Alastair Reynolds is an author I greatly admire (Pushing Ice, which I recently reviewed, is one of the most enjoyable science fiction novels I've ever read). So I'm extremely happy for having the chance of publishing the English version of Cristina Jurado's interview with Reynolds. This interview was originally published in Spanish on Más ficción que ciencia, Cristina's blog on Libros.com (which I strongly recommend if you read Spanish). Cristina had previously reviewed Terminal World and she talks at length with Alastair Reynolds about this novel and his work in general.
Without further ado, here comes the interview. Enjoy!
Cristina: I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for the sci-fi blog of Libros.com. On behalf of the avid readers of your books in the Spanish speaking market, we appreciate your gesture.
Alastair Reynolds: No problem...
C: Even though you have written many wonderful novels, we would like to focus on Terminal World. One can almost feel the sweat going through the tunnels in Steamville or the wind in the face while riding in the Swarm airships. Could you tell us a bit about the inspiration for this novel?
AR: It had been germinating for a couple of years, perhaps as a reaction to the quite high-tech environments of the last few books before that (House of Suns, The Prefect, etc). I definitely wanted to get away from spaceships and space travel for a bit, and be able to write something a little more planet-focused. From the outset I had in mind a protagonist who would be some kind of doctor or healer, but with an otherworldly slant. The rest sort of followed...
C: It seems to me that most of Terminal World characters share some kind of marginal status: Quillon is an angel living under a adopted identity, Nimcha is a powerful but stigmatized tectomancer, Meroka is a street smart body guard… How did you build the characters and their relationships?
AR: I don't think I've ever gone into a book with a very clear idea about more than one or two characters, if that. They tend to evolve organically as the story ensues, gaining (one hopes) depth and distinctiveness. Given Quillon's plight, it seemed natural that he would associate with people on the margins, rather than those with direct access to power and/or knowledge. One thing I wanted to develop was the idea of an uneasy but building friendship between Meroka and Quillon; it's very easy to fall into bickering antipathy between characters but I felt it would be a good challenge to sketch out an unlikely but plausible friendship between these two very (as you say) marginal figures, both of whom have secrets and pasts.
C: You are well-known hard sci-fi and space opera writer. Some may argue that that is because of your Astronomy background. Why Steampunk this time?
AR: I wasn't intending it to be solely steampunk but clearly some of that aesthetic was going to come through. I think it goes back to your first question: it was a change of mood and scenery that I needed. I would add that many of my previous novels have featured gothic or Steampunky creations to one degree or another, so it wasn't a complete break from tradition. By the time I was half way through writing it, it felt perfectly normal - airships instead of spaceships, cities instead of planets, but otherwise the same.
C: In your website www.alastairreynolds.com you show a lot of interesting information about your works, the way you understand writing and your future projects. You also have a very active twitter account @AquilaRift. What is your opinion of the impact that social media have in the relationship between writer and reader?
AR: I'm still finding out. On one level, I'm quite naturally suspicious of social media. I have gone into every stage of my interaction with the wider world with a degree of skepticism and fear. It was a long time before I felt it was wise to have a blog, for instance - and then a long time after that before I opened the blog up to comments.
Jumping onto Twitter is another step in the process, and again one I approached with a fair measure of caution. One thing I will say is that, as far as I'm concerned, the cult of the author is dead. The Internet, blogging, social media, have made authors almost infinitely accessible. The downside of this is that there's no particular need for anyone to go and meet an author in person anymore. I get lots of emails and tweets from people asking me about when I'm going to do a signing in town X or country Y, but when I do a signing, there are often very few people present.
Obviously, when I'm writing a blog entry, or tweeting, there's an element of public performance about it. I'm candid, but not to the point of insanity. I have a private life as well - there are lots of things I wouldn't go into online.
C: I read that you do not intend to write a sequel to Terminal World, then why the open end?
AR: One person's open end is another person's satisfyingly ambiguous ending, I'm afraid. You'll never please everyone, nor should you try. For my money, the major mysteries in TW are resolved by the end of the book, yet there's a hint that the more adventures await the characters, if they so chose. What happens to Quillon? I don't know.
C: Finally what can you share with us (without unveiling too much) about your next novel Blue Remembered Earth?
AR: It´s out now, so I'm almost in danger of talking the thing to death. It's a big book about the future of space exploration over the next 150 years, and also about the world in the 22nd century - my attempt at a realistic snapshot of where we might be, in a post-climate change society. Africa is a major economic power, which I find perfectly plausible.
C: Thanks again for allowing us to know you and your work a little bit more, Mr. Reynolds.
AR: You're very welcome! Best, Al
About the interviewer:
Cristina Jurado Marcos writes the sci-fi blog Más ficción que ciencia on Libros.com. Having a degree in Advertising and Public Relations by Universidad de Seville and a Masters in Rhetoric by Northwestern University (USA), she currently studies Philosophy for fun. She considers herself a globetrotter after living in Edinburgh, Chicago, Paris or Dubai. Her short stories have appeared in several sci-fi online magazines and anthologies. Her first novel From Orange to Blue will be published in Spring 2012.