Usually when someone writes a science fiction story about a technology that doesn’t exist…yet, the writer will base their version more on fictional depictions than real science. But in the following email interview with writer Drew Magary about his romantic sci-fi novel Point B (paperback, Kindle), which involves teleportation, he explains that he consulted with an “actual physicist” to make sure his transporter functioned properly.
To begin, what is Point B about, and when and where is it set?
Okay, so Point B takes place in a world where anyone can teleport anywhere simply by touching a map on their phone. This happens roughly a decade from now, so it’s a world that still has a lot of our same awful problems, complete with a stunning technological advance that no one is ready for.
It’s about a 17-year-old girl named Anna Huff who enrolls at a school where kids can’t teleport, meets the girl of her dreams there, watches that girl disappear from campus mysteriously, and then has to break back out into the larger porting world to find her.
Where did you get the idea for Point B, and did the plot undergo any major changes as you wrote it?
I started a completely different version of the novel six years ago. I honestly don’t remember where the idea came from. I think after I had written The Postmortal, I threw together a list of other potential social sci-fi world-building ideas and plucked it off of there. The idea’s been done elsewhere, of course, most notably in “The Jaunt” [a short story by Stephen King from his collection Skeleton Crew]. I just figured I could make it my own somehow.
Anyway, I abandoned that first version of the novel after 30k words or so. Then, after I published The Hike, I went back and took the premise of that draft, added characters from a different abandoned novel I had started eight years ago, and then — and this is the key — I visited my old prep school one weekend and realized I could ground the whole world of the book there to give it structure.
You call Point B “a teleportation love story.” So is it a romantic sci-fi story, a romance with sci-fi elements, or something else entirely?
It’s a chase for love. A lot of the romance takes place in Anna’s head because she’s yearning for a girl she can’t find and isn’t even certain that girl loves her back. So it’s a sci-fi action book, with love as the prize.
In deciding how teleportation would work in Point B, did you base it on how it’s been depicted in Star Trek and other works of fiction or did you look to scientists who are trying to make it a reality?
No, no, I asked an actual physicist for help. I didn’t bother looking to other works of fiction, although I’m sure Point B might overlap with them in certain ways. I knew I wanted porting to be a universally adapted technology in the book, so I talked to a physicist named Matt Bellis [a particle physicist and associate professor of physics at Siena College in Loudonville, New York] to make sure that tech read as grounded, and to find out some of the real physical effects of porting. So for example, if you teleport out of your room, you instantly create a vacuum of air that must be filled. The air collapses upon itself. The result of that? A good loud bang.
Okay, so no Star Trek for the teleporting. Aside from that, was Point B influenced by any other movies, TV shows, or video games?
No, it’s mostly influenced by ’80s hair rock ballads.
There are two “profiles” in the book that are written in magazine style, so Chris Heath and David Grann definitely influenced me there, as they have in my actual profile writing.
Now, some sci-fi novels, romantic or otherwise, are stand-alone stories, while some are parts of larger sagas. What is Point B?
I always write novels as stand-alone stories. I’ve read books like Miss Peregrine where I’m like “this is cool” and then I get to the end and it’s not an end and I’ve been like, “Well shit, I gotta read more of these fucking things?” I’m not wild about giving the reader that feeling. I want them to get the payoff.
Also, I’m frankly terrified to attempt a series because I dunno if I can pull it off.
The one thing I’ll say is that this time, I think I finally achieved my goal of really solid character development, to the point where I feel more confident I could bring these characters into a new story and keep it fresh. But I’ll only do that for a shitload of money. [laughs]
Earlier I asked if Point B had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or video games. Has there been any interest in adapting Point B into a movie, show, or game?
I already made an agreement with a production company for the rights to the book and it’s being shopped as a TV show as we speak. Nothing of mine has actually been made into a TV show or movie so if this gets made into anything I’ll dance a jig. I don’t give a shit either way.
If Point B does get made into a TV series, who would you want them to cast as Anna and the other major characters?
All the young people in the book would have to be cast by newcomers. It would be cool if they somehow assembled one of those young casts where everyone goes on to be a superstar in other shit, but those are just my daydreams talking.
Finally, if someone enjoys Point B, which of your other novels would you suggest they read next and why that one and not the other one?
The Postmortal, because it’s a similar “What If?” idea written in roughly the same kind of format. These are books designed to get you thinking about living in that world and what you would do in it. Hopefully you’d all be good little boys and girls.