Up, up and away 

Austin Grossman's debut novel gets inside the heads of some pretty powerful people

click to enlarge When not thinking Ph.D.-type thoughts, Austin - Grossman ponders the lines of superheroes.
  • When not thinking Ph.D.-type thoughts, Austin Grossman ponders the lines of superheroes.

Three weeks ago, someone erased Austin Grossman's entire Wikipedia entry.

And when Grossman tracked him down, the individual who did it said it was because Grossman was an "unremarkable person."

"The world sort of spoke back to me about my actual place within it," Grossman says during a phone interview from his home in Berkeley, Calif.

He felt like he was being told, "This guy doesn't really have what it takes."

Yet Grossman's far from unremarkable. A doctoral candidate at the University of California-Berkeley, the Harvard graduate and new author spent about nine years making a name for himself in the video game design world, working with companies like DreamWorks Interactive and Ion Storm.

But he still felt trapped.

"I went over the wall and got into a Ph.D. program," Grossman says. "Turned out to be a very smart thing to do. I slowed down enough to write the novel."

The novel, Soon I Will Be Invincible, released earlier this month, tells the modern-day tales of Doctor Impossible, a longtime supervillain who has just lost everything, and Fatale, a rookie superhero who was built from flesh, metal and a damaged past. The storytelling begins in Doctor Impossible's head.

"Before there was an idea for a book, there was the idea of a supervillain sitting in a cell," Grossman says. "What would that person be thinking about?"

More and more, Grossman wondered about what it would be like to actually be a supervillain.

"They put in so much effort into all this preparation and planning," he says. "They're so careful and creative about it. And every time, they have the thought, "This is the time it's going to work.' They kind of believe it's going to work.

"The more I wrote about Doctor Impossible, [I realized] they're more complicated people. If I have to choose who I have to identify with, the villain is the one."

And while the tale certainly delves into what exactly Doctor Impossible was thinking and the path he chooses in his 13th quest to take over the world, Grossman doesn't want readers to think this is just a "boy book."

"Even though I get that Doctor Impossible is funnier and has a more distinctive voice ... it's half-narrated by Fatale, by a woman," he says. "She's more complicated than Doctor Impossible. She's half-cartoon, half-real."

When it comes down to it, all of Grossman's characters feel more "real" than most traditional or even modern-day superpeople. He gets into their heads and the reader has the opportunity to connect with them, to learn their past and to understand why they do what they do something Grossman presents equally well no matter whether the character is male or female.

Apparently filmmakers thought so, too a full-length movie is already in the works, Grossman says. Though he can't at this point share many details, he's hoping the storyline stays character-driven, unlike many of the overblown action-based features he has seen distributed lately. But Grossman understands that it won't be his call.

"I'm not in charge," he says, "so let's hope it's good."

Of course, who knows? It might just be remarkable. kakens@csindy.com

Soon I Will Be Invincible

Austin Grossman

Pantheon Books,



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