Sobel Weber Associates, Inc.
- THE FUTURE FOR CURIOUS PEOPLE
- (Algonquin, September 2014)
- by Gregory Sherl
THE FUTURE FOR CURIOUS PEOPLE follows the entwined lives of a group of new adults set in motion by the fabulist premise of a look into the future. Evelyn and Godfrey wonder if their current romantic interests are the people they will be with years from now—or if they are just wasting their time. Dr. Chin and his amazing envisionist machine may have the answers they seek, but they’ll need to make sure they don’t get hooked on Chin’s machine. He discourages repeaters.
This novel combines the talents of 27-year-old newcomer Gregory Sherl and award-winning author Julianna Baggott. They describe their collaborative process in the letters below.
Gregory Sherl about THE FUTURE FOR CURIOUS PEOPLE
What attracted me to THE FUTURE FOR CURIOUS PEOPLE was how much I wanted it to be true—this idea of scratching the what if and skipping the pain of sleeping alone. Envisioning is Vicodin for the heart.
I related to the characters in FUTURE the same way most of my friends would be able to. I had a down payment on an engagement ring when my relationship with my first serious girlfriend, Brittany, fell apart. And I didn't learn my lesson. A few years later, I bought another ring, and put it on Liz's finger. Two months later, she took it off. I sold the ring and paid for half a year of health insurance. I’d like to say I’ve now wised up for good, but I don’t want to start off here with a lie.
I used to worry that I believed too much in love, but now I realize that everyone else just doesn't believe in it enough. The messy kind of love is my favorite; it's the most real. The idea of fate, of predestination -- that you are who you are and you will always be that version of yourself -- leaves nothing but what’s settled. And I refuse to settle -- especially with love. There is hope in every moment, and THE FUTURE FOR CURIOUS PEOPLE argues this passionately.
Writing novels is also a beautifully messy process – terrifying, daunting -- but I was unbelievably lucky to have an incredible writer in it with me. Once Julianna and I got going, the book began breathing and sleeping and eating with us. And, finally, when the end was in our sights, finishing the book was something I looked forward to and dreaded. I loved writing this damn book. We shared the vision of a fast-paced novel in a richly imagined world, which is why, I believe, this novel has a unified soul.
And I know I’m getting ahead of myself but I’ve already had a blast thinking of ways to market the book – by making this world and these characters as real as possible. Evelyn is already on Pinterest – posting evocative images of how envisioning feels, her favorite album covers, her break-up with Adrian, her desire for a sister... down to the detailed image of a certain pear brooch. We’re working on actual tracks from The Babymakers’ first release. Dot will have a stolen & returned blog. Evelyn will reach out to librarians and tweet author quotes. Because this isn’t just our world as we know it, we want to invite readers in… maybe all the way to Dr. Chin’s, who clearly needs a web site – Now Offering: The Future for Curious People…
Julianna Baggott on the genesis of THE FUTURE FOR CURIOUS PEOPLE
By the time I was in my twenties, I already had a weary, hardened heart. I wasn’t sure I’d ever fall deeply in love -- the lifelong, headlong rush of love, the kind that could endure -- and I was impatient. I didn’t want to jump into my future prematurely, but I did, certainly, desire to glimpse it -- in hopes that it would be worth catching up with. What makes this yearning all the more frustrating today for this generation of new adults is that, amid all of this burgeoning technology – technology that can tell anyone almost anything within three clicks – the future remains stubbornly out of reach.
When I first started to imagine THE FUTURE FOR CURIOUS PEOPLE, I knew I was moving into that territory of wish fulfillment, asking: But what if you could know your romantic future? What if the technology were there? And, in that moment, I started to create a world that exists just slightly to one side of our own center – a place where an envisionist like Dr. Chin has a billboard that reads: Now Offering: The Future for Curious People!
The characters emerged. Evelyn is breaking up with her boyfriend who’s passing out advertisements for his band, The Babymakers, on a snowy street corner in downtown Baltimore, her wooly coat flapping around her. She’s seen their dismal future together at Dr. Chin’s office – she and her boyfriend, many years older, singing “Happy Birthday” to a Chihuahua in a pointy hat and arguing about cheese. She hopes for more. Meanwhile Godfrey is proposing to his girlfriend Madge only to find that she’s not quite willing to take that leap of faith; she wants to see their future together first – just to be sure they’re meant for each other.
THE FUTURE FOR CURIOUS PEOPLE follows their entwined lives set in motion by the fabulist premise of a world with envisionists. The characters struggle with their own pasts and wrestle with universal themes, including sorrow, love, death, fate, and the speed at which life clips along. (I hope the novel is the kind people underline and dog-ear and quote to friends.) At the same time, the whimsical glimpsing of futures allows for big sweeping cinematic scenes.
After I’d conceived of this idea and had written pages, I realized that my vantage point of looking back on my own twenties afforded me a lot of insights, but was also a hindrance. I needed a voice from this generation to really make this novel come to life. I turned to the best young writer I know – Gregory Sherl. I handed over the premise, early pages, some ideas on where I thought it was all headed, and Greg and I embarked on what became a great writerly partnership; when I look at what we’ve created, I think of it as a high-wire act of storytelling – both hilarious and wrenching.
Although Greg is well on his way to making a name for himself as a poet, this is his debut as a novelist. At twenty-seven, he’s already the author of three poetry collections Heavy Petting, Monogamy Songs, and The Oregon Trail is the Oregon Trail, which is based on a video game that speaks to his generation; it’s currently shortlisted for the Believer Magazine’s Poetry Award. Greg is a Grisham Fellow at the MFA program at The University of Mississippi, poetry editor at The Good Men Project, a co-founding editor of Vinyl Poetry, and co-creator of the weekly web-comic, Sad Boy. His writing is undeniable – poignant and edgy at once. I think you’re going to love his voice and the energy he brings to the page. What I love about Greg’s writing, most of all, is the way he’s able to give a voice to the anxiety and deep nostalgia, the fears and desires of his generation.
I hope you fall for these characters – hard – and that you feel the accumulation of imagination and heart we’ve poured into this book. If the ending doesn't choke you up, you're tougher than Greg and I will ever be.