This book was originally being marketed as cyberpunk, but the publishers, Angry Robot, switched over to calling it solarpunk just a couple of weeks before release. It is definitely both: it has the cyberpunk technology of the neural implant, which is sort of like an instant messenger in your brain, controlled by eye movements, that also allows you to feel the emotions of the people you're connected to. It also has the fast-paced race-against-the-clock feel of cyberpunk, and the focus on information and data as the ultimate key to power. To keep sensitive data from being hacked, they encrypt it into a courier's blood cells. So, yeah, it's totally cyberpunk.
But Implanted doesn't take place in the same dark, polluted, brutalist type of setting usually featured in cyberpunk. New Worth is a domed city—one of many that people have retreated into to survive a massive climate crash. The city itself is stratified, based on the anatomy of a forest: the rich live up in the Canopy or the Echelon, the middle class in the Understory, etc. Many of the descriptions we get of the city show it as green, beautiful, with plants and fountains and attempts to simulate the nature they're yearning to get back to. Much of the plot revolves around the idea of Emergence from the dome—when it will happen, who does the work, who gets to benefit. New Worth is certainly not a utopia, but it's not a straightforward dystopia either, and our narrator learns there's a lot more going on than she realized at both the highest and lowest levels of this complex society. It's ultimately very optimistic and "punk" in unexpected ways. So, yeah, it's totally solarpunk.
Here's the official description:
When college student Emery Driscoll is blackmailed into being a courier for a clandestine organisation, she's cut off from the neural implant community which binds the domed city of New Worth together. Her new employers exploit her rare condition which allows her to carry encoded data in her blood, and train her to transport secrets throughout the troubled city. New Worth is on the brink of Emergence - freedom from the dome - but not everyone wants to leave. Then a data drop goes bad, and Emery is caught between factions: those who want her blood, and those who just want her dead.
Lauren C. Teffeau is a fellow New Mexico writer, and I read pieces of this book in a much earlier draft. I loved it back then, but I was blown away with how tight and exciting the story became in this final version. I asked Lauren to chat with me about her path to publication and her approach to worldbuilding.
Sarena Ulibarri: In a nutshell, what was the path from manuscript to publication for IMPLANTED?
Lauren C. Teffeau: Some of my projects have longer gestation periods than others. I was building the world IMPLANTED is set in well before I had an agent or a professional sale under my belt, so we’re talking many years here. I like to think that time was crucial in thinking through all the moving pieces and bringing it to life in vivid detail. We’ll see! I went through many drafts with my crit groups until I felt like I had a strong enough project to bring to my agent. I revised it again based on her feedback, and the manuscript sold to Angry Robot after approximately six months on submission.
SU: The early drafts of IMPLANTED were written as Young Adult, but it’s being published now as Adult. What changes did you need to make to “age it up” in the final version?
LCT: This is an issue I have run into before with my novel projects. I’m drawn to that time in characters’ lives when they face their “first test” in the real world. While that’s often part and parcel of coming-of-age stories which we often see in YA, I seem to always come up with scenarios where it’s harder to justify how these young teens are doing all these amazing things to save the world on such a grand scale, when it’s far more realistic for someone a bit older to have the life experience and, more importantly, the access necessary to drive the plot. Plus as a recovering romance writer, I sometimes include adult themes in my stories that are more appropriate for Adult books. As far as IMPLANTED goes, when my agent and I decided to treat it as an Adult project, it actually made some of the setup a lot easier to pull off because I didn’t have to explain all the reasons why my teenaged main character had the skills/background needed to make her role in the story more convincing. Instead of being a high school student, she’s now a recent college grad and has four more years under her belt to contribute to suspending readers’ disbelief.
SU: Could you talk a little about the worldbuilding of New Worth? What tools did you use to imagine and create this fascinating domed city?
LCT: I wanted to explore what happens after the coming climate apocalypse, a time where people have had to retreat from the natural world. The traumatic upheaval would be felt for generations and affect the city’s design and development as living memory fades and approximations and reinterpretations become all that’s left over. In a domed city where people are kept at far remove from nature, I figured access to the sun would become a new commodity of sorts. That led me to modeling my city’s structure off of the rainforest: canopy, understory, and ground level, each distinct ecosystem defined in part by the amount of sunlight they receive. And in my domed city of New Worth, those sections roughly correspond to different socio-economic groups, with the rich and well-connected living in the upper levels with the most access to sunlight. Population ecology, survivor bias, even fractals all contributed in some way to the city’s design as well.
SU: What books, authors, or films influenced you while writing IMPLANTED?
LCT: When I’m drafting, I try to keep my mind uncluttered of other media until the story I’m trying to write has firmed up and can stand on its own. That said, I’ve always loved espionage-tinged media—James Bond, Jason Bourne, even Sterling Archer—romance, YA, and most action/adventure properties, and those interests often come out in my work in both subconscious and conscious ways. At some point I was descripting IMPLANTED thusly: Take Johnny Mnemonic, add a dash of Person of Interest, mix with Logan’s Run, and wrap it all up in a Blade Runner-meets-solarpunk aesthetic.
SU: What advice do you have for beginning writers who are struggling through the first draft of a science fiction novel?
LCT: Finish your shit. And it will feel like shit. It will feel like you’re a fool for wanting to write and for wanting to share your stories with the world. But you have to push through all that to get to THE END. Then, take a break. When you return to your project, you’ll discover that maybe it isn’t as bad as you thought it was. Or that you are in a better position to see the story’s flaws and how to fix them. Either way, you cannot submit something that is incomplete. And it is only once a draft is complete that you can get a sense for how to revise. If nothing else, remember there are no shortcuts and try to enjoy the journey along the way.
SU: Do you have any readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you?
August 3-5 ArmadilloCon in Austin, Texas
August 10 Reading and Q&A at the Albuquerque Science Fiction Society
August 16-19 Worldcon in San Jose, California
August 24-26 Bubonicon in Albuquerque, New Mexico
September 6 Reddit/Fantasy Ask Me Anything
September 8 Reading and Signing at the Denver Science Fiction and Fantasy Series
September 15 Reading and Signing at Page1 Books Albuquerque, New Mexico
October 7 Reading and Signing at Bookworks Albuquerque, New Mexico
October 19-21 MileHiCon in Denver, Colorado
My website laurencteffeau.com is the best way to stay up-to-date with what’s going on with me.
Lauren C. Teffeau was born and raised on the East Coast, educated in the South, employed in the Midwest, and now lives and dreams in the Southwest. When she was younger, she poked around in the back of wardrobes, tried to walk through mirrors, and always kept an eye out for secret passages, fairy rings, and messages from aliens. She was disappointed. Now, she writes to cope with her ordinary existence. Follow her on Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon.com, and Pinterest.
"Chrysalis in Sunlight" is about two survivors of an alien invasion—one a veteran and one a civilian—who have to road trip from Denver to San Diego for treatment for a condition caused by exposure to alien microbes. I called this my "solarpunk Don Quixote" story while I was writing early drafts, though I don't know if it's actually the best example of solarpunk, and the homage to The War of the Worlds is probably more obvious than the Don Quixote connection. The story is ambiguously hopeful, and part of the plot revolves around a solar-powered electric car and a wind farm. There isn't an overt environmental theme, though maybe there are some metaphorical ones. It's not really the focus though, so much as the relationship between these two characters, and living with the aftermath of trauma.
I'm proud of this story, but I've been nervous about sharing it. The narrator has chronic pain, which is something I struggle with too, but rarely ever talk about, which makes this story feel a little more personal than most. I also used a trope you're not really supposed to use. I knew it, and I did it anyway, and while I tried to handle it with nuance and awareness, my intentions don't matter as much as how it is received.
Below are some images from my Pinterest board for the story, with a few quotes from the story. Below that is a longer excerpt. See the whole Pinterest board here: www.pinterest.com/sarenaulibarri/chrysalis-in-sunlight/
When I was younger, Aunt Melissa used to show up twice a year, always stirring my otherwise mild-mannered family into a party, defeating my father in arm wrestling matches, challenging my grandfather to whiskey shots. She’d once driven all the way to Denver from the base in Missouri where she was stationed so she could beat the crap out of my ex-boyfriend who had given me a bruise.
"Chrysalis in Sunlight" was published by GigaNotoSaurus. You can read it online, or you can download a free ebook directly from their website. Find the story here: giganotosaurus.org/2018/08/01/chrysalis-in-sunlight/