Pierre Ouellette, author of one of my five-star science thrillers, kindly agreed to discuss futurism, his new pseudonym Pierre Davis, and the whims of fate in an author’s career.
ScienceThrillers.com: Your thriller The Deus Machine was published in 1993 but takes place in the future year of 2005. When I read the book in 2011, I was impressed by how timely it seemed. Are you pleased with your soothsaying? What things did you “predict” in the book that have now come true?
Pierre Ouellette: I’ve always been something of a futurist and I don’t think there’s anything particularly mystical about it. I like the idea of constructing futures that originate from present realities. In most cases, it’s simply a matter extrapolating existing information or trends. In The Deus Machine, there were three basic suppositions about the future that proved to be true over time. One was the existence of a single chip that contained four microprocessors. So-called “quad processors” have now become commonplace in consumer systems. The second supposition was the idea of very powerful software dedicated to processing genetic databases at the base pair level, looking for all kinds of relationships. There is now the entire field of “bioinformatics” which includes these types of applications. Finally, I pegged the collapse of the housing bubble (and the resulting “Mortgage March”) as occurring in 2005, and was just a few years off. A fourth prediction was apparently ahead of its time, but will eventually happen. This is the development of the “biocompiler,” which gives biotech engineers a high-level programming language capable of designing new life forms from scratch.
ScienceThrillers.com: A couple of years after The Deus Machine, your second science thriller, The Third Pandemic, appeared. Then, nothing for thirteen years! What happened?
Pierre Ouellette: I had two literary disasters and a divorce in the intervening years. First, I wrote a film script called “Day 429” that involved a hero who struggles with a devastating memory loss from brain surgery for severe epilepsy. It was very well received and was represented by United Talent, one of the largest Hollywood agencies. I was working out the terms of a deal with a producer when we found out that a movie called “Memento” had just gone into production that was based on an almost identical concept (I’m sure you’ve heard of it.) Next, I wrote a sprawling near-future epic about an old man spending great sums to keep himself alive in a dying world. At the time, it generated virtually no interest in the publishing industry. (I was informed by my editor at Pocket Books that they were now going to focus on “chick books.” So I now know what’s its like to be on the other end of sexual discrimination). The manuscript went out to a number of reputable editors who just couldn’t find any credibility in the world I had created, which was built on 1) a vanishing middle class, 2) a collapsed health care system, 3) widespread economic calamity, 4) mounting political strife and populism. Sound familiar? Suddenly, there’s great deal of interest in this work, and I am currently finishing a rewrite, which should be complete in a couple of months. The current title is The Final Age: An Econolyptic Account Of Life Everlasting.
ScienceThrillers.com: Your most recent novel A Breed Apart came out in 2009. One of its point-of-view characters is an experimental dog with exceptional intelligence. Tell me about your relationship with dogs, and how readers are reacting to this character.
Pierre Ouellette: I had an absolutely adorable,120-pound chocolate lab named Rolo, who I dedicated the book to. People love the dog in the novel, which remains nameless to keep readers from anthropomorphizing it. I did a lot of research on animal intelligence to get the dog’s character right. The challenge was to create a creature with intelligence approaching the human level, yet have it remain basically a dog. Gauging from reader reaction, it worked quite well.
ScienceThrillers.com: You’re publishing again, but under the name Pierre Davis. Why the pseudonym?
Pierre Ouellette: My current publisher, Bantam, is focused on mass market paperbacks, where a book has to live or die almost exclusively by what people read on the cover or the back. They felt that Pierre Ouellette was just too complex a name for this marketing environment. Since I know almost nothing about this field, I bowed to their expertise. I changed my last name to that of my all-time artistic hero, Miles Davis. The man was as hip the day he died as he was at twenty.
ScienceThrillers.com: Your next book is…
Pierre Ouellette: It’s entitled Origin Unknown, and revolves around the neurobiology of good and evil. It has the same protagonist, Elliot Elliot, as A Breed Apart. Elliot is the lone investigator in the department of public safety at a large medical campus, a cop right next to all kinds of cutting-edge science. Perfect, at least for me. Origin Unknown comes out July 26 in both paperback and Kindle editions.