Thursday, December 7th, 2006
Local professor writes sci-fi
By William Kincaid
David Wilson's office at Wright State University-Lake Campus is quite similar to that of any college professor's.
Hundreds of books line the shelves, a few prints adorn the walls and a cup of warm coffee lingers somewhere near his desk.
But the contents of his mind are as uncanny and distinct as the inhabitants that roam within this professor/author's fiction: artificial bug-eyed monsters, a hermaphrodite, a child who gives birth to two parents and a groundhog who doesn't know he's a man.
And if the world was anything like the city of Bliptown or Corndog University from his new novel "Dr. Identity," Wilson himself would have an android doppleganger teaching his classes.
Wilson, an English professor at the local campus, recently talked to The Daily Standard about "Dr. Identity," his fifth published book that will be released in March, and his experience as both a writer and an academic.
In his newest pulp science fiction novel, Wilson has created a futuristic world where people have android replicas or "gangers." Dr. Identity, the ganger of a college professor, soon becomes ultra violent after killing his own student.
"Technologies have spiraled out of control, including willful idiocy and media worship in the 'Amerikan' people, who worry more about fashion statements than the prospect of death," Wilson writes about his book.
The book consciously was written across multiple genres, including irrealism, science fiction, horror, fantasy and humor - to create a world that is alien, but also strikingly contemporary.
Wilson said the novel - which can be read for its own sci-fi story line - also is a scathing critique on both academia and pop culture.
The author, who adamantly admits his fascination with the America media and pop culture, said he believes the media is a "literal extension of the body."
"I focus on how they (media extensions) reproduce us as social subjects as well as physically," he said.
He also pointed out the mass obsession with pop culture - which is usually "stupid and untrue" - overshadows even the Iraq war. Wilson said he believes in the "mediazation of reality."
Interesting enough, Wilson considers himself both a writer and a member of academia, the same institution he satires in his novel. Academics at many colleges, Wilson believes, are pretentious and take themselves and their work too seriously.
For example, in Dr. Identity one android is based on the scholar and writer Gertrude Stein. Wilson writes, "Gertie ... was an arrogant, insecure primadonna who ... lacked the capacity to discuss anything but herself and her scholarly work."
Wilson distinguishes himself from self-important academics. Although he said he enjoys interpreting various works, he also enjoys the teaching and the experience of creation through his fiction.
One of the reasons Wilson said he came to Lake Campus was because of the friendly and laid-back professors, who he said are dedicated to teaching, but don't necessarily take themselves too seriously.
Although Wilson does make money from his books - which are released through small publishing houses dedicated to underground, experimental literature - he said his livelihood relies on teaching.
"It's a struggle," he said about being a writer. "You don't make a lot doing this."
Where do all of those bizarre stories and concepts come from?
Wilson, who is heavily influenced by such artists as Philip K. Dick, Franz Kafka, William S Burroughs and David Lynch, said he usually just starts with one image or one sentence.
"I have no idea where I'm gong to go (with it)," he said.
Wilson said he writes to entertain himself and to create the kind of work that interests him, which is not available anywhere else.
The professor - who holds two master's degree in English and science fiction, in addition to a doctorate in English from Michigan State University - traces the origin of his interests back to his childhood.
"Writing for me is really like playing with Star Wars figurines when I was young," he said. "I would create little worlds."
Wilson's books can be purchased at www.dharlanwilson.com.