Tuesday, April 27, 2021

P.J. Manney Interview - (CON)SCIENCE

Photo Content from PJ Manney 

PJ Manney is the author of the bestselling and Philip K. Dick Award nominated science fiction technothriller, (R)EVOLUTION (2015), published by 47North in the Phoenix Horizon trilogy with, (ID)ENTITY (2017), and (CON)SCIENCE, (2021). Set as alternate, future American histories, the novels chart the influence of world-changing technologies on power and nations.

A former chairperson of Humanity Plus, she helped rebrand the organization, launch H+ Magazine and organize the first multi-org conference on futurist topics, Convergence ’08. She authored "Yucky Gets Yummy: How Speculative Fiction Creates Society"​ and "Empathy in the Time of Technology: How Storytelling is the Key to Empathy,"​ foundational works on the neuropsychology of empathy and media.

Manney presented her ideas to National Geographic, the Producers Guild of America, Directors Guild of America, NASA-JPL, M.I.T., Huffington Post, The H+ Summit, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, is a frequent guest on podcasts/webshows including StarTalk, The World Transformed, Singularity 1on1 and Amazing Mind, and has published in BoingBoing, Live Science and Tor.com. She is also the first person to create and transfer a digital autograph for a novel verified by the blockchain. Manney consults for varied organizations about the future of humanity and technology, including artificial intelligence, robotics, cyborgs, nanotechnology, biotechnology, brain-computer interfaces, space, blockchains and cryptocurrencies.

Manney graduated from Wesleyan University double majoring in Film and American Studies. She worked for over 25 years in film/TV: motion picture PR at Walt Disney/Touchstone Pictures; story development for independent film production companies; and writing as Patricia Manney for the critically acclaimed hit TV shows Hercules — The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. She also co-founded Uncharted Entertainment, writing and/or creating many pilot scripts for television networks, including CBS, Fox, UPN, Discovery, ABC Family and Comedy Central.

Manney lives with her husband in Southern California and is a dual citizen of the US and New Zealand. She is a member of the WGA, SFWA, ITW and PEN America.


Publisher : 47North (April 27, 2021)
Publication date : April 27, 2021
Language : English
File size : 4424 KB

Praise for PHOENIX HORIZON Series

“(R)EVOLUTION builds momentum to a rollicking chase through hope and terror, fast-looming biotech, and a tasty-paranoid look at who ‘actually runs’ the USA.” —DAVID BRIN, Author of The Postman and The Transparent Society

“Manney’s intricate worldbuilding includes... a nation reconstituted from fragments of the former U.S. This near-future science fiction thriller should have broad appeal.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY on (ID)ENTITY

“PJ Manney has written the techno-thriller for the 21st century. Trading in robots for nanobots, (R)EVOLUTION deftly evokes a believable future in which nanotech gives the hero his best and only chance against enemies foreign and domestic. It’s a pulse-pounding thriller too, with a marvelously satisfying battle between those who would enslave the U.S. and those who would liberate it.” —MICHAEL CHOROST, Author of Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human and World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet

“Futurist lecturer Manney’s intriguing and fast-paced debut takes a close look at possible consequences of sophisticated bioengineering. [...] With poignancy and sensitivity, Manney constructs an intricate and adventurous plot. The characterization is rich, with an uncommon and welcome depth found in the protagonist... Fans of gosh-wow SF will devour this novel all the way to the startling ending.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY on (R)EVOLUTION

Greatest thing you learned at school?
I had a wonderful drama and dance teacher through junior high and high school named Michael Penta. He taught discipline, technique, and the ability to withstand rejections common to all creative fields. Not everyone will enjoy everything we do, but if we study, practice and get better, eventually we will succeed.

Where were you born and where do you call home?
Sleepy Hollow, NY. It's a real place, but I never saw a headless horseman, except as the mascot of the local high school. After living in a few US states and a couple of countries, I live in Southern California.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I've adored meeting idols like Nancy Kress, David Brin, Greg Bear, George RR Martin and Patrick Rothfuss. Some are also my kids' idols, so I take photos with them, because "pics or it didn't happen." Nothing better than hearing your 20-something kid squee.

Tell us your latest news.
I'm working on a ghost story for J.D. Horn's upcoming anthology, December Tales, as well as some science fiction short stories for magazines. I'll be at SFWA's virtual Nebula Conference in June.

Can you tell us when you started (CON)SCIENCE, how that came about?
(CON)SCIENCE is book 3 of the Phoenix Horizon trilogy that began with (R)EVOLUTION. Back in the 1990s, I sat on a ferry with my dad going to a wedding. He's a big speculative fiction fan and he mentioned an old short story about a men's club of robber barons who didn't think it was enough excitement to be figurative pirates of commerce. They became actual pirates plundering ships on the high seas. That seed of an idea made me wonder what that dynamic of incredible wealth not being enough and the ensuing chaos might look like in the present and future. And I've always been a neuroscience fan and saw the growth of brain technologies as ripe to investigate.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
The world is changing, but don't be afraid of change. Change is inevitable. Just remember to be compassionate and kind to as many people as possible. That's the only way to create a better world.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
I was amazed how much I could like my villains. Carter Potsdam is a lot of fun. Disturbed, but fun.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I'd like to introduce Peter Bernhardt/Tom Paine to Edmund Dantes/The Count of Monte Cristo. I think they'd become best buds and could compare notes on betrayal, revenge, remorse and redemption.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
It took a long time to complete these books. But the distractions were from family I love, so what can you do? During the first two books, we were raising our children. After they left home and I was writing (CON)SCIENCE, it was caring for my husband's and my sick parents and stepparents. We are only children and their only proxies and guardians. It's a lot of responsibility and one of many reasons I write about brain technologies curing cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer's. I would love to find cures for cognitive diseases as soon as possible.

  • I'm a dual citizen of New Zealand and the United States.
  • I was born in Sleepy Hollow and grew up in a haunted house. Really.
  • As a kid, I trained to be a "triple threat" on Broadway: a dancer, singer and actress.
  • At 15, George Lucas told me I should go to college and work behind the camera in Hollywood, instead. So I did.
  • My favorite TV shows are Blackadder, The Nanny, The Prisoner, and The West Wing.
  • The Phoenix Horizon series is inspired by the works of Alexandre Dumas, whose books I read incessantly as a child.
  • I love super-dark chocolate, 85% cocoa or darker. Hard to imagine a day without it.
  • I drive a twelve year old Toyota Prius named Miss Pris after Daryl Hannah's character in Blade Runner.
  • After Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby) shot J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) on the TV show, Dallas, for several months of my life, strangers yelled at me, "You shot J.R.!" I vaguely resembled the character in my teens.
  • When I wrote for Xena: Warrior Princess, I had Xena perform the first caesarean section, only to have an emergency c-section a few months later with my first child. I muttered to my husband the entire time, "I'll never write about this again... I'll never write about this again... I'll never write about this again." The doctors thought I was delirious.
What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Do whatever scares you for no reason, so your fears no longer have a hold on you. I'm afraid of heights, so I bungee jumped when we lived in New Zealand. Pretty much cured, thanks.

Best date you've ever had?
Only in retrospect, the blind date with my husband in 1987 was my best date ever, because the outcome was fantastic. At the time though, he and his friends named me "the girl who jumped out of the car too fast," after I almost did a tuck-and-roll out of the passenger seat while he drove 35 miles an hour to avoid kissing him good night! We'd been set up by a friend who only wanted me to meet him because I'd just moved to Los Angeles and she said he'd "be my best friend." We couldn't come from more different backgrounds, but I sat across from him and thought, "Yeah, this guy will be my best friend." That certainty scared me to bits, hence leaping from a moving car. Yes, I've matured since then.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
Hoo boy, I've seen some weird stuff, because I hang out with writers who love to share the freakiest real estate listings ever. Dungeons, and even a cemetary in a basement, a house decorated with bizarrely costumed mannequins. But the weirdest may be all the houses that are converted jails, complete with rotting, rusty cells. Uh huh. Okay, then.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
I'm dyslexic, dysgraphic and dyscalculic. I was told don't become a writer. It was the only prohibition on the psychometric tests. Back then, teachers thought you had to spell and use proper grammar to be an author. But I love stories. After a career telling other people what to write as a movie executive, it took years to find the grit to try writing. When my husband's boss read a sample script I wrote, he asked me to pitch him a story to write for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, then Xena: Warrior Princess. I never looked back. And thank heavens for Spellcheck and ProWriter and all the technology that helps clean up mistakes. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something you want to do, especially if there are hacks to get around your difficulties.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Beyond a phone, key, ID and some money/credit cards? Allergy-friendly snacks (I have food allergies and can't depend on food anywhere), some lip balm, my Epi-Pen and optimism to face the world.

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
Florida. I was an infant and my mother was told I was too sickly to live in New York, especially in the winter. She was desperate to get advice from her family doctor and her mother in Miami. While waiting for the airplane, a woman sidled up to her at the gate and said, "That child isn't long for this world." Can you imagine that? Poor Mom.

First Heartbreak?
My first boyfriend. But then we would get back together and break up. And get back together and break up. There were a lot of first heartbreaks. It took seven years to learn the lesson: relationships, and the people in them, usually don't change. We broke up the first time for a reason. Stick to it and move on.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
The 1960s. I think it was a lot like what teenagers are experiencing right now, with the political upheaval, cultural conflicts and social experimentation. This cycle happens every fifty years in the US and makes a huge impression on the young people of the time. I don't think I would have wanted to live fifty years before that, during the upheaval of the 19-teens and 20s, if for no other reason than I'm alive because of antibiotics. I wouldn't have survived childhood. Thanks, medical science!

PJ Manney concludes her visionary Philip K. Dick Award–nominated series of a world at war, a virtual search for identity, and the future of humanity.

Five years ago, bioengineer Peter Bernhardt spearheaded an innovation in nanotechnology that changed the course of evolution. Until everything was taken from him—his research, the people he loved, and finally his life. Uploaded as an artificial intelligence, Peter is alive again thanks to a critical reactivation by fellow AI Carter Potsdam.

But a third sentient computer program, Major Tom, is tearing the United States apart, destroying its leaders and its cities. Major Tom’s mission: rebuild a new America from the ruins and reign as uncontested monarch. Carter knows that only a revolutionary like Peter can reverse the damage to a country set on fire.

Caught in a virtual world between an alleged ally and an enemy, pieces of Peter’s former self remain: the need for vengeance, empathy for the subjugated people of a derelict world, and doubt in everything he’s been led to believe. To rescue what’s left, he’ll need to once again advance the notion of evolution and to expand the meaning of being human—by saving humanity.

Scientist Peter Bernhardt has dedicated his life to nanotechnology, the science of manipulating matter on the atomic scale. As the founder of Biogineers, he is on the cusp of revolutionizing brain therapies with microscopic nanorobots that will make certain degenerative diseases become a thing of the past. But after his research is stolen by an unknown enemy, seventy thousand people die in Las Vegas in one abominable moment. No one is more horrified than Peter, as this catastrophe sets in motion events that will forever change not only his life but also the course of human evolution.

Peter’s company is torn from his grasp as the public clamors for his blood. Desperate, he turns to an old friend, who introduces him to the Phoenix Club, a cabal of the most powerful people in the world. To make himself more valuable to his new colleagues, Peter infuses his brain with experimental technology, exponentially upgrading his mental prowess and transforming him irrevocably.

As he’s exposed to unimaginable wealth and influence, Peter’s sense of reality begins to unravel. Do the club members want to help him, or do they just want to claim his technology? What will they do to him once they have their prize? And while he’s already evolved beyond mere humanity, is he advanced enough to take on such formidable enemies and win?

In the guise of political revolutionary Thomas Paine, bioengineer Peter Bernhardt brought down the corrupt and powerful Phoenix Club—and then turned revolution into evolution by becoming the first artificial human intelligence: Major Tom. In the two years since Major Tom revealed his digital existence and spread his freedom manifesto, he has been revered as a god and vilified as a demon. The United States and Europe have splintered into ideologically independent regions. Russia and China prepare to expand their empires.

In the midst of the chaos, pirates attack a seastead in the Pacific Ocean, capturing one of Major Tom’s allies. A mysterious and powerful group wages a secret war. To rescue his ally, Major Tom must first regain his own humanity and somehow save a species he no longer identifies with, and which seems determined to destroy itself.

You can purchase (CON)SCIENCE at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you PJ MANNEY for making this giveaway possible.
1 10 Winners will receive a Copy of (CON)SCIENCE by PJ Manney.
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