“There’s inflatable ducks. There’s strobe lights. There’s confetti. It’s a crazy dance party. And there’s reptiles!”
Thuy-Dzuong Nguyen is describing a song by SpynSpeck: a fictional “post post-modern deconstructionist electronic” band that plays a part in her first book, The Truth Lenders. The fictional band is just a tiny fleck in the grand spectrum of dystopian ideas, concepts and realities that fill Nguyen’s book.
The Truth Lenders is a book brimming with talking dinosaurs, frogs in coats and crustacean vending machines.
“It’s completely absurd, but I think that’s something else that I was going for — I wanted to take human culture and jumble it into something arbitrary,” she says.
But all of the absurdity is Nguyen’s way of telling a story cautioning against government control. In The Truth Lenders, governments assess the worth of your life. News is dispensed in an easy-to-swallow pill. Being a critic or a journalist is choosing a path toward atomic rearrangement.
“Any social misfit and every critic is taken to an atomic rearrangement chamber and transformed into something more useful to society,” she says. “Like a basket of vegetables for a family in a third world country.”
“[The government would] send your family a letter saying ‘thank you for your contribution. Your so-and-so has gone to feed this family. For X number of dollars a day, you can keep supporting these people,” she says.
The Truth Lenders happened when Nguyen, now 24, was laid off from her job as a Multimedia Producer at The Spokesman-Review.
“Figuring out what to do with my time was really weird,” she says. “It’s nice to have that day-to-day community of people around you. It was like breaking up with 40 people at once.”
And as her book slowly unfurled — expanding from a short story to a multimedia novel — she found that it was much more than just an absurdist end-of-the-world tale. It was a time capsule of people and places and things that she didn’t want to forget.
Her characters slowly became real people. And Nguyen went far beyond what most authors do to sketch her characters, creating an accompanying CD full of songs and sound bits that enhance the mood of the novel. Local musician Kevin Long sings as Nguyen’s Dr. Willows. Former Spokane crooner Dane Ueland sings a song about crustaceans. Spokesman freelancer Isamu Jordan raps about a fictional newscaster. Giving her book that multimedia aspect nods to Nguyen’s writing process. As she lived and breathed the book and its characters, she pictured them having lives of their own. Personalities. They were functioning and living even when she wasn’t writing.
“My characters are in this parallel universe. I jump in, I take notes, I leave. They’re doing things, and I don’t know what they’re doing. I go in, talk to them and leave,” Nguyen says, laughing. “I’m not dysfunctional, at least I don’t think I am. They’re not speaking to me right now or anything.”
Thuy-Dzuong Nguyen releases The Truth Lenders, featuring performances by Kevin Long and Band, Dane Ueland, Ross Robinette, Joe Varela, Isamu Jordan and Kurt Olson, on Friday, April 30, at 7 pm at Empyrean. Tickets: $5. All-ages. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.