Some Thoughts with ... Adrian M. Gibson

21 Mar 2024

The Author/s

Adrian M. Gibson

Adrian M. Gibson

ADRIAN M. GIBSON is a Canadian author, podcaster and illustrator (as well as occasional tattoo artist). He was born in Ontario, Canada, but grew up in British Columbia. He studied English Literature and has worked in music journalism, restaurants, tattoo studios, clothing stores and a bevy of odd jobs. In 2021, he created the SFF Addicts podcast, which he co-hosts with fellow author M. J. Kuhn. The two host in-depth interviews with an array of science fiction and fantasy authors, as well as writing masterclasses.

Adrian has a not-so-casual obsession with mushrooms, relishes in the vastness of nature and is a self-proclaimed “child of the mountains.” He enjoys cooking, music, video games, politics and science, as well as reading fiction and comic books. He lives in Quito, Ecuador with his wife and sons.

Mushroom Blues is his debut novel.

The Interview

1.- Could you introduce yourself to JamReads’ readers?
Of course! I’m Adrian M. Gibson, an author, podcaster and illustrator. I created and co-host the podcast SFF Addicts, alongside M. J. Kuhn, where we interview authors and host writing masterclasses. On the writing front, Mushroom Blues is my debut novel, the first book in The Hofmann Report Series, as well as the first in The Fungalverse shared fictional universe.
Aside from that, I’m a stay-at-home dad, and in the past I’ve been a tattoo artist, graphic designer, music journalist and more.

2.- How did you start writing?
Writing is something I’ve done for a long time, but earlier in my life I tended to pair words with illustration. I would draw my favorite movies and books as comics or film reels. It wasn’t fan fiction, so much as fan comics. My love for writing finally took shape as full text-based stories in my twenties. The issue then became, I had a bad habit of starting projects or coming up with awesome ideas but never finishing them.

3.- What made you choose self-publishing for Mushroom Blues?
This was a decision that took a long time for me to get to. I’d always wanted to go the traditional route—get an agent, find an editor who loves my work, then get published and appear in book stores. But through SFF Addicts, all the authors I’ve spoken to on the podcast slowly convinced me that traditional publishing wasn’t the right fit for me. 
I’m not a control freak, per se, but it stresses me out when issues or hurdles arise and I can’t do anything about them because they’re in someone else’s hands. With everything I’ve done in the past (tattooing, music journalism, etc.), I’ve always had a DIY/punk/experimental attitude in my approach. Self-publishing just so happens to be the most punk form of publishing, and it puts all the control in my hands. What that means is I can fully own the successes and the failures or missteps. It also allows for so much flexibility, to quickly pivot and maneuver the publishing environment based on the feedback you receive. That, to me, is incredibly liberating.

4.- What inspired you to create the idea of The Hoffman Report series?
This is a multi-part answer, but I’ll start with one of my biggest literary influences: Jeff VanderMeer. He really set the bar high for weird fiction, and I became a massive fan of his work during my twenties. His novel Annihilation floored me, convincing me that I wanted to become a professional writer. But he also wrote a trilogy called Ambergris, which envisions a fantasy world inhabited by both humans and fungal people. In that series, the fungal people are more insidious and hive-like, without a ton of individuality. But it got my mind spinning, and I started drawing fungal people as tattoo designs, eventually tattooing them on customers wherever I was working. 
Then, around six years ago, I had a dream where I was wandering through a gloomy forest. A shadowy glade appeared ahead. I realized that a gargantuan mushroom towered above the canopy, raining down bioluminescent spores. That very dream became the impetus for the creation of The Fungalverse. The early stages involved a ton of research into fungi, illustrating and worldbuilding. Problem was, it took me a while to actually write anything. What I did write was preachy and kind of pretentious, so I scrapped it. But what remained was this rich fungal world—I couldn’t let that go to waste. From there, I brought in a bunch of my favorite genres and subgenres, and began to mash them together into what would become my first novel (temporarily shelved and now being revitalized). Mushroom Blues is what came immediately after that, and it tackles the question: “Who are the real colonizers?” In dialogue with the Ambergris books, my work explores a scenario where the fungal people are both interconnected and individuals, with their own motivations, relationships and emotions. On top of that, the implications of being invaded by a human nation, and how that reflects upon human nature, xenophobia and alienation.

5.- Could you tell us more about the influences that have shaped Mushroom Blues?
I mentioned in my last answer the blending of different genres with the fungal world that I’d created. With Mushroom Blues, I really wore my influences on my sleeve. The book leans heavily into the new weird approach to worlds, as seen in works by VanderMeer and China Miéville, even going back to juggernauts like Philip K. Dick. Then, there are the police procedural/murder mystery/noir aspects to the novel. There are traces of classic authors like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, but most of my inspiration in this realm comes from film and television: Blade Runner, True Detective, Se7en, The Silence of the Lambs, and works in that wheelhouse.

6.- Neo-Kinoko is partly inspired by Japan after WWII; could you tell us more about the challenges that appear from blending history with fantasy?
There are myriad ways in which history can present boundless opportunities for literary inspiration, but at the same time, it can be daunting. What I found to be the most effective approach was picking my influences based on what made me most excited/passionate, and narrowing down why that particular time period or series of events stood out to me. In my case, post-WWII Japan, the power struggle that pervaded the Cold War, and the propaganda around the wars in the Middle East all served as creative wells for me to draw from. The most difficult aspect was figuring out which of those “why” factors could be seamlessly incorporated into the fabric of this world, as well as the cultures, events and sociopolitical dynamics that affect the story itself.

7.- Why fungi? Or in other words, why are mushrooms so fascinating to use them as a base for the book?
I’ve been obsessed with fungi for as long as I can remember. When I grew up on the west coast of Canada, so many of my days would be spent running around temperate rainforests, throwing pine cones and flipping over dead logs. Not only were there insects under those logs and peppering the forest floor, but also mushrooms. They captured my attention with their strange, alien forms, and I would break them apart to examine how they fit together. 
As I got older, my fascination deepened. I spent more time researching mushrooms, discovering that they are just one part of greater fungal organisms. Mycelium then came into the picture, and how it is a key player in the health of forest systems. Psychedelics took that even further, revealing to me the ways in which fungi can unlock the mysteries of consciousness and the human mind. There is so much that fungi can do, but we’ve yet to fully understand the intricacies of these organisms—hell, 90% of fungi remain unknown to science!
That mysterious nature is prime fuel for fiction. So, in Mushroom Blues and The Fungalverse, I was able to root many of the mycological aspects in real science and biology, but also elaborate and extrapolate in creative ways in order to deliver a more powerful narrative. From architecture and engineering, to religious practices and forms of communication, fungi permeate this world from cap to mycelium.

8.- How has the inclusion of the fungal species affected your policial procedural story?
What I didn’t comprehend when I set out to tackle the police procedural genre was how the various facets of this story would infect one another. Blending genres can be tricky, but the fungal aspects and the fungal denizens of Neo Kinoko only enhanced everything around them. Hitting familiar beats for fans of police procedurals and murder mysteries was key to grounding readers in this world, but every time I hit those beats, I thought, “How can mushrooms and mycelium make this more interesting, more disturbing, more impactful?” 
Not only did the fungal people, their culture and their city give a richness to the world, but it was constantly intertwining with the craft elements of the story itself. Fungi colonize—that’s what they do best, after all.

9.- You are also the founder of the SFF Addicts Podcast, could you tell us more about it?
For sure. I created the podcast in 2021 with the intention of learning as much as I could from professional authors. It didn’t matter if they were traditional or self-published, debut or bestseller—I wanted to pick their brains. I’d always wanted to do a podcast, and this seemed like the right fit for me at the right time. It helped me along my writing journey to hear inspirational stories from authors who’d “made it,” realizing, holy crap, everyone has faced innumerable struggles to get where they are. Pretty much no one has had an easy pass when it comes to writing fiction and publishing. 
But by late 2022, I’d reached a point where the panels I was hosting were becoming exhausting to edit and organize (multiple time zones with 3-5 authors). So, instead of calling it quits, I decided to change the format and bring on a co-host. That ended up being M. J. Kuhn, and I’m so blessed to have her by my side as SFF Addicts continues. The best part of it, though, is that listeners find real value in the content we offer. The authors who listen draw tangible lessons from the masterclasses and interviews, and readers/fans get to geek out about their favorite authors and books. It’s a win-win-win, where M. J. and I, the authors and the listeners benefit in our own ways.

10.- Could you recommend three books to the readers of this blog?
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky and Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake.

11.- What can we expect from Adrian M. Gibson in the future?
Too much haha. My next book will be the one that I temporarily shelved, which I’m now fixing/revising. It’s called Spore City and will be the start of a new trilogy set in The Fungalverse, except thirty years after the events of Mushroom Blues. My plan for the coming years is to go back and forth between that trilogy and The Hofmann Report (three sequels to Mushroom Blues, for a total of four books).