Question & Answer: The #Bicycle Adventure #Novel, DANGEROUS BICYCLE MYSTERY QUEST … #Energy, #Demographics and the Urban – Rural Divide

Question: How did you come to write this novel?

Answer: I wrote it as a serial for a small bicycle magazine starting August 2001. Given its venue, it had to feature bicycles. Much followed from that need. Much later I rewrote it to its current novel form.

Question: What were some of the influences on your novel?

Answer: The disaster genre is an old one and there are many examples. Defoe’s novel A Journal of the Plague Year came out in 1722! Of course there’s the Flood story in the Old Testament… Anyway, I read Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague shows the rise of brutality and loss of knowledge and social class in a depopulated Bay Area. I noticed in Day of the Triffids, the world suffers two calamities: not just widespread blindness, but also mobile carnivorous semi-intelligent plants. I noticed in J.G. Ballard’s disaster novels (The Wind from Nowhere, The Drowned World, The Burning World, The Crystal World) his plots send his characters toward, not away from, the source of peril.

I saw a lot of disaster the movies of the 20th century, such as the movie No Blade of Grass that shows England starving and violent after an agricultural virus kills off wheat and rice. Some of these types of stories use it to satirize or explore contemporary society.

Question: What do you mean about disaster stories exploring society?

Answer: This is also an old idea, for example that there is a drought because of a sin in the community. I think the most well known examples are some of Romero’s zombie movies that satirize consumerism or bigotry. But also a disaster can be like a receding tide that removes the protections and comforts of civilization so it’s an opportunity to see what’s left behind. A common theme is that we people are worse than the monsters or whatever it is…

Question: Do you think our society could exist without gasoline?

Answer: Sure. It would take some time to adjust. We already have more automobile engine choices now than we did when I first wrote this novel. I don’t think most people have any idea that hydrocarbons are chemically amazing. It interests me how an energy source shapes society, and how it forms our assumptions.

My story posits that the shock happens suddenly. That is the part that is hard to withstand. When I was a little kid, my brother would hold the heavy gallon of milk out to me. He would ask if I had it. With my little hand on the handle, I would say yes. Instead of slowly letting go as I expected, he would quickly remove his hand and the suddenly weight would make me drop the milk. That way he proved I couldn’t hold it. However, if he had removed his hand slowly, I would have held it.

Question: Do you think our society could exist without automobiles of any kind? or many fewer cars?

Answer: That is a more radical question and more difficult. I think a lot would have to change, particularly outside of cities. It’s an interesting thought-experiment. I think it might upset people to even ask the question, for example, in a novel…

Question: Is your story a bicycle and environmentalist wish fulfillment story?

Answer: No. What sane person wishes for a disaster that seems to destroy the nation, modern life, and cause widespread starvation and violence? If my novel were wish fulfillment, wouldn’t it show a society that solved their problems? There is such a book, Ecotopia by Callenbach.

In Dangerous Bicycle Mystery Quest, the sympathetic characters disagree on what should be done. They fight and steal; some abandon the cause. The main character refuses to grow anything. Even in the last chapter she feels doubts about the enterprise. Portland is desperate to avoid starvation so transforms itself. Take a careful look at the ending. Is that a wish fulfilled?

The book does start with a premise that bikes are important to the story, that’s true. But the point of the adventure is to explore ideas energy, demographics and the urban – rural divide in the USA. Dismissing the story as wish fulfillment seems a way to avoid its questions. Mostly I hope the ideas in the story make the adventure more interesting to readers!


Dangerous Bicycle Mystery Quest is available for Kindle, Nook, iBook, and other eBook formats around the world. It will be arriving as a paperback in January 2015.

DBMQ_Yard Sign

Published in: on October 7, 2015 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Report from the Seattle Bicycle Expo ’09

I’m having a great time at the Seattle International Bicycle Expo with Neal Skorpen.  Neal gave two fabulous presentations about his bicycle cartoon work.  I’m here to learn, while selling audio CDs of some of my bike stories (including the as-yet-unreleased Mysteries of the Bicycle Explained #9), spreading the word about the anthologies Bicycle Love and Traffic Life.  Neal’s cartoon products are selling madly.  We’re even selling some installments of Island of the Moths (which has draisines – early 19th Century proto-bikes; in fact I saw a kid on a modern draisine at the Expo today).

As you might expect, this convention is quite a bit different than the Stumptown Comic Fests I’ve been attending the past three years (and again next month).  The average age at this Expo is much higher.  The vendors tend to be bigger and without any edginess (think: REI v. Dark Horse Comics). And there’s much less DIY weird, potent creativity, more mainstream commercial and community activism.  So where do I fit in?  That’s the learning experience.  Of course the focus of the sport is not arts & culture, but I feel welcome enough to try to make my mark.   Today was pretty cold and wet in our booth under the big tent.  I’m looking forward to coming back next year to promote my bicycle adventure novel, illustrated by Neal, due out late this coming summer.

And it’s great to be back in Seattle (Portland’s big sister).  The Seattlites I’m meeting at the Expo are so enthusiastic about bikes!  And they’re so kind as to exalt Portland in that enthusiasm.

Published in: on March 14, 2009 at 6:46 pm  Leave a Comment