Mickey7: Author Edward Ashton talks sci-fi heroes and Bong Joon-ho - SciFiNow

Mickey7: Author Edward Ashton talks sci-fi heroes and Bong Joon-ho

We take a deep dive into new sci-fi novel Mickey7 with its author Edward Ashton…


New sci-fi thriller Mickey7 follows Mickey7, who is an Expendable: a disposable employee on a human expedition sent to colonize the ice world Niflheim. Whenever there’s a mission that’s too dangerous — even suicidal — the crew turns to Mickey. After one iteration dies, a new body is regenerated with most of his memories intact. Mickey signed on to escape from both bad debts and boredom on Midgard.

After six deaths, Mickey7 understands the terms of his deal… and why it was the only colonial position unfilled when he took it.

When he goes missing and is presumed dead at the hands of deadly indigenous creatures, Mickey8 reports for duty, and their troubles really begin.

Mickey7 is out now and we spoke its author Edward Ashton about building worlds and how he found out his book was being adapted by Parasite Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-ho…

When did you first get the idea for Mickey 7?

I guess that depends on how you define ‘the idea’. I’ve always been interested in the teletransport paradox, which is really the central conceit of Mickey7. Even as a kid watching Star Trek, I can remember thinking that these people had to be out of their minds to get into the transporter. It seemed pretty obvious to me that it wasn’t actually transporting anyone. It was just dissolving them on one end, and then making a fresh copy on the other. That might be fine for an outside observer, but the person who got dissolved was gone, replaced on the other end by a perfect replicant. Right around the time my first novel came out, I wrote a short story on the topic called “Backup” (which you can find here). A year or so later, when the idea was still bugging me, I started in on Mickey7.

What was the most difficult part of the world-building for you?

World-building in general is one of my favorite parts of the writing process, and (unlike titles – ugh) I feel like it’s one of my strengths as a writer. In putting this book together, I started from where the Niflheim colony finds itself in the first chapter, and worked my way back from there. Why are these people here, thinly resourced and completely cut off from any help? Why would anyone do this to themselves? That question led me to the idea of the Diaspora, which then led me to wonder what circumstances back on Earth would have given rise to something like that. The difficult part, from a writing standpoint, was figuring out how to slip the details of that world into the narrative without doing a data dump, while making sure all the time that each tidbit of information about the past related directly to what was happening in the present.

Mickey is a historian, how did you settle on that as a career path for him?

That actually fell out from the narrative structure of the book. It’s told in tight first-person, so all the information that the reader gets has to come directly out of Mickey’s head. I knew I wanted to give the reader a full picture of the Diaspora, how it came to be, and how it led directly to the mess that Mickey and his fellow colonists find themselves in. In order to do that, I had to find a plausible reason that all that information would have been in Mickey’s head in the first place. So, it was either historian or general-purpose know-it-all. I feel like I picked the less objectionable option.

Mickey isn’t your typical sci-fi hero, how important was it for you to make the book’s characters realistic and sympathetic?

Oh, that was absolutely vital. Plenty of SF writers are happy to foreground the tech and let their characters just sort of serve as props for their ideas. I often love reading books like that, but I could never write one of them. To me, the focus of a story, whether it’s set on another planet a thousand years in the future, in a drafty castle a thousand years in the past, or last Tuesday in downtown Manhattan, has to be the people in it and their relationships to one another. If the reader doesn’t believe that the characters are real people, why would they care what happens to them?

How important was the humour in Mickey7 and how did you strike the balance of comedy in the book?

Humor has always been an important tool in my bag, but I’m very conscious of the fact that it’s a dangerous one to deploy. Comedy is hard, and it’s easy to slip from pleasant wittiness into off-putting silliness. In this book in particular, I had to dial things back considerably in between Draft 1 and Draft 2. Mickey is a pretty sardonic guy, which I think is understandable given what he’s gone through—but there are a lot of heavy things happening on Niflheim, and there were a number of places where I’d initially had him wisecracking that were just completely emotionally inappropriate. I’ve seen a few early reviews that thought it was still too much, but at the end of the day I’m pretty happy with the balance I found.

Behind all the humour, the book also meditates on history and colonisation. What is it about sci-fi that made it fit as a genre for this story?

I think in many ways science fiction is an ideal genre for exploring potentially emotionally charged issues like these, because the setting allows the author to abstract the ideas a bit, and allows the reader to approach things without their emotional blinders. Most of us read our actual histories with some combination of defensiveness about the atrocities committed by our ancestors and righteous fury at the atrocities committed against them. It’s much easier to think about the competing narratives of the colonizers and the colonized when they’re both safely off in space somewhere.

Author Edward Ashton has always interested in the teletransport paradox, which is really the central conceit of his novel, Mickey7

The book has been picked up for the Hollywood treatment by Warner Bros/Plan B for director Bong Joon-Ho, what can you tell us about that?

Honestly? Not much more than what’s been in the press. Warner Brothers optioned the manuscript back in early 2020, before I even had a North American publisher. I found out that Director Bong was moving forward with the project and that Robert Pattinson would be starring at the same time everyone else did, when my agent texted me a link to the story in Deadline. I’m guessing my next update will probably be when they send me my tickets to the premiere.

What are you reading right now?

I’m on a bit of a ghost story kick at the moment. I just finished T.J. Klune’s Under the Whispering Door. It’s a quiet, beautiful book with a lot to say about the right way to live in a world where everything is temporary, whether we’re willing to admit it or not. I’m starting in now on The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’m not far enough in to render judgment on that one, but so far it’s promising.

What’s next for you?

I’ve got a couple of projects in the hopper at the moment. I’ve got two chapters and at least a vague outline written for a new book, non-Mickey-related but in the same general genre. I’m also collaborating with an artist friend on something that might eventually turn into a graphic novel. Neither of those have gotten to the stage where I’m 100% sure they’re going to work out, but so far I’m optimistic.

Mickey7 is out now from Rebellion. Read our review here.