Michael R. Underwood (aka: Mike) has traveled the world, knows why Tybalt cancels out Capo Ferro, and rolls a mean d20. He was raised in no small part at his local hobby game store, and he spent so much time helping out they eventually had to put him on staff.
He is the author the several series: the comedic fantasy Ree Reyes series (Geekomancy, Celebromancy, Attack the Geek, Hexomancy), fantasy superhero novel Shield and Crocus, supernatural thriller The Younger Gods, and the forthcoming Genrenauts, a science fiction series in novellas. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books.
Mike lives in Baltimore with his fiancée and their ever-growing library. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he plays video games, geeks out on TV, and makes pizzas from scratch. He is a co-host on the Hugo-nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show. Visit him at michaelrunderwood.com and on Twitter.
Last year, Fran had me on GeekMom for a special Cooking The Books/GeekMom crossover, where I talked about Attack the Geek, a novella in the Ree Reyes world. Now I’m very happy to talk about Hexomancy, which follows directly after the events of the novella.
The Ree Reyes series is about geeking out – Ree, the lead, is a Geekomancer, which means that when she geeks out, she can do extraordinary things – watching a favorite film or TV show lets her emulate the power of its heroes (watch The Matrix and do wire-fu, watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier and get Cap’s strength and speed, as well as a dose of old-timey righteousness), channeling the collective nostalgia for props to bring them to life (while emulating Captain America, she uses a prop shield and it comes to life as an actual vibranium shield), or using collectible cards like spell scrolls – tearing up a Green Lantern card to make a one-shot lantern construct to help her while chasing an enemy.
Given that, it’s almost too hard to pick out just five things that I geeked out about while writing the book. But here’s a representative sample:
Titanfall – When I started writing Hexomancy, I was geeking out on the video game Titanfall, a First-Person shooter with tons of NPC combatants and most importantly, giant mecha that you can summon and pilot, or jump onto and sabotage. I loved the frenetic action and the feeling of power and momentum when piloting a Titan, so when I decided to write a magical trial by combat, I reverse engineered Titanfall into my own creation, a fantasy video game called Incarnate, where sorcerers wage war alongside armies, casting spells and then summoning Incarnates, magical constructs (ala mecha). So much fun.
Parkour — Since my friend Emily first told me about Parkour several years ago, I’ve been impressed and a bit scared by the skill and recklessness/bravery it entails. Hexomancy has four fate witches as the antagonists, so I decided to give each of the witches a different subculture-derived skillset, which would inform their use of fate magic. And thus, Parkour Strega was born. In order to make sure I was representing her skills well, I watched dozens of parkour videos, from instructional videos to ‘greatest hits’ compilations, focusing on women in parkour, the way they moved and the way they re-approached space to create their own pathways.
Outlining – When I started writing, I was all-instinct, just telling a story to myself as I wrote it down. I’ve become more and more of an outliner, and with Hexomancy, I totally geeked out on structure. After taking a writing class with the amazing Mary Robinette Kowal, I applied the lessons on structure she taught in the class (her version of the MICE quotient, as well as a thumbnailing system for pre-planning on the scene level) to Hexomancy, which I decided to write in four sections, each section jumping forward a season. As a result of that geeking out, I wrote the 70-something-thousand word first draft in a month and a day, and it remains one of the strongest first drafts I’ve ever written. Heck yeah, outlining.
Cyberpunk — Being a kid of the 80s, Cyberpunk was part of the texture of science fiction as I was growing up. I played the NetRunner CCG, the Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020 RPGs, watched Blade Runner and The Matrix, and studied cyberpunk literature in college. I’d already geeked out on cyberpunk into the Ree Reyes series, combining it with Westerns when I positioned Ree’s erstwhile mentor Eastwood as a former console cowboy, reimagining the tech boom of the 90s into an astral Wild Wild West (or as I call it, the Wild Wild Web), where rebels fought for electronic freedom against corporate shills for territorial control of the internet. But Hexomancy was all about digging deeper into what I’d already put into the world, which meant digging deeper into Eastwood’s Console Cowboy past. That meant a showdown at the digital last homely house where Eastwood’s old compatriots keep the faith even though their time has passed and the corporations have colonized much of the internet. So, ultimately I got to combine Tron and Neuromancer with High Noon, which was super-fun to write.
Star Wars — My parents took me to see Star Wars: Return of the Jedi when I was less than one year old. I basically don’t remember a time when I didn’t geek out on Star Wars. So, when I designed an urban fantasy series about geekdom as magic, it was inevitable that I would geek out about Star Wars. Ree’s standby magical weapon is her Force FX lightsaber (Luke/Anakin’s blade), which has a special meaning that would be a spoiler to talk about.
I could go on, but there’s five things I geeked out on while writing Hexomancy. For the rest, you’ll have to read the book and find out for yourself.
Fan-favorite urban fantasista Ree Reyes and her crew of Geekomancers–humans that derive supernatural powers from pop culture–take on their biggest foes yet in this fourth book of the Geekomancy series.
When Ree’s long-time nemesis Lucretia is finally brought to trial and found guilty for the deadly attack on Grognard’s, the Geekomancer community breathes a collective sigh of relief. But Ree and her crew soon discover that Lucretia has three very angry, very dangerous sisters who won’t rest until Eastwood–a fellow Geekomancer–is killed.
What follows is an adventure packed with epic battles, a bit of romance, and enough geeky W00t moments to fill your monthly quota of adventure and fun.