ICON, the sequel to PERSONA, is officially out in the world! It takes place more or less a year after PERSONA’s assassination attempt on Suyana Sapaki, in which there’s a new, calm, stable status quo…for about five minutes, since the International Assembly is not the kind of crowd you can leave unattended.

NPR was very kind (and cracked me up in the middle, for reasons you might guess). And Barnes & Noble was similarly kind: “near-perfect” is the sort of pullquote you dream about.

It’s always strange for me to talk about my own writing; it’s doubly strange to be introducing a political dystopia at a time when the real world is surpassing fiction at an alarming rate. But part of the reason I wanted to write PERSONA and ICON was to examine the ways that we’ve come to read the world, including (maybe especially) politics, through the language of celebrity.

There’s a lot of hand-wringing recently about celebrity culture being harmful or shallow, a sentiment I understand but have mixed feelings about. It absolutely can be harmful, but its power to harm lies in the fact that it isn’t at all shallow – that its language is deeply understood, and its power is actually kind of terrifying. (Selfies are under fire largely because the people taking them are both photographer and object, which blurs traditional ideas of image control, particularly for women, who are encouraged to be objects and endlessly discouraged from being the point of view.)

Celebrity culture directs the ways people talk about what’s important by altering the message to appeal: environmental activism as boutique industry. Celebrity culture has taught us to scrutinize staged photos whether it’s Hiddleston and Swift on a beach or Paul Ryan standing in front of a sink of clean dishes in a soup kitchen. (I talk a bit more about that in a blog post for Tor.com about the red carpet, “candid” shots, and why imaginary lives sway us so much.)

The flip side of that is why staged candids exist at all: to get ahead of the story that will be spied on otherwise. Tabloids prove that we’re willing – even eager – to rob celebrities of their privacy as part of some invisible contract with the audience that they can only be human if they’re willing to do it in front of a camera. It’s a mess. It has undertones that are deeply misogynist, classist, racist. And (as much because of that as despite it), celebrity culture has become an indelible part of the theater of existing in public. PERSONA and ICON exist because I think it’s all fascinating, and because I wanted to examine what it means to exist entirely under that pressure, and how far you can fight back against what made you.

(This is also one of those books that took a village. Anyone willing to break down plot with you or read a draft chapter by chapter is gold, and I am grateful beyond words for them.)

You can buy ICON at IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Indigo.