Tzaro Janssen, a seismologist in a next-gen lab in the San Juan Islands, is toeing a fault line. His girlfriend, Therica, has become not herself. Stories like hers are lighting up media around the globe — psychotic breaks, social isolation, explosive violence. And no known cause.
In a future world not so distant, a rag-tag team must work together to rage against madness and save the fates of billions in a mega social networking platform.
This is the premise of Richard Sanford’s new sci-fi novel, “The Soul Snatchers.”
The 30-year Issaquah resident has been writing since he was 10 years old.
“I remember writing little stories and giving them out to people in the neighborhood,” he said.
Growing up in the deep South during the 1960s introduced Sanford to new ideas and interests. Sanford first became interested in math and science when he entered high school.
“My world was changing,” he said. “I was exposed to new music, new ideas.”
His career in programming and project management began in the classic years of personal computing and gaming. Though he went on to create his career in technical writing with Boeing, he said he never lost interest in his own writing.
His first book, “Long Time Gone,” was published in 2012. Not long after, he published his next three books, “Ring of Stars,” “Roadkill” and “The Calling.” He has also published poetry, short stories and a play.
His last three books were horror/thriller novels. He said he enjoyed writing horror stories, however, it wasn’t a genre he wanted to keep pursuing.
“Horror was kind of fun,” he said. “But it’s different from what I’m really interested in. The publisher at the time liked my ideas for sci-fi set in the future, but he wanted something he knew he could sell.”
Now, Sanford is back to writing what he most enjoys.
His inspiration behind “The Soul Snatchers” came from his observation of people and social media and technology.
“We’re all happily addicted to technology,” he said. “There’s a difference between being happily addicted and being happy. Befriended by thousands, we can still feel totally alone. We know that social media can have an antisocial underbelly. As Tzaro finds out, we may be a few swipes away from a very scary scenario.”
As opposed to other futuristic sci-fi where the story is set hundreds of years in the future, this book is set only 12 years from now.
“I really like thinking about what things are going to be like in the future,” he said. “But, I didn’t want to go too far into the future. I want my stories to be close enough to us so they’re relatable and credible.”
For Sanford, one of the biggest challenges in writing this book was keeping within the genre and keeping to a tighter timeline.
“I wanted to be closer to the genre and with that there are certain expectations,” he said. “I want my writing to be accessible, but I also want my voice and points the way I want it…I want my stories to be about something — there’s always some kind of central theme or message I want my readers to get out of it.”
To help navigate some of those challenges, he said he turned to vintage computer games and his programming background to relate to current audiences.
“It’s too hard to predict the future and what kind of technology we’ll have,” he said. “Looking back at vintage computer games and my own experience helped me shape the technology in the book.”
Stephen Billias, author of “The American Book of the Dead and Quest for the 36” said he enjoyed Sanford’s new book.
“‘The Soul Snatchers’ is an energetic and entertaining romp through Cascadia…a fast‐paced and thoroughly enjoyable science fiction thriller with Sixties throwback touches,” he said in a press release.
“The Soul Snatchers” was published through Inverness Press on Jan. 5 of this year. The book can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.