Nowick Gray - Teasing the Dynamics of Choice Among Multiple Realities
Nowick Gray writes in a variety of genres, teasing the dynamics of choice among multiple realities: romantic relationships, plot endings, murder suspects, virtual worlds, alternate timelines, narrative loops, stylistic colorings. Educated at Dartmouth College and the University of Victoria, he taught in Inuit villages in the Arctic before carving out a homestead in the British Columbia mountains. In more recent years Nowick has settled on the West Coast, often spending winter months in tropical locations. He works as a freelance copy editor and enjoys hiking, kayaking, and playing African drums. As our Author of the Day, Gray tells us all about his book, PsyBot.
Please give us a short introduction to what PsyBot is about.
The novel explores the territory of the human-machine interface, through a computer virus that infects the mind of programmer Joe Norton. On one level this rogue program is a kind of virtual reality game, tough-love training in the nature of choice. A deeper dive shows it has been hacked and hijacked for a wider agenda of mind control.
What inspired you to write about Virtual Reality technology?
Virtual reality technology is a good metaphor for the nature of reality itself, since our individual human version of it is usually virtual anyway. I especially wanted to challenge the allure of the technology, the promise that it offers us a true choice and a fulfilling experience. Such a belief only leads us farther away from authentic experience and natural reality.
Why a noir thriller? What drew you to this genre?
I like the way noir paints the darker, grittier side of society and people coping with it. It strips away the gloss and shows us no-nonsense strategies for survival and getting to the bottom of mystery.
One review said your stream-of-consciousness writing style takes some getting used to. Why do you take this approach?
I recognize that such a style can be disorienting. So I use it selectively in this book. I think readers will find it appropriate to convey the actual disorientation experienced by the main character, when his consciousness is altered by the PsyBot program.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
African drumming. Actually I write about it, too, in a series of books (called Roots Jam) where I compile rhythms and provide guidance in playing hand drums and percussion. I also built a homestead from scratch on the edge of wilderness in the mountains of British Columbia. I write about that lifestyle in a book called My Country.
Is there something that compels you to write? And do you find that writing helps you achieve a clarity about yourself or ideas you've been struggling with?
When I realize something important, beautiful, or striking about life, I feel compelled to share it. If I’m puzzled by an enigma or complex issue, writing helps me sort it out with more clarity. And I marvel at the way writing reveals, through its own creation, still more epiphanies, beauties, and solutions, that I might not have discovered otherwise.
Tell us more about Joe Norton. What makes him tick?
My protagonist is an “average Joe.” He wants to improve his life, in the superficial ways that most of us are tempted to do. But he also is driven by a fierce sense of self-integrity, unwilling to be a victim or to be kept from the truth of his condition.
Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?
The individual characters in PsyBot have their own motivations and limitations, like all of us. What I try to convey overall in this story is that we must be careful what we wish for, as the choices presented to us are often shallow, false, or even destructive.
Your novel raises the question of whether technology will save us or destroy us. Which do you believe?
That’s a huge question, which runs through history and defines us as a species. If I had to land on one side of that choice I would have to say technology will destroy us, if we let it. The challenge is, can we tame it, or will it tame us? The question is ever more topical now with the rapid advance of AI, neural interface technologies, and an openly “transhumanist” agenda.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
Using the device of the virtual reality program allowed me to invent scenes, scenarios, settings and environments that didn’t have to be completely realistic. I could feel free to imagine in an almost comic-book style, since the program or game modules themselves were, after all, inventions.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
All of my books are available at my website, NowickGray.com, and at my Amazon author page, http://amazon.com/author/nowickgray