There are a lot of reasons to stay indoors. Bees. Rowdy teenagers. Wild Pokémon running amok. But for those who aren’t afraid of the great outdoors, might I recommend you read Drew Magary’s weird new horror/sci-fi novel, The Hike (hardcover, digital), in which a guy has a terrible, no good, very bad day because he decided to take a walk in the woods. To find out more about this cautionary tale, I spoke to Magary about the impetuous and influences behind this freaky and oddly semiautobiographical story.
photo credit: Patrick Serengulian
I always like to start with the basics. So, in a general sense, what is The Hike about?
It’s a fellow who goes on a hike and gets very, very, very lost. I’m a big fan of anything where someone gets lost and is trapped somewhere strange and imposing: desert islands, distant planets, Oz, anything. That’s my sweet spot.
Where did the idea for The Hike come from, and how different is the final book from that original idea?
I went on a hike. I went on a hike and started getting freaked out because I was extremely alone and the woods began to twist and knot and I became mildly concerned I would either get lost or stumble onto some weird shit. In real life, I turned around and went back to my hotel. In the book, that…does not happen.
Now, be honest, did you write The Hike so your wife would stop asking you to go outside and get some exercise?
No! I have three kids, so in fact exercise is discouraged. If I steal away to the gym, then that leaves her alone with those three maniacs. The gym is now an oasis.
Fair? Oh hell yeah, I’ll take those comparisons. Those sound way fair to me. If someone reads the book and says, “Boy, that reminded me of something wildly popular and beloved,” I assure you I won’t be insulted.
By the way, I have not read the Gaiman book, but did read Ready Player One, though only after I had finished my book. I enjoyed it.
So then what would you compare The Hike to? And I don’t just mean in terms of what it’s about, but also the way you wrote it?
Well, I wrote specifically as a folk tale, because I used to read a lot of them as a kid. So that was my starting point. And then you have other elements in there like Stephen King, A Christmas Carol, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Odyssey, Cast Away, The Princess Bride, and lots of other shit.
How were those things influences on The Hike?
I think it’s all indirect. It’s the sum byproduct of any classic tale I’ve ever enjoyed. I will say that The Princess Bride was big to me because it has villains, but all the villains have charm. I love a villain with manners.
You’ve also said that The Hike was inspired by the King’s Quest games. How so?
I played them a lot as a kid, and I always loved venturing into new screens or walking back into a screen and finding an object there that hadn’t been there before. That’s a real opium high for a ten-year-old.
Were any other games an influence on any aspects of The Hike?
Any sort of room escape or puzzle game had some indirect influence on it because I wanted the hero to have to think his way out of certain problems
So what games did you play when you were writing The Hike? Or, to be more accurate, what games did you play when you were supposed to be writing The Hike?
Very few, actually. I’m not much of a gamer anymore. Though just as I wrapped up, I got really into this game called The Room on iOS. It’s gorgeous.
Many sci-fi, horror, and fantasy books that come out these days are either written to be parts of a series or end up being that way. Is that your plan for The Hike?
It’s not planned as a series, mostly because I lack the ability to do serial fiction. I just can’t keep up plots and characters that long. I haven’t figured out the secret sauce to that yet. Also, I tend to seek out new ideas instead.
Now, aside from The Hike, you previously wrote the novel The Postmortal and the memoir Someone Could Get Hurt, as well as that infamous GQ interview with Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty. But the really interesting thing in your history is that you won the cooking game show Chopped last year. In writing The Hike, how often did you have to cut back on the cooking instructions when describing what Ben was eating?
I love any book where food is just listed in front of a character. It makes me very very hungry, even if the food isn’t all that great. So there’s a good amount of that.
I want to go back to the video game thing. Do you think The Hike could be made into a game?
Oh yeah I’d love that. Definitely. I have no idea how to design games, but I’d shit hot knives to see Activision or whoever make a point & click game out of it.
What about a movie, has anyone expressed interest in turning The Hike into a movie? Or a TV show?
Nothing happening yet. Fingers crossed.
This would never happen, but if The Hike was being turned into a TV show or movie, and the producers asked you who you thought would be the best to play Ben and the other major characters, who would you pick and why?
I had Adam Scott in my head, but frankly I’d be happy with anyone good. I’d be too busy throwing a “Hey they made a movie of my book!” party to be that picky.
Finally, if someone really likes The Hike and want to know what they should read next so they don’t have to go outside and get some exercise, what book would you recommend and why?
Lexicon by Max Barry. It’s just a good solid driving book that doesn’t fuck around when it comes to keeping you entertained.