Sword & Laser: Interview with Daniel Suarez

Uploaded by geekandsundry on Jul 20, 2012


TOM MERRITT: Coming up, we give a Turing test to author
Daniel Suarez and find out if he's really just a self-aware
demon or not.
VERONICA BELMONT: And how to win every William Gibson novel
ever printed.
Sword and Laser starts now.

Hey, everyone.
Welcome to the Sword and Laser.
I'm Veronica Belmont.
TOM MERRITT: And I'm Tom Merritt.
VERONICA BELMONT: And this is a show where we interview the
hottest authors in science fiction and fantasy and keep
you up to date on all the latest book
releases and book news.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, they are pretty hot.
Don't worry if you're just sci-fi curious or have a
full-on fantasy fetish.
TOM MERRITT: You are among friends now and a dragon.
VERONICA BELMONT: That was just terrible.
Today, we are talking to author Daniel Suarez, who
recently came out with Kill Decision.
And we have to be nice to him, or he may send a
drone to kill us.
TOM MERRITT: I don't think he'll do that.
But first, let's take a quick look at the hot news in sci-fi
and fantasy.
We call it the Quick Burns.

Io9 reports Neil Gaiman will write a prequel
to The Sandman series.
According to Gaiman, the new books will tell the story of
what happened to Morpheus before The Sandman number one.
The new story will come out November 2013 with the artwork
of JH Williams, III.
TOM MERRITT: Up for an evening or seven of cryptanalysis and
William Gibson's poetry?
Gibson's poem "Agrippa" was distributed in 1992 on floppy
disk and encrypted itself immediately after
you viewed it once.
The first person to crack that code will win a copy of every
William Gibson book ever printed.
Head over to crackingagrippa.net for all
the details.
VERONICA BELMONT: It's probably AES 256.
TOM MERRITT: That's a cracking site.
VERONICA BELMONT: That's a cracking-- that was-- no.
TOM MERRITT: Release the cracking?
VERONICA BELMONT: No, that was also terrible.
The casting announcements for the next season of HBO's Game
of Thrones are too numerous to mention here, but we will
highlight a few.
Diana Rigg was officially introduced as Lady Oleanna
Tyrell, AKA the Queen of Thorns.
And Mackenzie Crook will play wildling raider Orell.
We also get Meera and Jojen Reed.
VERONICA BELMONT: We'll definitely get a storyline
with them next season.
And it all starts March 31, 2013.
TOM MERRITT: I can't wait!
VERONICA BELMONT: I can never figure out, is it Ty-rell, is
it Tee-rell?
TOM MERRITT: Tyrell Corporation,
more human than human.
VERONICA BELMONT: I'm sure the YouTube
commenters will tell me.
TOM MERRITT: Yes, they will, for sure.
TOM MERRITT: Author Margaret Atwood wants to make an app.
Fanado will be a mobile app allowing fans to interact with
their favorite artists.
The Kickstarter goal is $85,000.
And big companies like Random House, audible.com, and the
Scotiabank Giller Prize have pledged $5,000 apiece to get
their own channel on the app.
It's not Kickstarter at all.
I was lying.
Find out more at indiegogo.com/fanado.
VERONICA BELMONT: And finally, good news for fans of Greg
Bear and Halo--
well, especially for fans of both.
"SF Signal" reports Tor has announced details on the third
novel in the Halo Forerunner saga.
It's called a Halo: Silentium and will be released on
January 8, 2013.
TOM MERRITT: I don't believe people will read books about
video games.
VERONICA BELMONT: No, it almost never happens-- no,
tons of people do.
They're very popular.
TOM MERRITT: Lem, our dragon, is putting through the call to
Daniel Suarez right now.
So while he gets that all connected, please enjoy this
look at today in alternate history.

VERONICA BELMONT: We're pleased and a little
frightened to have Daniel Suarez, author of Kill
Decision, Freedom (TM) and Daemon, on the show today.
Welcome to Sword and Laser, Daniel.
Are you sending a small, tiny, killy drone at
us right as we speak?
DANIEL SUAREZ: No, depends on how the interview goes.
But no.
Thanks for having me, guys.
I appreciate it.
VERONICA BELMONT: A small, tiny, killy drone.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, I don't like those.
Worst kind of drones.
VERONICA BELMONT: They're pretty scary.
TOM MERRITT: Can't see 'em.
[? Pheromones. ?]
VERONICA BELMONT: For those of our audience out there who
aren't familiar with your work, can you tell us a little
bit about your background before you became a writer?
DANIEL SUAREZ: Yeah, sure.
I worked for about 18 years designing large relational
database systems, logistics systems for big companies.
And I just was interested in the effect that technology had
in the background of society.
And that's why I wrote Daemon.
I did it as sort of a thought experiment.
Like what could you do in an automated
society if you were dead?
And it sort of went from there.
So now I find myself writing thrillers full time.
So it's kind of fun, because I get to think about these
things all the time, as well.
So a lot of people think I'm darker than I am in real life,
but just because thrillers--
you go to the bad neighborhood where
technology lives for a thriller.
And so I really am a very pro-technology person.
Although you might not get that if you
read some of my books.
Stephen King doesn't support killer clowns.
He just writes about them.
He's not actually a serial murderer.
VERONICA BELMONT: Or, well, we don't actually
know that for sure.
DANIEL SUAREZ: You're right.
I don't know that.
I'm assuming.
He seems very nice.
VERONICA BELMONT: No blanket statements.
TOM MERRITT: Now, Daemon and Freedom (TM) are concerned
with sort of an intelligence that exists on its own after
the death of its programmer.
What is Kill Decision like?
It's got some of these same themes, but it's different.
It's not in the same universe, right?
It's not in the same universe.
It's a completely standalone book.
But what interested me in this new book is, of course, drones
are everywhere in the news.
And drones are becoming more sophisticated.
But what interested me in particular were simpler
drones-- swarms of very simple, almost insect-like
intelligence drones.
And in particular, the trend where the kill decision-- that
is, in warfare, the decision whether to pull the trigger or
not on a person--
is quickly being moved into an algorithm.
And of course, that's not probably true
in the United States.
There's a great debate going on there.
But there are 50 nations developing drones.
And I think it's only a matter of time until drones start
pulling the trigger without any human input.
I wanted to explore algorithmically, how would
that happen?
How would that work?
How possible is it?
And I think what you find is that the AI that people are
concerned about, this sort of all-knowing, general AI, I
don't think that's really the concern.
I think it's going to be much simpler intelligences that are
going to be moving around amongst us and making possibly
bad decisions.
But they're still going to be deployed, especially in the
context of war where messiness is tolerated, I
think, a lot more.
So I wanted to explore a world where drones like that were
proliferated all over the place,
without really any control.
VERONICA BELMONT: Well, we have a question--
we have several questions, actually-- from our audience
on Goodreads.
This first one comes to us from William, who says, "Given
the technological innovations of the past couple of years
since you penned Daemon and Freedom (TM), if you were to
revise an update or match what is with what you've imagined,
what would find a home?
Would Google Glass be part of the darknet?"
DANIEL SUAREZ: Yeah, you know, a lot of people have brought
that up to me.
Really, HUD glasses and augmented reality existed
really in prototype form when I wrote these.
So clearly, I did not pioneer those.
I just combine existing things in, I think, new ways.
I wouldn't think that Project Glass would, because, really,
for me, the darknet, one of its primary characteristics is
that it runs on a mesh network that is not centrally
And of course, here we're talking about Project Glass
going over the internet.
It will be going through a proprietary gateway.
And somebody's going to have some control of it.
And really, what I was contemplating in Daemon was
the idea of this distributed system that many people
control it, almost like a civic resource.
So very similar in appearance, but very
different in the back end.
TOM MERRITT: I don't know why he's asking this.
Maybe I'm missing something.
Pickle on our forums wants to know, "have you ever been to a
VERONICA BELMONT: How do you not know where that's from?
That's from--
DANIEL SUAREZ: No, I know where this is coming from.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, me, too.
DANIEL SUAREZ: You know what it is?
This is amazing.
Chapter four-- people get so upset about that.
Here's the thing.
No, I don't dislike raves.
But note that it is Brian Gragg, a rather villainous
character, who hands the drugs to the young lady.
It's not the people running the raves.
So no, no, I'm not very against raves.
And I don't think that they're all dens of iniquity.
But I've been to underground clubs.
Let's put it this way.
I know one of those questions was, what is the most
dangerous thing I've done.
This is sort of a related question.
I would say, wander around New York City at 2:00 in the
morning, Alphabet City in the '80s going
to underground clubs.
TOM MERRITT: You've done that?
You did that?
DANIEL SUAREZ: They weren't called raves.
They were just underground illegal clubs in really
fascinating neighborhoods during the height
of the crack epidemic.
That was fun.
TOM MERRITT: Proto-raves.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, that's a little bit scary.
I've been to a few raves in my life as well.
And while it was maybe not portrayed the way that a lot
of ravers have experienced it.
Now I admitted that, and the YouTube commenters are going
to be like, haha, you've admitted it.
You're a raver.
That's what they're going to say to me.
TOM MERRITT: Where's your glow stick?
DANIEL SUAREZ: Glow stick.
VERONICA BELMONT: But thank you for the clarification.
VERONICA BELMONT: Stompro asks, "Did the themes and
concepts of Daemon and Freedom (TM) come more from your
personal experiences or from ideas that you researched?
Or to rephrase, do you have experience writing homicidal,
autonomous scripts, or do you just think they're cool?
And should we be worried about when we eventually see your
obituary in the far, far future?"
DANIEL SUAREZ: Yeah, I've thought about that, actually.
I hope it freaks people out.
That'd be kind of fun.
No, I haven't written any homicidal scripts.
And I imagine if I had, I wouldn't admit it.
But I've probably talked about this before, so if I'm
repeating myself, forgive me.
But I actually wrote a program sort of as a sideline.
It was a weather generating system.
It was a little app.
But long story.
But I sold it on the web.
And I wrapped it in this
polymorphic encryption wrapper.
And I put it out on the web.
You could try it for 30 days for free.
Long story short, I sold it into, like, 38 countries.
And then I got busy doing other things.
And then, when I came back to it, this program had earned a
lot of money, because you could buy it online.
And I realized, hey, you know, if I get hit by a bus, this
thing's going to continue.
Because it's paying for the website, it's
paying for the ads.
And then that got me thinking, hey, what else could I do if
I'm dead, if I'm not here?
And once again, being a data guy, I knew pretty well--
and again, I worked for some large companies--
how data runs everything and how most of our interactions
with people are not in person.
And here's a perfect example--
email, text, brief messages that are very simple for bots
to emulate.
A lot of modern communication is pretty stripped down and
bare, SMS messaging being a good example.
So I just started as a thought experiment to explore that.
And from there, I realized, this is an interesting
TOM MERRITT: Another Daniel--
I assume it's not you-- on our Goodreads forum asks where
your inspiration for the military characters comes
from, because they're so varied.
You have the heroic Roy Merritt--
which, great name, by the way--
and the totally corrupt, the Major.
DANIEL SUAREZ: Yeah, well, let's face it, in thriller
territory, military type characters are going
to come into play.
They're active, decisive individuals.
And of course, they'll, ethically speaking, take the
entire spectrum from good to evil to in between to
I do them because they can, of course,
break through barriers.
As characters, they can go places where
normal people can't.
They can break laws without paying for it
with 50 years in prison.
So they're handy for thriller authors.
But I'm not particularly against or for military.
It's just a really useful tool.
VERONICA BELMONT: Aroyo asks, "In the books, you touched on
the issue of corporate personhood.
Do agree with Charles Stross of the future projection from
Halting State and Rule 34 to take this a step further and
corporations actually having personal rights, that they
also have the equivalent of personal responsibility?"
DANIEL SUAREZ: I haven't read that particular book.
I've read Charles Stross before.
But for me, I am against the idea of corporate personhood.
I just don't think it makes any sense.
I have a corporation myself.
I think there needs to be some regulation of corporations,
because otherwise they turn into super-people.
If you make them into people, they're people who never die,
who can't be put in jail for malfeasance.
It's been, I think, like, 100 years--
I don't know 100%-- but it's been a long time since a
corporation has had its charter pulled, which would,
in essence, be capital punishment for a corporation.
It's those things that concern me.
There have to be some meaningful controls.
So I really wouldn't be for corporate personhood.
Again, I'm not quite sure of the reference in that book,
what Stross's position is on that.
But that's my position.
VERONICA BELMONT: We need to get you guys in a debate
sometime, actually.
That would be a pretty fun--
Oh, so do I disagree with him?
Do I?
TOM MERRITT: I don't know.
We just know what he's written about.
I don't really know what his personal stance is.
DANIEL SUAREZ: Should I just take the opposite position to
make it an interesting interview?
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, why don't we do that?
DANIEL SUAREZ: Well, yeah, we did read Rule 34.
And I'm trying to remember exactly--
DANIEL SUAREZ: It's like, I'm totally against Rule 34.
No, I'm just kidding.
I don't know if I am.
TOM MERRITT: Our last question is something where we want to
get some advice from authors for readers.
What book would you recommend to someone just starting out
reading genre fiction, if you could pick one?
DANIEL SUAREZ: Oh, gee, Kill Decision.
TOM MERRITT: Obviously, Daemon, Freedom
(TM), and Kill Decision.
But beyond those?
DANIEL SUAREZ: Well, let's see.
Genre fic-- wow, that is a big question, because, of course,
tons of books come up.
If I mention one, then I'm going to think of it later and
go, damn, I should've said something else.
TOM MERRITT: Well, we can make it one of the
books, not the one.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, it doesn't have to be the
definitive, I guess.
DANIEL SUAREZ: OK, well, it's science fiction.
But Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, I
thought, was great.
But then again, I'm a guy who really loves to
get into the details.
You're going to have whole chapters about the regolith of
Mars there.
But I find that interesting.
Vernor Vinge, his fiction's great--
A Fire Upon the Deep.
Oh, what else?
You know, it's funny, I read so much nonfiction now doing
research for my books that I don't get to read
for pleasure as much.
Plus, I'm reading a lot of books that
people give me to blurb.
So I can mention them, and they won't
be out for six months.
That won't help people.
But no, I would say books like that.
Oh, China Mieville--
and by the way, if I'm mispronouncing his last name--
how do you pronounce his last name?
VERONICA BELMONT: I believe it's Mee-ay-ville.
DANIEL SUAREZ: Mee-ay-ville.
DANIEL SUAREZ: I love his work.
I think it's very entertaining.
See, a lot of times, especially if I'm working on
something, I could read a book like that and kind of forget
what I'm doing.
They're not thrillers.
It's a very different genre.
DANIEL SUAREZ: They are very disturbing, though.
Perdido Street Station, whew.
DANIEL SUAREZ: Well, yeah.
Ken Follett's also good.
But that's not really genre fiction.
TOM MERRITT: It's a genre.
DANIEL SUAREZ: It is a genre.
But you asked for one.
I gave you, like, six.
TOM MERRITT: That's great.
TOM MERRITT: The more, the better.
VERONICA BELMONT: It's a good starting point, for sure.
TOM MERRITT: We'll have the editors whittle it down.
DANIEL SUAREZ: That's right.
TOM MERRITT: That's what they're for.
Daniel, thank you so much for deciding not to kill us today.
DANIEL SUAREZ: Thanks for having me on.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, thank you.
The book's called Kill Decision.
Just came out yesterday.
So fly on out to your favorite bookstore, manned or unmanned,
and get it.
You'll probably finish it in one night,
you'll love it so much.
Then what will you do?
Actually, we have some ideas for you in the calendar.

VERONICA BELMONT: On July 24, '12 Women of the Otherworld by
Kelley Armstrong comes out.
It's the epic finale to the Otherworld series.
Can Savannah Levine stop the Supernatural Liberation
Movement's maniacal plan to expose the supernatural world?
TOM MERRITT: Also out July 24, Darksiders: The Abomination
Vault by Ari Marmell.
Two of the feared horsemen, Death and More, must stop a
group of renegades from locating the Abomination
Vault, a hoard containing weapons of
ultimate power and malice.
On July 31, get ready for Blood of the Emperor: The
Annals of Drakis: Book Three by Tracy Hickman.
Former warrior slave Drakis doesn't care about fulfilling
an ancient prophecy.
He's riding an effing dragon.
Also, he wants revenge against the cruel ruler of the elves.
TOM MERRITT: And finally, also on July 31, Whispers Under
Ground by Ben Aaronovitch.
Inspector Nightingale, the last registered wizard in
England, is hunting for the faceless man.
So Peter is left with the task of searching the haunted
depths of the oldest, largest, and deadliest subway
system in the world.
And time now for another visit to Aaron's land of awesome
white board book reviews.
This time, he has an Emma Bull book for us.
AARON: Emma Bull is often credited with kick-starting
the urban paranormal genre with her 1988 Locus winner,
War for the Oaks.
Yeah, this isn't about that book.
AARON: This is her 1994 novel, Finder, set in the same fairy
punk universe.
The star here is the protagonist, Orient.
He's a genuinely nice guy, which makes a nice contrast
from the gritty setting.
Plus, best magic ability ever.
He can find anything, which makes him a valuable pawn in
the high-stakes game being played by cops, elvin
motorcycle gangs, drug runners,
and other power players.
Well, when they hand out superpowers, this
is the one I want.
Never lose my keys again.
TOM MERRITT: That's a good superpower.
VERONICA BELMONT: That was a pretty good superpower.
We almost read War for the Oaks, actually, back when we
did elf punk back in the day.
It's a good genre.
TOM MERRITT: And I like how Aaron always starts it like,
oh, I think you're going to talk about this book?
No, I'm going to talk about that book.
VERONICA BELMONT: No, just kidding.
Actually, it's going to be this one.
You too can be like Aaron.
Send us your videos, and you could be on this
show or the book club.
And we'll send you a package of prizes,
including books and stickers.
Just upload your message to your favorite video hosting
provider, like, say, YouTube, for example, and email us the
link at feedback@swordandlaser.com.
TOM MERRITT: Well, that's it, folks.
If you'd like to read along with us, be sure to watch our
book club episode, where we'll wrap up this month's book
pick, Leviathan Wakes.
Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.
It's the green button up there in the corner at
And you could send us email, as we just mentioned,
And join our Goodreads forum.
Go over there and check it out-- goodreads.com.
Thanks, everybody, for watching.