I’m pleased to welcome back to the blog, Kathe Koja! Kathe is one of my favorite contemporary writers, having penned some of my favorite books, such as Under the Poppy, Christopher Wild, and Buddha Boy. Today, Kathe is here to talk a little about her new project, DARK FACTORY. Scroll down for my interview with the author and then keep going for details about the book and a $50 Giveaway from Meerkat Press!
AB: In March, I had the privilege of receiving an ARC of Dark Factory, and I can say it’s hard to imagine a better take on it than Cory Doctorow’s masterful review and description. In the book itself, we’re reminded that, “The Factory is always more than what you see.” I’m wondering, though, if you can tell us a little bit about this project in your own words. What would you like readers to know?
KK: Agreed on Cory’s fantastic deep dive and review! (Steven Shaviro went diving as well.) And it’s especially interesting that in the story, Jonas Siegler, who conceived of, opened, and runs the club, is the one who says “The Factory is always more than what you see,” when Jonas himself is conscious of not seeing, never seeing, enough, which is why he relies on Ari Regon, the character at the absolute heart of the Factory, Jonas’ “number one guy on the floor.”
And I do know how Jonas feels. Working on this project, I was always conscious that there was more happening, more moving parts to the narrative, than I was seeing or maybe was capable of seeing, at any given time. The story of this dance club contains, and is contained by, the story of a much larger and more mysterious world, a world I entered as the characters did, pretty much just one step ahead. It was exhilarating, but bewildering sometimes too, as I worked to put all those pieces together.
This project, the novel and the darkfactory.club site, is far bigger than anything I’ve ever attempted, and uses my writing skills and my experience making immersive real-life events, to create immersive fiction, to draw the reader in and invite them to dance, to create, to play. The site is made to reward curiosity, and offer lots of ways for people to engage–a shared playlist, and quizzes, and contests–and collaborating with Tricia Reeks, of the endlessly creative Meerkat Press, means that the site feels sleek and gorgeous and flashy, just like a night at the club.
AB: As you know, I’ve been reading your books and interacting with you on social media for more than a decade. In that time, one thing I’ve noticed about both your writing and your public presence is that there seems to be a strong positive concern for community. Can you talk a little bit about why community is important to you and how it influences your stories, particularly Dark Factory?
KK: Dark Factory is completely centered on, and in, community, the shared community of consciousness, however that manifests: on a dancefloor, in a conversation, in a silent spark of recognition, all the myriad ways we touch each other and the world. Nothing exists on its own, not in the natural world, not in the neural world, not in the constructed universe of the internet: everything is a link. Remember “six degrees of separation”? So if we exist in this state of constant connection, but we don’t acknowledge that, we don’t honor that engagement, how can we not go wrong? We’re fighting against reality every step of the way. Dark Factory asks the reader to engage because engagement is our natural state of being.
I saw this so perfectly in action when I was creating and producing immersive live events: things would happen, artful, playful things, sometimes very profound things, because we were all together in one place, all working to make and enjoy the same experience. The people who joined us – I really hesitate to use the word “audience” – were an active and essential part of what was being made. Our dress rehearsals were called “beta nights,” when we’d invite people to come and experience the performance, so we could find out if, and how, the thing we’d worked to make actually meshed and flowered with, involved and invited a response from, the people we actually made it for. And Dark Factory is constructed that same way, it’s made to connect. So I’m inviting readers to explore the site, follow the story threads there, see what speaks to you and what sparks for you, come on and play!
AB: In the last couple of years, so many of us have struggled physically and psychologically. Have you had a chance, yet, to reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic and what it meant for you as a writer? How has the pandemic influenced you and/or the creation of Dark Factory? Was writing this one a different kind of experience?
KK: So many struggles, on so many levels – including politically – have been so concurrent for us all, that I don’t think we can see the shape of the damage yet. I know I have no way of knowing how I’ve changed in these last years, other than that I have, and I need to accommodate that. There’s a line on my giant mood board for Dark Factory – “I would like to disabuse you of the notion that things are ever going back to normal” – that spoke strongly to me, in the years before and during the plague, while I was writing the book. And that’s our “new normal.”
What also surprised me, but maybe shouldn’t have, is how much this book was utterly about joy, in a time that seemed so often to have no joy at all.
AB: Given the political climate in the United States, I can’t help but think about your book, Christopher Wild, and how central the idea of the writer-activist is to that plot. What are your thoughts or concerns about the artist’s life, or role, in contemporary society? Does any of this make its way into Dark Factory?
KK: Absolutely. Both the main characters, Ari and Max, are steeped in their society, though from vastly different points on the compass; both are working artists, both depend on response to continue their work, both are happiest and most fulfilled when they’re making.
The difference between them and Marlowe, of Christopher Wild, is neither Ari nor Max are overtly political (though Max would disagree with that, I’d imagine). But art is political. Sometimes it goes head to head with power, sometimes it just keeps walking through the storm, but there is no way to authentically create as part of your own time and not relate politically to that time. We see this most sharply in times of sharp conflict, like now, but it’s always there.
AB: Dark Factory is, as its description says, a dance club, and you’ve shared your playlist online. Can you tell us a bit about the importance of music to you and Dark Factory? (Did any of the music that spoke to you throughout the project surprise you? Which songs or artists do you still go back to?)
KK: Music is a huge part of the Factory’s DNA, in the novel and in the novel’s writing: I listened to a ton of music, plenty of Berlin and Detroit techno, and discovered a lot of amazing DJs – two new faves for me are Sama Abdulhadi and the Blessed Madonna – while Green Velvet was always part of whatever I listened to. And because one playlist is definitely never enough, the Darkfactory.club site will feature an open playlist for readers to add their favorites, and keep the dancefloor going.
And music is so immediate, and so emotional, to all of us, there are songs we cherish, dancefloor moments we never forget, when the music seems to be – is – speaking directly to us. Felix, the DJ whose musical evolution drives so much of the Factory story, embodies that experience, and takes it to a new level that’s both beautiful and intense, personal and public; even global.
AB: Please include something you’d like to share that I might have forgotten to ask!
KK: Dark Factory is a lot of things, as we’ve been noting, but it’s also very much a story about love: the passionate attachments and creative bonding between Felix and Ari, Ari and Max, Max and Marfa. There are as many ways to love as there are to create, if we stay open, and let our instincts and our hearts lead us wherever we need to go.
ABOUT THE BOOK AND THE AUTHOR
DARK FACTORY by Kathe Koja
RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2022
GENRE: Speculative Fiction / SciFi / LGBT / Literary
BOOK WEBSITE: https://darkfactory.club/
Welcome to Dark Factory! You may experience strobe effects, Y reality, DJ beats, love, sex, betrayal, triple shot espresso, broken bones, broken dreams, ecstasy, self-knowledge, and the void.
Dark Factory is a dance club: three floors of DJs, drinks, and customizable reality, everything you see and hear and feel. Ari Regon is the club’s wild card floor manager, Max Caspar is a stubborn DIY artist, both chasing a vision of true reality. And rogue journalist Marfa Carpenter is there to write it all down. Then a rooftop rave sets in motion a fathomless energy that may drive Ari and Max to the edge of the ultimate experience.
Dark Factory is Kathe Koja’s wholly original new novel from Meerkat Press, that combines her award-winning writing and her skill directing immersive events, to create a story that unfolds on the page, online, and in the reader’s creative mind.
Join us at DarkFactory.club. The story has already begun.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists. Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance. She is based in Detroit and thinks globally. She can be found at kathekoja.com.
GIVEAWAY: $50 Meerkat Gift Card
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