James Rollins has one foot planted firmly in science; the other in the unknown.
Rollins has his doctorate in veterinary medicine, but when the bestselling author sits down to write, his signature is creating works grounded in history and scientific plausibility, yet still shrouded in mysticism—Think Michael Crichton by way of Dan Brown.
In his newest novel, The Eye of God, a high-tech satellite crashes to Earth, creating a wrinkle in space-time. The satellite’s final image is a time-displaced snapshot showing the entire east coast of the United Stats in smoldering ruin. It’s a tragedy that will happen…in four days.
The frantic quest to avert the tragedy leads multiple teams of DARPA’s SIGMA agents through the triads of Macau, underneath the Aral Sea, and into possession of the skull of Genghis Khan.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Rollins also did research into the shady world of bio-hacking for the novel, and shares his thoughts on the “posthuman” future, and his favorite comics.
Newsarama: James, one of the characters in The Eye of God has been “bio-hacked,” with rare earth magnets implanted in his fingertips. You said this “allows people to experience electrical fields in amazing ways.” How so?
James Rollins: Well, your fingers aren’t going to stick to your refrigerator, for starters. And you’re not going to set off alarms when you go through metal detectors. They’re very tiny little magnets that sit right next to a sensory nerve at the end of your fingertips. They’re so sensitive that when they encounter any kind of electromagnetic field, they vibrate. And the vibration that the nerve picks up sends a signal that allows you to experience the quality and pitch of that electromagnetic field. I’ve talked to a few people who have had this done. Some do just one or two fingers; some all. But the people I’ve interviewed have said that if they’re walking down the street and they pass over an underground electrical conduit, they can actually feel the waves of energy coming off that. Over time as they develop more sensitivity, they can qualify fluidity, shape, movement, and one guy even mentioned color of electromagnetic fields. It’s an entirely different sixth sense!
Nrama: You mention other bio-hacks in your book, such as tattoos with luminescent ink, people who get tiny jewelry implanted in the whites of their eyes, and implanted RFID chips that people can use as wearable storage devices. To a layman, this stuff sounds…crazy.
Rollins: It’s all true. Now the RFID chips…that’s another thing I’m tempted to do. That can be almost like a universal passcode for you—you grab your cellphone, and it automatically unlocks because it picks up the RFID chip code. Only you can access your laptop. You can unlock your car with it. It can be very handy.
Nrama: The guy who does these implants in your book is alternately described as a “grinder” and an “evolutionary artist.” It’s very shady now, but do you think society will get to a place where we are more accepting of, say, the implantable RFID chip?
Rollins: Yes. I think that’s the trend, and where we’re heading. There’s a whole “transhuman” movement, which is the merging of biology and machine. Google Glass is one small step, and now there’s a Japanese scientist who’s developed the contact lens equivalent of Google Glass. And those are two things you put right on, if not in, your body. So I think we’re already moving that way, and quite rapidly.
Nrama: I don’t want to put any words in your mouth, but would you call yourself an advocate for the transhuman movement?
Rollins: Yes. You don’t need to put the words in my mouth. I’m fully on board. I think it’s the next evolutionary step forward. There are limits to our biology, and I think the next expansion in our biology will be the merging of machine and man.
Nrama: You’re hitting the San Diego Comic-Con this year. Why?
Rollins: I’m a huge comic geek. I had boxes and boxes of comics back when I was in college. Moving my comic load was the most challenging part of moving out of my dorm back then. When I first got published, my publisher had a booth at Comic-Con, so I went along for the ride, and that was 12 years ago. Been going ever since.
Nrama: So this year is lucky 13?
Rollins: I guess. It’s great. It’s like finding your family; finding your tribe. Everything I like, everyone there also likes. There are 125,000 people with divergent interests across a wide gamut of pop culture and esoterica, but it’s like everyone’s family. It feels like meeting old friends every year.
Nrama: So do you have any want, need or desire to work in the comics’ biz?
Rollins: I would love to write for comics sometime. One of these years, I’m going to jump in with both feet. I think my first choice would be to write my own property, but a close second choice would be the X-Men. I started reading comics with X-Men #120, just prior to “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” and those were such remarkable stories that I was just hooked for life.
Nrama: What are you reading these days in comics?
Rollins: I’m doing a lot of the omnibus reading and other large volumes, stuff where I can read a lot at one time. I just read Y: The Last Man, and damn…that Brian Vaughan is such a great writer. I’ve been catching up on The Walking Dead, and…I just got my box from Amazon today! Volume 18 of that, right? And I always read Spider-Man, X-Men, Avengers. I’m much more a Marvel guy than a DC guy. Though I must admit, I still have all my Neal Adams Batman comics. In my mind, Adams is still the best Batman artist of all time.
Nrama: For much more on James Rollins, bio-hacking, and how we might all be holograms, visit our sister site, LiveScience.com.