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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author A.S. Mori talks about the inspiration behind his book, Dreaming Of A Hopeful Death, and his creative writing process.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author A. S. Mori about his life and career, what inspired him to start writing, and the creative writing process behind his new book, Dreaming Of A Hopeful Death.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I am a software engineer and computer scientist who has previously published scientific research in the field of social robotics. I have worked and studied in multiple countries in multiple languages, and enjoy a number of hobbies from film to reading to electric guitar and language learning.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I think I’ve wanted to write a book since I was a high schooler. However, it took many years to reach my current state where I actually delivered on those dreams. It originally was born out of a wish to create something original that would last. The reason for this was because much of what I was seeing at the time felt derivative and, to some extent, derivative works tend to be a sure bet for many publishers which is why such works tend to flood the market. I wanted to go against the grain so that I could see more of the types of stories I wanted to see made available to readers like me.
When did you take a step to start writing?
Technically, I have a fully finished manuscript from when I was a high schooler, and it is likely that I may clean it up on the side and publish it in the future while I work on writing any future novels. With that said, my first real attempt which resulted in a published work was my first novel Dreaming of a Hopeful Death which technically started from the moment I said that I would write a refined and thoughtful book and get it published in less than a year towards the beginning of 2022.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
While I had the idea to write a book at the beginning of 2022, the actual premise did not come until a few months later where I brainstormed a number of possible stories. I settled on the premise of Dreaming of a Hopeful Death because it seemed like the story could stand on its own and was niche in a sense that made it best suited for self-publishing. This made it ideal for the type of timeline that I was aiming for as traditional publishing can involve slowdowns and elongated timelines based on the publisher and genre. I wanted to decide on a goal and achieve it with room to spare which was exactly what I did.
What made you want to write Dreaming Of A Hopeful Death?
I was interested in the nature of suffering, whether or not human existence actually had a purpose, and whether it really mattered in the large scheme of things. While I have read a few works of philosophy that tried to tackle these questions at length, many of these works lacked a narrative and seemed inaccessible to the average reader due to their dense and dry nature. Philosophy and interesting questions should not be hidden behind a gate of erudition and logical reasoning.
These questions are universal, and I believe anyone can comprehend them when it is presented in a way that is not needlessly complex. Because of this, I felt that there were some very interesting questions that could be asked in a narrative format that were not and this seemed like a missed opportunity for from my perspective.
From the perspective of a computer scientist like myself, all information eventually becomes a befuddled mess because of the nature of our reality which entails more and more entropy until there is nothing but chaos left in the end. When it comes to the physical world, this means that the universe will end in heat death.
The implication is that if we end with nothing and nothing lasts, then even if human existence does have a purpose, that purpose is ultimately insignificant in the large scheme of things as human existence does not leave a lasting result or imprint. With regards to the nature of suffering, I have read many novels where characters engage in earthly and physical pains, but very rarely have I seen mental anguish driven by existential conditions.
The closest I have seen was the nightmarish future described within Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream and the bleak truths mentioned within Peter Wessel Zapffe’s The Last Messiah. However, I wanted to see whether it was possible to go further. I wanted to see if it was possible to remove what makes us human and force us to suffer at a more fundamental level by making much of our suffering self-inflicted and placing our entire species in an unquestionably powerless situation where they can only watch reality move on by while they are unable to exert their will in any manner.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Dreaming Of A Hopeful Death?
This novel is quite unconventional in that it is closer to literary fiction than it is commercial fiction where characters interact, fight the bad guy, and win in the end. What was one of the most significant challenges was the fact that there is technically no direct character interaction. This meant that in some sense, my hands were tied behind my back while writing it.
However, there have been some very successful novels that managed to become classics with minimal character interaction like Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun, and the surreal works of Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges which served as reference when arriving at clever methods to move the story along.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
I was considering what form the Human race would take in the near future and the strange and ethereal form that Humanity took within my novel was inspired by a future where humans may potentially become fully digital or completely interconnected through cybernetic augmentations. If such a future were to become reality, the entire human race would in effect become a singular creature with its own thoughts as all of human thought would be shared and received at the speed of light.
Like society progresses and moves based on the opinions and decisions of the individuals that form it, our future may be one where human society is a conscious being whose neurons and memories are formed by the many individuals who live within it. The concept of human society being a conscious living thing with its own thoughts seemed fairly novel in the sense that only a few philosophers, sociologists and early psychologists like Émile Durkheim seemed consider a collective consciousness as even being a thing that could be empirically examined.
It should be noted that Humanity within Dreaming of a Hopeful Death is not the result of such technological advancements, but rather the result of a creature of a Lovecraftian nature who lives beyond our three dimensions. So, there is a sort of interesting idea presented here regarding whether our existence is so fragile that it can be changed at any moment, and whether our future will result in a similar existence of solitude and self-inflicted torture if its existence prematurely not cursed to be a single entity with the memories of all living humans at the time.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
There is no antagonist and much of the suffering within this novel is self-inflicted by its main character. While there is a strange being that curses the human race to become one individual conscious entity with the memories of the billions who walked the earth, (spoiler) this being never again makes an appearance in the novel.
In a sense, I think the more mystery and the more questions are unanswered, the easier it is to convey the existential dread of simply being at the mercy of the universe. Like a fickle god, this being only acts and never directly speaks or shows itself to the reader or the main character, so there is an uncertainty about the whole situation.
I believe the unknown is one of the things that is easiest to fear, so by never actually showing an antagonist, I leave it to the imagination of Humanity to ask whether they have been forsaken by God or cursed by some other creature with plans, goals, and a system of morality beyond their understanding.
What is the inciting incident of Dreaming Of A Hopeful Death?
As mentioned before, the book begins with the human race being cursed to become a single creature with the memories of the billions living humans who were present on planet Earth. One moment, it was billions of individual people going about their day, and in the next moment, it was floating in space with the memories of those many people and no idea of how it attained the form that it took for the rest of the book.
As the book progresses, Humanity begins to gain an understanding about what type of creature it is, and how it is cursed to float and wander through the universe till the end of time; aka heat death.
What is the main conflict of Dreaming Of A Hopeful Death?
Because Humanity is unable to interact with the physical world beyond simply observing it, it is forced to watch the universe and time pass by while it is unable to do anything.
As a result, many of the conflicts are personal. As it watches intelligent life colonize its galaxy, it begins to ask itself things like what it regretted, all the missed opportunities, and whether its predicament really changed anything. Even if it were not cursed, would it still be unable to leave its mark and a legacy? And even if it was able to leave its mark, that mark would fade with time, like all things. The cycle of observation, imagination, hypothesizing, and self-destructive thought that all humans tend to succumb to are what drive this story and help to present some of the deeper themes this novel is trying to ask.
Did you plot your book in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
My book was carefully plotted in advance. According to theoretical physics, the beginning and end of the universe is somewhat known and I based the progression of my story within how the universe would change over time. Because of this, I already had a decent idea of how the universe would progress, and how intelligent life might flourish within it. What I needed to do was figure out how my main character would react to the passage of time which was where the outlining came in. Simply put, where does my story fit in this bleak future?
I split the book into four parts based on the five ages of the universe. I started with the current age that our universe was in which was the Stelliferous era and gradually worked my way to the Dark era where not even stars exist due to the expansion of the universe. Then, I decided upon themes and events that would occur within these different eras and that helped to determine the main focus of individual chapters.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did your book need?
Yes, I had a beta reader go over the text to determine if it made sense and to make sure that I was not simply writing nonsense. As for editing, with the advent of language models and AI, there are many online tools and software which now allow for quick proofreading at a level that is equal to or better than a human which I used for issues like punctuation, typos, word variety, and spelling. I also tried testing Chat-GPT to see if it could offer opinions on where my text could be improved and that worked with mixed results. Overall, I had 3 cycles of revision with the largest changes being made in the first cycle and the following 2 cycles mainly being refinements.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Just do it. Get some words down and then refine it until its good. It’s unlikely that your first draft will be that great, but once everything has been written down, you can always read it over to narrow down what the issues may be. Outlining can save you a lot of time in terms of plot structure and direction since that can help for you to understand where the climax of your story may occur. It’s better to change your outline than to change entire swaths of your novel, so I do recommend outlining and planning your structure out in advance.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I am currently working on the first draft of my next book which is a more commercial cyberpunk style science fiction novel with time travel elements. Compared to Dreaming of a Hopeful Death, this a significantly longer novel and has the potential to become part of a series. The scale is quite large, and the plot structure is Nolanesque at times in its complexity due to the way in which it plays with time.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Absolutely. Not everyone publishes a novel even when allowed an entire lifetime, and I think I was able to tell an original story with a unique message. I hope to continue to do so in the future as well.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Dreaming of a Hopeful Death is available on Amazon as an eBook, paperback, and hardcover.
To stay up to date with A. S. Mori, you can find him in the following:
Substack Newsletter: https://asmori.substack.com/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/author/B0BT78ZXKF/about
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/27282570.A_S_Mori
Bookbub Author Page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/a-s-mori
Author Website: https://asarav.github.io/src/html/books.html
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