Marie Lu is the author of Warcross: a science-fiction novel about a bounty hunter pursuing her quarry within the virtual world of a competitive video game. We spoke with her about the book at San Diego Comic Con 2017.
Unbound Worlds: Let’s talk about the new book.
Marie Lu: The new book is called Warcross. It is very near future science-fiction, so it is set maybe 10 years in the future. It follows this girl Emika Chen, a bounty hunter, living in New York City. She’s kind of down on her luck. She’s going to get kicked out of her apartment, and has $13 to her name — that’s it. She decides to do this thing where she hacks into this game called Warcross. It is the most popular game in the world: Everyone is addicted to it and everyone plays it. Warcross synchs its reality with the reality of our world, so there is this augmented reality where the whole world has been gamified. The creator of this game and CEO is this guy named Hideo: a 21 year-old super genius. When she hacks into this game, she accidentally places herself in the opening ceremonies of the world championships. Suddenly everyone sees her and she gets mobbed. She receives a call from Hideo himself, who invites her to Tokyo because he wants to hire her for a job. She goes from having nothing to flying on a private jet to Tokyo, and her life goes off the rails at that point.
UW: Is it dangerous to be a bounty hunter in Warcross? Is there any physical danger?
ML: The game itself is not physically dangerous: It is a mix of virtual and augmented reality. Warcross is based on esports, so anyone who is a fan of League of Legends or World of Warcraft and have see the tournaments and championships will recognize them in this book. However, her work as a bounty hunter is actually quite dangerous. She’s not just inside a game of Warcross: She’s going to the Dark Word, which is the virtual equivalent of the Dark Net. She’s trying to track down these criminals that she’s always after. She’s had her identity stolen, people trailing he. It isn’t the safest or most stable job in the world for her, but she does it because she has no choice.
UW: Does she find that her bounty hunting skills transfer over well?
ML: She does, sometimes to a huge extent and sometimes in ways that endanger her life. Because she has this unique mixture of being a bounty hunter and huge fan of Warcross, she knows a lot about the game and its inner workings. That’s part of the reason why she gets hired, but it also leads to her crossing paths with someone who is very dangerous.
UW: Are you a gamer?
ML: I’ve been a gamer since I was a kid. My first system was a Sega Genesis, and my parents had to confiscate it because I was pending way too much time on it. I don’t know what happened to it. Maybe it is in the attic somewhere. I used to work in video games before I became a full-time writer. I worked at Disney for a couple of years, and worked at a bunch of start-ups, so it has always been a part of my life.
UW: Have you learned things from gaming that you can apply to your writing career?
ML: I think that it has transformed the way that I think about building out my stories. I actually visualize my stories in a gamer sort of way in my head. I see the fight scenes in the way that you would see it on a game. I think that there’s a little bit of a game in all of my books. Legend had moments that were inspired by Street Fighter, and The Young Elites was inspired by Assassin’s Creed. There’s a little bit of it everywhere.