Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Books | Science

November 13, 2011

Big Daddy Novelist

Drew Magary moves from sports blogging to sci-fi.

Ryan Walker

Drew Magary, mostly known as Big Daddy Drew, purveyor of dick jokes and sports snark at Deadspin and Kissing Suzy Kolber, may not be a successor to George Orwell or Aldous Huxley. But his new science fiction novel The Postmortal examines a dystopian future—one brought about when an accidental cure for aging becomes widely available to the public. Magary takes care to detail the various social and political changes wrought by the cure, alongside some nightmarish violence. Yet, the science never overwhelms the Mad Max fictional elements and visa versa.

Drew Magary. Photo by Patrick Serengulian.
"It was something I felt I had to do. You can't stay in one place forever."

Drew Magary. Photo by Patrick Serengulian.

We witness the world’s downward spiral through the eyes of lawyer (and early cure taker) John Farrell’s centuries-long journal. John writes of news stories connected to the cure, his collapsible family relations, insecure stabs at an ideal love life, and graphic accounts of his confrontations with anti-cure radicals. Despite the voyeurism, though, The Postmortal is, at heart, a cautionary tale about the idle fantasy of everlasting beauty and avoidance of life's darkest mystery: death.

Magary spoke to Gelf by email about some of the novel's themes, what it was like going from sports—blogging to book—writing, and the Buffalo Bills. The following interview has been edited for clarity.

Gelf Magazine: I read in a previous interview that you were motivated to write The Postmortal after watching a segment on 60 Minutes about the health benefits of red wine. Was that essentially the epiphany for the entire book or was this an idea, or concern, that you had been kicking around for some time?

Drew Magary: No, it was pretty much an epiphany. I mean, I've thought about death and immortality my whole life, but I didn't stop and try and imagine the real-life scenarios of an ageless world until I saw that report. But I wasn't like HA HA! MY MASTER NOVEL! It was more just the germ of an idea at that time that grew into something larger as I went along. It's like a ball someone gives you to bounce around a bit.

Gelf Magazine: You've spent most of your writing career as a sports blogger. What was it like transitioning to science fiction novelist?

Drew Magary: It was something I felt I had to do. You can't stay in one place forever, especially in this economy. If you want to make a living as a writer now, you have to be able to do everything: books, blogs, articles, scripts, ads, humor, drama, etc. You can't limit yourself, or else you could find yourself boxed out. So it was a little bit challenging (publishers didn't give a crap about my credentials), but in the end it was liberating because now it's like, "Oh okay, he can write novels." It's one more notch on your belt.

Gelf Magazine: After writing a book that diagnoses the consequences of realizing the fantasy of everlasting youth, do you feel like you now hold a stake in aging debates within the scientific community?

Drew Magary: No. I'm so out of my element, it's comical. I mean, most of the sciencey bullshit in the book came from online research, so I don't think I'm an intellectual threat to the likes of Aubrey de Grey. I can talk about this sort of thing from the perspective of everyday living, but the actual science of it is far beyond my facilities. It should be fun to sit up there with de Grey and Jan [Vijg} and pretend like I know what the fuck I'm saying.

Gelf Magazine: Would you like for the book to be seen as a criticism of men like de Grey, who are actively looking for ways to, essentially, cure aging?

Drew Magary: Hell no. The book is meant to be a nightmare, not a polemic. It's not an argument against the idea of scientific progress, just a kind of worst-case scenario. I'm not arrogant enough to believe that my vision for the future is the only one possible.

Gelf Magazine: Would you ever like to see The Postmortal adapted for the big screen? Apocalyptic films have certainly been on the ups in recent years.

Drew Magary: Oh, hell yeah. Wanna buy it? Ten bucks.

Gelf Magazine: If there is a movie, whom would you like to see play the book's protagonist, John Farrell?

Drew Magary: I didn't have anyone in mind when I wrote it, but obviously any good young actor would be nice. Joseph Gordon—Levitt, Ryan Gosling, etc. I'm not picky.

Gelf Magazine: The protagonist's sister, Polly, explains that while she does not support the cure she assumes, like any new technology, she'll eventually get it when it becomes the norm. Despite your pessimistic vision of what the impacts of the cure would be, would you also eventually follow suit? If so, what would be your reasoning?

Drew Magary: I'd definitely take it. For one thing, you never know if mankind will surprise you and come through with some kind of solution to many of our current problems. All it takes is one person to invent cold fusion and suddenly things aren't so bad. Also, the book never touches on the digital aspects of immortality, the idea of making your brain software and living cleanly inside computers and all that shit. There are ways that an aging cure would develop that would make it completely different from how I portray it.

Gelf Magazine: A concern of one of the characters was that she could live 500 years and never see the Bills win the championship. But with Buffalo now 5-3 and sitting atop their division going into Sunday do you see more hope for the pro-death Bills fans of the world?

Drew Magary: No. They're doomed. Doomed!

Ryan Walker

Ryan Walker graduated from New School University in 2006 with a BA in liberal arts.

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Article by Ryan Walker

Ryan Walker graduated from New School University in 2006 with a BA in liberal arts.

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