Jeremy Szal was born in 1995 and was raised by wild dingoes, which should explain a lot. He writes dark science fiction of a character-driven, morally grey nature. His main series is The Common Trilogy, including STORMBLOOD and BLINDSPACE and an untitled third book, about a drug harvested from alien DNA that makes users permanently addicted to aggression and violence. He’s written over forty short stories, translated into six languages. He carves out a living in Sydney, Australia with his family. He loves watching weird movies, collecting boutique gins, exploring cities, cold weather, and dark humour.
Author Website: http://jeremyszal.com/
Genre: Science Fiction
Book 1 Blurb:
Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper, a biosoldier fighting for the intergalactic governing body of Harmony against a brutal invading empire. Now, he fights against the stormtech: the DNA of an extinct alien race Harmony injected into him, altering his body chemistry and making him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. It made him the perfect soldier, but it also opened a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.
But when Harmony tells him that his former ally Reapers are being murdered, Vakov is appalled to discover his estranged brother is likely involved in the killings. They haven’t spoken in years, but Vakov can’t let his brother down, and investigates. But the deeper he goes, the more addicted to stormtech he becomes, and Vakov discovers that the war might not be over after all. It’ll take everything he has to unearth this terrible secret, although doing so might mean betraying his brother. If his own body doesn’t betray him first.
A vibrant and talented new voice in SFF: alien technology, addictive upgrades, a soldier determined to protect his family, and a thief who is prepared to burn the world down…
1) Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Jeremy Szal, and I write gritty, dark science fiction with an eye to character, emotional stakes, and visceral action scenes. I’m the author of The Common series, which includes STORMBLOOD, BLINDSPACE, and an Untitled Book #3. I live in Sydney, Australia. I enjoy gin more than I should, and I do not own a cat.
2) What is a great book that you’ve read recently and why should we read it?
I just finished Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. It was a fantastic, sprawling, writhing beast of novel that’s simply crammed with ideas, bizarre situations and jolting, arcane world-building. At 850 pages it feels more like a hefty gothic Victorian novel than a modern fantasy, but it’s a testament to the writing that I was engaged on every single page, and would have easily read another 850 pages. If you want to see how weird and esoteric and special fantasy can be, you owe it to yourself to read this book.
3) Were you a big reader growing up?
My mother is an English teacher, so I couldn’t *not* be a big reader! Trips to the bookstore were very frequent, and I’ll always cherish those memories. I never really considered the genres of what I was reading: I simply read what sounded interesting, which included Michael Grant, Garth Nix, Eion Colfer, Stephen King, Maria Synder, and Brandon Sanderson.
4) What made you want to become an author?
I loved immersing myself in all these worlds and spending times with all these characters, created by other people, and I guess one day I decided to make my own. While the process might not always be easy, it’s huge fun to bring about these people and their stories to life.
5) Tell us a little bit about The Common. What are some themes explored? In your own words what type of book is it?
The Common series is dark science-fiction. It’s about a drug harvested from aliens that makes humans addicted to aggression and violence. The protagonist, Vakov Fukasawa, is a soldier turned mercenary, who discovers his former squadmates are being killed off . . . and his estranged brother is the prime suspect. And things only get more screwed up from there.
While it’s firmly in the space opera camp, it also covers cyberpunk, military-SF, and noir, with plenty of visceral action scenes, spaceship battles and episodes of explosive, wild combat. But more importantly: it’s a love story.
People get surprised when I say that, but it’s true. It’s a love story between two brothers, trying to patch up all the wounds they’ve ripped in themselves, and learning to find each other again. It’s also a story about familial and platonic love, friendship, brotherhood. Vakov Fukasawa might be the protagonist, but his relationship with all his friends and family is the heart and soul of this story. How those relationships get tested, strained, and ultimately evolve, for good and bad, over the course of the story.
There’s also a lot of themes that build off on that, such as honour and loyalty and duty. Violence, the cost of war, aggression, and the upsides and downsides of addiction, both to drugs and other vices. I wasn’t entirely planning on it, but the book also covers the emotional state of the main cast, including issues of rage, trauma, loneliness, anxiety, depression, death, grief, and love. I have to let the characters guide me, and tell their stories and emotional journeys as authentically as I can.
6) I love book quotes. Do you have a favorite, non-spoiler quote from The Common that you’d like to share?
“The stormtech gives us wings, but takes the sky away.”
7) Why write Science Fiction?
Because I can!
I love the tropes associated with the genre: spaceships, aliens, galactic empires, technology, armour, planetary travel, far-flung cities, neon-soaked streets, bizarre weaponry, weird species, the whole lot of it. But what I love even more is combining the human element with those tropes, and telling unique stories. I couldn’t possibly tell Vakov Fukasawa’s story if it wasn’t for the alien biotech writhing inside his body, altering and influencing his every thought and action, because it’s intrinsically part of him. And as a result, this story about two estranged brothers becomes much more interesting and engaging when you’ve got all these other tropes in play.
8) What is one thing that you love about the current state of Science Fiction and what is one thing that you wish you saw more of?
I love that we’re seeing so many more stories that focus on human, raw and intimate issues in the genre. It’s far less about how the fake, boring physics work and more about the people, and the war fighting within their hearts. I think the diversity of the genre is partially to thank for that, which is fantastic.
In saying all that, I do wish we had more morally ambiguous characters. And while there’s certainly a presence of them in the genre, often times we’re seeing the “superhero code” in effect: protagonists with moral compasses set in stone, never doubting that they’re doing the right thing, and always determined to save the day with as few casualities as possible, including those of the villains. Even as a kid, I always hated how the Jedi in Star Wars bought into that weird philosophy of binary choices, how true heroes are devoid of emotion, attachments to anyone else should be severed, and how there’s always absolute good and evil. I want to see more characters who do the wrong thing for the right reasons, or who aren’t afraid to do horrible things, and yet remain likeable, compelling and pleasing characters. Altered Carbon delivered that for me in spades, and I’ve been seeking out those kinds of characters in SF ever since.
9) Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
Pierce Brown for his deep, emotional storytelling and phenomenal characters that you can’t help but love with all your heart and soul, combined with some truly harrowing and feral action sequences. George R. R. Martin for his rich, tangible world-building. Joe Abercrombie for some of the best damn dialogue and character banter in the business. Lauren Beukes for her razor-sharp, but sandpapery style of writing and often terrifying situations. Richard Morgan for his visceral characters and their battles against grim, unapologetic worlds, with a truly cutthroat voice. Iain M. Banks for his weird and wonderful and exuberant galactic world-building.
10) What’s up next for you as a writer? Do you have a new series you would like to publish after you finish The Common?
Well, ain’t that an interesting question! Yes, there’s certainly the potential for something on the back-burner after this series wraps up. I don’t see myself straying far from what I’m already doing: I’ll be writing first-person, gritty stories with an eye for character and emotional stakes, set in a far-future, space-opera-ish world. I’ve got an inkling of an idea or two kicking around, but I’m not saying anything more about it for now!
Look out for Book 3 of The Common releasing in August 2023 with a Cover Reveal coming from Fanfiaddict in the near future!