Strange Flesh is Olson's first book and, as he says in the interview below, some of the ideas came from prior work he has done. It's an amazing debut.
After graduating from Harvard, Olson worked in software engineering and investment banking but then decided to focus on emerging technlogy and virtual reality. He earned his master's degree from NYU's Interactive Technology Program. He has since served as an adjunct professor at IDP and taught classes in Massively Multiuser Media. He grew up in San Antonio but now lives in Los Angeles.
Let's start, literally, at the beginning. Why did you decide to dedicate the book to your parents? I did a double take when I saw that (no offense intended) because going in I didn't know a lot about what would happen in the book but I did know it involved teledildonics and some other lurid things. So let me ask also what they thought of the book?
Honestly I didn’t really feel like I had a choice. The gratitude I feel for a lifetime of their overwhelming love and support just demanded to be honored. Luckily, my parents are both avid readers and quite worldly people, so while I’m sure they found some of the material a little outré, it would take more than what’s depicted in my book to really shock them.
How would you describe to people what the book is about? I thought I would ask that since I'm sure you're not crazy about those who might describe it as sex and games.
I tend to describe it as a sanguinary mystery concerning the dawning age of Neterosexuality. Since that often produces quizzical expressions, I can certainly see the appeal of the “sex & games” tag. Now, I wish we’d gone with something more like “Fifty Shades of Games.” In any case, since I finished it, I’ve really been amazed at how much of what a book is “about” gets manufactured in the reader’s mind.
How did the idea for this book develop?
As an adjunct professor at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, I’d been researching a non-fiction book proposal about virtual worlds. Of course, given the level of interest in the topic among technophiles, one of the chapters was going to have to be about teledildonics. Due to the pretty nascent state of the art, and since my graduate education was all about creating electromechanical devices, I couldn’t help but imagine how I would address “the problem.” Through some kind of alchemical quickening the “models” I was using in my mental design became characters about whom I couldn’t seem to stop thinking. I decided to spend “a month or two” pounding the keyboard to get the idea “out of my system.” But that only made it worse.