Robert H. Langan is a PhD Dropout and a white box philosopher; currently he is almost a personal trainer and an aspiring uber driver; he upcycles furniture but doesn’t know how to swim; he was fired from one grocery store for plotting a coup, but incidentally he quit another out of contempt. He lives in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, in a self-imposed but mutually beneficial exile.
When did you first start writing?
Since I was in grade school. I was a big dinosaur dork as a kid, and in 4th grade I wrote this story featuring all my classmates in a Jurassic Park-like setting. Thing was a lot of them got eaten and eventually someone complained to the teacher, and that put an end to that. Since then I've learned the value in creating my own characters.
I was almost coming up with stories though even before that--I'd act out these stories that were largely inspired by the stuff I watched. When I got a little older--late grade school and into high school--I actually wrote a lot of fan-fiction. Mainly on the Legend of Zelda. One I wrote got a great response from fans, and someone told me "I bet the next full-length story you finish you'll publish." I didn't really think much of it at the time. Going into college I didn't think "I want to be an author." But I would keep coming up with story ideas and writing little things, until finally, years later, I sat down and wrote 'Icons'. So I guess that person was right.
What's the story behind your latest book?
'Icons' is a contemporary fantasy/speculative sci-fi story that takes place in a world called Roslyn. Roslyn is an alternate reality that aesthetically is somewhat similar to our own world--except that the mind or soul is money, called cogs. Once a utopian society, Roslyn has fallen into hard times. Cogs are harder to come by, and the great corporations that vie for dominance in the country--called the machifare--are all failing to find the best path for people to lead happy lives, which in turn generates more cogs to keep the nation prosperous.
But the real threat comes from Roslyn's enemies: soul-stealing entities called Blood Poachers, who conjure sentient thunderstorms that ravage the world. To combat the Blood Poachers, the machifare deploy teams of metaphysical athletes called Durationists. Durationists can use cogs in extreme ways to manipulate mind and matter. For centuries, they have fought off the Blood Poacher menace. Duration is in many ways the engine of Roslyn's culture: as a sport, as a matter of national security, and a sort of science, because by finding ways to explore Duration, you find new ways to make cogs, and to keep the nation going to strong.
At the start of 'Icons One', Roslyn's major cities--a source of great wealth--have been safe for some time. When one evening the threat of at storm presents itself off the coast of Metro Reef City--a sprawling, New York-like metropolis--many scoff that the Blood Poachers could strike at the heart of the nation. Only one Durationist, a disgraced player named Lucas from Slag Falls, appreciates the danger. Having once walked away from the Durationist League due to his controversial ideas, Lucas has returned to try and save the Metro Reef--and Roslyn--before it is too late.
This is the first part in a five-part series. Originally 'Icons' was one giant novel--it probably would have easily exceeded 1000 pages--but for the sake of my own sanity it was split up into five acts. Each is a self-contained story, albeit more like a long episode of a TV show than what you might traditionally think of as a novel. This first story introduces the world, some of the main characters, and shows what a Durationist is and what their jobs are. It follows Lucas and his new team on a mission, while also setting up a larger plot going forward.