From his early beginnings of working at small presses and as a paperboy for the Argus-Courier, Petaluma writer Daedalus Howell has spent his career in the newspaper/media industry as an editor, screenwriter, author and columnist, so it’s no surprise that his experience would be a source of inspiration for a book.
Howell’s new novel, “Quantum Deadline,” is set in a town that may seem familiar to Petalumans - but with a twist. “Quantum Deadline” takes place in a town called Lumaville, which is Petaluma in an alternate universe. The main character, coincidentally named Daedalus Howell, is a struggling journalist seeking professional revival. What both author and main character have in common is a history of navigating the ever-changing world of media; and for Howelll, this began with a call to writing.
“When I was 19, I made a fairly mercenary decision about what I could accomplish artistically,” said Howell. “Having been in bands and having acted in independent movies and that kind of thing, it occurred to me that writing was the only thing I could dependably manifest myself in.”
Howell majored in creative writing at San Francisco State University, worked as the entertainment editor for the Argus-Courier, wrote for film and television in Los Angeles and worked for various other media sources.
“Quantum Deadline” is not his first novel. He wrote a satirical essay collection, “The Late Projectionist” in the late 90s, but “Quantum Deadline” is the first in the “Lumaville Labrynth,” series that Howell describes as “sci-fi-lite,” merging science fiction with darker, investigative fiction.
Set in the Petaluma-esque murky town of Lumaville, “Quantum Deadline” takes the reader through the life of Daedalus Howell, a journalist who has been trying to clear his conscience since his newsroom intern committed suicide via jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge a few years prior. Caught between print and online media worlds, a shift, which runs parallel to that currently grasping the world, the journalist longs for a story to bring him back to relevance. While in his rut, he encounters a lost 11-year native to a seemingly parallel universe. Howell then embarks on a quest to return him to his home and write a groundbreaking story without being killed, recognizing the myriad possibilities of Lumaville and the connection between the lost boy, an old flame and a tech mogul.
Described by Howell’s friend and editor Dmitra Smith, “It’s part ‘Blade Runner,’ part ‘Da Vinci Code,’ part ‘Island of Doctor Moreau’ and part ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,’ if you count mood stabilizers and booze.”
If Lumaville seems dark and murky, well, it is - and the darkness perceived by Howell in Lumaville isn’t far different than that perceived by him in Petaluma throughout his youth.
“Petaluma, for me at least having grown up here, has always had a lingering darkness, one that I find palpable and that I experienced even personally,” says Howell. “I had the sort of odd experience of living next to Polly Klaas. It really eradicated my sense that Petaluma was Mayberry and made very evident to me, as with any town, that there were dark avenues that cast Petaluma in sort of a noir light. I have been intrigued by examining that darkness.”
The darkness of such a place, both in Lumaville and in Petaluma, is something Howell explores not through pure fantasy but rather a protean combination of the two; throughout the story, he draws from his own professional portfolio and from information that can be found on the Internet to create a connection between Lumaville and Petaluma, between his fantasy world and the world we call reality.
“I like the idea of having a similitude with the word so you could Google the stuff I talk about and find a corresponding article I had written for Men’s Health,” he said. “So the idea is because this is a story ostensibly about the possibility of parallel universes or the possible realities, why not have it interface with actual reality, ones that we know? Some of the events are true, some are not, some of the people are real, some are not, some of the references can be cross-referenced, some might not have a full log. Sometimes I forget which are which.”
As the protagonist and setting of “Quantum Deadline” are enigmatically realistic, so is the bigger shift Howell said is happening at the center of Lumaville and of “Quantum Deadline” - the shift from print to online journalism. The novel finds its protagonist amid a transitional period for media, in a precarious position of learning how to adapt to the new frontier of journalism and depart from its traditional nature. This is one that Howell has experienced throughout his career by working in the rapidly-changing, helplessly fickle field that is media. In combination with other elements of the story, notes an editor and friend of Howell, Jonah Raskin, the novel’s relevance is refreshing.
“Quantum Deadline is very topical, very now, very local and very funny,” said Raskin. “Put all those elements together and you have a timely work of fiction that speaks to us here and now, to our concerns with time and space and technology and love and the future.”
Jonah Ranskin, who worked with Howell in the writing process, similarly recognizes Howell’s unique use of a reality-bending setting.
“Daedalus has taken the real geographical place we know and love as Petaluma and transformed it into the mythic place of Lumaville; for doing that I think all of us who live in Northern California are indebted to him for enriching our imaginations,” said Raskin.
Smith credits Howell similarly and speaks to the adventurous allure of the story - one that makes it difficult to put down.
“Reading ‘Quantum Deadline’ puts you squarely into the passenger seat of a beat up Mini Cooper,” says Smith. “Just buy our protagonist a tank of gas and a pack of smokes along the way. He spent his last five bucks at the bar last night.”
Howell will be a book signing event for “Quantum Deadline” at 7 p.m. Aug. 28 at Copperfield’s Books, 140 Kentucky St.
Copies of the book are available at Copperfield’s Books and online at Amazon.com in both print end e-editions. To learn more, visit daedalushowell.com.
(Contact Quinn Pieper at email@example.com)