Exclusive Interview: “NecroTek” Author Jonathan Maberry


Since 1923, the iconic science fiction / fantasy / horror magazine Weird Tales has presented stories that, as their own website puts it, are “so bizarre and far out, no one else would publish them.”

Well, now they’re doing the same thing with novels, starting with Jonathan Maberry’s deep space cosmic horror novel NecroTek (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook).

In the following email interview, Maberry discusses how this book came to be, what inspired and influenced it, as well as his plans for The NecroTek Series.

Jonathan Maberry NecroTek

To begin, what is NecroTek about, and when and where is it set?

NecroTek is a deep space cosmic horror novel.

It begins on a huge space station in orbit around Jupiter, with scientists experimenting with matter teleportation. An explosive malfunction hurls the entire station to the far side of the Milky Way galaxy with no way to get home. There, the survivors discover that creatures like Cthulhu and other cosmic monsters came to Earth millions of years ago — not to conquer, but to flee a greater horror living out there. And now the people on Asphodel Station are there…and they have been noticed.

It deals with weird science, cosmic philosophy, Lovecraftian horror, space battles, giant mech warriors, and ghosts, all in a struggle for survival.

Where did you get the idea for NecroTek?

There’s a long story, but here’s the short version of it. When I was a kid two key things happened, and both involved an insane bit of good luck. My middle school librarian was secretary for two groups of professional writers. One was focused on swords & sorcery fiction (Robert E. Howard, etc.) and was anchored by the prominent fantasist, L. Sprague de Camp. I got to know him well. I was twelve at the first meeting, but as I grew we became quite good friends all the way up to his passing in 2000. He introduced me to all kinds of fiction, and notably the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

The second group wasn’t precisely a “club,” but a kind of floating cocktail party held in a publisher’s penthouse whenever there were enough genre writers in New York. There, in 1970, I met Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Avram Davidson, Harlan Ellison, Leigh Brackett, and other giants of weird fiction. Of those, Bradbury and Matheson took particular interest in me because my librarian told them I wanted to be a writer. Every time they were in town, my librarian brought me from Philly to NY to see them, and they always had some useful advice for me. One thing Bradbury taught me was what he called the “What if?” game, in which he would select at random some person, item, event and ask me to keep asking myself “what if” until a story idea emerged.

Now, combine the two, and mix in my lifelong addiction to research, and you have the right ingredients for a strange stew. I combined a deep fascination with real science along with my love and knowledge of Lovecraftian cosmic horror. The day NecroTek was born, I was sprawled on a beach chair here in San Diego, watching the gray whale migration swim by on the horizon, and letting my mind wander. I knew I wanted to pitch a dark sci-fi novel, and I settled back and took different elements: real science, weird science extrapolated from real science, gaps in our scientific novel (always a doorway for writers), and the elements of cosmic horror. I’d been reading a scientific article on the probabilities of matter teleportation that morning, and a few days earlier had been deep into articles on space exploration, exoplanets, string theory, and exobiology. And with all that in my head, I played Bradbury’s “What If?” game. What if matter teleportation went horribly wrong? What if we found that the gods of Earth are “local” gods and not universal deities. What if we found ourselves so far away from Earth than we could never return? And so on.

By the time I left the beach that morning, I had the bones of the story of NecroTek. I went to my office and began knocking around more substantial ideas. As always, once I have the “big concept” for a novel, I immediately focus on characters, basically determining whose lives would be most seriously impacted by such a catastrophe, and who would rise to become heroic within a limited community trapped in isolation.

As you said, the scientists get transported to a planet far away. Is there a reason you sent them there instead of having this all happen on Earth or Mars or some other place within our own solar system?

I wanted to explore the concepts of isolation while removing all possibilities of any hope of rescue. That is true crisis, and in crisis characters have their affected personalities (the versions of ourselves we play in different aspects of our normal life) stripped away, and what remains is something closer to their true selves. People who have never really been tested may emerge as heroes, while others who think themselves strong might falter. If the story was set in our Solar System, then rescue would be possible, advice would be a radio call away, and hope would exists. I wanted to remove all of that and see how the characters found new hope, new optimism, and new strength in the face of a towering crisis with no cavalry coming.

As you said, NecroTek is a deep space cosmic horror novel. But it sounds like it might also be a space opera story, and a grimdark one at that.

Much as I dig space opera as a genre, I don’t think NecroTek fits. And it skates along the edges of grimdark, but I don’t let things become utterly hopeless. It’s science fiction survival with an underpinning of philosophy.

NecroTek is far from your first novel. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on NecroTek but not on anything else you’ve written?

I grew up reading works like Dune by Frank Herbert, with its sense of grandeur and scope; The Shrinking Man, Richard Matheson’s exploration of identity and place; The Fifth Season (Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin; Dancers At The End Of Time by Michael Moorcock, with its exploration of godhood; More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon, with meditations on human evolution; Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, a criminally underappreciated exploration of the stewardship of humanity as it approaches a nearly godlike jump in evolution; Contact by Carl Sagan, with its shapeshifting alien using familiarity of form as a basis for beginning conversations with alien life; Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler, for its exploration of the evolution of religious philosophy; An Unkindness Of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, with its approach to AI and identity; and, weirdly, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams, because sentient life is something of a farce.

What about non-literary influences; was NecroTek influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games (board, card, or video)? Because the trailer for the book totally makes it look like a video game. Specifically, the game Starfield.

I’m a pop culture nerd, and have favorites in different categories. I took influences and page homage to Event Horizon, Alien, LifeForce, Underwater, and Who Goes There? (the novel by John W. Campbell that’s the basis for all movie versions of The Thing). And there’s a bit of big mech kaiju fun, as in Pacific Rim, Attack On Titan, and the early 1931 anime, Ōgon Bat. And comics like the Fantastic Four from the Stan Lee / Jack Kirby era all the way through John Byrne’s run in the ’80s; Black Science by Rick Remender; Arzach by Moebius; Hellboy by Mike Mignola; The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook; and Nameless by Grant Morrison.

And what about your dog, Rosie? What influence did Rosie have on NecroTek?

Rosie is my anchor to a sane and relaxing world. She is also not above giving me side-eye if I get too full of myself.



Now, as the cover indicates, NecroTek has a connection to the iconic horror / fantasy / sci-fi magazine Weird Tales.What is the connection between Weird Tales and NecroTek?

Cosmic horror may not have been born in the pages of Weird Tales (that honor goes to Robert W. Chambers’ 1895 classic, The King In Yellow), but it was cultivated and encouraged to grow and flourish in the magazine. Many of H.P. Lovecraft’s seminal works first appeared there, along with Lovecraft-influenced works by Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, and so many others. The magazine was launched in 1923 as a vehicle for stories that really did not fit anywhere else. Lovecraft’s tales of cosmic horror were too arcane, too different and, well, too weird for the standard science fiction or horror pulps. But Weird Tales embraced them.

My boyhood mentors, L. Sprague de Camp, Ray Bradbury, and others, all wrote for (and in some cases edited) the magazine. My wife’s grandfather, pulp legend Oscar J. Friend, was a partner in the literary agency that represented Robert E. Howard and maybe Weird Tales contributors.

Roll forward to the late 2010s and a friend  — film producer Tony Eldridge (The Equalizer films) — reached out to ask if I’d like to write a story for the relaunch of the magazine. I did, and penned a swords and sorcery tale, “The Shadows Beneath The Stone,” which included Lovecraftian elements. Shortly after the story was accepted, the editor became ill and the publisher, John Harlacher, invited me to step up to become editor. Naturally, I jumped at it. As we got things rolling, Harlacher told me that he was pursuing a possible Weird Tales Presents novel imprint with Blackstone. I loved the idea. Once the imprint deal was closed, I was invited to pitch, and so cooked up the idea for NecroTek, along with two sequels: Cold War and Rate Of Decay. Since then, I’ve been acting as a semi-official scout to bring in new talent to the imprint.

As you just said, NecroTek is the first book in a series. What can you tell us about this series?

The first novel, NecroTek, sets up the “world” of the story: the central characters and central crises. However, each subsequent book will start in a different place before dovetailing into the main world of Asphodel Station and the war with the Outer Gods.

Cold War actually begins on Earth two years before the events of NecroTek, and introduces a new cast of characters. It is a direct and unabashed homage to both At the Mountains Of Madness by Lovecraft, and Who Goes There / The Thing. It’s set in Antarctica and (this is not a spoiler) kicks off with the discovery of a gigantic 3.4-kilometer long alien spaceship buried under millions-of-years-old ice. Those characters will eventually encounter the characters (and monsters) from the first novel, while twisting expectations into a new direction.

The third book’s plot is still under wraps because anything I say about it would be a spoiler.

My hope is that I keep writing NecroTek books for as long as I can. I have ideas for at least eight books and something like 20 short stories. I also want to explore possible comic book adaptations or (ideally) original comics set in that world.

Speaking of which, along with such novels as NecroTek, you’ve also written such comics as Captain America: Hail Hydra! and Marvel Universe Vs. The Avengers. Why did you decide to tell this story as a prose novel instead of a graphic one? Because unlike some of your novels, NecroTek seems like it would work really well as a comic book.

Although I write comics, short stories, poetry, and non-fiction, my default setting is novelist. I love the long form, and I love the way words can be so wonderfully and infinitely varied. English is such an expressive language, allowing for nuance, metaphor, subtext, motif, and layered storytelling.

But, yeah, I do want to tackle a NecroTek comic someday. I grew up as a comic book kid, and I’m still shellshocked that about 40% of the recent Black Panther: Wakanda Forever blockbuster from Marvel is based on my 2009-10 run on the Panther comic. That will never get old.

It also seems like NecroTek could work as a movie, too. Or as a TV show. Or a game.

I think a NecroTek game would be sooooo much fun. There are so many main and side adventures possible in that world.

As for dramatic forms, I’ve always been more a TV guy than film, largely because TV allows for more extensive character development, and as I said, NecroTek is character-driven. That said, done right, a movie would kick ass. As would an anime.

So, if someone wanted to adapt NecroTek and The NecroTek Series into some movies or a TV show, who would you want them to cast as Lost, Soren, and the other main characters?

I’d love Ray Porter as Dr. Soren (my favorite character in the book). Apart from being my go-to audiobook reader, Ray has been in so many great TV shows and movies: Sons Of Anarchy, Modern Family, Almost Famous, Rebel Moon Part I, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Justified, Monk, and tons of others. And, he’s enough of an acting chameleon that he could do Lost, too.

As for the co-star, pilot Bianca Petrescu, I could see Millie Bobby Brown [Stranger Things], Chloë Grace Moretz [Kick-Ass], or Dafne Keen [Star Wars: The Acolyte].

And if someone wanted to adapt NecroTek and The NecroTek Series into a game, what kind of game should it be?

It’s definitely video game material. The graphics of giant ghost-driven mechs fighting Lovecraftian monsters in their shapeshifting starships screams for that game format.

As for who should make it…I have no real preferences. A lot of game companies out there are doing amazing work.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about NecroTek or The NecroTek Series?

Despite the horror, the action, the dire threats, and dark themes, there is a thread of hope sewn through the story. This isn’t about humanity being wiped out; it’s a story about humanity rising to unexpected levels in order to defend their right to exist. Given how troubled our world is right now, I think we could use some hope.

Jonathan Maberry NecroTek

Finally, if someone enjoys NecroTek, they might want to read something warm and fuzzy to take the edge off. So, what book of yours would you recommend they read to reset their equilibrium before NecroTek: Cold War comes out?

My novel, Mars One, is a bit gentler. It’s about the first families moving to Mars, as viewed from the perspective of the 17-year-old son of pioneers. Tristan has just fallen in love, but he has to leave his girlfriend, his best friend, and everything else he’s known in order to accompany his family to another world, from which he isn’t likely to return. It has some real tear-jerker moments, but it’s nowhere near as dark as NecroTek. A nice bit of sunlight before Cold War turns out the lights again.



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