Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.
Sabitha: Today we’ve got H.S. Down talking about a dark and exciting novel, The Shareholders. Can you tell us a bit about your book?
H.S.: In the late 21st century, Earth is ravaged by climate change. The billionaires have bioengineered immortality, fled to Mars, and rule Earth’s last biospheres as their personal shares. Those left on Earth struggle to find balance as the planet tumbles into its terminal years of habitability. Ian Gateman, one of Earth’s last bureaucrats, is tasked with finding a buyer for a fledgling colony of newly settled ecological refugees. As Ian travels to the estates of several visiting shareholders, it becomes clear the shareholders have other plans for humanity’s future.
Sabitha: What inspired you to write this book?
H.S.: Panic. I am terrified that we will leave it up the billionaires to solve the climate crisis. The Shareholders explores this fear to what I believe will be its conclusion. The world building focuses on immortality, the colonization of Mars, and ecosystems sustained solely by prostheses. Many of the characters are hell bent on preserving an unsustainable status quo at the expense of life itself. I think the politics for the rest of this century will be framed around ‘letting go’. Letting go of postwar expectations of luxury consumption, perpetual growth, of capitalism as an organizing principle. I see The Shareholders as a crude and embryonic form of art for this movement.
Sabitha: Was there any music that inspired you while you were writing?
H.S.: I listened to Dies Irae composed by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind for the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. It is a heavy, solemn electronic piece, but it’s the banshee caterwaul that calls just out of frame that does it for me. For Kubrick, the piece was an exploration of colonialism and the unspeakable violence that haunts western societies. A careful reader will see that The Shareholders is preoccupied with these themes as well, and that preoccupation registers in the names of some of the characters and the novel’s setting.
Sabitha: How did you choose the title?
H.S.: In the novel, the billionaires of the early 21st-century have become shareholders of the last biospheres on Earth. They also own shares of a virus that extends their lives considerably. So, the title is a good description of the key antagonists in the novel, but there is more to it. As the world plummets into climate crisis, the action or inaction of governments and corporations is very much circumscribed by groups of shareholders. Shareholders are determining humanity’s future. The title puts that into focus.
Sabitha: If you could pick any author to read your book, who would you want to read it? Why them?
H.S.: I am drawn to the irreverence and storytelling of Kurt Vonnegut and J.G. Ballard. I’d love to receive notes from them on craft for this book, but not now of course, because that would have to come from beyond the grave, which would be, at the very least, distracting. Margaret Atwood wrote some of the first dystopian climate change novels, so I’d like to get her take on The Shareholders as part of the genre.
Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your story and your process. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?