An Interview with Richard K. Morgan

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Richard K. Morgan is a Multi-talented bestselling author of the Takeshi Kovacs novels: Altered Carbon (2002), Broken Angels(2003), and finally, Woken Furies(2005). In Altered Carbon, the main protagonist Takeshi Kovacs is an ex-envoy now convict, downloaded into the body of a “nicotine-addicted ex-thug and presented with a catch-22 offer,” to discover who murdered the body of a billionaire in a locked room mystery. Kovacs is pulled into a never-dying society of the ultra-rich, where intrigue and conspiracy abound, and death means little if you have enough money. All set within a gritty and futuristic world. Broken Angels takes place thirty years later. Takeshi has again changed bodies, and now instead of a private investigator, he is a mercenary soldier, “and helping a far-flung planet’s government put down a bloody revolution.” Finally, in Woken Furies, Kovacs is back on his home of Harlan’s World, investigating Kovacs past relationships. Much to fans delight, 

Altered Carbon was adapted to a Netflix series in 2018, starring Joel Kinnaman as Kovacs in season 1 and Anthony Mackie for season two

richard morgan picture

In 2008, Morgan took a break from gritty science fiction with his series in A Land Fit For Heroes, starting with the first book, The Steel Remains, Morgan takes on a typical sword and sorcery novel but adds a gritty noir feel with more modern characters. “Ringil Eskiath—Gil, for short—a washed-up mercenary and onetime war hero whose cynicism is surpassed only by the speed of his sword.” 

Additionally, Morgan has written more award-winning science fiction in the Black Man novels, first with Thirteen (2007) and Thin Air (2018.)

In the back and forth conversation below, Richard answers questions regarding the hero myth, influences, cancel culture, and more. 

Your first novel Altered Carbon is the story of an envoy, now-convict Takeshi Kovacs. It created its own genre with a combination of the hard-boiled noir of Raymond Chandler and William Gibson’s Neuromancer’s feel. Did either of these writers influence you?

Very much so, yes. Gibson’s short stories in Omni Magazine in the early eighties were a crystallising moment for me – the moment I realised This! This is the sort of thing I want to write!  The Chandler influence came later, and was consequent; everyone was referring to Gibson as The Chandler of SF, so I wandered over into the crime genre looking for this guy Chandler, to see what he was about. After that, I never looked back!

 Cyberpunk as a genre came to mainstream attention in the early 1980s with Blade Runner and Neuromancer by William Gibson, though arguably, it is seen in the earlier works of Phillip K. Dick. Either way, cyberpunk is the evolution of technology, leading to a dystopic future. Where do you think cyberpunk is going as a genre in the future?

I don’t know that cyberpunk is “going” anywhere, any more than its non-SF antecedent “noir” has ever “gone” anywhere. I think in both cases what has ended up identified as a subgenre is in reality more of an aesthetic or, in musical terms, a backbeat. Cyberpunk showed up in the eighties as a conscious rejection of both the Big Shiny Futures of the Golden Age (an easy enough target!), but also the weird-ass speculations of the New Wave. CP was eminently pragmatic in both its approach to technology and to socio-political trends. Look, it said, Here’s some cool new tech, and look how little it’s actually changed the way humans behave.  Cyberpunk insisted, in much the same way as noir, that we are our own worst enemies, that there aren’t really any Good Guys or Bad Guys, and that the human condition has some uncomfortable eternal verities to which we’ll likely always be subject. And to be honest, those were assumptions that had been kicking around in mainstream literary fiction for a very long time indeed. There is, in fact, a case to be made that all Cyberpunk really represented was the final unavoidable seepage of that modernist literary aesthetic into the rarified ghettoes of genre (just as the New Wave had smuggled in experimental writing a decade or so earlier). So, while there