They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And, it stands to reason, by its title, either. But you’d forgiven for doing just that with David Wong’s new comedic sci-fi novel Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick (hardcover, Kindle), the second book in his Zoey Ashe series after 2015’s Futuristic Violence And Fancy Suits. In the following email interview, Wong discusses what inspired and influenced what we can’t help but assume is a wild and weird novel.
For people who didn’t read the first book in the Zoey Ashe series, Futuristic Violence And Fancy Suits, who is Zoey, what is this series about, and when and where do these stories take place?
These books take place in a future so surreal and chaotic that it’s only about 15% less stupid than our present. The protagonist is Zoey Ashe, a young woman from a trailer park who, through a series of unlikely and frankly implausible events, finds herself at the head of her dead father’s vast criminal empire in the futuristic city of Tabula Ra$a.
Now someone is selling black market technology that grants superpowers to the city’s least qualified citizens and, as a result, things are threatening to spin (further) out of control. Zoey is thus forced to work with her father’s old inner circle, whose only superpower is their ability to spread calculated misinformation and stage outlandish hoaxes using PSYOPS tricks. So they’re fighting stupidity with insanity and it works out about as well as you’d expect.
And then what is Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick about, and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the Futuristic Violence And Fancy Suits?
It takes place a few months after the first book ends, starring the same characters. Well, minus the ones who died. But you can jump right in with this one, no book of mine requires reading any previous book, I know people are busy.
And is there a reason why Zoey punches the future in the genitalia as opposed to the facial region or the gastrointestinal tract?
I’ll leave it to future scholars to dissect the symbolism there, I don’t want to spoil it for them.
When in relation to writing Futuristic Violence And Fancy Suits did you come up with the idea for Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick?
I have two radically different book series I alternate between, and I really can’t think about one while doing the other without overheating my brain. So after Fancy Suits was wrapped, I switched to the third book in my horror series, What The Hell Did I Just Read, and at that point I think the only material I had on Zoey Punches was a Post-It note on which I’d scrawled, “BLIMP FIGHT?!?”
You make it sound like Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick is a comedic sci-fi story. Is that how you’d describe it?
Here’s something very strange I’ve found over the last few years: Readers these days kind of hate being told that a book is comedic. I think it’s because they assume a “wacky” story will just waste their time — that there won’t be real characters or emotional stakes. Plus, there’s just nothing worse than bad comedy, like a bad thriller might still keep you reading but bad jokes are just torture, so it’s a risky purchase for them. As a result, these days I try to de-emphasize the comedy aspect. It’s a real story! With real, rounded characters who face actual danger! I promise!
But at the same time, I feel like the real world is full of unintentional absurdity, so just making the story authentic introduces a healthy amount of ridiculousness. I mean, look at the title.
Yeah, it’s kind of a giveaway Moving on, what do you consider to be the big influences on Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick? And I don’t just mean writers and other books but movies, TV shows, and games as well.
Strangely enough, I find myself more influenced by bad movies / books / shows than good ones. I guess the motivation to try to do the better version of their thing, or to achieve what I feel like they were going for, is stronger than the urge to just imitate my favorites. But I don’t want to call out specific titles because that would just come off as mean. Plus, I’ll just get comments from people telling me the original was better.
I guess it’s similar to the process by which Quentin Tarantino became way more successful at his thing than I am at mine, in that he isn’t trying to do his version of The Godfather, he’s doing his (better) version of Karate Cheerleader Revenge.
Now, as I mentioned, Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick is the second book in your Zoey Ashe series. What can you tell us about this series?
Every book I’ve written has been part of an episodic series because it lets me write a lot of books without having to think up a whole new cast of characters every time. Work smarter, not harder. But each book stands on its own, like none will leave off on a cliffhanger or anything.
Your first novel, John Dies At The End, was made into a movie. Has there been any talk of making Futuristic Violence And Fancy Suits and Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick into a movie as well?
It’s actually in development as a TV series! That doesn’t mean it will be a show, the odds are against you right up until it actually gets greenlit. But who knows?
If it does go to series, though, do you have any thoughts on who should play Zoey and the other main characters?
I don’t want to express my preferences for casting because for all I know they’ve actually cast someone and I could be citing someone who’s totally different and they’ll think I did it just to be a dick.
Speaking of John Dies At The End, my understanding is that you’re writing a fourth book in the John And Dave series. Do you know yet when that will be out and what it might be called?
It’s scheduled for fall of 2022, assuming we’re all still alive and I haven’t been arrested or something. The working title is Wendy’s Copycat Chili Recipe because I initially pasted my notes into the wrong Word doc and just never got around to changing it. I’m sure we’ll think of a better one later.
And do you know when John and Dave will meet Zoey as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I mean the Wongverse?
Well they can’t meet because John and Dave are from a series in which the supernatural is real, and Zoey is not. You never want to mix the two or else it confuses the rules of the universe. It’d be like if Marvel had started with a movie that was grounded entirely in science and technology, like Iron Man, and then tried to put him in the same story as the literal gods of Norse mythology or something. Audiences hate that kind of thing.
Finally, if someone enjoys Zoey Punches The Future In The Dick, what comedic sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you suggest they check out next?
If they somehow found me before finding Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, they’ve got years of whimsical sci-fi and fantasy to catch up on, and I envy them. If they want something recent, the last great one I read was Carrier Wave by Robert Brockway. It may be too terrifying to be funny for some people but in 2020, I really don’t see how anything could be.