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5 Things about ‘I Still Dream’ – Author James Smythe on his heartbreakingly human new novel

April 4, 2018

I wanted to see if the things that maybe scare us could actually become something good; and maybe they could guide us to a part of the future that wasn’t terrifying, that wasn’t threatening.

1. It’s about creation. Everything we do in life is built around this idea that we’re creating something. It could be art, or it could be another life, or it could be a better future. But we’re always, all of us, creating. And I got really interested in the idea that creating something brought with it a whole load of moral questions. Because, when we make something, do we think about the implications of what happens when we’re gone?

2. It’s about music. For so many people, music is a driving force. It’s there, a trigger for memories, a part of who we are. For me, memories of Kate Bush and David Bowie from when I was a little kid swirl together with my own feelings about Radiohead’s OK Computer, the soundtrack to me being a teenager, or the brand-new Hop Along album, an album that I’ve heard only a handful of times and I know will be with me forever. Music runs through everything, like it’s part of our code. It makes us who we are.

3. It’s about moving on. As I was gearing up to write the novel, two things happened. I got married, and my then-fiancée’s father died. And I started thinking about grief, and mourning; and how there’s always a future to it, a sense of wanting to come out of the other side. We actively want to move on, to learn and develop, but our brains can’t always let us on the timelines we’d like. Instead, they do things at the speed we need them to. We mourn, and we grow.

4. It’s about intelligence. We’re creating artificial intelligences, and we’re scared of them. We’re actively frightened that they’ll overthrow us or something, that they’ll turn this planet into something like the future depicted in the Terminator or Matrix movies. But creation of any kind is a responsibility, and we have to treat it as such. We can’t just throw book intelligence at something; we need emotional intelligence as well. Creating anything needs both sides, I think: understanding not just the how, but the why, and the implications of both.

5. It’s about hope. My previous novels weren’t exactly laugh-a-minute, and there was a bleakness to them that led to a lot of Black Mirror comparisons. But right now, with the world in the state it’s in, with people struggling and yet still trying, with no clear path to a future that leaves us all happy and content, I wanted to find a way to try and find light. I wanted to see if the things that maybe scare us could actually become something good; and maybe they could guide us to a part of the future that wasn’t terrifying, that wasn’t threatening. Maybe, when we create, it could be for the good of humanity. Maybe we need the dark to find that light, but that light’s there, in the end.


I Still Dream

James Smythe

Out 5th April 2018

Hardback

The Borough Press

9780007541942

RRP 12.99


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