Terry Brooks is legendary. Legacy. OG. So, when Terry Brooks wants to pop by your website to talk about his new book, you don’t simply say yes, you throw him the keys to the blog with such ardor and glee you nearly break the sound barrier. Here is Mister Brooks to talk about his newest, Street Freaks.
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When I write a book I am always writing about more than the story you read. Street Freaks is no exception – and yet at the same time it is. Almost my entire life’s work has been in the field of fantasy, save for a couple of movie adaptations and a book on writing. Street Freaks is different. You might want to call it science fiction, but since my actual knowledge of anything scientific could be measured in a thimble, I’ve coined a different term. I call the book a futuristic thriller.
On a quick reading, I think you would agree with this designation. But there are other aspects to the book that transcend both ‘thriller’ and ‘futuristic’ – enough so that either or both terms are really not sufficient to describe it. There is a kind of weird and poignant love story. There is a vision of the future that suggests the United States will break apart and become the United Territories. There are transmats (aka matter transporters) by which we can now send our bodies to any point on the planet. Vehicles fly, but throwback versions of dragsters and muscle cars from an earlier time still race on the composite surfaces of city streets. There are elite police units with a license to kill.
More important to me than all of these are my efforts to address recognizable social issues that exist today and will almost certainly exist in the future in spite of all our efforts to change the culture. They will wear new clothes and speak different languages and morph into different forms, but they will still be with us. Prejudice is not about to go away because we decry the inhumanity and unfairness of it. Efforts to control people through government oversight are not going to become outdated or shunned by revelations of misuse. Prejudices centering on race, sexual orientation, nationality and religion are here to stay. They have been with us since the first humans walked the earth, and they are with us still. If you want to address the problems they pose, you have to come to terms with the reason they persist.
My solution to such conundrums has always been to write a story.
I decided to write this particular story as a way to showing how things might evolve, but not with any intention of solving the problem. I wanted to tell a story about how I saw the future and how those issues might evolve into something different than what exists today – but not so different that we wouldn’t recognize them for what they are.
So let me start at the beginning, because it took a long time to put the bones of the story together with sufficient clarity that I could attempt to write it. I can trace the nescient stages back to when my grandson was participating in a Christmas pageant, and my wife and I were there to lend support. It had been years since I had gone to something like this – our kids long since grown – and what startled me was how different the audience was. It wasn’t all one race, all of the same sexual orientation, or all family-traditional; it was a United Nations of people and families of every sort. I remember thinking that this was the future – not only of this state or this country but also of the world. Technology in communications, social media and travel was making it possible for a One World future to become a reality.
But what were the challenges to making this happen?
Prejudices, of course. All sorts of prejudices.
I decided to write about how prejudice of any form would always provide a challenge to common decency and the resilience of the human spirit. I wanted to write about what other prejudices might supplant the ones of race, nationality, sexuality and religion that were slowly becoming less and less of a hindrance to people understanding one another and accepting their differences.
One thing led to another. What, I asked myself, will be the prejudice of the future, and what will bring it about? The answer seemed obvious. We are engaged in genetic studies, in exploring new ways of rebuilding bodies and minds, of pushing the frontiers of expanding robotics, and of finding ways in which we can extend and even create life. Many would view such progress unfavorably. Successful creation of hybrid humans would create a new form of prejudice, which would join quite comfortably with those already firmly established.
So what if we have humans who are entirely synthetic? What if we can build robots that are as capable and intelligent as humans? What if we can repair damaged humans by using composite materials and synthetic organs to make them whole again? What if we were able to grow humans in test tubes and through genetic manipulation?
What if a human boy and a synthetic girl fell in love?
What if the boy wasn’t sure he was human after all?
Science and science fiction alike have posited as much for decades. Why couldn’t it one day become a reality of our lives?
Many would not like the idea. Many would proclaim it unacceptable. There would be prejudice and anger and mistrust directed towards these ‘fake’ people. They would be marginalized everywhere. They would band together as all marginalized people tend to do.
And what might their detractors call them.
Or, more specifically for the purposes of my story, Street Freaks.
And these not-quite-entirely-humans would become the heroes of my story.
I was up and running. And I don’t think I’m done yet.
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Terry Brooks: Website