Transcript for Ryan Boudinot on "Blueprints of the Afterlife"

Jim Fleming:

Cormac McCarthy put his stamp on post-apocalyptic fiction with his land mark novel The Road. Thanks to him most of us imagine the world after the apocalypse as a desert wasteland with a few survivors wandering around trying to survive on roots and berries. Ryan Boudinot decided to take a different approach with his contribution to post apocalyptic literature. His novel "Blueprints of the Afterlife."

Ryan Boudinot:

"Blueprints of the Afterlife" takes place over two periods of history. One in the future which is a period that happens after a series of cataclysmic events that are so horrible and apocalyptic that no one really understands what exactly happened. So the survivors of that period, people who came out the other side of it are all sort of standing around scratching their heads trying to determine what it is exactly that went down. and the of period is more or less contemporary time somewhere in the 90's and it's in the form of a Q and A interview with this guy named Luke Piper who grew up in the pacific northwest where a lot of the novel in both time periods takes place. The action of the novel all sort of coalesces around a recreation of Manhattan that's been built on Bainbridge Island which in the Puget Sound about a half hour ferry ride from Seattle. over the course of the novel the characters sort of convene on this island and learn more about just what is going on in their world.

Fleming:

You've come up with some pretty wild ideas. But there based on things we know. Talking about the Bionet it's extraordinary but when you place it in the context of the internet I guess it makes sense.

Boudinot:

I've known people who have studied medicine or naturopathic medicine or different medical traditions and I've looked around at the ways eastern cultures look at the body and medicine and its different modality than western medicine. And I thought about what I know about digital information technology and I kind of combined those two things. And thought well you know the next phase might be that we are able to download things from sort of an internet into our bodies and were able to overcome illnesses by downloading an immunity that someone else developed in their body.

Fleming:

Yes and that sounds kind of utopian on the surface but when you get into it. You can see that their aspects of it that have some problems. There are other good things some of the other characters in the novel seem to have the ability to offload bad memories for instance.

Boudinot:

Like with any technology the bio-net in this novel has a number of people who abuse it. So there are people who are called DJ's who basically take over other peoples physiological systems and hack them. You can opt-in to this you can choose to be DJ-ed and you basically become sort of an avatar of yourself in a way. There are individuals in the book one in particular who does offload his bad memories. With the bio-net longevity has been extended so other people who live 200 years. And this one character named Skinner went through a lot of the horrible cataclysmic events that precede the novel so in order to be sane and to survive he's had to offload a lot of his memories. But he's sort of obsessed with finding out what it is that he's forgotten.

Fleming:

You can see that when the rest of the world doesn't know what happened and he knows that he once knew would be kind of terrifying.

Boudinot:

Yeah, he lives sort of burdened by these memories and haunted and unable to really move forward until he's processed them and theres other people who have gone beyond them and they offloaded their memories and their fine. They're perfectly happy living in ignorance of what it is they've experienced in the past. But for some reason he's sort of obsessed and he wants to return again and again to these events in order to uncover the truth of what happened in his life.

Fleming:

Is that also why in part the full scale replica of Manhattan in being built in Puget Sound?  I mean in a way it sounds like trying to rebuild the past in a different place.

Boudinot:

Right and one of the things that happened is with this replica in Puget Sound, is that there are people who are drawn to it. They show up on its shores and enter this new Manhattan. What happens to them when they get there is they start having dreams and start adopting identities of people who lived in the real Manhattan over a century before that. And so they start dreaming that they are someone else. Who lived in Greenwich Village and they start become the people that lived in Manhattan before it was destroyed in some sort of ambiguous event.

Fleming:

Part of what appealed to me about that idea is that you created this city and then people did and in a sense you have that same thing happening again in a novel that kind of outside inside stuff going on. And the people acquiring other people's memories as though they lived in the original Manhattan you’re almost making fun of yourself doing that.

Boudinot:

I suppose so, yeah.  When I was writing that part of the novel, I knew that I had to have the characters show up in Manhattan. I couldn't just mention it offhand early in the novel and then not use such a cool setting. I had this things sort of off to the side that people would refer to but you didn't really get a glimpse until the last 100 pages of the book. And so when I got to that part at the end and was writing the thing that I didn't anticipate was the whole notion of people taking on other peoples identities which fit into some of the other themes that were going through the novel particularly as they relate to a character named Abby Fogg who has this strange feeling that she's not herself throughout the book and she's struggling to understand her identity and she doesn't exactly feel like she belongs in this era or this world.

Fleming:

I wonder if you would read a little bit. There's a point at which she says that. When you say of her. There's a section on page 70. About Abby Fogg. If you would read that it would be great.

Boudinot:

Sure, so this is the first chapter in which she appears so this is her introduction.

(READING)
Ever since childhood, Abby Fogg had wondered why she was herself instead of somebody else. She'd lie on her bedroom floor staring at the circle within a circle within a circle of the ceiling light fixture, freaking herself out with the fact that she was Abby Fogg. And while this Abby Fogg accumulated thoughts and memories, went to college, fell in love with archival films and a man named Rocco Petrone, the suspicion persisted that there'd been some mistake, that somehow Abby Fogg had been dropped into the wrong body. Since the age of five or six, Abby had suspected she'd been born in the wrong era, aching as she watched the grain of early-twentieth-century footage. But the previous century wouldn't have her, with its artists' salons and movie palaces and celebrity sex tapes. Nope. Abby'd been born into this era yet to be named, in the years that followed that dark period known as the fuss. Nowadays Abby rose early to make breakfast and spy on her neighbors from the Vancouver condo she shared with Rocco. Even though the place had a view of Granville Island, she preferred to sit in her undies in the dining nook, where she could read the news and glance through horizontal blinds angled at the precise diagonality to allow her a view into a condo across the courtyard and three stories down. The occupants of this condo were about the same age as Abby and Rocco, maybe a little older, not yet sinking into their thirties. The couple bore the same demographic characteristics as Abby's parents: she Asian, him sorta Latinoish Caucasian. The woman usually rose first, around 6:30 a.m., mounted a green fit ball in her panties and tank top, drank coffee from an ugly brown mug, caught up on email. The guy rose about half an hour later, shirtless, a landing strip of chest hair marking his sternum. He shuffled into the living/work space scratching himself through plaid pajama bottoms, planted a kiss on his girlfriend's neck, and performed a few push-ups and stomach crunches on the rug. The woman worked at home, doing something design-related. The man left around 8:30 for a job that didn't require him to wear a tie but sometimes he wore a collared shirt and a sport coat with jeans. Abby suspected these were days in which the man met with clients, whoever they might be.

Fleming:

I'm a little curious about your influences Dave Eggars described you as some kind of new and dangerous cross between Kurt Vonnegut and Donald Barthelme. Have you read Kurt Vonnegut and Donald Barthelme?

Boudinot:

Yea I have, I've read both of those authors. Kurt Vonnegut, the first book I read by him was "Galapagos."  I remember reading it maybe when I was 13 or 14 years old. I remember that by the 100th page or so I was completely offended by his tone, not in terms of the subject matters but he was doing things like saying I'm going to put an asterisk next to name of every character who is going to die in the next fifty pages. And I remember thinking you can't do that, but then by the end of the book I was so won over I thought that is brilliant, I love that.

Fleming:

Ryan Boudinot is the author of "Blueprints of the Afterlife."

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