While he’s often tapped into the zeitgeist, writer Chuck Palahniuk has really hit a vein with his new novel, Adjustment Day (paperback, hardcover, Kindle), a dark, odd, and (sadly) socially-relevant tale. But in the following email interview, he talks about how this story was also inspired by a classic science fiction novel, as well as his recent work in comic books.
Photo Credit: © Allan Amato
In a general sense, what is Adjustment Day about?
Adjustment Day is a wish fulfillment fantasy aimed at every race separatist, black or white, and every LGBT activist who’s dreamed of a homeland where they form the dominant culture. Grassroots teams from the black community, the white community, and the LGBQ community wipe out the governing elites and divvy up the formerly united states to create three antonymous homelands where each group can hold sway. What could go wrong? In a nutshell, it’s A Handmaid’s Tale crossed with The Turner Diaries but with a boatload of laughs. And drugs.
It seems obvious, but I’ll ask anyway: Where did you get the idea for Adjustment Day and how different is the finished novel from that initial idea?
I got the idea the same way I developed Fight Club: By talking to people. Portland is a hotbed of political idealism. Whether I’m talking to Jack Donovan, the Hotep Nation, Farrakhan’s people, Jim Goad, or the Radical Fairies, I’m getting some wear out of my Journalism degree and writing my report. Everyone’s talking about an impending civil war, and Calexit, racially exclusive safe spaces, and a negative interest rate to punish money savers, so I set out to wrap all their dreams into one big plausible package. It’s so plausible that my usual publisher got cold feet and insisted the book would get people killed. I’d argue that Uncle Tom’s Cabin got people killed, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a jolly good read. By the way, didn’t The Catcher In The Rye get people killed? I rest my case…
In the previous interview we did [which you can read here], you said that Adjustment Day, “…relates to Fight Club the way Atlas Shrugged relates to The Fountainhead: a longer, fuller exploration of similar ideas.” But was it also inspired by your work on the Fight Club sequel, Fight Club 2: The Tranquility Gambit?
Any relation between Adjustment Day and Fight Club arises from the idea that both books depict a social model in which men can find community with other men. Fight Club was about empowering individuals through a series of challenges and exercises. The new book is about organizing those empowered men into a larger force that can remake society.
Was it also inspired by Atlas Shrugged and/or The Fountainhead in ways other than their relationship to each other?
No, it wasn’t inspired by either of the Rand books. But it does borrow some language from those books — for instance, “going Galt” — and it does reflect on why young people voluntarily read Rand’s fat, didactic novels while those same teenagers must be forced to read such classic as [John Steinbeck’s] The Grapes Of Wrath.
Are there any writers or specific stories that were a big influence on Adjustment Day, but not on your previous work?
Structurally, The Grapes Of Wrath has always enchanted me. As has [Ray Bradbury’s] The Martian Chronicles. Both books interweave on-going plots with one-time anecdotes and overall, grand observations of the environment. When I learned that Ray Bradbury had patterned his Chronicles after the Steinbeck book, I couldn’t wait to use the same structure to create a chronicle for my own big, rambling epic.
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, and video games; did any of them have an impact on Adjustment Day?
Nothing to report. If anything, my other greatest influence was the Richard Bach book Illusions: The Adventures Of A Reluctant Messiah. I loved how that book interrupted the prose with truisms set in a greeting card typeface. I want that effect — only evil.
And this is my last influence question, I swear: Your three previous books — Fight Club 2, Bait: Off-Color Stories For You To Color, and Legacy: An Off-Color Novella For You To Color — were a graphic novel, a short story collection as a coloring book, and a novella as a coloring book, respectfully. What impact, if any, did not writing them as novels have on Adjustment Day?
In comics, it’s so easy to jump between plot lines, either happening in parallel time or in flashback or flash forward. So writing comics made me very comfortable with herding an army of characters. I’ve never depicted so many people, weaving them like Charles Dickens would. And comics trained me to write even tighter, shorter scenes for a greater effect.
You’ve had a couple of your previous novels adapted into movies. Has there been any interest in doing the same for Adjustment Day?
Development has already begun on a proposed television series. It’s being put together by Jim Uhls, the screenwriter who wrote the Fight Club film script. But all I can whisper about the Adjustment Day series is that Jim is adamant the Hispanic characters play a much bigger role.
If Adjustment Day does become a TV show, who would you cast in the main roles?
I haven’t a clue.
Finally, if someone enjoys Adjustment Day, what novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read next and why?
Go back and read The Martian Chronicles and see how Bradbury took a batch of previously published magazine stories and grafted them together to create a timeless masterpiece.