Dystopian fiction that gives us a bleak view of humanity like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner series, and The Handmaid’s Tale are at peak popularity. Perhaps this is why Jordan Phillips’ new work, Futura: A Novella seems like it’s coming out of left field. Rather than harsh climates, or totalitarian government regimes where people are fighting to survive every day, Phillips’ novella gives us a utopia that celebrates humanity.
Paris 2050, has evolved to a futuristic Nouveau look, unlike the rest of the cities around the world which have turned into ultramodern metropolises. Even in France technology is everywhere, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has integrated into a society known now as Invisibles. Ruby, an American woman, has just left her long-term relationship, and now— in Paris she must find her way in a culture that’s different than the one she knows. But, in a world where AI has taken over and humans are celebrated, each feeling of error and quality – good and bad – is seen as authentically human, organic, and thus beautiful.
With the promise of a bright future ahead in Futura: A Novella, BookTrib chats with Phillips about imagining the future and her first venture into novel writing.
BookTrib: I am always fascinated by futuristic stories, because they require so much imaginative and creative effort, not to mention the world-building. Can you talk to us a little about how you created this entire futuristic world, and how you came up with the central elements, like the Invisibles?
Jordan Phillips: The world-building came naturally to me because I have a very active imagination and I’m obsessed with the future—I don’t think a day goes by that doesn’t involve me dreaming about it, perhaps to a fault! That’s how the Invisibles came about; I’m always wondering how technology will progress. In TV shows, movies, etc., futuristic technology seems to always be in the form of robots or devices that we can see, because that’s easy for us to grasp—it’s more approachable because robots resemble humans. But in reality, AI has no physical body. AI will be everywhere, and mostly invisible, which is why I refer to AI as the Invisibles in Futura.
BookTrib: The trend nowadays is to write dystopian stories, and the success of the dystopian genre has overtaken the already overshadowed utopian genre. But despite this, you wrote a utopian novella, which celebrates humans and even human error. What inspired you to head in a different direction, and write a story that’s actually optimistic about humans and the future?
JP: With every book, I try to create something that I would want to read, figuring that if I want to read it, hopefully other people will too. Each book is reflective of where I’m at in my life during that year. I get most of my news on twitter, and this past year, I had an “are you kidding me?!?” moment almost every single day. At one point, I had to stop looking at twitter at night. With Trump, Weinstein, terrorist attacks, the gun situation, refugee crisis… it’s all a bit depressing. I wanted to imagine a better, brighter future, one that we can all look forward to.
BookTrib: Previously, you’ve written Inspired by Paris: Why Borrowing from the French Is Better Than Being French, and now Futura: A Novella; but both of these books intersect very neatly with Paris, the culture, even the architecture. Paris has inspired many people, but I feel that here it’s actually inspired or influenced something unique. Can you tell us about your relationship with the city?
JP: I’ve been completely obsessed with all things French since I first visited France as a teenager. It just blew me away and I vowed to live like that one day. I began reading every book about France that I could get my hands on, and I’ve been lucky enough to live in Paris part-time since 2010 (two years of it full-time). My daughter goes to the Lycée Français de New York, so our lives are really intertwined with the French culture, even when we’re home in Manhattan. I’m not French, and I wouldn’t want to be—I’m very proud to be an American—but this French obsession has really become part of who I am.
BookTrib: One of the things that is so interesting to me about your novel is the way you married the past with the future, and made it into something beautiful and complimentary, rather than a clash of two things that refuse to evolve. How did you first envision this happening, and when you first started putting it down on the page, was there anything you wanted to include that just didn’t make it in?
JP: I think it all started with design. Futuristic photo shoots and films often portray design in the future as very clean and almost cold, with hard lines and surfaces, and hardly any color. To me, that seems a bit unrealistic because design ebbs and flows, and it’s a reflection of what society feels or craves. Whether it’s fashion or design, every decade has its own style that is a departure from the previous decade. The future will be no different.
For Futura, I wanted to create a style that was a bit softer to reflect people’s fear of the Invisibles taking over. I was wandering around Paris one day and saw something Art Nouveau (there’s quite a bit of it in Paris!) and I thought that a futuristic version of it would be perfect for Futura. From there, it was easy to blend the past with the future. The characters in the book are a little scared about where technology is headed, but at the same time, they’ve fully embraced it, and this futuristic Art Nouveau is a beautiful reflection of that.
BookTrib: Finally, this novella is a transition from writing non-fiction to fiction. Were there any differences that you found in your process of writing? Was there anything that helped you transition to writing fiction?
JP: Unlike the world-building, creating and fine-tuning the plot did not come naturally to me. Writing fiction might not be a smooth process but it’s so exciting to be forced to create an entire world—and people’s lives—that don’t exist. Preparing to write fiction involves daydreaming, observing others, reading, and paying attention to what’s going on in the world, whereas writing non-fiction requires a lot of research on one particular subject. My previous three books were all non-fiction, and the transition was definitely a challenge, but I loved it! I can’t imagine ever writing a non-fiction book again.
Jordan Phillips was born in Texas, grew up in Northern California, and now calls NYC’s NoMad neighborhood and Paris’s 6th arrondissement her homes. A former public relations executive, she holds a master’s degree in fashion marketing and management from the École Supérieure des Arts et Techniques de la Mode in Paris, and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She is the author of three non-fiction books, including Inspired by Paris: Why Borrowing from the French Is Better Than Being French.
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