Ten years ago I published The Warhol Gang with HarperCollins, a dystopian tale of neuromarketing gone awry, viral murder videos, professional insurance fraudsters, an underground resistance to a mutated mall culture, rampaging office co-workers and more. At the time, I worked at one of the larger daily newspapers in Canada, and I was trying to reflect the strange stories I saw trending online — I was trying to write the headlines of tomorrow.
I have to admit I never saw 2020 coming.
So now The Warhol Gang is a quaint little alternate history, where malls are still open (albeit under attack by that underground resistance), people still gather in groups without face masks and murder hornets have not yet come swarming over the horizon. I think I did all right with the Gun World storyline, though….
Anyway, it’s still available for sale as far as I know if you’re looking for a little escapist fantasy reading.
If you’re more interested in contemporary fiction about current events, please check out Has the World Ended Yet?, my latest book. It’s pretty strange. But admittedly not as strange as 2020.
A few years back, I wrote The Warhol Gang, which featured gun theme parks, viral shooting videos and rampaging shooter drills – among other things. At the time, I worried that maybe I was overdoing it a little, that readers would find it unbelievable. I never truly imagined a world where we’d be watching livestreams of school massacres, a world where people argue it’s their human right to own weapons of war intended for no other purpose than killing large numbers of fellow human beings quickly. We now live in a strange, broken and disintegrating reality where school children go on nationally televised livestreams to beg for their right to live and their leaders refuse them that simple request – or attack them with bizarre conspiracy theories that the children are not really children, that they are crisis actors. Imagine being told that you do not exist because someone else has fantasies that they are some sort of weekend Rambo.
It’s mainly an American problem, but it’s not contained there. Madness, fear and anxiety know no borders. I recently asked my oldest son what he had done at school that day and he told me his class had a hiding drill, where he hid in his cubby in case a gunman attacked the school. A six-year-old boy learning how to hide from a gunman because people want to own weapons of war.
I wish it were fiction.
I wish people found this unbelievable instead of acceptable.
I think I’ve talked a few times on this blog about how much Roger Zelazny‘s writing has meant to me. I don’t know how many times I’ve reread the Chronicles of Amber in my life — the only other books that come close are Steven Brust‘s Jhereg series, which have a similar feel. And maybe Lord of the Rings, which I read dozens of times in my early school years, although LOTR mostly has nostalgia value for me now. When I first started writing, I wanted to create unique, visionary worlds like Zelazny had, and I really wanted to blend genre fiction with literary style in the same manner. Not easy feats at all, as it turns out. But you do what you can.
I never expected to be compared to Zelazny, any more than I ever expected to be compared to Neil Gaiman. So it’s been a complete surprise and honour when that’s happened in reviews and such. And it was also a complete surprise and honour when a reader sent me a pic of two books she’d recently ordered — The Warhol Gang, which I wrote a few years back, and Doorways in the Sand, by Roger Zelazny. Thanks, Shara!
If my childhood self could see this pic, I think I know what he would say.
Years back, I wrote a little book called The Warhol Gang. The narrator of the book goes to accident scenes and pretends to be a cop/paramedic/firefighter/etc. I got the idea after I read a news story about a guy going to accident scenes in Alberta pretending to be a first responder. Today, I read a story about a guy in Alberta pretending to be a cop, pulling people over, etc. Is it something in the oil in Alberta?
A few years back I published a little book called The Warhol Gang. It follows the misadventures of a man who works in neuromarketing, getting his brain scanned in response to imaginary products, until he begins to lose his mind. He starts going out to accidents at night to get a dose of reality, where he falls in with a group of anti-mall activists. Things get crazy from there.
Almost everything I wrote about in The Warhol Gang existed at the time, just not in any meaningful scale. I wasn’t writing realism so much as I was trying to write the headlines of tomorrow — somewhere in between realism and sci-fi. As it turns out, I got a lot of it right — although that doesn’t exactly make me happy. Neuromarketing is a growing field, we’re increasingly live streaming terrorist attacks and political protests, we’re obsessed with the viral video — and we have sermons in movie theatres. One of the scenes in The Warhol Gang features our hapless narrator stumbling into a cinema in the middle of a religious service broadcast live on the screen. It’s the closest he can get to a real spiritual experience in his world, and he tries to get closer to the screen for a moment of communion. When I wrote the scene, I wondered if I was pushing things a bit too far. But I wondered that about almost everything in the book.
Today I checked out my news feeds and came across an article about people attending church sermons in much larger numbers than I projected in my novel.