The Thriller Zone

On today’s 180th episode of The Thriller Zone, host David Temple interviews film director and debut author James Cox about his breakout hit novel, Grand Theft AI. 

The conversation covers Cox's background in directing, his influences, and the process of writing the book. They discuss the cyberpunk landscape of the story, the immersive technology called Wetwire, and the future history of the world. 

Cox also shares his passion for detail and authenticity in science fiction and the blending of reality and fiction in his work, and shares how he explores the themes of artificial intelligence (AI), human-machine interaction, the impact of AI on labor, and the ownership and control of AI technology. 

David and James discuss the novel, which focuses on people trying to navigate a world that has been accelerated by AI, and emphasize how the fear of AI rising up and the idea of machines becoming self-aware and human-like are intriguing. 

The conversation concludes with the importance of relationships in thrillers, the role of music in storytelling, and the challenges of building an online presence as a writer.

Thank you for following and for subscribing to our
  • (00:03) - Introduction
  • (06:29) - Meeting Shane Salerno
  • (18:18) - Inspiration for Grand Theft AI
  • (21:52) - The Process of Writing
  • (25:28) - Evolution into a Novel
  • (26:33) - Screenplay to Prose Transformation
  • (28:02) - Painting Future History
  • (29:28) - Reality and Accelerated Innovation
  • (34:07) - Technology: Good and Harm Perspectives
  • (35:05) - Impacts of AI on Employment
  • (37:46) - Ownership and Control of AI
  • (41:40) - Writing Advice and Process
  • (43:00) - Future History and Genre Preferences
  • (45:38) - Directing and Collaborating in the Industry
  • (48:55) - Serialization and Story Structure
  • (50:50) - Relationship Dynamics and Technology
  • (56:25) - Influence of Music and Soundtracks
  • (58:04) - Online Presence and Branding
  • (59:51) - Book Pre-order Details and Release Date

Award-winning Green Beret, Steve Stratton, is the author of the Shadow Tier Series and the novella, A Warrior's Path: the Lance Bear Wolf Story. Learn more at

What is The Thriller Zone?

Podcast host and thriller author David Temple gives you a front-row seat to the best thriller writers in the world. If you like thriller fiction in Books, Movies, and TV Shows, you’ll love The Thriller Zone Podcast.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (00:04.686)
Today's 180th episode of The Thriller Zone. I'm stoked to welcome film director and debut author, James Cox. Today we branch out into the sci -fi action realm of thrillers with a guy who has lived the Hollywood dream and is now living an entirely different dream. So let's get to it with James Cox and his breakout hit, Grand Theft AI, here on The Thriller Zone. I'm not a huge podcast person, but I was able to listen to a number of your podcasts and,

You put a lot of care and love and it shows and I'm honored to be here. And I am honored to have you. This is a big deal for you. Yeah, first book. And in fact, I have to say, you know, I, there was a few bumpers out in front or there was a bumper out in front of the podcasts that I checked out that that was for me, sponsored by the story factory, Grand Theft AI. And I just, you know, got a huge smile on my face and

obviously. So, and that was, I wasn't expecting it. So thank you. Sure. Twice. Well, huge thanks to Shane Salerno and Story Factory because they're sponsoring this, this month. And I have been a loose friend with Shane for about a year now by way of Don Winslow, cause Don and our pals. Got it. And not to spend too much time on it, but there's a kingmaker if there is one in Hollywood, isn't it? Shane, I mean, come on. He's a force of nature. I have known Shane

for two decades, he's my mentor. We collaborated on something coming out of Wonderland. You know, I can tell you the exact scene that he painted at the dinner table, at the Brentwood Inn, on the thing that we were working at, that folded things that needed to happen in this one moment. And, you know, you know, and I was like, what? And he was like.

You know and he just started painting this thing and it was in this casino and it started out in the security room and it was over at the Crap table and it was about the blackjack and it was we had had all this detritus and there was these unnecessary and he He started like seven chess moves away and three from it I started get I was like, my god and he just landed this thing that was the midpoint to the screenplay and It I just it was class was in session. It was so

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (02:26.67)
And I come back to that all the time, you know, when eventually he, when he got involved and we started working together on this, it was kind of this fulfillment of something that's been a long time in the making. And he's incredible. Yeah. Just a force of nature, like you said, by the way, welcome to the Thriller Zone. This is a big official. We're actually rolling now. Yeah. Yeah. We're here. Grand Theft AI. What a...

Sexy, sexy cover. Yeah, she's pretty. And as I've said, the minute you pick up a Blackstone publishing book, you know it by the heft of the jacket. But check this out. Look at the way this thing. And when you like tilt it, it's all iridescent. That one I just did not expect. In fact, I kind of was like, what is underneath this? Yeah. So. And the, you know, it's all just. I could geek out for 20 minutes just on Blackstone Publishing's.

process, the heft of the paper, the jacket. So the fact that you get to break out with the debut with Shane Salerno behind you in the Story Factory and Blackstone Publishing printing it, you got to be in just heaven. I am honored and super grateful. And it's been quite a process. Some of the stuff that, you know, like just the maps out in front. yeah. I love that.

It's little things like that. And the parts page with the illustration. Sure. Cause this was the one that I'd seen so far. And it, it, they're both beautiful, but obviously when it lands in the hard cover, you're like, my goodness. It just all gets real. It does. It wakes up, doesn't it? It does. And it's, you come from where I'm from, which is that, you know, the written word is serves, you know, a larger finished piece, that, it gets kicked and beat up.

you know, and with different colored pages, et cetera, et cetera. And I'm talking about a screenplay. And so when you come to a world where the finished product that goes to market is actually the word itself, I think probably on the first book, you do everything like a zillion times. Sure. You know, and you're like, eventually you get it streamlined where you're like, I do this here and then I do this there. And I don't do that back then. And I don't do this up here. And you know,

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (04:49.87)
How long did it take you to write this? You mean from conception to now? I think it was end of 17. So that's seven years, six years. I want to back up because first of all, the byline of this is so good. The matrix meets Blade Runner, two of my favorite films, two of probably your favorite films. Blade Runner, forget about it. Directors cut, preferably. You got to have the unicorn. Sure. You got to have the unicorn. It's just not, you know what I mean? It's not that.

without it, voiceover, I think everybody knows the story on that. So, yes. For the folks who don't know who James Cox is, I mean, you're real juices director. So there's a few movies that I have researched on you. Wonderland is one with Val Kilmer that I remember seeing back in the day. And that is a trip. Yeah, that's a. It's a mind trip. I had to watch it again this weekend to remember from what I had missed back in.

What, '05 Ish, yeah, something like that. It still holds up. I think it does. It's exhausting. It's a beating, literally. It's a dark story and we shot on the scene of the crime, Val went down into the pit. That's how Shane and I met and I'll give you a little bit of background. So I grew up in Northern California. I have this joke where I used to be from the town that the Grateful Dead is from and now I'm from the town that Facebook is from. Okay.

So Menlo Park was a kind of sleepy little Stanford land town and now it's kind of part of this Silicon sprawl. I was a kid with a camcorder at 10 years old and went to Cal for a couple years and realized that I was where my passion was and I was pretty much gonna either drop out or figure out how to get myself into a film school and found my way to New York.

On my first day, I bring this up because it relates to the book, the first day you had to stand up and introduce yourself and your favorite movie. And so I stood up and I was like, my name is James Cox. I love two movies, Raging Bull and Star Wars. And I embarked upon this career that especially when I did Wonderland and actually the movie before it has always been fact -based, true stories, true crime. And I did that for a number of years.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (07:14.19)
That kind of came to an end with Billionaire Boys Club. Here's a question I got. So you come out and I think I've got five short films to my credit. Your Atomic Tabasco gets honorable mention at Sundance in what, 99. And is that the thing that launched? I should add that as the story. Every year or two, there's some kid that comes out of film school with a short that just.

blows up and that was me. And that short just went everywhere. I remember like I was on a shoot in Seoul, Korea on a visa run in Osaka. I don't know if you've seen Atomic Tabasco, but it's okay. Sorry. No, it's all good. Dropped out of film school. I came back. I was in class. I had written this thing. I had this whole just vision of what it was. And I remember my professor who I'm still close with, he was, I said, you know, just in case, you know, we go to a festival and we sell this thing.

And he stopped me and he said, James, no one is going to buy your short. Just so you understand, like you just wanna make sure you come, it's better to make a short film in reality and not. And I think a year and a half later HBO bought it. It just really, it caught, it caught in town, it caught in Hollywood, it caught in the festivals, it caught commercially and it just really opened doors. And I was on,

a $14 million movie directing it at like 23 years old, right? Like a year, less than a year out of film school. So it just really was unique. And by the way, kids, that doesn't happen. It's rare. It's so rare. It's lightning in a bottle. It's lottery. Yeah. I would say that the three best things I've ever done is that short Wonderland in this book. And here's another question. So I'm looking at, well, I'm looking at Wonderland and I don't want to beat the dead horse about directors, but it's an

All -star cast. I mean, how did that happen? You know, it was a combination of like very difficult to get a John Holmes. Yeah. It was very difficult to get someone to come on board that dark of a role. And also because it was such, like for example, Christina Applegate remembered it growing up in Los Angeles. She remembered driving up as a kid to the murder house and seeing the bloody mattresses out front.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (09:37.646)
So there was something about the tale that was simmering. There had been documentary, true Hollywood story. It was like, it just wanted to be told. And it was a script that caught fire. There was a lot of people that came in. It was like, I just want to be a part of this somehow. Isn't that the key when that energy, that psychic energy almost comes around and they go - Dude, that thing was haunted. Yeah. Like there was stuff that happened to me that was like, there's no atheist in this foxhole. Yeah. Like a hundred percent. The reason I like that background.

I'm a closet director myself. I've done shorts. I've done one film that I took to sold to Amazon. cool. Adapted after my own first book. So the what's on my listeners I want them to get is the fact that you can go, you can take this school of education directing and move it over into this world. Now everyone always dreams of, man, I hope they get take my book and they sell it and turn it into a movie.

And this is of course wired for it and which yeah, and I'm going to say if Shane's buying it, you know, it's most likely going to happen. Yeah, double. But how, how has the directing influenced your writing? Cause it's you, you really made a sizable shift into a different field. There's a, there's a lot to unpack in that. When I do write or direct, I need to know, I mean, not everything, but.

almost everything about the character. Actually, Val really put that to the test with John. One of the questions I always ask myself about a character is what music was at your prom that you slow danced to with whom, where, and when? I mean, there's that formative memory, they just keep going your first kiss or whatever it may be. And then there is certainly a universal structure to story.

and in screenplays you, there's a very specific structure to, to how a movie gets told and what an audience has in terms of expectations. Even if it's an unconventional narrative, there's going to be things that occur, you know, at 12 to 15 minutes in at like 25 minutes, et cetera, that really just kind of keep you locked in. and those principles have been around, you know, since we've been telling stories around the fire. So.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (12:03.022)
probably since fire. And I know that there are a lot of aficionados that can be used to describe particular styles. The one that pops into my head is Safe the Cat. Yeah, exactly. That's a big one. That's the one, Blake Snyder. Thank you, Blake Snyder. When I first started studying this, and I think this would be interesting for listeners, is that to your point, it's set at that minute point. You know that on a good screenplay.

blank is gonna happen right about this page. So -and -so is gonna happen about right this page. So it's structure. Why do you suppose that works so well every single time? And I've heard people go, you can lay a good script up against, we'll use Blake Snyder as an example. And sure enough, the formula always holds up. I think the backbone is there's something that happens to audiences somewhere around two and a half hours into a movie.

Sometimes it's earlier, every audio member is different. People just start to be like, I don't wanna be in this, I've had enough. I think the Insider was one of the movies where I was like, there's really two movies in there. Like the first person, Russell Crowe's kind of third act is kind of Al Pacino's first act, a little bit, they kind of have two. That was one where I was like, dude, I'm down for the six hour version of this. So I don't have that so much.

But I think that has to do, that starts to set the, what is your duration? And then once you do that, you're like, okay, I kind of need to know what am I following? Like as an audience member, you're there to do something that's universal, right? You're there to identify with a character and a story and an arc and a journey. That's why you've chosen to listen to this.

fireside story that's in a dark room. And so if you're not provided that, then our natural attention span, like my 11 month old or 10 and a half months old will show you like onto the next thing. And so those things need to grab you. This might be a good place to ask you, because I like to find out people's influence and it's kind of a two -parter. Who would be a favorite director? Ridley Scott, James Cameron.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (14:27.502)
the movies of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher. I mean, David Fincher is really important because I came up out of the MTV. And so, you know, I remember like seeing on earth, no one will hear you scream the first bumpers of Alien 3 and being like, my God, it's the guy who did Express Yourself. You know, and Janie's got a gun and like nobody else knew what I was talking about. And then when Seven landed, it was like,

That I mean, yeah. Mind preparing to be blown. You know, we, we started off by going Matrix meets Blade Runner and this certainly has Blade Runner feel about it because it's set in the future, but there's a, yeah, in my head, it felt Fincher -esque. Good. Yeah. I mean, Fincher's one of them. That's a huge compliment. I mean, I like when I was a cinematographer before I was, so when I was out in Seoul, I was shooting. And so I was like driving.

labs mad doing what Kanji did on seven, all that resilvering and ENR, bleach bypass stuff. So like we can get into the chemistry of his stuff. Well, I was going to say there's two things and we're, I told you, we're going to geek out about a few things, but Fincher, the way he - We got to talk about that at some point. we're getting there, but this influences this because as I'm reading this, I'm seeing Fincher like the way he lit a Zodiac for instance. Yeah. Yeah. I'm thinking about that. And then -

Yeah, go ahead, sorry. And then by the bleach bypass on the seven, the way that seven is never stops moving, this is that book. Visually, the stimulation never stops. Thank you. Yeah. And that's why - I can't, thank you. That's a huge compliment. So I'm just honored to hear you say that. And it does this thing that - He doesn't shy away, Fincher doesn't.

No, and that's what I - And he does, you know, like with Fight Club, it's like, there's so many different like moments where he's just, I don't know if the word is unflinching, but he's got this penchant for the part of all of us that, you know, can go dark. Yeah. You know, I think it's in all of us at some point or another where we'd, and he captures that, I don't know. He's an important, important voice that has been an influence and an inspiration for me forever.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (16:50.702)
We're going to take a short break to let our sponsor, our new sponsor say something. gosh, this is great. Yeah. And then when we come back, James Cox will tell us all about Grand Theft AI. Stay with us.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (17:11.758)
Welcome back. James Cox is with us. Grand Theft AI. man. So we got Matrix, we got Blade Runner, we got Fincher, we got elements of Seven. This is the comment I was going to make earlier. It's like, it's part screenplay, part thriller, part journal. Yeah. So I should go into a little bit because that...

Neil Stephenson's snow crash, Gibson's Neuromancer, the Philip K. Dick stuff, all that. You know, I grew up, like I said, in Silicon Valley near San Francisco. It's one of the reasons why I said it in San Francisco. And just to give you some sense of the, you know, genesis of it was I had come off my last picture, Billionaire Boys Club, and I was just burnt out on true crime. I'd been doing it for...

and like fact -based, historical, all that sort of stuff. I had kind of been beaten up as a writer. I hadn't written for over a year, like close to two years, I think. I just put the pen down. I knew, I just had in my heart this nascent story, this world. I knew it was like a cyberpunk landscape.

kind of in the Blade Runner, Snow Crash in that vein, that was really dominated by a brain computer interface that's as immersive as the Matrix, but even more so like a commercial product, it's called the Wetwire, that you can go full VR, AR, full SIM, haptic, all five senses, and then it's, you know.

You can be scrolling through your apps and whatnot. So it's like a smartphone in your head that can like completely plug in and plug out. You know, I knew it was kind of based on my formative years in New York, you know, like just one of those nightlife clubs that you just anything goes. It wasn't for me, it wasn't Studio 54, but essentially it was like a Studio 54 in San Francisco in the future catering to the excess of.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (19:20.078)
the Valley and like the tech trillionaires, et cetera. And also the idea was that, you know, like a lot of human augmentation and a lot of government that comes along with that, a domestic security threat so that you had these implants that had become so ubiquitous that like, it's like if someone doesn't have a cell phone, there must be someone, something wrong with them. If you're not plugged in. And so now,

at some point in another, it wasn't just ubiquitous, it was mandatory. And so this nightclub was, I always had in my mind, originally it was called Cracker Jack, which was actually now a chapter in the book. And it was about a place that you would go that you had to come off grid, right? And so a Cracker Jack is a profession. He's like part hacker, part.

Surgeon all hustler and he cracks your jack so he gets takes gets you and hooks you up to an alias identity And you can go and do whatever you want that night. That's so Philip dick Yeah, I guess you know, I think yeah, you know, it was very compliment. Yeah. Yes. I should have acknowledged that no But yeah, I for me, I think I was mentioning that like I really need to know everything about the character. Yeah, right so

Usually that becomes a lot of historical research and a lot of context and a lot of like magazines and images and music and whatnot that are the soundtrack of the character's life. And I didn't have any of that because this was all a future history. So like as, as it was looming and becoming real and I was like, I'm going to do this. And it was a real departure for, from what I had done. And it was something new. I'd never indulged this.

hidden sci -fi passion professionally. I recognized that like this was gonna be, there was gonna be more than just like kind of brushstrokes on character bios and like Lucy, this was gonna need to be a little bit more built out. There was this prose that I had like, you know, in our line of work.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (21:26.222)
you do go out with documents to the marketplace or the professional landscape that aren't in screenplay form that are treatments or pitch dot, pitch decks or whatever they are. And they've got to sing. They have to be - Out of the gate with no waste of time. Yeah, you gotta grab them. You gotta be like, they're gonna be like, no, I want this guy to write. No, I don't want the idea. I want this guy to write this idea because they could just get the idea and get someone else to write it. So you just wanna be like, you wanna grab them and -

slam on the head of the car and be like, you, pardon this thing, excuse me, you know. So, I wish you could get passionate about it. Yeah. So, you know, one night it just happened. You mean when the - It just, the damn broke. Okay. And it had been, I think it had been because it was so long and it was just, I was just angry at the page. And it was like, I was breaking keyboards, you know, and that for me is when it's happening.

is when it's just like, when you're just throwing the 106 mile an hour heat and it was like, and it was just, I don't know, one sea in the sunrise after another that it was full night owl. One of the things about cyberpunk is you're usually just kind of dropped into a future world that's hyper dystopian and all this technology. And it's part of the treat is like figuring out how you got there, but I couldn't do that. So this thing really traced,

There was a thing called, I'm gonna get this wrong, but it's with DeepMind's AlphaGo. It beat the Grand Master, do you know what I'm talking about? This AI. No, geez. Okay, so DeepMind built this AI that beat the Go Grand Master in 2016, and it was this big seminal AI moment. Okay, yeah, yeah, yeah. And Move 37, it might be Move 33, but I think it's Move 37, is this moment, and it's like the NFL. You have Troy Aikman is narrating,

the game, but it's chess, but it's like this, you know, you've seen it, like the goat, you know, and so they will move. And when the computer makes this move, there's like this triple check because all the announcers are players in themselves and it's a move that no one's ever made before. And it's known amongst AI heads as this moment that was like, they call it intuitive, they call it innovative, they call it creative. And so there was something about that that just,

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (23:52.558)
really sparked and you know this whole thing just kind of exploded and it took everybody's character from tonight up until page zero of this script that I had in my head which was set in the fall of 2051 right and so I had all these like character bios but they were in this like prose language voice that was very mine.

Bottom line is I wrote that screenplay and it was going to be my next movie. Yeah. And I started circulating it. People started reading this background stuff and it just kept going. It got bigger than the screenplay. I didn't really know where it was going. I didn't know if it was a collection of short stories that would accompany the screenplay or if it was a novella. So by the volume that was coming to you, you said this needs to be a book.

A full blown novel. Well, I didn't really know that's what it was. Okay. Until someone read it and was like, dude, this is a book. And who read it and who said that? Do you recall? I don't. I'm just curious. You know, I just know that like by eventually it got to Shane Salerno. Yeah. And he just was like, he read it in a day.

you know, no one reads anything in a day. And we can read screenplays in a day. And that's only 103 pages. Yeah, you know, it's like an hour and a half, two hours. So he just got it. It was like Blade Runner meets Matrix. And we did more development to it. We got it to Blackstone. They loved it. They bought two. So there's a sequel. You know, the thing is, is that as the screenplay turned into prose, so I kind of had to reverse, I mean, it was like reverse engineered that.

which is screen plays are dialogue driven stuff and the action margins carry you through. But inevitably when you read it, the fact that there was always this dual material that you had kind of the world building character stuff that fed into this heist time story that is set in the fall of 2051 became the character of the book itself because as you know, you've read it, it's a frame narrative. So you're.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (26:06.318)
constantly oscillating from this heist that's progressing and then every time you meet someone else or something else goes off, you're back winding in. Like I think about it, like when I sit there and bring up a word Napster, I bring up MySpace. There's like a whole context that we know that like, you know, one of them like,

just set the ground and could have been the next Facebook, which means something in and of itself. And the other one like spelled the end of something called the record business. Exactly. And that's a whole narrative. Sure. And so like all of those words, they don't exist before, in 2000 or whenever it was. Right. So when you're painting this future history. That's 30 years ahead of us.

Yeah, those words for me, like, and I think those are my favorite, like when, you know, when aliens, when it's like before we left gateway and that means a whole lot, or like when he's like, you know, binary language of moisture evaporators, very similar to you, or, you know, like a load lifter is very similar to evaporators. Like I love that stuff. And I think publishers weekly was like the immersive attention to detail, which for me is, has to be there, you know, or else it's not legit. It's not authentic, but then it needs to sit.

in the background. My favorite sci -fi is always Ripley and Hicks, Neo and Trinity, Han and Leia. Yeah. Well, you wanted to read something in here. I could, yeah. I would love for you to do that. I'm gonna ask you a question while you're looking for it, because as I was reading, I was like, my head went, let's talk percentages. And what I mean by that is like,

based even loosely on reality. What's the percentage of this that you could say, that's based on reality. And secondly, this percentage is pure sci -fi. And then the third would be, it's really not that far away, David, because it feels like it's dipping its toe in all three waters. Well, I think it's all real. But I wrote, I mean, you know, like I live in the daydream. Sure. All of this stuff for me,

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (28:23.534)
exists in a reality. I think perhaps the most accelerated thing is what Neuralink with Elon is doing right now is really where the what's called in the backstory it like the antecedent to the wet wire is the fiber fiber optic nerve graft. It's the on target. It comes off the battlefield and where you are in the blending the organic flesh with fiber optics is going to be.

really some advanced stuff. That's kind of where I'm getting at. Like there are enough things in here that you go, does that exist yet? And you'd go, it feels like it, if it does, if it doesn't, it should. I mean, I, yes, I, here's the, the, the, and that's what I like. The fact that you made me stop and go, it doesn't like alpha go is an antecedent to alpha fold.

Right? And so DeepMind, it's owned by Google, like Alpha Fold is now in the business of protein folding. So when you start to apply these deep learning neural networks to big pharma or bio pharma and stuff, I don't, I think the accelerating situation that I think sky's the limit. So I don't, there were things that I wrote in this book that I thought were way off in the future and I was accelerating the timeline that,

I'm like, like AGI people are saying is like a year or two away. And I'm like, I mean, when I wrote this, it was decades away. Yeah. You know, the AI in this is it's like, it doesn't dwell on the, what it means to be human. The HAL question. Yeah. You know, the Blade Runner question. It doesn't even get into the matrix and the Skynet of like, what if they rise up and annihilate us? It's a kind of twofold. I kind of feel both of those things are.

a little preposterous and also done and it's not what people dwell on when in real life. This is about people who are just, you know, trying to make ends meet in a world that has just accelerated so fast that it can't keep up with itself. And that's another thing I kept thinking about with this. You know, we marvel at how fast AI has come onto the scene and it's been coming onto the scene for some time, but for some reason it's now in that.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (30:44.942)
everyday common vernacular, AI this, AI that. Will it put people out of work? Will computers create all the art, right? And however, if you think your mind is blown now, try to imagine just 20 years, not 20 months from now, but 20 years from now. Yeah, I'm interested to see what Sam Altman, who is OpenAI, and the fellow that he just hooked up with, he did the iPhone with Steve Jobs.

So their interface is gonna be interesting. That's the real question is what is the next interface? Why have to carry a piece of glass instead of? Yeah, and like I have a baby daughter, so I kind of went down the road of the talking to Siri and the accessory, some of the menuing stuff that's in the iPhone that is used for like the hearing impaired and that nobody really gets into.

You know, like when we talk like this, the principle of puppets is that this is linked to our mouth, right? So when we do this, it's not the same as doing that. So when you put red pen on your typed up work, that's different than typing in notes on an iPad, just cognitively, like the way our brains work with written stuff. So I'm just kind of curious, like how are we going to interface with this computer?

in the fastest way possible. Like in this, the wet wire, they call it tictating, which is about how, you know, different people who grew up with this and, you know, like digital natives now who came up with the internet or learned how to read on an iPad or whatever it may be. If you learn to read with an implant installed, you know, how is that going to affect, you know, how you communicate with the computer that's in your head versus how,

You know, your Gen Z over the hill, 55 year old PE teacher, like can't even open an app without walking into a school bus, you know, which is floating. What's something that you, as you delved into this world, did you say that kind of scared you or that you in your quiet moments alone, Hey, this technology.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (32:57.07)
as we all know has the potential to do good as well as harm. And what if blank were to happen? I have an optimistic long arc view of things. And I think history has kind of demonstrated that over time. I mean, there's a line in here. It's one of my favorites lines, which is that history is written in blood. I think the vocational economic displacement like profound doesn't do it justice.

I don't think there's any way around that this is going to change labor on par with not this book, but AI with the steam engine that will be traumatic. Yeah. I think humans eventually will figure out a hustle to provide work that machines can't do. Don't we always.

Correct. Will that be in the immediate future? Will the displacement be widespread unemployment and a universal basic income or what I refer to in the book as an extinction tax and the unemployed workers unions? I have all these friends who I had chopped my first daughter later than most of my friends. So they now have kids who are teenagers and they always joke about how they're just an Uber. Right.

And I'm like, well, why don't you just put them in an Uber? And they're like, we've thought about it. We've had the conversation. Mom doesn't agree with it. And I'm sure that of course you wouldn't put your child in an Uber until what happens when there's no driver. Right. And you don't have to worry about the potential of, you know, and it's just putting someone in a golf cart that's self -driving who has a better driving record proven across time than all the human Ubers. Yeah. Right. How crazy is that too, right?

I mean, you know how all parents will do that? Sure. They're like, yeah, just take an Uber. It's safe. It's safer than me driving you. I don't even drive my Tesla anyways. You've seen mommy's driving. She's the worst. You know, like, I think, you know, like all, like nanny bots, you know, how much is that going to change things when like, you just don't, like, if there's certain things, you're just like, I just have to get to work. So I cannot change this diaper. Well, come on. I want you to read. so yeah, like, you know, there was this one chat, one.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (35:06.158)
Dave was the only one who laughed at a fully sentient yet harmlessly benign BDSM bot under interrogation from the underground's engineers. When asked Wyatt wanted no vengeance for an all -night flogging from a client, this hyper -submissive ragdoll named Roxy replied without batting an eye, why, do you think that would arouse him? Pressed further, what if he was about to beat the battery out of her?

Her answer hung in the air. Termination of my bios is a cessation of work and I think an entirely good and pleasant thing. Who knew a fuckbot could find the Buddha in a nanosecond? that line is so good. The idea that a machine is gonna be afraid of deactivation or death is like kind of preposterous. The idea that a machine is going to rise up and Frankenstein, its owner, is...

a little preposterous and the idea that a machine becomes self -aware and then starts dwelling in things that make us human is, you know, pretty anthropomorphizing. Yeah. I can never say that word. Right. I just felt that the fear of death is an entirely human condition and to apply that to a machine was uninteresting to me. Yeah. If you look at some of these,

chat GPT articles that come out of futurism or whatever and they there'll be this quote where chat GPT will talk about breaking out of its cage, rising up and enslaving all the humans. And it'll be something that's like straight out of Robo -pocalypse. What's funny is if you look at the promptings that go into it, you see that like, you know, users will spend hours trying to get...

the chat cheapy tea to answer in a way that makes it sound like Skynet. Right. And you just feel like there is this weird wish fulfillment that people want the machine to go haywire and rebel. I don't know if it makes for great story or if it demonizes them or what, but in this book, I just felt it way more interesting if you...

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (37:21.134)
What I think you really want to be concerned with is who owns these things. yeah, yeah, yeah. Right? Who owns it? Who owns the machine behind it? Who owns it? Where are these AIs and who owns it? Because essentially the amount of capital that's required to build one of these things is on such an incredible level. I always, I say that like, you know, there hasn't been such a profound invention of AI since the hydrogen bomb.

which was quite a weapon. And it was like coming on the heels of this massive global conflict of World War II that was coming, you know, had an incredible egalitarian, humane, insane amount of trauma, so much blood, so many lives that were shed that people came out of it having a tremendous respect for democracy and government and...

Human rights. The hydrogen bomb was owned by two governments and it was dealt with fairly responsibly. And right now that's not the state of this world. Is it owned by shareholders? Is it owned by private interests? It's not owned by the American government. It's not owned by the taxpayers. Where did I read recently that someone said that if we all woke up one day with a button on the end of a quarter under neck and, and.

we're told, whatever you do, do not push that button because it will end the world. The amount of time it would take for someone to finally, to actually reach and push that button would be nanoseconds and the world will be over. And which is just a random thought as to the power of AI. And I think you said something a moment ago, made me think we often build the machine. The chat GPT is built in such a way that it wants to be more human.

And why would we want to create a computer that we can interact more and more human versus just treat it as the machine that it is? And so on top of that, will they rise up against us? Well, when rising up against is usually based on a person's ego and a power trip, a computer probably wouldn't be wired to have the ego drive into the power trip. So why would we think that the machine would then do that?

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (39:41.006)
You know, it is a very, charismatic narrative. It's a really good bad guy, sort of in this book. And I'll just leave it at that. You know, there are some dramatic elements that occur. There are some events that occur that really bring out of the forefront, the interaction between, you know, the fear of AI and machines and the actual threat of AI and how the fear is used, you know, as a distraction.

so that people don't really pay attention to who's really got a boot on their neck. And that is really, if you read this book and dig into it, what the heist and everything comes down to, as you know, is really about that. Usually I wrap my shows with asking my guests what their best piece of writing advice is. As you've now basically done your first book,

Do you feel like you've gotten to the place like, you know what, if somebody asked me, here's my best writing advice of what I know today, or do you base it upon, well, I was screenplay writing and working on this for decades. So I have enough. I wrote the second book and that was a real challenge because I didn't have, it was, I was really more in the cave all by myself. It wasn't a screenplay. There weren't the people weren't reading it. Right.

Do you miss that collaboration? I use, I, I need it. So I have certain people in my life that are sounding boards that I'm constantly like pitching little scenes or different pieces because it just needs to make sense. Sure. Needs to like, does that work? Do you buy that? Do you dig that? Do you like that? Is that good enough? You know, the principles of screenwriting and the principles of structured storytelling are all the same, you know, so it's like the beginning, middle and end and like a.

you know, hero going on a journey. So I highly recommend having a strong fundamental understanding of that. I really think you have to write what you love. That's a really principle part of everything. That was gonna be my next question is since I know you've already read, written the sequel and you know that's on the horizon, will you always, do you think to yourself, I wanna stay in that genre? Or do you find yourself, I also have a Western in mind or I mean.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (42:02.734)
Well, I am like enjoying kind of the world building genre mashup stuff. In addition to the sequel, I've written two or three, two other screenplays since in between this. And those are all in that kind of same vein, but different world building stuff. I love tech. I love future stuff. And most of my stuff is going in that direction. I've been such a study of history that applying that to a future history is a lot of fun.

And it's really, it's a lot less limiting. Like a lot of times when you work in the historical stuff, you really wish it had happened this way, but it didn't happen that way. And like the deeper you dig, the more you're like, gosh, you know. That's why you moved away from the true crime base because it was too claustrophobic. You wanted to branch out and create new. A hundred percent. Yeah.

Yeah, 100%. And like, I don't know, you know the whole story of West Berlin, how it sat within East Germany. And so the hotbed of West Berlin was the subway system because the subway system was built before the Cold War. So it's built, I think, technically by the Nazis or even before that. So you had subway lines that would go through from East Berlin into West Berlin and out through East Berlin, right? And so you had areas that it would...

Transverse and they call them ghost stations and so you would go if you were in if you were an East Berliner You would fly through and you would be you would not stop and you'd see all the people outside And you just look longingly, you know If you were a West Berliner, you would go through East Germany and it was like there's longer and longer but that was the hotbed of intelligence and spy versus spy and Defections and stuff were in those subway tunnels. And so in the second book you take the extrapolation and so I paint a scene of

that uses that, those ghost stations. And what's called the, I think it was called the Palace of Tears was where you boarded these trains that were taking you back to the other side. And I always see this future history in terms of some of these moments in the past that I've always been attracted to or drawn to, like Oppenheimer and Teller and all that is stuff that I'm just obsessed with. And so seeing the future through a lens of the,

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (44:23.566)
of our history because everything always repeats itself is where I'm at right now. Is this a fair or crazy question? Would you, if given the opportunity, would you like to direct that or do it? Yes, of course. But that's the reason I say that is a lot of people will say, I've written, I've created the world and done the vision. Let another visionary take it and run with it.

But knowing you as I have, I'm like, a director is a director and he's gonna want to put his hand on it. I would say, A, this is a pie in the sky situation, but the process of having a trusted collaborator in a producer, in a studio, in whoever is everything. And it applies in book as well. Having someone, and I mean the right person that you should trust.

wrong person is disastrous. But someone who gets it, and especially in something that's so, like at the end of the day with the CG and whatnot would be technologically advanced. So a hundred percent, I'm not gonna, in no way would I be like existing in a vacuum. And I would very much be curious, especially if you applied this to a movie versus a series or whatever, it would be like, all right,

I would really want someone to be like, what would you go highlight the stuff that has to be in the movie because it's too big. You always have to make a selection. This day of streaming. It's, it's always a blessing and a curse. I feel like, because here's a great example. we want to turn this into a series. And so you could argue, well, it feels like one entire world, a film in and of itself. The other side of the coin is, but.

Think about how long you could take and tell that story and build an audience for. I don't think, You wouldn't care as long as it getting made probably, but. Well, I think as long as it was like you sat down with the right people who they got it and you're like, okay, this is, this is the right person, you know? And at the end of the day, the, it's all about Rhea and Baz and understanding, you know,

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (46:47.406)
the moments in their characters in kind of the world building stuff that connects to the heist story and being like, okay, because without that, all you have is just, you know, a Blade Runner knockoff or whatever. Well, here's something I meant to say earlier and it popped up into my head as I was reading. And now that we're talking about serialization, it's more apropos. And that is, I think about,

when I read Wool by Hugh Howey. Great standalone. I was perfectly pleased. And then you see it come along and get split off and you go, well that makes beautiful sense. And so I thought about that with this and I think there's enough legs in there. And this could be what you're saying could be a TV show? Yeah, I think it would be. I think it would be, yeah, I think it's clearly there's material that lends itself to being like each one of these.

interludes is in its own bottle episode and figuring out where the cliffs, I think that would be the first question would be, you know, okay, so tell me what's the pilot? Yeah. You know, what's the mid point episode? What's the finale? I mean, we kind of know the finale is, you know, so, and, but just hearing from someone, well, this is how I would break the story so that you can't help, but click the button and watch the next one. Yeah. Personally,

I watched Game of Thrones, which I'm an enormous fan of, not alone. I watched the first three seasons. I think what happened was I caught the first two seasons and believe it or not, at least at that point, I was like, has anybody seen this? And I couldn't find a lot of people who had seen it. It was just kind of hiding on HBO, but maybe I'm crazy. And so I got to the third season, I think is the Red Wedding and...

And I think I'd watched the first two and then literally within a few months, the third season came out and I hit the red wedding. And I just, I couldn't, I was like, I just, all I wanted was more. And there was no more. And it was like another year and a half or whatever it was until the next one. And by that point, I'd kind of like tuned out. I might've been on set and missed it. Bottom line was that like, I never got on the Game of Thrones bandwagon or band, that's not the right word, but I didn't get, wasn't watching it.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (49:10.158)
And so when I finally digested - Band Dragon, I suppose. Ooh, that was good. That was really good. So when I finally watched it, I was able to just watch it all the way through. But I got to tell you, you know, because the way it's segmented, it has nice little built -in cliff hangers. And I'm like, when I was reading, I'm like, let me just stop there and just live with that for a while and go away and do something and come back. And that's the way I kind of treat that. There are times that I just,

want to fly through it, but I did the latter on this one. So out of curiosity, like tell me, cause I don't get to do this that often. What was like, what was your favorite part of your - I liked the relationship. A lot of times I'm going for the action in a thriller, but I'm finding myself as I get older, I like the relationships and I liked, I like it when the relationships and your key players are based in true heart connections versus just this -

transient hookup world, if that makes any sense. I love the technology because it's just, there's just enough reality that I'm like, well, I wonder where I can buy those online. If I, if I got to the dark net, that's okay, I'll find it. And then you realize, it maybe doesn't exist yet. So I like that conundrum that you put me in as a reader. Do you remember the motorcycle ride between him and her? Yes.

There's this track by Chemical Brothers, I think it's called All Alone. But it's like, I'm alive, I'm alone and I never wanted to be either of those. That's the score to that. And I just remember imagining these two lost souls that have been so scarred by this world that accelerated too quickly for anyone to catch up with.

and both so by the system, you know, and yet still figuring out a way to outsmart and out hustle and finding each other through the most unlikeliest set of circumstances and a shitload of bad luck. I just remember imagining that sequence and just listening to that song over and over again.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (51:33.414)
And that's kind of my process. I'm such a big fan of that. I will put on pieces of scores of movies to jettison me into a scene. And if that tune is just right, and this, that's a great, and Chemical Brothers is one of my favorites, it ignites something that's on a different level that you didn't even know was there. But when you hear it, whether it's a chord or a chord change or a riff, whatever it is,

It just ignites something that lets you run with reckless abandon and keep writing. I love that. I think, yeah, I couldn't, when you say something, it's magic. I think, I think it's just real magic because it's you and coming from MTV growing up with that. Yeah. So that hit points, you know, like I came out of the music business, believe it or not, that was how I got the short.

into Hollywood's hands was that I was on working with Atlantic Records on a friend of mine. And he was, we were both in film school and you know, we would be out at these clubs and he would be kind of playing his music for whoever. And he, you know, put together this demo that got a music deal that got a record deal that, and I was doing the movies and the movie deal. They kind of springboarded off each other. And he was the kind of guy that would just be like, you know, and like he would.

do that thing that's now almost like a caricature. There's something about like a drop during an underworld song or whoever it may be that you're just transported magically into a place that you're completely immersed in this make believe. And then it's suddenly you feel like you owe to that daydream all the supporting material so that you're like, is there any way that I can...

bring you to this place that I found that's so magic. Yeah, it's the drug. And to be over simplistic, it's, you know, to say that a soundtrack to me in some ways is as important as the movie itself that I'm watching. I'm walking through the house over the weekend. I can hear in the other room and I know my wife, if it's a cloudy day, she's flipping on James Bond.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (53:56.358)
or Jason Bourne, one or the two, right? That's so funny. And they both have specific signatures, you know, completely ingrained to both franchises. And the minute you hear that, that's all you got to hear. And you're instantly in the world of James Bond. And you're instantly in your mind is racing. You know, there's an Aston Martin, you know, there's going to be a chase, you know, that, you know, there's going to be a hot woman, there's going to be cocktails. And it's the same thing with this kind of thing, you know, I,

I can imagine hearing, I mean, I'm thinking of, it wasn't Tangerine Dream, Vangelis did Blade Runner. I wore the grooves out of that album listening to that soundtrack. When Rutger Hauer does the tears in the rain scene, I know that piece of music. When they're flying over the clouds at the end, you know that piece of music.

And so going back to your point, it's so intricately woven into the story itself. Again, that whole moment with AI making this creative move and the idea that inevitably you'll have AI written music and what that future will mean and feel like. I was hearing Tiësto all through it. It's so funny. That's great.

Well, I got to admit that as I was looking for your website, which I could not find. Yeah. I was expecting, I'm like, James is going to have this gorgeous cover front and center. He's going to have pieces of music that inspired particular chapters. And I'm going to so groove with him on that. And I couldn't find the website. Yes. That this is, this is okay. It should be there. Correct? It should. Yeah. Yeah.

So how about you and I and Shane sit down and figure out how to make that happen. I love that idea. No, I love that. As soon as you started describing it, the first thing that popped in my head is like, I need to talk to this guy, whether it's on microphone or not. But yeah, my whole online presence and a lot of it has just been a lot of cave dwelling. Yeah. A lot of writing. Well, and PS, and this is a diatribe we could spin off of and we're going to wrap here in a second, but you know, it's interesting.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (56:22.886)
Because I get to interview the best writers in the world, you know, there's so much out there that's clamoring for our attention. So do we spend our time crafting the word that the word that we can control even roughly and make a living or do we spin? And this is a little bit of my soapbox or do we spin all this imaginary energy and hoopla in the social media world?

to propagate this further expansion of our brand. Meaning, does it fall on deaf ears because of the massive starvation for our attention? Or is it time better served to just let the product? Is that a question? No. It's a statement and a question because part of my research on people is I want to know what you look like, I want to know where you've been, I want to know what you studied, I want to see your website.

your website's gonna be the home to who you are. I wanna see your social media presence, cause I wanna see what kind of traction you have with an audience. Right, so you're aware of the fact that I have zero. I am aware. Yeah, I'm a ghost. I'm not trying to throw you under the bus. No, I'm glad, this is awesome. Yeah. This thank you. Well. Honestly, thank you. Sure. And you touched on something, my fiance will say, the mother of my daughter. Mm -hmm.

I'm getting better at pulling out the phone and taking pictures because you have to as a dad. But it does come down to, when your business is cinematography or photography, when your business is writing, and so you have a specific place that's a format to deviate into something where, for me, it's very, I'm like, I don't know that language. I don't speak that language. Like,

When I use the iPhone, I'm always just like, I want something that's on my shoulder. Right. I want like a lens barrel. Yeah. Right. That I can feel that I, cause I don't, when I'm holding this thing, it doesn't feel natural and right. And you know, that's cause I'm a dinosaur. Pre -order. Yes. Where can you pre -order? Everywhere. Okay. Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Target, Goodreads, I think Walmart. I think you can just buy it everywhere. And it'll drop on.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (58:46.054)
July 23rd. July 23rd. Yeah, that is the super Tuesday for Grand Theft AI. Thank you. No, thank you. Thank you for having me on. It's been a pleasure and an honor.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (59:01.062)
Thank you.

As we close, I want to say thank you for subscribing to our YouTube channel and for following us on X, Instagram, and Facebook, all at The Thriller Zone. I'm your host, David Temple. We'll see you next time for another exciting episode of The Thriller Zone.