Skip to main content

Hello again dear reader or listener, didn’t I promise you more goodies from our friend Adrian M. Gibson? I’m nothing if not a gal of my word! What we have for you today is an excellent interview with this debut indie author, where we talk inspirations, homages, writing advice and of course, fungi and how cool they really are.

If you’ve been following his book tour so far, you’ll have noticed Adrian is also the poster child of doing too much (we are not complaining one bit) so not only did he go above and beyond in answering aaall of our questions here today, but he’s also got a guest post going up tomorrow about more fungi in fiction! So keep your eyes peeled and your apologies to your ever growing tbrs ready.

Let’s get to it!

—————————————————

[Eleni] Well, I think the first question has to be the obvious one, why fungalpunk? And you can’t just say ’cause fungi are cool.

[A.G.] But fungi are so damn cool! Please, don’t take that away from me…

In all seriousness, though, it was a two-fold decision. First, I wanted to poke fun at the “-punk” genre convention (because we all know how ridiculous some of these subgenres have gotten). On the flip side, I adore genres like cyberpunk and believe the application of “punk” in that particular case is very appropriate. For me, punk encapsulates an attitude of experimentation, whether that’s the anti-establishment hacker subcultures in cyberpunk or the DIY engineering in steampunk. The punk music genre is also a perfect reflection of this ethos, from the rebellious lyrics to the clothing, hairstyles, tattoos, piercings, and more. So, I thought, why can’t I do that for mushrooms? Why can’t I bring punk to fungi, where—through experiments in genre blending, worldbuilding, and creating literal mushroom people living in a fungal society—my fiction could show readers how incredible these organisms are? So I did, and thus, fungalpunk was born. Plus, it has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

 

[Eleni] So by extension then, how did the title Mushroom Blues come about?

[A.G.] This is another play on things that have come before, and is a fitting double entendre within the noir/detective genres. Not only do many books and movies refer to the “blues” or include them in the title, but they evoke that mood strongly in their narratives. (“Blues” in this case refers to the idiom meaning melancholy, sadness, or depression.) Noir and detective stories are very moody, whether it’s the bleak atmospheres, oppressive institutions or worlds, and weariness that weighs upon the protagonist and the characters around them. On top of that, music is often incorporated into the genre, with seedy underground clubs and musicians playing jazz or blues.

A lot of it is aesthetics, but these are aesthetics that enhance the world and what the characters go through—as well as the reader or viewer experience. For me, Mushroom Blues felt like an apt homage to those traditions, except with a lot more mold haha.

 

[Eleni] You regularly review and interview authors for SFF Addicts and FanFiAddict, and you’ve said before that collecting all the info to publish your own stories was the main drive behind starting the podcast. Huge congratulations on the 50k audio listens and 58k video views milestone by the way! What would you say was the most invaluable advice you got through that?

[A.G.] Thank you! It’s been wild to see the podcast grow so much over the last couple of years, and I’m having more fun than ever now that I’ve got M. J. Kuhn as my co-pilot. There has been so much that I’ve learned through SFF Addicts that it’s hard for me to boil down to one. But I’ll cheat and offer two.

First: Community, friends, acquaintances, connections. This is vital for any human being, and is especially important in the SFF sphere. Whether you’re on the blogging side of things, an author, booktuber, podcaster, etc., the most valuable thing you can do is genuinely connect with other like-minded people. Be yourself, and stumble across those who you click with—that will change your life in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Just think about how shitty it is to be on your own all the time, and remember that writing and so many of these things we do are often lonely affairs. Fill your social bucket, such that it sustains your creative bucket. You don’t have to be “on” all the time, so find the balance that works for you, but don’t do it all alone.

Second: Write what you want to read. This one is pretty simple, but easy to forget. The phrase “write to market” makes me cringe, ‘cause it immediately suggests that the creative idea was an afterthought to its proposed existence as a product in a market. Of course, every book becomes a product and has to succumb to market forces, but when that’s the initial impetus, it sucks away the soul. If something doesn’t exist that you want to read, write it! Who cares if that genre doesn’t exist, or agents and editors say it’s not what they’re looking for? There are more options for publishing today than ever before, and more niches for authors to fill. If your idea fuels your passion to write, you’ll find a way to promote it and the audience will come. 

 

[Eleni] As a big SFF fan I’m sure you wanted to homage some of your favorites with your own work, maybe even through some Easter Eggs. Should we hope to find any ones in particular?

[A.G.] Oh, hell yes! I have references to friends and their books, as well as stories, authors, music, anime, movies and TV shows that have been inspirational for me and my writing. There are also a ton of allusions to Japanese history, events, culture, and religion. Lots of fun tidbits for readers to pick up on.

 

[Eleni] When did you first decide you wanted to write your own novel and how did that all come about? Did you one day get the idea for the story or the characters and then developed it from there or?

[A.G.] I’ve wanted to write my own novel for ages, but it was always a case of start but never finish. I used to draw a lot of fanfic comics when I was younger, but it wasn’t until university that I seriously tried my hand at creative writing. It failed, of course. This happened over and over throughout my twenties, but it wasn’t until six years ago that I dreamed up The Fungalverse (literally dreaming about a gargantuan glowing mushroom in a forest). That expanded into exploring this fungal world, but bogging myself down in research, illustration, and worldbuilding instead of actually writing. This realization led me to bring in many of my favorite genres (cyberpunk, mystery, noir) and meld them with the fungal world I’d created. Leaning more heavily into the darkness and the icky, I found a good balance between world and story. The result was one novel that I finished and will rework for my next release. Mushroom Blues is what came immediately after that.

 

[Eleni] You’ve talked before about some of your reasons for wanting to pursue self-pub rather than go the traditional publishing route. What would you say was the most challenging aspect of all that?

[A.G.] Keeping myself in check. I’ve learned the hard way that personal responsibility is a self-pub author’s worst enemy. Procrastination will kick you in the ass again and again, but self-imposed deadlines and developing a consistent routine/workflow will almost always provide you with the stability you need to stay sane. Get your shit in order, and find a way to keep yourself moving forward—even through the hard times.

 

[Eleni] By now we’ve seen the comparison titles of True Detective, Blade Runner, and Jeff VanderMeer for the ambiance and aesthetics of your world, but character-wise, what was the inspiration behind Henrietta and Koji specifically?

[A.G.] I’ll start with Koji first, ‘cause I honestly can’t remember when I created him. I know he was one of the first solid characters I’d imagined for the earlier iterations of The Fungalverse, and he’s a main POV in the novel I’m reworking. I just knew he had to appear in Mushroom Blues, but I had to think how he would be thirty years younger.

Henrietta, on the other hand, has gone through many evolutions. She started out as a man, but it never clicked when I wrote that early version. When I changed her to a woman and added more personal complexity to her backstory, that’s when she really came to life. A lot of her journey is directly pulled from my own life experiences, specifically the “awakening” that she undergoes.

SIDE NOTE: My ideal casting for both Henrietta and Koji would be Kate Winslet (think Mare of Easttown) and Ken Watanabe, if he were decades younger (so maybe Steven Yeun instead).

 

[Eleni] Oh I love both of those castings! We also all love an unlikely allyship/friendship, and especially with Henrietta we have a character who is not hiding their preconceptions and biases, so how was that for you to navigate? For someone who clearly needs to deal with considerable sexism in her day to day, one might imagine she would cut Koji more slack for being “different”.

[A.G.] That’s the thing: Henrietta’s been brainwashed by a nation that sold an unjustified war to its people. So even though Hen deals with a lot of bullshit within the institutions she’s familiar with, that familiarity allows her to justify it in different ways. With the fungal people, she’s been programmed to be repelled by them, their culture, their very being. On top of that, she’s mycophobic, which means she has an irrational fear of and disgust toward fungi and the possibility of infection.

All of this made Henrietta difficult to write in the sense that I had to put myself in her head and justify her disgust and her racism. It would’ve been easier for me to curb this aspect of the book, but it became so integral to her transformation over the course of her arc, that I knew I had to lean in. The good in her kept me motivated, and the traumatic events of her past gave her a more well-rounded, compelling history and personality. She’s very flawed and very stubborn, but she’s not a thoroughly horrible person. Plus, I love a friendship in the making.

 

[Eleni] There’s a tendency, if not a trope, to have post-apocalyptic, futuristic, or urban sci-fi settings be a mix of western and Asian cultures, and Neo Kinoko is no different as you’ve said it’s heavily inspired by post-war Tokyo, what prompted you to do the same?

[A.G.] This is a case where I’m not trying to follow in the footsteps of well-tread tropes or tendencies—instead, I aimed to subvert them. I’ve found that too often the mix of western and Asian cultures in sci-fi (particularly cyberpunk) has been done in a really half-assed way. Blade Runner, for instance, one of my all-time favorite movies, has Asian influences in its world that are just window dressing—it doesn’t mean anything or change the narrative in any way. It’s like, oh cool, Rick Deckard is eating noodles at a street stall. That’s it.

So, when I created the world of The Fungalverse, I rooted the Hōpponese fungal people in a lot of Japanese-inspired traditions, drawing upon their cuisine, social practices, religions like Shinto and Zen Buddhism, history, and more. These are things I have researched and immersed myself in. I’ve even had the honor of visiting Japan in person, to see firsthand this country that I’ve been enamored with for decades. But the difference for me is that these aspects of the fictional fungal culture are absolutely integral—without them, this world would fall apart. Also, setting Mushroom Blues in their homeland allowed me to give the culture a ton of depth, and to establish a nuanced complexity in terms of how the fungals are othered by a culturally programmed nation of humans. As a result, I ended up empathizing with the fungals far more than the humans, so I hope readers do too.

Ultimately, Hōppon, the fungal people, and The Fungalverse are my love letter to Japan.

 

[Eleni] Having read several chapters already, I can absolutely see and feel all of that. Is there anything else in particular you hope your readers will take away from your debut?

[A.G.] I want to pique their curiosity about mushrooms and fungi in general. This is a kingdom of organisms that have altered the face of our planet in millennia past, and continue to sustain our world today. If a reader is curious about my use of fungal architecture, or the networking abilities of fungi, or the gross-out fear of infection, I hope that will compel them to branch out on their own. Now, more than ever before, the body of information on fungi is growing, so find documentaries, non-fiction books, or fictional stories that open your mind to the many wonders of mushrooms. 

 

[Eleni] We had the pleasure to tease your first chapter on this blog a little while back so I’m guessing you’ve gotten some initial feedback and comments already (aside from your beta readers, naturally), how has that been so far?

[A.G.] The feedback has been amazing. To have authors and readers responding positively to it has been so gratifying. But I’ve also been loving specific comments about the mushrooms, the body horror, the world, etc. To have people engage with that, and tell me that the opening has really sold them on this book, that is incredible.

 

[Eleni] Who doesn’t get hooked by washed up body parts and moldy coffee? We may be jumping the gun here a little but as this is book one of the Hofmann Report, how many installments should we expect from you in the future, do you already know?

[A.G.] You know me, Eleni—I’ve got that shit all mapped out haha. The Hofmann Report will be a four-book series, and I have the mysteries for each installment as well as the overall arc of the series planned. Not in super great detail, but enough to give me a sense of trajectory. I also have multiple other series coming set in The Fungalverse, including that reworked novel I mentioned earlier. That will be my next book, and it’ll kick off The Kinoko Trilogy. Think fungal biotech, gangster crime families, corporate espionage, hackers, and corrupt politicians.

 

[Eleni] Haha yes I do know you, and I’m not surprised, which begs the question, detailed plotting or pantsing like no tomorrow?

[A.G.] I’m somewhere in between. I “discovery outline,” which means I’m allowing the outline process to be my laboratory for large-scale experiments. With that outline, I don’t force myself to follow it word for word, beat for beat. Having that strong foundation gives me the confidence to know where I’m going, but scenes, interactions, even characters that didn’t exist before might arise spontaneously and strengthen the overall narrative. Most importantly, though, I need to know my final destination—it’s so important to at least have a clear sense of the ending.

 

[Eleni] You also had a map reveal with Fantasy Book Critic recently where you talked about the process of drawing the map and everything that went into it. Did having that completed map help you conceptualize your story even better or was the map something you added later and in doing so helped consolidate your characters and the story’s movements throughout the city?

[A.G.]: Creating the map was integral for my writing process and moving characters across the space in ways that made sense to me. I’d already created the basic layout of the map years ago for the novel that I’m reworking. Reapplying that to Mushroom Blues forced me to think about how the city would look 30 years earlier, directly after a war, with a smaller population and different political elements at play.

 

[Eleni] Stories are always deeper in theme than their settings or primary plots would imply, so, if you had to say what Mushroom Blues is about in essence, how would you describe it?

[A.G.] Even though Mushroom Blues is a murder mystery and police procedural, this is really a story about awakening and acceptance. I mentioned earlier how Henrietta’s journey reflects my own in a lot of ways, and it boils down to those two words. I won’t spoil anything, but let’s just say mushrooms are involved.

 

[Eleni] On that note, what was the most important thing for you while writing?

[A.G.] Maintaining balance in my life. Finding ways to best enjoy the process, while also enjoying time with my wife and kids, podcasting, spending time with friends, reading, etc. This book really put me through the ringer, but I’ve learned so much about myself and what I’m capable of.

 

[Eleni] In the last fifteen years or so there’s been an explosion of fungal media. How do you understand or interpret this phenomenon?

[A.G.] It all comes down to the Internet, in my opinion—the access modern humans have to information about anything is staggering. All the people who may have been curious about mushrooms or had seen them in nature growing up, now they had wells of resources at their fingertips. Someone who before had to get their hands on mycology guide books or fungal encyclopedias could now become an amateur mycologist at home. Foraging subcultures have grown exponentially, too, with self-taught foragers heading out into the wilderness to find the edible mushroom jackpots. Culinary cross-pollination has also inspired home cooks to try new mushroom recipes, or to expand their repertoire with new and delicious species of fungi.

I believe all of this has influenced the general populace’s curiosity in positive ways, and that has trickled into popular media too. For example, The Last of Us and other huge franchises have propelled fungi into the spotlight. The difference is, fungi often make for better stories when they’re presented as uncanny, disgusting, even dangerous—instead of tapping into an adoration of mushrooms they pull on filaments of fear. Fungi are strange in that they elicit a broad spectrum of emotional responses, from the satisfaction of their rich umami flavors to the sheer horror at seeing a fungal zombie on screen. We humans are attracted to the emotions that fire us up the most—even if they scare us, we can’t look away. It’s the psychology of addiction at its finest, and mushrooms are really fucking addicting.

 

[Eleni] And finally, only a few weeks from release, how are you feeling?

[A. G.] Terrified and excited, all at once. I think the reality of it will really hit me when the book is out, copies are getting printed, and readers start responding. But for now, I’m just embracing the ride.

 

[Eleni] I can only imagine! Well, thank you again for doing this today! Cannot wait to see your book make it out into the world, as from what I’ve read already, it’s quite the treat!

[A.G.] Thank you for the amazing questions, Eleni! Always a pleasure chatting with my favorite Greek.

—————————————————-

Adrian M. Gibson is a Canadian SFF author, podcaster and illustrator (as well as occasional tattoo artist). He is the creator of the SFF Addicts podcast, which he co-hosts with fellow author M. J. Kuhn.

The two host in-depth interv

iews with an array of science fiction and fantasy authors, as well as writing masterclasses. He lives in Quito, Ecuador with his family.

For the latest updates, follow Adrian on Instagram, Twitter, and Threads @adrianmgibson. You can also stream/watch new episodes of SFF Addicts every Tuesday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and more.

 

 

 

 

Until next time,
Eleni A.E.

Leave a Reply