Ten thousand minutes and counting
By Stephen Oram
Published by Silverwood Books
Amber is young and ambitious. Martin is burnt out by years of struggling. She cheats to get what she wants while he barely clings on to what he has. It’s the week before the annual Pay Day when strata positions are decided by the controlling corporations. The social media feed is frenetic with people trying to boost their influence rating while those above the strata and those who’ve opted out pursue their own manipulative goals.
Fluence is a story of aspiration and desperation and of power seen and unseen. It’s a story of control and consequence. It's the story of the extremes to which Amber and Martin are prepared to go in these last ten thousand minutes before Pay Day.
ABOUT STEPHEN ORAM
Like each and every one of us, my perspective of the world has been affected by many people and experiences: as a teenager I was heavily influenced by the ethos of punk; in my early twenties I embraced the squatter scene and then joined a religious cult, briefly; I did some computer stuff in what became London’s silicon roundabout; and I’m now a civil servant with a gentle attraction to anarchism. I really enjoy taking a sideways look at our world and thinking, “what if,” and then writing about it through speculative fiction.
Where are you from?
I’m from London. Well, I’ve lived here for thirty years and consider it home. Fitzrovia, the part I live in, is a lively haven of independence in the heart of the West End.
Tell us your latest news.
It probably goes without saying, but my biggest news is that my new novel has just been published. Alongside it, I’ve created my first ever online quiz – the Fluence Test. https://www.qzzr.com/quiz/c40d81cb-b84a-4b69-bab6-112c4dd3aabd/fi9xdWl6emVzLzY4NDk1
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
About four years ago when I received the first professional critique of the first draft of my first novel with the comment, I can see potential in you as a writer.
What inspired you to write your first book?
It was a mixture of wanting to create something entertaining, thinking I had something to say and needing something to keep me out of mischief. I wanted to express myself creatively and my day job was never going to give me the chance so I attended creative writing classes and came away brimming with ideas and itching to write a novel.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I describe my style as taking a sideways look as asking, what if. I don’t really want to pigeon-hole myself into a genre, but I tend to write in the near-future so I can play around with some big social ideas. And, my characters are often a bit flawed. If I had to give it a label, I’d say it’s Contemporary Dystopian Fiction.
How did you come up with the title?
Fluence alludes to influence and affluence which are two of the key themes. It can also be used to describe hypnotic power or streams of particles crossing, which are good descriptions for the other theme – the world of social media.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Amber and Martin – the two main characters – have their relationships tested to the limit and I hope it will make readers consider how precious their own relationships are. It also touches on the fact that all of us are complicit in perpetuating our unequal society.
How much of the book is realistic?
It’s set in the near-future and it’s dystopian so it’s not meant to be hyper-realistic. Although, I’m pleased to say that people who’ve read it think it’s a plausible near-future, so in that sense it’s realistic.
Are experiences based on someone you know or events in your own life?
Now, that would be telling! Of course there’s a flavour of my life, especially the life inside my head. However, the characters aren’t a replica of anyone I know and the situations they find themselves in are of their own making – honestly!
What books have most influenced your life?
Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell because it describes the horror of deciding whether to conform or not – something I’ve struggled with from time to time. I have an aspidistra in my flat and whenever I pass it, I smile. The other two books that re-invigorated my love of reading were Vurt by Jeff Noon and Neuromancer by William Gibson; I immediately felt as if I belonged in them, even though they were surreal and futuristic.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
If I really had to choose then I think it would be Neil Gaiman, mainly because I like his cheekiness, the way he’s free of genre and most importantly he seems to be very much himself. If he agreed to mentor me, I’d be as happy as a lark for a very long time.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading We Have to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver. It’s so refreshingly honest and so much better than the film. I’m also reading a non-fiction book: Debt, the First 5000 Years by David Graeber – a modern-day anarchist I admire.
Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest?
I recently read The January Flower by Orla Borderick. She has a fresh way of using poetic language to describe really gritty situations and seriously dysfunctional people. It’s a book that stays in your memory.
What are your current projects?
I have three projects at different stages: a compilation of flash fiction called Living in your Dystopia; a sequel to Fluence; and a utopian/dystopian story about a family living in a society that’s attempting to eliminate the inequalities of birth - money, brains and body.
What would you like my readers to know?
They can find some flash fiction on my website, which I hope they’ll enjoy. I’d also like them to think about this… don’t be too afraid that the algorithms are running your life – be more afraid that you don’t know who designed them.
Ecopy of the book x 2