Ever wonder what it would be like to be a part of a super-powered family?
It’d be great, right? Being different from others in an evolved way. Able to protect oneself at all times more than likely. Maybe even make some extra money on the side, right? Or be so beloved by everyone around you for your powers that you are a star, able to go anywhere you want, see anyone you want, be anyone you want.
Daryl Gregory has an entirely different take on it in Spoonbenders, his new novel published today. The family in his story are not Brad Bird’s Incredibles. They have issues. And angst. And powers that most of the time seem more curse than help. Yet they power through what life throws at them. One part serious, one part comedic relief, Spoonbenders is a fantastic tale of what its like being in a complex family after tragedy strikes.
I decided to interview Gregory about his novel. It is below. Some really great stuff there. Hope you enjoy it!
Unbound Worlds: Spoonbenders is in fine bookstores this week. Tell Unbound Worlds about the book and the Telemachus clan, its amazing — if not dysfunctional — group of family members.
Daryl Gregory: Well, they’re not exactly functional. It all started well. Teddy Telemachus was a con man and a card sharp, but in 1962 he meets Maureen McKinnon, a black-haired, blue-eyed Irish girl who’s a real, honest-to-God clairvoyant. They marry, and in the 70’s they and their three kids start touring the country as The Amazing Telemachus Family. Irene is a human lie-detector, Frankie can bend metal objects (barely), and little Buddy can see the future. Then the family gets embarrassed on the Mike Douglas show, and when Maureen dies the next year, the family is thrown into disarray.
Twenty years later, they’re broke, and no one has made a dime out of their powers. Buddy is afraid of the future, Irene can’t hold down a job (or a relationship) because of her inability to tolerate lies, and Frankie’s in debt to the Chicago mob. Then Irene’s fourteen-year-old son, Matty, has an out-of-body experience, and Frankie realizes the kid’s power can help him get out of debt, but now an aging CIA agent has come sniffing around, looking to revive the agency’s Cold War psi program. Did I mention it’s a comedy? It’s a comedy, except when it isn’t.
UW: There are so many superpowers and mutant gifts out there to choose from. How did you decide upon the gifts that each family member possesses?
DG: It started with the psychic powers that were so trendy in the 70s. Uri Geller’s spoonbending had to be in there, but of course it’s a feeble power. Why do you need bent utensils, anyway? I gave that power to Frankie, the saddest of the Telemachus clan.
Also during the Cold War was the army’s research into “remote-viewing,” basically spying at a distance. The government spent millions on Project Stargate (I am not making this up) and never got any actionable intelligence out of it. So I decided Maureen would be the one real talent in that program.
I’m not sure when I thought of Irene’s lie-detector power, but I thought it was a great ability to give to a mom. Don’t all our moms have this power? As for Buddy – I take it back, he’s the saddest Telemachus – I liked the idea of a man who remembered the future as well as the past, and was lost in time. He struggles greatly just to stay in the present, because all days are the present to him.
The one power I really wanted when I was Matty’s age was teleportation. I was a big fan of the X-Men’s Nightcrawler. Matty’s power to astral project comes in a close second. Maybe it’s something about wanting to be able to escape at a moment’s notice.
UW: As we see in the book, each gift is a double-edged sword of sorts, especially as time goes on. Which one would you least want?
DG: Buddy’s ability to remember the future is a nightmare. How do you enjoy being with anyone, when you know exactly when they’re going to die? How do you even enjoy the sandwich you’re eating, when all previous sandwiches are equally present in your memory?
There’s a blessing to forgetting. Teddy, when he’s in his seventies, remembers his years with Maureen with a certain soft-focus glow. Teddy thinks, how good does a day have to be to make it into the top ten of all days? How does it win that beauty contest? It’s not a fair competition. Those previous days have been scrubbed clean of their imperfections.
UW: Without prying too much, what was the strangest thing about your own family? And did that get into Spoonbenders in some way?
DG: I’ve written other novels that were much closer to my family. Oh, there are parts of my family in Spoonbenders, but the novel is primarily about the families I’ve watched from the outside–big, loud, Catholic families who fought and laughed and drank. My family was pretty quiet, a team of non-drinking, Baptist Southerners who’d somehow found themselves in Chicagoland. I always a little jealous of those bombastic families, and this novel was my way to worm my way inside one.
UW: Will we see a sequel to this? Perhaps another generation of Telemachus?
DG: Funny thing: I was talking to the screenwriter who’s writing the pilot for the Spoonbenders television show, which is in development at Paramount. She was thinking that the first season would follow the plot of the novel, and had some ideas for season two. I said, “What? Tell me!” Because I do have very vague ideas about the Telemachus family in the current day, perhaps when Matty’s grown, but I’m not working on that book now.
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory is in fine bookstores today!
What’s your super power?