Interview de Stephen Baxter V.O.
( 1 )
de Stephen Baxter
aux éditions ActuSF
Genre : SF

Auteurs : Stephen Baxter
Date de parution : février 2007 Inédit
Langue d'origine : Anglais UK
Type d'ouvrage : Interview mail
Nombre de pages : 1
Titre en vo : 1
Cycle en vo : Guin Saga
Parution en vo : février 2007

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As, at very last, Time is hitting the shelves in France, it occurs that the man behind the writer remains quite enigmatic here.

Hard science writer, often compared to his counterpart (three more B’s – Bear, Benford and Brin), each of his books were praised by readers and reviewers, but that was it. Stephen Baxter was kind enough to tell us a bit more about himself, his writings and the way he envisions our future.

ActuSF : As you were a kid in Liverpool, dreaming about your future writing carrer, were you picturing yourself as a Paperback Writer or a Fool On The Hill ?
Stephen Baxter : For me it was always ‘Paperback Writer’. I read autobiographies by Asimov and others. As soon as I realised you could have a career as a writer, that’s what I wanted, so from my teens I tried to write finished stories in a professional way that had a chance of being published somewhere. I wanted to be a paid paperback writer, not a hungry fool.

ActuSF : Do you consider yourself as a hard science writer ?
Stephen Baxter : I consider a lot of my work to be hard science fiction, that is sf based on ideas drawn from serious science, and restricted to ‘plausible’ extrapolation of those ideas. I’ve always found hard sf very satisfying as it’s a glimpse into possible realities ; this is the central rhetorical purpose of sf. Time is one of a series exploring different possibilities about our place in the universe – are we alone or not, and what does it mean ? Each of the possibilities is a realistic plausibility. But I also write a good deal of other stuff. My current project is an alternate-historical thriller series called ‘Time’s Tapestry’ ; I did an animal fantasy in my ‘Mammoth’ series. I write hard sf ; I’m not solely a hard sf writer. 

ActuSF : Your books show a great scientific literacy. So I guess they need a lot of documentation. How do you work ?
Stephen Baxter : I do a lot of research. I read a lot, from newspapers to science magazines and journals, to histories and biographies, anything that looks interesting. Of course I browse the internet too. I go to talks ; a couple of years ago I took part in an archaeological dig. I’m always looking for anything that snags my attention ; I suppose some new angle that fits in with my concerns and interests. For instance in Time the basic driver was a long-term fascination with the Fermi Paradox – if aliens exist, why don’t we see them ? Once I have hit on something, I’ll do some deeper research – mostly books still ; the internet is wide but shallow – enough to flesh out the idea, maybe write an outline for a book. Then I’ll do a lot of detailed research, like cramming my head for an exam. Fiction is about characters and plot, but the research gives me the furniture of the world they will live in, as well as the driver for the sf story.

ActuSF : As a writer you’re not afraid by quite vertigineous concepts. Do you think that SciFi has to face up such concepts ? Do you consider that science fiction has a cultural function ?
Stephen Baxter : Sf, the modern form (from Verne, Wells and others) is a literature of change, deriving from a time of huge technological, scientific and philosophical upheaval (especially the theory of evolution, which entirely changed our view of ourselves and our place in the universe). The future contains change, whether we like it or not ; this century we can actually see the change coming, through climate change, and in the further future we know the universe will evolve into something entirely unlike the conditions we see now. Even our descendants will be different, as in Time. I see sf as a way of exploring a universe of change, of different futures. Since the future contains overwhelming change, sf has to face such overwhelming concepts. And culturally sf helps us assimilate the implication of future changes – in fact it gets us used to the idea of change itself. Sf is entertainment, not education. But we are better able to debate ideas from cloning to eco-collapse through representations in sf ; even The Day After Tomorrow helped people grasp the essential point that climate change will be a big deal. You could say that sf is a kind of mass therapy to help us cope with the inevitability of change.

ActuSF : Do you think that we - Humans - have an overestimated opinion of ourselves ?
Stephen Baxter : No. This is actually what Time is about. We still have no proof that there is any life beyond Earth, let alone any intelligent life. What if we are the only intelligence ever to evolve, or that ever will evolve ? In that case, for all our flaws, we may be the consciousness, and conscience, of the whole universe. That’s pretty big. And it behoves us not to blow ourselves up, because if we do the universe may remain without mind, forever.

ActuSF : Unlike Vernor Vinge, or authors of the like, you feel uncomfortable with the idea of being a career scientist. But do you think that your novels are a way to explore your own scientific theories ?
Stephen Baxter : I grew up reading sf, and was drawn into a) trying to write sf b) trying a science career. I got as far as a doctorate in engineering, but I was always interested in the wider picture than in my narrow research, so fiction suited me better. I do try out science ideas in my books, and sometimes get involved in genuine science projects, for instance I recently worked on a design for a base at the Martian north pole with the British Interplanetary Society. But sf was always my first love.

ActuSF : What makes you feel optimistic about future ?
Stephen Baxter : The fact that we’ve survived Ice Ages and the Black Death and an insane predilection for war, even equipped with nuclear weapons. Now we show signs of working together over the coming emergency of climate change. We may just be sane enough to save ourselves.

ActuSF : Do you think that the future of Humanity lay in inhumanity ?
Stephen Baxter : Perhaps. Probably. The differences between us and the hominid species who went before, our creativity and language, are tiny in genetic terms, and evolved very fast, but turned us into aliens as far as the creatures we shared the planet with are concerned, the Neanderthals and other antecessor species. We did emerge among them, for that’s how evolution seems to work, a small group fast-forwarding to a new form amid a larger population (just as the Blues do in Time). And then having no empathy for them - whatever qualities they had in themselves they were not ’us’ - we out-competed them into extinction. Perhaps now we might put them in zoos, but that’s just as bad ; it would be the end of their story. I see no reason why Homo Superior wouldn’t do the same thing to us.

Eric Holstein