A couple of months ago, I made mention of Doug Coupland’s new book, jPod — a sequel, of sorts, to Microserfs, quite possibly one of the most beloved books in my life, if not the most beloved. When you find a book that so accurately captures many facets of your personality, and of the personalities of your friends, you tend to hold on to it (or reject it outright, simply because it frightens you). I’ve told a number of people that if they really want to understand how it feels to be me on some days, Microserfs is the book to read — even if it’s ten years out of date and I don’t work in that field anymore. This is me and my friends; I saw myself, and I saw people I knew, and I saw the culture that I considered myself a part of (and still do, to some extent).
Over the years I’ve encountered people who’ve read Coupland and had all kinds of reactions to his work; rarely, if ever, do I find someone who is ambivalent about his writing. You seem to either find him fascinatingly perceptive (to the point of frightening, sometimes) or maddeningly tedious; there’s not a lot in between, and I think where you fall depends largely on whether you find the characters appealing or not. Doug creates these great characters, builds a universe for them, and turns them loose, and while you can complain that his books lack plots, that’s a feature for me, not a bug. I can’t think of a single instance in a Doug Coupland novel where a character has done something that wasn’t wholly within their clearly-defined personality. I love that kind of stuff.
It doesn’t hurt that he sometimes nails things so well that it can be almost heartbreaking. “Love was frightening and it hurt,” he once wrote (in the passage that made me realize I’d be a Coupland fan for life), “not only during, but afterward — when I fell out of love. But that is another story. I’d like to fall in love again, but my only hope is that love doesn’t happen to me too often after this. I don’t want to get so used to falling in love that I get curious to experience something more extreme — whatever that might be.” Tell me that doesn’t sound like someone you know.
I’ve been dying to know how he was planning to follow up on Microserfs, and now I know. Sort of:
Could you tell us a little about jPod, the novel you’re currently working on?
It’s about people who work in game design, which is a lot of my friends here in Vancouver. It’s a sequel to Microserfs but different. Tech is such a different place ten years later.
What I want to know is this: Is there going to be a character in there who, unlike the bright lights who get their names in the credits at the end of the game, toils away in obscurity on the core technology behind the game, and maybe fights with shitty font rendering software the company picked for a bunch of potentially spurious reasons? ’cause that would kick ass if there were. (I don’t know anyone like this at all, can you tell?) I also expect some bitter coders, young pimply QA testers, art institute graduates who don’t know squat about programming but can design the shit out of anything, slave-driving managers, pissed off spouses with LiveJournals (with 5,000 comment threads), some cast-offs from the dot-com glory days, and people who went into the business not out of passion but out of a belief that you could make assloads of cash.
I can’t wait for it.