Somewhere, out on the edges of the Post Bulletin's coverage area, there is a writer who conjures fantastical, gripping — and surprisingly deep — tales of werewolves, ancient demons, malignant hackers and post-apocalyptic lands — and has yet to receive the attention here he deserves.
Sounds like it could be the premise of one of Benjamin Percy's own stories.
"I've always been interested in channeling cultural unease," he says.
Somehow, Percy, 38, who has called Northfield home for the past 5-1/2 years, has escaped anything more than cursory attention in Rochester — no substantial features in the media, no library or bookstore events — and he may be little-known by Med City readers.
And why would that be? Percy's a star in the lit-fiction firmament since publication of his collection "Refresh, Refresh," the title story of which landed in the anthology "100 Years of the Best American Short Stories" alongside better-known names including Alice Munro, Richard Ford and George Saunders.
"Red Moon," his breakthrough novel from 2013, seems destined for a TV or movie screen near you.
And more, Percy branched out in 2014, channeling a childhood enthusiasm to become a comic-book author. He has penned two recent volumes of DC's "Green Arrow" and one volume of "Teen Titans," among his work on other titles.
His newest novel "The Dark Net," takes a page from his comics work. It is, to use Percy's words, "a fast, mean book" involving hackers possessed to call up demons who want to take over the world.
More than a surficial adventure story, though, "The Dark Net" is an allegory for Percy's own unease with digital technology. The story grew from a series of personal episodes — his father's computer was hacked, a friend's tax returns blotted by identity theft, among other episodes — that fueled his interest in tech and its darker sides.
Percy, by nature a technophobe, immersed himself in a tech-centered lifestyle for an article for GQ. He flew to Silicon Valley and interviewed engineers at Google, Apple and Verizon about their products — and their vulnerabilities.
"Even as I'm writing this (GQ) story … I'm also pestering people with questions that I know will feed into the book," he said.
He began to learn about the dark net, a real-life sphere online where hackers dwell. "ISIS is there, the neo-Nazis are there," Percy says. "Mail-order drugs are available, murder-for-hire is available."
It is, he says, a setting worthy of a modern-day Grimm's fairy tale — a virtual deep, dark woods.
"There's so many things that we fear right now, but cybercrime is chief among our vulnerabilities," he said.
Along the same lines, Percy observed something darker than mere distraction in our faces staring endlessly into handheld screens. To him, our use of such devices starts to resemble spiritual possession.
"I became more wary and paranoid (of technology) than ever," he says.
In other words, there's more going on in "The Dark Net" than just your standard potboiler.
"I grew up on mass-market paperbacks," Percy said. Later, "I fell in love with literary fiction, but I never fell out of love with genre."
A 2003 anthology, "Thrilling Tales," edited by Pulitizer Prize-winner Michael Chabon, featured literary authors writing genre thrillers. Reading it marked a turning point for Percy, demonstrating to him that the territories of the stories he admired and the stories he loved were not mutually exclusive.
"I started to think less about boundaries and categories and more about writing something that was both artfully told and compulsively readable," he said. "I think the tide is changing because of cheerleaders like Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem, Karen Russell and Margaret Atwood being in the spotlight right now."
And, maybe here now too, Percy himself.
The Ben Percy File
— Lives in Northfield with his wife, Lisa and two children.
— Received wide attention for his short story collection, "Refresh, Refresh" (2007). The title story, first published in the Paris Review, was included in the anthology "100 Years of the Best American Short Stories," edited by Lorrie Moore.
— Percy's novels include "The Wilding" (2010), "Red Moon" (2013), "The Dead Lands" (2015) and now "The Dark Net." Besides "Refresh, Refresh," he has another short story collection, "The Language of Elk" (2006) and "Thrill Me," a collection of essays on fiction-writing.
— In recent years, Percy has become an author of comics. Since 2014, he's written two issues of "Detective Comics" (No. 35-36); Vol. 6 and 7 of "Green Arrow" and Vol. 6 of "Teen Titans."
— A comic-strip version of "Refresh, Refresh," by Danica Novgorodoff, based on a screenplay version by James Ponsoldt, was included in the 2011 anthology "Best American Comics."
— Other awards Percy has won include the Whiting Writers Award, the Plimpton Prize, two Pushcart Prizes and an NEA fellowship.