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Interview d'Alastair Reynolds VO

Interview d'Alastair Reynolds VO

ActuSF : How did you meet Science Fiction and what did you like in this kind of literature?
Alistair Reynolds : Science Fiction has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Even as a small child, the films and TV shows that most interested me were SF - Star Trek, Dr Who, Fantastic Voyage, The Time Machine.

ActuSF : What pushed you into writing some?
Alistair Reynolds : From about the age of five I found that I liked writing stories - it's just always been something I've done ever since then.

ActuSF : How is born the idea of Chasm City?
Alistair Reynolds : I wrote about something like Chasm City in my first, unpublished novel. I reused some of the ideas in the later books and stories, adding details and complexity until it felt real. The notion of a city in a perilous environment owes a lot to Larry Niven's Known Space stories.

ActuSF : How do you see the “Amarantins”?
Alistair Reynolds : I could not visualise them at all until one day I got a mental flash and saw them with absolute clarity, after which they made sense to me. They're kind of like dinosaurs, only humanoid.

ActuSF : Is alien archaeology a subject that interest you and why?
Alistair Reynolds : It's a theme that crops up now and then in my work, although I wouldn't say it's an overriding interest.

ActuSF : Does it reveal something for you about humanity?
Alistair Reynolds : Not really - I think it's just a fun notion to play with, especially in a hard SF or horror context.

ActuSF : You talk about non-human people. What interests you in them?
Alistair Reynolds : I like my aliens to be as alien as possible, and I like my humans to be (mostly) weird. Too much SF reassures the reader with familarity - I don't want that. My favorite SF novels are full of strangeness, I hope.

ActuSF : Redemption Ark describes in particular, the Conjoineurs, a DNA modified kind of humans. How do you see the future for humanity?
Alistair Reynolds : I wouldn't like to guess. I'm broadly optimistic but I think we're in for some rough times. Obviously, genetic engineering, intelligence-augmentation soon will play an increasing role. But I still think there'll be a broad base of people alive in a 100 or 200 years who are pretty much the same as us, with similar longevities. Even if immortality becomes practical, it'll be hundreds of years before the technology reaches everyone on the planet, even if everyone wanted it. We still can't get basic medicine to millions of people!

ActuSF : Does it have to change?
Alistair Reynolds : No, but it probably will.

ActuSF : What kind of relationship do you have with your characters?
Alistair Reynolds : They're just figments of my imagination I move around on paper. They don't have any independent existence when I'm not writing about them. I don't sit around thinking "I wonder what Clavain's been up to" or anything like that. And they do what I tell them, not the other way around!

ActuSF : In France, we can read five tomes from Chasm City but you already have written seven of them so far. What can you tell us about the two following tomes we are still missing?
Alistair Reynolds : Well, there are five novels in the Revelation Space universe (I wouldn't call it the "Chasm City" universe) and three other novels that are totally unrelated. The other books are Century Rain, a kind of SF detective/time travel story set in an imaginary version of Paris, and Pushing Ice, a novel about first contact with aliens.
The third book, House of Suns, appears in the UK in 2008 and deals with a galaxy-spanning family of clones, six million years in the future. I'm not sure what the next book will be yet, although it probably won't be about space travel.

ActuSF : Is it to go on?
Alistair Reynolds : There will be more novels in the Revelation Space universe, if I get ideas for them.

ActuSF : Another of your books has been published in France so far: Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days containing two novellas. How is born the idea for these two stories?
Alistair Reynolds : Both novellas were commissioned, written and published separately, for individual books. I approached them as long stories, not thinking ahead to when they would eventually be gathered together. Diamond Dogs was written a year before Turquoise Days, which is why one story is quite dark compared to the other.

ActuSF : What this book means for you?
Alistair Reynolds : It's another book. If it served a useful function, it allowed people to read a little bit of the Revelation Space universe in short form, without having to commit to reading a 600 pages book. I don't know if it worked like that, though!

ActuSF : You are often said to be a Hard Science author. Do you agree?
Alistair Reynolds : Not really - I mean, I've occasionally used the label myself, but only as a kind of short hand to distinguish what I write from, say, fantasy or Star Trek. But although science is vitally important to me, I'm not a nuts-and-bolts writer in the sense that I agonise over all the calculations and technical details. I'm not interested in reading that kind of SF, and definitely not interested in writing it. I see myself more as a writer interested in the concerns of "core science fiction" - space travel, the medium-term future, artificial intelligence, alien life, that kind of thing. Rather than, say, satire, politics, interpersonal or gender relationships etc. Not that I don't think good writing can avoid any of those things, of course - it's just that they're not my primary concerns.

ActuSF : What appeals you in Science to the point of making it such an important part in your books?
Alistair Reynolds : Science is just intrinsically fascinating - can't say more than that. It's like music - I couldn't live without it.

ActuSF : Do you see yourself as an author from the New Space Opera?
Alistair Reynolds : Sort of, but only in that I see the NSO as being part of a gradual continuum that goes right back to the Golden Age. I don't believe that there was a sharp discontinuity between the old and the new, just a gradual increase in sophistication,

ActuSF : Do these classifications have a meaning for you?
Alistair Reynolds : When I'm doing interviews! Otherwise, I just get on with the job. I don't sit down and think "I'm going to write a NSO story today". I might sit down and think "I'm going to write a story about alien contact".

ActuSF : You worked for the ESA (European Space Agency). Did your work feed your imagination? Or did it have an influence in your writing?
Alistair Reynolds : No, my work was pretty much irrelevant to my writing.

ActuSF : Or… was it the other way? ?
Alistair Reynolds : I worked in such a specialised field that I never saw any big connection with anything that I was writing.

ActuSF : Do you talk with other Scientifics to breed your novels?
Alistair Reynolds : No - apart from reading magazines and books, it all comes out of my own head. I don't like to talk about ideas before I explore them in fiction. Exploring them in fiction is the point of the whole exercise, for me, and I'm arrogant enough to assume I don't need someone else's expertise to validate my own crackpot ideas!

ActuSF : Why did you quit ESA?
Alistair Reynolds : There wasn't enough time in the day to be a scientist and a writer, basically. I could balance the two for a while, but eventually it began to get the better of me. In hindsight, it was an easy decision to make.

ActuSF : What are your projects, now?
Alistair Reynolds : I have just completed my eighth novel, House of Suns, and - in between doing edits on that book - I am writing a couple of short stories. I will start a new book in March, but I don't know what it's going to be about yet.

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