I had the pleasure of meeting Adam Christopher at WorldCon this week, where we were on a panel about Alternate Histories. He’s smart and funny, and also flexible about weirdness. The room we were supposed to have the panel in was locked, so we wound up having the panel in the hall. In a way, that’s very much like his books. There’s a sense of familiarity, but twisted way, way to the side.
His newest book, Seven Wonders, is just out. Want to know what his favorite bit is?
There are a lot of sequences and scenes in Seven Wonders that I love – bits that were fun to write, the bits that just came together, that really worked how I wanted them to. You remember those in bits in every book you write.
Worldbuilding is important to any book, obviously – if you create your own, you have the opportunity to fill it with the weird and wonderful, crafting a unique vision that, before you started typing, just didn’t exist. That kind of freedom is a rare thing – and that’s why writing is such a fun job! But even if you’re using a real-world setting, it’s your version of it – your view of a real place which can be just as original and creative as a planet in a galaxy far, far away.
With Seven Wonders, I actually did a bit of both. The novel is set in a fictional city in Southern California, San Ventura, which is the home to the world’s last team of superheroes, the Seven Wonders. These seven heroes are locked in an endless game of cat-and-mouse with the last supervillain standing, the Cowl, a stalemate that has been going on for a long, long time. And then one day a regular guy, Tony, wakes up with superpowers, and decides that maybe he can take out the Cowl once and for all and save his city, only to discover that the Seven Wonders aren’t too pleased to have a new superhero in their town.
Superheroes in prose form are difficult – they belong to comics and film/television, visual mediums, and superheroes are the most visual characters we have in our modern mythology; getting that sensory splendour into a written page requires a few tricks. But as important as the capes and crazy names is the world in which these larger-than-life characters exist. For Seven Wonders, I wanted the setting to reflect the grandeur of the cast, so I built San Ventura.
San Ventura is an entirely fictional city which resembles, in some ways, San Diego, California. My first trip to the United States was ten years ago, almost exactly, and it was a work trip to San Diego. As this was my first trip to the US, I took a few days beforehand to have a look around, staying in a hotel right by San Diego’s famous Gaslamp Quarter – and I fell in love with the place, immediately. Over the years, I travelled across the US a fair amount and fell in love with the whole country. So, years later, when it came to write my big fat superhero epic, setting it in America (where modern superheroes were born in the 1930s) in an analogue of San Diego was an obvious choice (with the added bonus of San Diego hosting the world’s largest comics convention being a neat little coincidence).
But that’s just a part of it. San Ventura is part of a much larger world, one where, once upon a time, every country had superheroes, every city had a superteam. The Seven Wonders may be the only group still in business, but throughout the book we get hints about the history of this other Earth – about the team who used to protect Chicago after dark, about which superhero and her group of robots were based under Mount Rushmore, about the superheroes created after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, about the superteam who defended the islands of Japan.
As a comics fan – as a superhero comics fanatic – I was in heaven. I could create an entire pantheon of heroes, each with their own powers and costumes and names. Kid in a toy store doesn’t even begin to describe it.
That’s why I write, and that’s why I love it, and that’s my favourite bit of Seven Wonders.
Read an excerpt: http://www.tor.com/stories/
Adam’s website: http://www.adamchristopher.co.uk
Adam on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ghostfinder
Adam on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/adamchristopherauthor
Adam Christopher is the author of Empire State and Seven Wonders from Angry Robot, and the forthcoming Shadow’s Call from Tor Books. Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Adam grew up watching Pertwee-era Doctor Who and listening to The Beatles, which isn’t a bad start for a child of the 80s. In 2006, Adam moved to the North West of England.
Adam’s fiction has appeared in Pantechnicon, Hub, and Dark Fiction Magazine, and in 2010 he won a Sir Julius Vogel award, New Zealand’s highest science fiction honour.
When not writing Adam can be found drinking tea and obsessing over superhero comics and The Cure.