Having already donned some snappy clothes and punched the future in the cajones, Zoey is getting wasted. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then clearly you haven’t read Jason Pargin’s comedic sci-fi novels Futuristic Violence And Fancy Suits, Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick, or Zoey Is Too Drunk For This Dystopia. Though the latter is understandable since — depending on when you read this — it probably just came out in hardcover, for Kindle, or as an audiobook. In the follow email interview, Pargin discusses what inspired and influenced this third misadventure, as well as his future plans for the young lady.
For people who haven’t read the previous books in this series — Futuristic Violence And Fancy Suits and Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick — or the interview you and I did about Dick, who is Zoey Ashe, what does she do, and when and where does she live?
In the near future, a young woman living in a trailer park finds out she has inherited a sprawling criminal empire thanks to a series of bizarre and, frankly, implausible events. She’s forced to travel to Tabula Ra$a, a dazzling new city that has sprouted in the middle of the desert in Utah, like an American Dubai. She’s forced to use her new power to try to keep the peace in a city where the criminals have cybernetic enhancements that they like to show off for social media clout.
And then what happens to Zoey in Zoey Is Too Drunk For This Dystopia, and when and where is it set in relation to Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick?
This book takes place approximately five months after Zoey has punched the future in the dick. It’s election season, one of the mayoral candidates is a psychopath and the other is corrupt. This turns out to be the least of Zoey’s problems.
When in relation to writing Futuristic Violence And Fancy Suits and Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick did you come up with the idea for Zoey Is Too Drunk For This Dystopia, and what inspired this third book’s plot?
Well, at some point I started to wonder how much of my daily reality was either a narrative generated by media or events that themselves occurred in response to a media-generated narrative, and if I hadn’t reached the stage in which most of what I believe to be true about life isn’t simply a story concocted for someone else’s entertainment. So I wanted to write a book in which Zoey finds herself on the other side of just such a narrative, of having to be the one crafting it. I don’t remember exactly when I had these revelations but I remember I was in the shower at the time.
In Zoey Is Too Drunk For This Dystopia, there’s an annual music festival, which is always followed by an annual drunken riot. Is there any significance to the drunken riot being proceeded by a music festival, as opposed to a food fest or a comic book convention or some other gathering?
If the goal of a story is maximum chaos, I can’t imagine a better setting than a gigantic desert music festival, in the future. In the novel, this is an event that descends into chaos every year and at this point, the attendees will feel cheated if it doesn’t happen. I figured that organizing such an event (as Zoey is forced to do) would be a hilarious nightmare.
Also, since writing Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick, you’ve gone back to using your real name, Jason Pargin, as opposed to your pen name, David Wong. I’m guessing not, but is there any significance to the name change, one that relates to your books?
Nothing relating to these specific books; years ago, I decided to get everything under my real name. All of my books have since been reprinted with “Jason Pargin” on the cover; prior to that my real name was always displayed in the “About The Author” section.
Now, the previous books were all darkly comic sci-fi stories, though more in a situational way like John Scalzi’s Starter Villain or The Kaiju Preservation Society, as opposed to something jokey like Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Is it safe to assume Zoey Is Too Drunk For This Dystopia strikes a similar tone?
It’s funny because I believe Zoey’s universe is exactly as darkly comedic as reality. People keep treating it like a specific creative choice but at this point, I’m incapable of seeing the world in any other way. If you ever see me write a book that doesn’t have this tone, I’ve either gone through a traumatic event that profoundly changed my personality or I’ve hired a ghostwriter.
So, what writers do you feel had the biggest influence on the tone of Zoey Is Too Drunk For This Dystopia, the comedic aspects?
I’m going to say Jesse Armstrong, the genius behind Succession and, before that, maybe the best sitcom ever made, Peep Show. He creates worlds full of people who are very eloquent but ridiculous, without an ounce of self-awareness. It’s imaginative and silly but brutally authentic.
What about the plot? Was Zoey Is Too Drunk For This Dystopia influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Because having an organized annual riot makes me think of those Purge movies….and the “Look Who’s Purging Now” episode of Rick & Morty.
Honestly the tone was mostly influenced by the news as it has been presented over the last eight years or so, with new comical and terrifying characters popping onto the scene on a seemingly daily basis. So whatever writer is responsible for that. God?
As we’ve been discussing, Zoey Is Too Drunk For This Dystopia is her third adventure after Futuristic Violence And Fancy Suits and Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick. But is Drunk the third book of a trilogy, or the third in a set series of four or five books, or just the latest in an ongoing series of stories…?
The plan is to write them until I run out of ideas or the readers run out of interest, whichever happens first. I actually try to write both of my series so that any individual book could plausibly serve as the first or last for any specific reader. I want every book to introduce new readers to the universe and for each to serve as a satisfying ending to the series in case I die or get arrested in between books.
Now, the Zoey books are currently in development as a TV series…
That’s no guarantee that it’ll become a show you can watch, but we’re all hoping.
Is there anything you can tell us?
I feel like it’s a show that could have a run like Peaky Blinders, where there is an ongoing series of adventures but at some satisfying point they’d bring the major character arcs to a close.
They won’t, but if the producers ask you for casting suggestions, who would you suggest they get to play Zoey and the other main characters?
I get asked this question a lot, but I’m always afraid that if the show gets made, my wish list cast will be totally different from the real cast and they’ll go back and read this and ban me from the set. I do think Cillian Murphy [Oppenheimer] would be a great Will, though. Man, I think I’m just having them make Peaky Blinders again.
Finally, if someone enjoys Zoey Is Too Drunk For This Dystopia, and they’ve already read Futuristic Violence And Fancy Suits and Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick, what darkly comic sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you recommend they check out?
If they’ve read me but not Douglas Adams, for the love of God, they should go do that right now, all of his books. He invented the genre.
If they want something current and modern, Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries novels aren’t as openly silly but have a very similar tone to Zoey: humorous but mainly humorous in the way that the real world is.