Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jasper Fforde Interview Part 2

I promised swans and libraries today… and yes, I do deliver, but with an added bonus of Monopoly! Perhaps a tad more random then the color centric part yesterday, I hope it will be equally entertaining… enough of me, you want more of Jasper, and that’s what this post is all about.

Elizabeth: Do you view the lack of a stocked library[1] the most nightmarish aspect of East Carmine, where all they have is the vague memories of what was once there?

Jasper: It’s pretty chilling really, it’s more because they’re worn out than someone’s… oh hang on, they removed them, yes someone’s removing them, haven’t they. Yeah it is a bit chilling and a bit worrying. But I kind of like the idea. Because in my previous books, in the Thursday Next Series, I have a library that contains every single book there is and here I’ve got a library that contains just empty shelves. I was kind of doing a sort of complete turn around there. But I do like the idea of a library, not only without books, but the people still in it. I think this is very telling, for the kind of way in which this society is really breaking down, that they remember the function of the library and that’s what they’re celebrating. Where everything used to be, and what the titles are, but not the form. So they’re not saying, well the books used to say this, they’re saying, the books used to be here. And I think that was maybe a very subtle way in which the society is kind of rotting, and that maybe 200 years ago they used to discuss the books and now they just discuss where they used to be. It’s just another way of adding to the kind of slightly, sort of insidious, kind of nasty, this society is going in a very very bad direction and no one in particular seems to realize.

Elizabeth: Would the librarians kind of being non-functionary, but still having their job, reflect almost what’s happening today with reference librarians being phased out with the internet?

Jasper: Yes, they do seem to be. The whole library issue is a very interesting point and certainly it will be interesting to see where the internet goes as regards reference libraries. But I think the traditional library with librarians and things, that does seem to be slowing down, and I think it does seem to be on the way out. The internet is such easy access to more and more people, the libraries do seem to have perhaps a bit of trouble competing. Unfortunately that adds to the difficulties where people who don’t have internet access and will actually make the whole unonline, the unconnected underclass, even worse, which is a worry, I must say. But the way I look at the internet is one huge library, and I can just log in wherever I want.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I mean, you can even log into remote libraries themselves and see what books they have and everything.

Jasper: Yeah, it’s terrific, libraries are great too, that’s the thing. I love my local library and the librarians and everything. But one does see that it looks like days could be numbered. Who knows how the future is going to turn out?

Elizabeth: Yeah, my mom’s a librarian and they’re trying to decide whether they are even going to upgrade their school, do they want to try to outmode themselves faster?

Jasper: Yeah, I know it’s a hard one. And budgets are tight and libraries have been giving over more and more space to computer terminals for the last ten, fifteen years, and will probably continue to do so. But, I mean, how they evolve, and stay necessary and useful within the next twenty or thirty years is vital. But I think, certainly, that they will have to change in some form if they are to survive.

Elizabeth: Did you conceive of leapbacks[2] as a way to not only keep the people in line but also to make it so your book is not outdated by true future technology? As you said with Bladerunner it depicts the future so well but didn't prefigure cell phones.

Jasper: Yeah, it was. I’m very much of the opinion that the way we run our lives at the moment is based on sort of habit. And really the way that we think, and the way we discuss things, and the way that we look forward to things is very much a sort of fashion, the clothes we wear. And I thought, the way of thinking about things could change dramatically as well in 700 years, and these days we are always looking forward to new technology, you know, we have an expectation of new technology. In Eddie’s world they have an expectation of loosing technology. And how they deal with this is by trying to loophole a way of keeping the technology or taking the technology so you can use it within the parameters of the leapback compliance certificate. So in many ways, the way that they react to technology, is as innovative as the way that we do, and it was just really taking this idea of this endless increase in technology that we have and saying, ok, let’s turn it on it’s head and have a decrease in technology and actually see how people deal with that instead. And it was just a little sort of little fun thing, but again, also, I think, it’s to keep people in check and to keep everyone very localized and not moving around and really trying to keep a lid on society and make it sustain.

Elizabeth: Did you ever have a bad experience with swans?

Jasper: Swans? No, but it’s very funny though because there is always this thing with mothers, I don’t know what it’s like in the states, but here, it’s always “don’t go near a swan, it will break your arm” and I’ve never, ever, heard of anyone having a swan that broke my arm or anyone else’s. I was even on a tour in America, and during the tour I used to say, “Oh, can I just ask a question here, is there anyone here who has either been attacked by a swan or knows anyone who was attacked by a swan?” And of course no one, absolutely not at all. But it is one of those childhood fears that you have, and I thought I’ll use this because we have, in my book, basically four fears which are being stoked up to keep everyone in check. Swans, you know, big danger, and then there’s the night, which is also very frightening if you’re a child, there’s lightning[3], you know, which can come and get you, and that’s very dangerous too, and then there’s the Mildew[4] of course, always hanging around, disease, ready to get you, and the Riffraff, the unknown, sort of lower classes, who clearly don’t know how to brush their hair properly. So, it’s all this sort of manufactured ill, manufactured fears, in which everyone can sort of talk about and say, “oh yes, it’s terrible” without actually really coming into contact with them or understanding exactly what it is. And it’s just a form of social control I think.

Elizabeth: I was actually once attacked by a goose.

Jasper: Oh really! Well, geese, yeah, yeah, I think I’ve been attacked by a goose, yeah.

Elizabeth: Yeah, my friends don’t let me live it down, I was feeding it and it got violent[5]

Jasper: Yeah, they do that, they’ve got a bad temper geese.

Elizabeth: With reference to Monopoly, with Laden Parke Laine[6], and the only map left in existence after the "Something That Happened" being a RISK game board, how have board games, in particular Parker Brothers, influenced you?

Jasper: Well, Monoploy influenced me quite a lot when I was younger, cause we used to play a lot. I had two older brothers, and they used to play Monopoly, and I used to come along to make up the numbers and to have someone for them to beat. So I remember beating my brother at Monopoly once, and of course it was one of those wonderful moments in one’s childhood, where suddenly everything’s right with the world and it was wonderful[7]. Course he was a very bad looser, so he took it very very badly and I was starting to win very slowly at first, but then I got, more and more and more and more, until there was this point when he realized that he would never be able to claw back the money I’d earned off of him. And in the end, he just sort of threw the board in the air and scattered all the pieces everywhere and stormed out of the room. But it was a very good moment for me I must say, and it was the same with RISK actually. Beating him at RISK was quite good as well. But, yeah, board games, great fun, cause they’re very family orientated you see, and we used to not watch too much tv and play board games and play cards and stuff. I have great fondness for board games. Scrabble, we play a huge amount of Scrabble in my family. So, you know, we like it.

Elizabeth: Yeah, Scrabble was never a favorite, I’m not very good at spelling[8].

Jasper: Yeah no? Oh, ok.

Elizabeth: Thursday Next is very obviously a kind of parallel world to ours, but is Shades of Grey maybe a possible future?

Jasper:Yes, I think that was very much the case, I was really trying to get away from the Thursday world as much as possible so I didn’t want it to be a parallel world. I thought, let’s actually create one that was maybe seven or eight hundred years in the future, or a possible a future. So yes, I was really trying to distance myself from Thursday and everything.

Elizabeth: When writing Eddie, did you try to visualize the world as he'd see it with only shades of red?

Jasper: Yeah, there’s a sequence where he’s looking out of the window and he’s looking at the red flowers cause he’s bored of staring at the grey, cause it just becomes a grey mass as it moves past, and he’s looking for these little tiny little flecks of red, and then I think I describe how he moves through the summer on a sort of seasonal bloom and you take the early bloomers in the beginning of the season, and you’d watch them, and then slowly you’d go through the poppies and the sorrels and the pink campions, until season end, when you didn’t really get much at all. So every now and again I’d think how does Eddie see this, but it’s a hard one to visualize I have to say. But it’s much easier when you get a photograph and then actually desaturate all the colors apart from red and then you get a very clear idea. It also makes you realize that grass is actually yellow, which I never realized until I started mucking around with it. Grass is not really green at all, it’s mostly yellow.

Elizabeth: At least the yellows[9] will be happy then.

Jasper: Yeah, absolutely. They will, they certainly will.

Elizabeth: While several of the more menacing inhabitants are more conventional, with, evil plants, killer swans, and the lightning, I think the most sinister thing is Perpetulite Roads[10]. What made you decide to take something so mundane and make it so menacing?

Jasper: Well, I think that’s the fun of drama, and that’s always the chance of good drama, when you take something very very mundane, and then you make that frightening, or you make it a point of reference. And I just like Perpetulite, I think it’s brilliant. And I was sort of sitting down about six months before the book was finished and I was trying to think up future technologies, and that’s a hard one, cause you really have to think of things which are really not thought about at all, and your self cleaning windows, you know, that’s fine, someone could figure that out, I’m sure they have already, but I thought a building material that was made of a sort of organic plastoid, that actually just sucked all the nutrients out of the surrounding soil that it needs to maintain itself. And I thought this would be a fantastic building material. And really it would start as like a little brickette, wouldn’t it, and you’d just sort of add some water to it and it would start to grow. But the notion that roads are still dangerous, even when there’s no cars or people, I think also has a little sort of satirical edge to it, that you can be killed on the road by the road itself. Not just by a car or driving too fast or a drunken driver or anything else, the road itself will actually kill you. But it’s just a nice, sort of, slightly horrible notion, being eaten alive by something that really has no personality at all, it just wants to be a road.

Elizabeth: Plus, it would just be so useful, even if it was dangerous. I mean, cause we had 18” of snow here last week.

Jasper: Yeah, there you are, you should have some Perpetulite! Cause, you see, Perpetulaite actually generates heat. You can set how warm you want it and there’s never any ice on the road. When people still lived in Eddie’s world and had cars[11], or what might have passed for a car, Perpetulite would have been fantastically useful, never an icy road, the white lines would have illuminated themselves, and it would also have transmitted the power to your car. So it would have been fantastic and perfectly smooth, perfectly flat, no road works, nothing, it would have been great.

Elizabeth: Probably cut down on deer running across your path too, cause it would just eat them.

Jasper: Perpetulite, in it’s proper state would actually sense a deer or something that was actually on the road and then it would put white warning signs up ahead to drivers. Or it could even slow your car down ahead of time. Perpetulite would be the most brilliant of road surfaces ever. There would be hardly any accidents at all. But I love the sort of unintended consequences of wonderful technology and the fact that it’s still there and you can’t get ride of it and it’s seven hundred years later and now it’s starting to eat the inhabitants cause it’s getting hungry. I think it’s wonderful how humans leave their technology around and it starts doing nasty things in a hundred years time, like all those nuclear reactors which have been dumped in the Baring Sea and all that sort of stuff. It’s wonderful technology, but, years from now it’s just going to cause trouble. So I think it’s a bit of that.

Elizabeth: Is this going to be a set trilogy? Or are you thinking of going beyond the three books?

Jasper: Um, I don’t know. I mean it will be interesting to see how we go with number two. I mean, certainly there’s a good number two in it, whether I can stretch that to three or four our more, I’m not sure. The world is still quite large and unexplored, we’ve only really seen two inhabited villages[12] and two uninhabited villages[13], and we haven’t really seen what happened at High Saffron, and we know there’s a huge library[14] at High Saffron, which will have, one presumes, a lot of answers. So there’s an awful lot to be explored and there’s an awful lot of unexplained stuff and a lot for Eddie and Jane to do, even if they can do it in their own lifetime. So yes, but it really depends on how it’s received, and how number two looks and what else I’m writing at the time.

Elizabeth: Well, I hope its received well cause I really enjoyed it a lot.

Jasper: Oh, good.

Elizabeth: Have you actually started working on the next one or…

Jasper: No, I’m working on Thursday Next six[15] at the moment.

Jasper: Well a year’s time.

Elizabeth: Well thank you so much for this interview, I don’t want to take any more of your time.

Jasper: Oh, no, that’s quite alright.

Elizabeth: I’m actually going to be coming to your Skokie event[16].

Jasper:Oh good.

Elizabeth: And have you ever been to the Midwest in winter?

Jasper: Midwest in winter? No, I don’t… think I, hang on, Midwest in winter, well, no, what do you call the Midwest? Minneapolis isn’t the Midwest is it?

Elizabeth: Technically it is I think.

Jasper: Oh, ok, then I have. With, all your like heaps of snow and stuff. I think the first three books I did I was on a winter tour.

Elizabeth: Yeah, we get lots of snow. We’re getting more than what was expected[17].

Jasper: Yeah, I know, I love it. And it’s wonderful, cause we don’t have snow in the UK like that.

Elizabeth: Yeah, it was quite shocking to have last week where all of a sudden we had, you know, two feet of snow and no power.

Jasper: Oh, well ok, no, that snow’s not so much fun.

Elizabeth: Thank you so much and I’ll see you in January.

Jasper: Ok, brilliant.


Jasper: Right, thanks, bye.

Well, there you have it! I'm obviously indebted to Jasper for doing the interview, but also thanks go out to Sonya Cheuse at Viking for sending me the book and offering me the chance of an interview. Really big thanks go out to Meredith Burks who set up the interview and was there to answer any questions I had in advance. And a final shout out to whichwaydidshego, a Fforde friend, who had the wonderful idea of footnotes, to aid the reader and also to add that little bit of Nextian logic to the interview. I hope you all enjoyed it and I hope to see some of you in Skokie in a week!

[1] In Eddie’s world books are no longer around, hence the lure of High Saffron, because of the rumors of a grand library, despite the whole, no one’s ever come back...

[2] Leapbacks are edicts from the Colortocracy where every year there is a list of technologies that are removed. Books, trains, phones, televisions, etc, have all been banned. The only way to keep technology is to find a loophole. For example, they outlawed trains, not a train. So, since the singular is different from the plural, Chromotacia has A Train.
[3] Ball lightning that seems to have uncanny homing abilities.
[4] The only real health risk in Eddie’s world, once you get it you’re a goner, only hours left culminating in a violent death.
[5] This happened over 13 years ago and still they can’t let it go!
[6] Park Lane being Boardwalk to us Americans, so it’s to “Land On Boardwalk.”
[7] I could tell in his voice what a happy memory defeating his brother was. Sibling rivalry, never out of fashion or out of mind!
[8] You have spell-check to thank for the legibility of this blog! Ironically I can easily see spelling errors…
[9] The more pugnacious of the colors, the yellows are authoritarian asses, especially in East Carmine.
[10] An Organoplastoid self-maintaining building compound, used mostly for roads before the “Something that Happened”, and now, although barely used, is still there. Intelligent and with a powerful memory, Perpetulite draws organic nutrients from the air and soil to maintain its rigid agenda, even if that nutrient source happens to be you.
[11] Cars were eliminated in previous leapback years, so most towns have one or two cars for emergencies.
[12] Vermillion, home of the last rabbit, and East Carmine, home of the Chair census.
[13] Rusty Hill, where everyone died of the Mildew, and High Saffron, where no one has ever returned from.
[14] See 1.
[15] One of Our Thursday’s is Missing, "...Continuing the story from where "First Among Sequels" left off, Jurisfiction has serious problems: With a Serial Killer on the loose, Speedy Muffler declaring all-out Genre war and aggressive book-pulpers threatening to turn entire libraries into MDF self-assembly furniture, only ace book-jumper Thursday Next can save the day. But where is she? Last seen investigating the theoretical Dark Reading Matter, the place - where it is conjectured - erased and forgotten books end up, Thursday is nowhere to be found. With time running out, Jurisfiction decides that you need a Thursday to find a Thursday, so they persuade Thursday5, comfortably getting to grips with the hastily rewritten TN series, to look for the real Thursday in the one region she fears more than anything else - A place of chaos, unpredictability and unresolved plot lines: The Real World...."
[16] I know I’m the real reason you’d be going to the event right? No… ok… but email me if you are thinking of going because I’d love to see you there!
[17] And note, this was BEFORE the really bad blizzard of last week!


I'll be back to read the entire interview when I have a little more time but I wanted to wish you Every Happiness in the New Year. Oh and I love Bladerunner it a brilliant film.
Warm regards,

I just skimmed through this one because I don't like to know too much about a book I'm planning to read, but it looked like another great interview. I loved the footnoterphone! I have to share this from Bailey White's nonfiction book, Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living. A neighbor has just decided to catch a mean swan.

"His friends tried to talk him out of it. They reminded him that even the alligators wouldn't touch the swans now....

Earl did catch the swan that night. No one actually saw him do it, but we know that Earl dragged himself home from his pond, blinded in one eye, with a compound fracture of the wrist, and covered with deep cuts. After a week, he came home a broken man....

'It was the whiteness,' he whispers, 'It was the whiteness of him.'"

Stephanie D of Misfit Salon pointed me over here. I just loved your interview! I was excited to just get my beautiful pre-release hardcover. I'm going to see Fforde when he visits where I am in January, too.

LOL on the swans!!! Yeah for Jasper fangirls Cara!

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