Playing Back the Genre with Karen Wyle

Today I'm welcoming author Karen Wyle to my blog. I've really enjoyed her science fiction novels, Division, Twin Bred and Reach. But today she's here to tell us about her newest edition, Playback Effect. Knowing she's written in more than one genre, I asked about that vexed topic... What genre is this book. And her answer describes precisely why I love her writing so much! So, over to you Karen...

Different readers use genre labels in different ways. For example, readers who love solving puzzles read mysteries in order to solve them. I only read mysteries that have something beside the puzzle to offer: either historical settings about which I'd like to learn more, or fully realized and interesting characters. For some reason, quite a few mysteries offer one or the other or both.
I've been reading science fiction most of my life, and my imagination easily travels into the realm of the not-yet-reached and not-yet-invented. But when I read what some call "hard" science fiction, I skip over many of the technical details the way I used to skip over the longer names in Russian literature. (Note: I don't recommend the latter practice.) I read science fiction to share the author's vision of what life could be like in such different places, and what sort of creatures--especially sentient beings--could evolve and survive in them; or to see how new inventions, whether technological or social, could affect the people that come to use them.
Four of my five novels, including my latest novel Playback Effect, belong in the science fiction genre. All of them started with an invention, situation, or experiment. What if a member of a human colony, surrounded by an alien sentient species and growing up amidst the conflict between the two, proposed that host mothers carry fraternal twins, one of each species, to try to bridge the profound gap between them? What if conjoined twins who could never be surgically separated and had to cooperate in every action of every moment of every day faced the prospect of a path to separation after all--and disagreed about whether to take it? And in Playback Effect: what if a technology existed to record at least the emotional highlights of human experience in a form others could play back and experience for themselves? What uses, benign or otherwise, might our society make of such technology? What might be captured besides the recorded moment's conscious awareness--and with what long-term effects?
 It turns out, however, that as an author, I bring certain themes and preoccupations to my work whatever their genre classification. Family relationships tend to take center stage, as well as the way unfinished business can both shape and survive those relationships. Playback Effect is almost as much the portrait of a changing marriage as it is a near-future sci-fi thriller.
The novel also takes a classic line of poetry and turns it around. Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote in 1786: "O wad some Power the giftie gie us/To see oursels as ithers see us!" Playback Effect asks: what would happen if we could see others as they see themselves?
Oh, and the book asks one more question (not involving either party to the marriage): what difference would it make if the recipient of this "giftie" happened to be a sociopath?

Wow. That last line of your post has me desperate to read Playback Effect. Thank you Karen, and I wish you the best of luck with the upcoming release (Amazon says the release date is December 9th, in one week's time).

About the book (with a very cool cover by designer Kit Foster)

"O wad some Power the giftie gie us/To see oursels as ithers see us!" But what if it's the other way round?

New technology records the highlights of emotional experience for others to share. Buy a helmet and you can share the exhilaration of an Olympic ski jumper, or the heat of a lucid dreamer's erotic imaginings. Commit a crime, and you may be sentenced to endure the suffering you inflicted on others.

But such recordings may carry more information than the public has realized. What will criminals learn about their victims? When a husband is wrongfully convicted of injuring his wife, how will their marriage change? And what uses will a sociopath find for recordings of the experience of death?

And where to find it.

The Amazon pre-order page:
About the author (with an excellent photo by photographer: Alissa L. Wyle, the author's younger daughter)

Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved every few years throughout her childhood and adolescence.  After college in California, law school in Massachusetts, and a mercifully short stint in a large San Francisco law firm, she moved to Los Angeles. There she met her husband, who hates L.A.  They eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University.

Wyle has been a voracious and compulsive reader as long as she can remember.  She majored in English and American Literature major at Stanford University, which suited her, although she has in recent years developed some doubts about whether studying literature is, for most people, a good preparation for enjoying it.  She has been reading science fiction for several decades, but also gobbles up character-driven mysteries and historical fiction, with the occasional foray into anything from chick lit to military history.

Wyle's voice is the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction.  It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of practicing appellate law.  Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.

Wyle and her husband have two essentially-grown and wildly creative daughters, as well as a sweet but neurotic dog.

 Plus where to find her (though I'd rather like to find Karen's library and the sweet but neurotic dog as well!)

Author website:
Twitter handle: @WordsmithWyle
blog: Looking Around, at


Popular posts from this blog

What did you want to be when you grew up? ... Finding the Spirit of the Trail

Are you afraid of catsup?

Plotter? Pantser? Yes and yes, perhaps?