Shining Girls Author Lauren Beukes Reveals Bridge, Her New Multiverse Tale

Shining Girls Author Lauren Beukes Reveals Bridge, Her New Multiverse Tale

Author Lauren Beukes (Broken Monsters) has been an Gizmodo favourite for many years, and saw her profile raised earlier this year with Apple TV+’s adaptation of her time-travel thriller The Shining Girls, starring Elisabeth Moss. Next year, Beukes will release a new spec-fiction novel, Bridge, and Gizmodo was excited to talk to her all about it.

Here’s a synopsis of Bridge, followed by the full cover reveal.

Bridget Kittinger has always been paralysed by choices. It has a lot to do with growing up in the long shadow of her mother, Jo, a troubled neuroscientist. Jo’s obsession with one mythical object, the “dreamworm” — which she believed enabled travel to other worlds — led to their estrangement.

Now, suddenly, Jo is dead. And in packing up her home, Bridge finds a strange device buried deep in Jo’s freezer: the dreamworm. Against all odds, it actually can open the door — to all other realities, and to all other versions of herself, too. Could Bridge find who she should be in this world, by visiting the others? And could her Jo still be alive somewhere? But there’s a sinister cost to trading places, and others hunting the dreamworm who would kill to get their hands on it . . .

Across a thousand possible lives, from Portland to Haiti, from Argentina to the alligator-infested riverways of North Carolina, Bridge takes readers on a highly original thrill ride, pushing the boundaries of what we know about mothers and daughters, hunters and seekers, and who we each choose to be.

Image: Courtesy of Little, Brown
Image: Courtesy of Little, Brown

And here’s Gizmodo’s interview with Beukes, conducted over email.

Cheryl Eddy, Gizmodo: What are three things readers should know before they start reading Bridge?

Lauren Beukes: It’s a reality-bending thriller about mothers and daughters, dangerous obsessions and the people who would do anything for another chance.

It’s probably right up your twisty alley if you’re a fan of my previous novel, The Shining Girls, or the excellent Apple TV+ adaptation with Elisabeth Moss, Jamie Bell, and Wagner Moura.

It’s an alternate universe story, but very much grounded in our reality (so no cannibal space spiders, everything bagels, or spider-pigs — although I am very much a fan of all of those things)

Gizmodo: What is the “dreamworm” and what inspired its creation and concept?

Beukes: I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but it’s a very rare and powerful object that allows you to open doors between realities and slip into another life, another version of you. It’s a tremendous gift, but hey, those usually come with a terrible cost.

[Main character] Bridge’s neuroscientist mum, Jo Kittinger, has been obsessed with the artefact her entire life and now that she’s dead, Bridge has to figure out what to do with this accidental legacy.

It was inspired by a hanging out with neuroscientist friends in their labs (the best part of the job is definitely the research rather than the writing), wondering about the choices we make, the paths untaken, a little wish-fulfillment, a little monkey’s paw.

Gizmodo: What inspired you to make a mother-daughter relationship the heart of this story?

Beukes: All my novels have a high concept twist which I use to explore questions about who we are. The Shining Girls is about a time-travelling serial killer, for example, but it’s about femicide and how much the world has changed — or hasn’t — for women and how we deal with trauma.

Bridge is about reality-switching, but it’s also about the choices we make, and who we are, especially in relation to each other and how our childhoods and perspectives have shaped us. Bridge’s mum Jo is brilliant and troubled and enigmatic and now she’s dead and maybe everything Bridge understood about her was wrong all along. The novel is a kind-of reverse-Persephone story.

Gizmodo: Multiverse stories seem to be extremely popular right now, not just because of Marvel movies but that’s maybe the biggest pop culture example. What sets Bridge apart from other multiverse tales that are out there?

Beukes: I made the mistake of watching Everything Everywhere All at Once while I was doing the final edits on Bridge and it made me despair, because it’s a perfect, hilarious, profound, alternate-universe-mother-daughter story. It was great to read an interview that the writers, Daniel Kwan and Scheinert, said they despaired when they saw Rick and Morty and Into the Spider-verse.

My theory is that multiverse stories are hot right now because it’s escapist, high concept. And also that our own world is so loaded and fragmented with bad actors on the internet trying to put forward their own narratives and propaganda or bots and spin it as “truth” and “reality” with horrifying consequences in the real world, including murder and persecution. It’s maddening and as if we’re all living in our own fragmented realities. In Bridge I’m trying to get at some of that.

Gizmodo: It sounds like there’s some fun and exciting possibilities for Bridget’s adventures around the multiverse–but there’s an element of danger as well. What can you tell us about that part of the story?

Beukes: Using the dream worm takes a physical toll, there are moral consequences and other seekers who would do anything to get their hands on it.

Gizmodo: Your novel The Shining Girls was recently adapted into an Apple TV+ series. What was that experience like? Is it difficult to step back from your work and let other people bring your story to the screen?

Beukes: It was such a terrific creative team, it was easy! I knew the story was in brilliant hands with showrunner Silka Luisa who made it her own, but kept the same tender, bloody beating heart of the book. I was gutted not to be able to fly out for filming (thanks pandemic and vaccine inequality which kept South Africa on the redlist for years longer than other countries). I love the way the show plays out, the weight and nuance Lizzy Moss brings to the role, Jamie Bell is perfect as an incel-serial killer, a small, pathetic, broken man, and Wagner Moura was electric. I’m also thrilled that I get to talk about how much I love the show without feeling like I need to self-deprecate, because I didn’t physically make it.

Gizmodo: Your books tend to combine thriller and even noir-ish elements with sci-fi and speculative themes. What interests you in blending these genres together?

Beukes: The truth is I just write the books I want to write and I’ve always been interested in genre, going back to mythology and fairytales and parables, as a way of exploring the real world and who we are in it. I aim to write puzzle box stories that use their fantastic twist as a way of getting deeper into the issues of the real world in an entertaining way. The weird elements can be a distorting mirror that allows me to draw the readers closer, expose the issues more clearly by coming at them sideways.

Gizmodo: It’s somewhat rare in the sci-fi/fantasy genre these days for books to be standalones — more often than not we see people writing duologies, trilogies, or multi-part series. Why have you sort of stuck with the standalone format, and would you consider writing a series in the future?

Beukes: I find strict genre boxes confining and prefer not to use them. I write the stories that move and excite me. Usually that’s going to involve some twist on reality.

I’ve considered sequels to Zoo City and The Shining Girls, however, I’ve also recently been diagnosed with adult ADHD and the hard-wiring in my brain is that I’m attracted to the shiny and new.

Gizmodo: What authors inspire you, either contemporary or from history? Are there any movies or TV shows that you consider yourself to be a diehard fan of?

Beukes: I love Jennifer Egan, David Mitchell, William Gibson, Karen Russell, Mariana Enriquez, N.K. Jemisin, Frances Hardinge — all writers with wild imaginations, the capacity to surprise you and the ability to say something meaningful about the human condition. I look for the same in movies and TV. I’ve recently loved Afterparty, For All Mankind, the final season of Better Call Saul was everything I wanted, White Lotus [season two] is brilliant and papercut-sharp, Everything Everywhere All at Once is the perfect alternate universe story (sorry, my book), and I recently loved The Triangle of Sadness which was terrible and amazing, much like the world.

Bridge by Lauren Beukes will be released August 8, 2023; you can pre-order a copy here.

Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.