We’re going to be podcasting about gaming myths very soon, but what brought about that decision? Out of the blue I received a mysterious email from a man claiming to have written a book on the equally as mysterious ‘Polybius’. As I read the email I started to become weary and the room started to spin. I then blacked out only to awake behind the stick of a MiG-29… Just kidding! David Irons has written a very entertaining take on the whole myth behind the game so Adrian pinged him over some questions to answer so we can pick his brain. His thoughts on ‘Ready Player One’ are particularly entertaining.
The first edition is currently sold out but you can buy the paperback and Kindle editions from Amazon right now!
Follow on David on Twitter here.
How did you get the opportunity to become an author and can you reflect on your career so far?
I had to make the opportunity! I think people see you have had a few books out and assume on Monday you wanted to be an author and on Tuesday you had a book released – this isn’t the case. I’m a filmmaker and have been involved in lots of indie projects and music videos. In 2012 I became jaded with the entire film experience of schmoozing and creeping around people I didn’t necessarily like just trying to get somewhere – I’m bad at creeping, good at writing creepy things. At the time I was always listening to audiobooks, and decided to write my own novel. As most first novels are – it was crap, so I kept writing. Cut to 2018 and I got my first publishing deal; cut to 2020 and I have four novels and a story in a collection out! It has begun! (congrats! – Ed)
Can you recall the first time you heard of the amazing Polybius urban legend tale?
See, I’m grey on this, but I would say 2010. I always “check in” periodically on certain urban legends or myths to see if there is any more updates on them. The Jackie Gleason cut of “Smokey is the Bandit: Part 3” (I’m a man of extremely high-caliber good taste) The Cabal Cut of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed, and somehow, Polybius was thrown in to that mix. Who knows, maybe it was an online article? Somehow, I know about it though.
Polybius is arguably the most famous video game myth of all time. What are your personal feelings on this incredible story, do you think there could be any truth in it?
I think there is some truth to a shared memory – if that makes sense. I think through time crossed wiring has created a fake memory of something that didn’t exist. Just as how some people who weren’t around for the ’80s have a fake sense of nostalgia for it. I think there are true elements that have been muddled with human memory – much like the “Mandela effect.”
Can you remember how you first got the idea to make Polybius into a novel and what helped inspire your story?
Very much so – two things. One: Ready Player One. I listened to the audiobook (which should be re-titled “References: The Novel”) and couldn’t believe this weak Easter egg hunt with characters thinner than Jeff Bezos’ hairline was an international best seller or a “pop culture phenomenon”. It’s literally a laundry list of “Hey! I know that!”. I remember walking into a Waterstones (Barnes and Nobel, dear American readers) and seeing Ready Player One next to some Harlan Ellison and Phillip K. Dick novels. I was so insulted I picked it up and threw it under a bookstand out of sight (hopefully the store has rats). Then when the film came out the seed of inspiration came. If Ready Player One was a big budget, Spielberg, glossy, Hollywood smorgasbord, then Polybius could be that dirty, creepy, lurid, edgy, mean-spirited, drive-in nightmare that Roger Corman would have released in the eighties. Spielberg did Jaws – Corman did Piranha.
Polybius is Ready Player One’s Piranha.
The other thing that set the tone was showing my girlfriend the film “Return of the Living Dead.” Two things happened. She groaned at the comedy horror aspect, but when the horror actually started (it comes thick and fast in that film) it took her by surprise with its grotesque brutality. The false sense of security the film built up with her really made me want to do the same. What could be so bad about kids fighting an arcade machine in an arcade? It couldn’t be that bad…could it? He-He…
What’s your view of the movie adaptation of Ready Player One?
It was the perfect novel to screen adaptation, and captured the spirit of the piece masterfully – that spirit being flat and empty. Believe me, I like Spielberg, but look what he had to work with. The film could have ultimately elevated a novel that is essentially just listing things, “Ghostbusters, Pretty in Pink, War Games,” for the reader to say: “Hey! I remember that!” But it didn’t. Too many corporate hands felt like they were stirring the nostalgia soup on that film. Take for example the scene where the main character meets the girl he has a crush on. There’s supposed to be this big reveal where the love interest has a scar on her face – Shock! Horror! She had a scar on her face! Think of all those selfies it’s ruined! Oh, the humanity! – and she turns around and has a bit of red on her cheek. I wasn’t expecting Freddy Kruger in a wig sitting there, but come on! The way everyone reacts over something that really isn’t that bad is a joke. Now, if she turned around and looked like the guy in RoboCop who got doused with toxic waste and that’s who the protagonist had fallen in love with online, maybe that would have been an interesting dynamic. Maybe the whole thing could have been an analogy of “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” – or “Beer-Holder” if she looked like the RoboCop guy – but this is a corporate Hollywood slop so lets not go too deep. Let’s be serious, I jest. Out of all of Spielberg’s movies, I’m sure Ready Player One proudly sits with Jaws and Schindler’s List as someone’s favorite film to watch. That someone might be Stevie Wonder, but that’s beside the point.
Can you give our readers a quick summary of the book’s plot?
Portland Oregon: 1981. There’s going to be an all night party at the local arcade and all of the high school kids will be there. Unfortunately, a new game has come to the arcade… And they are about to become unwilling subjects in a test. Locked in the arcade with the Polybius machine, the kids have to survive each other and the menace of the machine’s evil secrets. Think ‘Breakfast Club meets Night of the Living Dead on the set of Stranger Things’. You’ll love it! Buy a copy today! *you can buy the paperback ‘Polybius’ from Amazon right now!*
Did you aim to capture the ’80s charm within the book and why do you feel this current time period is so popular at the moment on TV, film and other media?
It’s the thirty-year cycle. Look at all the ’50s nostalgia in ’80’s films: Back to the Future and all that. I think the ’80s will be here longer though as the internet is here to record our nostalgia of that period. And yes, there is most definitely a lot of ’80s charm in this book.
Do you feel your novel would make a good movie and if so, which actors would you love to see play the main characters?
It would be perfect as a Netflix or Amazon Prime series (sorry about the thin hair gag Jeff Bezos). The only casting choice I can think of is Barbra Crampton or Margot Robbie as Sophie the ‘Change Booth Girl’. And that’s not just because I want to meet Barbra Crampton or Margot Robbie…I think.
Are you hoping to write a sequel to Polybius?
Only if the book sells a million copies. Then it will be a set of ten novels with t-shirts and action figures. If you’re going to sell out, why not do it in style, right? If that doesn’t happen, then – no (we’ve got everything crossed for you mate – Ed).
Do you know if you are the first author to turn Polybius into a novel?
I don’t think I am. I think there’s a kids book that’s floating around. Hopefully, I’ll be the last author as my version is so good any aspiring author who is thinking about it will have his eyes burned from his sockets like that guy at the end of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ after reading my novel.
When will your book be released to the public and how can our readers access it?
The first limited edition was released by Hard Copy Games in April. It sold out in an hour! Copies are going on Amazon for over a hundred pounds, which I find insane! The second edition will be released early August from Severed Press, in paperbook and Kindle from “Uncle Jeff’s” Amazon website.
Where is the best place to keep up to date with Polybius and your other projects?
Are you a fan of arcade machines, and if so, which classic arcade games are your personal favourite?
Most definitely. Outrun, Pang! New Zealand Story, Final Fight, Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game, Konami Aliens. There’s a great Japanese only release called Phantasm where you play as a ghost and possess different bad guys to beat the game. That’s a good one.
Would you ever consider writing a book based around another video game myth or urban legend?
Why not. Send all ideas to one of the social media accounts above and I’ll see what I can do.
Would you be tempted to play Polybius if you ever stumbled across the origional aracde machine?
Not after writing this book! I would 100% sell it on eBay though and happily live off the profits on a desert island.
What other books and projects are you currently working on?
Well, I’m going to put a fun novella out titled ‘Wolf Moon’ a story about a werewolf in space (in space…there’s always a full moon… Get it?) And I’m currently looking for a publisher for two long form novels: ‘The Skin on the Skeleton’ (a supernatural revenge tale: think ‘Death Wish’ crossed with ‘The Changeling’) and ‘My Ouija Boyfriend’ a ’90s set story about a girl’s love affair with something from beyond the grave – the tagline ‘She wanted his heart – he wanted her soul.’ Pretty much sums it up.
Can you briefly describe your other novels and where do you personally think Polybius ranks out of all your stories?
I can. My first published book was ‘Nightwaves’, the story of a group of girls fighting parasitic sea sirens that take peoples identities and live under Brighton pier (say that sentence three times drunk). The second (from Severed Press) was ‘Night Creepers’ which is a B-movie, Creature Feature about a group of strangers who are asked to attended a funeral and end up trapped in the church’s catacombs fighting insectile hell spawn while trying to escape. ‘Graveyard Billy’ is written from the perspective of an abandoned cat who teams up with a ghost to fight a possessed supernatural killer – believe it or not this is actually a YA comedy horror, and all proceeds go to cat charities. I personally think ‘Polybius’ is my best novel. And I’m not just saying that because I’m here to try and sell it to you – cough – cough, £10.99 from Severed Press – but it really was the book where I stepped up my game. Everything I had done before and had learnt clicked and I feel as a writer it was a huge step up. Something that was great was Peter Atkins – Clive Barker’s right-hand-man with the Hellraiser franchise – read the book and gave me a great quote for the jacket. It was a good thumbs up from someone who knows ’80s horror better than anybody!
Are you fan of the Last Starfighter and do you think this film is based on the Polybius myth?
What year did it come out? ’85? ’86? Maybe, a little of the film rubbed off on the Polybius myth in someway. I always liked that movie. It was actually directed by the original Micheal Myers – Nick Castle. I think it was the first movie to truly use rendered CGI graphics in it. I’m sure if they could see how their worked progressed to The Rock’s CGI face in the ‘Scorpion King’ they would have ended it there. On the plus side, my girlfriend – synth singer Roxi Drive – looks a bit like Katharine Mary Stewart in that film and she has produced a Synthwave track ‘Polybius – Arcade Killer’ for the release of the book so check that out too!
If you could share a few drinks with a video game character, who would you choose and why?
Roxy from Final Fight. I think that could get…interesting.