I grew up in the East Bay area, just over the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. I moved a lot, so I lived in Oakland, Fremont (three houses in the same neighborhood! Once we moved 12 doors down the street), Union City, Hayward, and Castro Valley. Now I live half a world away in Edinburgh, Scotland. Writing the Pacifica books (False Hearts & Shattered Minds) has been a way to go back home, even if it’s through the lens of a twisted, near-future vision of that state.
The last two trips home, I’ve been exploring and looking for things to do in San Diego and Los Angeles to feed into my fiction, and it’s been interesting to see California in a new way. I once told my mom I wanted to go to the Xanadu Gallery in San Francisco so I could imagine it riddled with bullets for a scene in False Hearts. I walked down downtown Los Angeles, imagining floating skyscrapers and mansions overhead. I picked apart California’s obsessions: with celebrity, with perfection, with presenting itself as a hippie ecotopia. In this future, it’s still the centre of loads of technological innovation, just as Silicon Valley is now. I created a walled off cult set in the redwoods of Muir Woods. I took so many places of my childhood and placed them in creepy thrillers, just to see what would happen. At first glance, California looks like a utopia, but if you scratch the surface, it’s just as grim as some of the cyberpunk I grew up reading.
Here’s a mix of books set in the Golden State that possibly fed into my Pacifica books, plus some I really want to read.