objective reality” and how much is the filmmaker interjecting? It made sense to me seeing as how he’s maybe an unreliable narrator, but fesses up to this from the jump.
And is there also a reason he makes documentaries for movies instead of TV, which seems to be where they all end up these days…
Only that he’s a big film buff, specifically of sci-fi films. So the book is kind of his way to live out his fantasy of starring in his own sci-fi film.
As you said earlier, A Fractured Infinity is a sci-fi novel. But are there other genres at work in this story as well?
I think it bounces through a few genres. There’s a dash of dystopian, and some technological utopian settings, a little bit of fantasy. I hesitate to call this a romance, but a queer relationship is at the forefront of the novel.
A Fractured Infinity is your first published novel, but you’ve written a bunch of short stories. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on A Fractured Infinity but not on anything else you’ve written?
A lot of writers have influenced me personally and as a writer, but I can’t really point to one that influenced A Fractured Infinity and nothing else. Other than myself, which sounds weird, but bear with me. I was writing Infinity after a previous novel was on submission for a while and ultimately didn’t get picked up. So this book was a response to that book, which was very dystopia-heavy and featured a Big Evil Corporation. It had me thinking, what can I do differently and better? What lessons did I learn about storytelling, and character development, and myself?
And what about non-literary influences? You mentioned Contact and Stargate earlier…
It was definitely hugely influenced by sci-fi films that I love so much. Especially Contact — my favorite movie ever — Arrival, and Interstellar. My agent and I pitched this one as “the movie Arrival but real gay.” I also love the movie Stargate and the TV series Stargate SG-1. How SG-1 explored a bunch of different settings through a device was a huge influence.
Speaking of which, A Fractured Infinity clearly explores the concepts of parallel worlds and the multiverse. Did you base how those aspects would work in Infinity on any previous parallel worlds / multiverse stories in literature or otherwise?
It’s been a long time since I read it, but I loved The Lathe Of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin. What stuck with me was how one man’s actions could impact all of humanity, so that definitely influenced A Fractured Infinity. Along with the different alternate Earths explored in the book. I’d say I was more inspired by that idea, instead of looking to base the mechanics of alternate universes on another work of literature.
I was also really inspired by the popular science book The Grand Design by Leonard Mlodinow and Stephen Hawking. I tried to make the theoretical physics aspects of the book as accurate as possible. Or, as accurately as I could describe it — with no physics training — told through a physics newbie like my main character, Hayes.
Now, on your website you mention that you will have, “A second stand-alone sci-fi novel in 2023.” Does that mean that A Fractured Infinity is a stand-alone novel as well?
There are a million really cool sci-fi series out there. I love a good series as much as anyone else, but I really love stand-alone novels. I tend to gravitate to them more as a reader instead of an ongoing series. I love getting lost in a story and not having to worry about waiting to see how it ends. I consider Infinity a stand-alone because it feels like a complete story. Even though you don’t know where the characters will be years down the line after the end, you can feel it. Or, I hope so.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you what that other book is about…
Me and my agent pitched it as “the really gay lovechild between Cloud Atlas and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.” But I can’t really talk about it yet, other than that it should be out in 2023.
Cool. Earlier I asked if A Fractured Infinity had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But I’d like to flip things around, if I may, and ask if you think A Fractured Infinity could work as a movie, show, or game?
Given that I was inspired by sci-fi movies, a big dream of mine is to sit in a theater and watch a movie version of this. I think it could work as a movie, and it would be hilarious to watch a movie based on a book that’s based on movies. Like, one big self-referential loop.
Though given how there’s a bunch of different settings that the characters explore, and there’s a kind of slow-burn love story between Hayes and Yusuf, a limited series might be cool, too. I’d love to see the Wachowskis take a crack at this, specifically because of Sense8 and Cloud Atlas. And of course The Matrix, which I absolutely loved.
I’m also a big gamer — RPGs and action games — but I don’t think this would work as a game. There’s not quite enough action.
So then if someone wanted to adapt A Fractured Infinity into a movie or TV show, who would you want them to cast as Hayes, Yusuf, and the other main characters?
I have no idea, and I’ve heard from other writers that once you start going down this rabbit hole, it’s tough to picture the character as you imagined them and not as the actor. But I will say that in the first chapter, Hayes jokes about who a studio would cast as him in a movie, and he hopes for a no-name actor. So I’ll agree with him and hope that a movie wouldn’t case a big huge star. And I’d hope for a queer actor.
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about A Fractured Infinity?
It’s really voice-y, and has an informal tone that I imagined is like a friend telling the reader a story. There are also a few narrative devices and fourth-wall breaking moments peppered throughout that I hope readers will find fun.
Finally, if someone enjoys A Fractured Infinity, what parallel universe / multiverse sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?
I just finished Recursion by Blake Crouch and thought it was really cool; just a really unique and fun high-stakes take on alternate universes and memory. [For more about Recursion, check out this interview with Blake Crouch.]