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Lou Anders Editor of Pyr Books

Ian Tregillis author of Bitter Seeds (review here)

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Character Interviews

Alexia and Lord Maccon from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Lord Akeldama from Gail Carriger's Soulless

Eva Forge from Tim Akers's The Horns of Ruin

Atticus from Kevin Hearne's Hounded


The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

Cold Days by Jim Butcher

Year Zero by Rob Reid

Alif: The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Control Point by Myke Cole

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
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AUTHOR INTERVIEW | Paul McAuley author of The Quiet War

McAuley has been turning out well regarded Science Fiction since the late eighties with books such as Cowboy Angels, White Devils, and most recently The Quiet WarPaul McAuley totally had me lost in The Quiet War (review here) universe and has had no small part in getting me back to reading more Science Fiction as of late, since I was going through a bit of a downturn earlier in the year.  He is also known to release as much as a 1/3 of his books through his blog, so there is plenty of material out there to get a taste.  There are also many short stories which Paul said are early iterations of The Quiet War universe loosely grouped as the Outer System stories, although he has said things changed a bit as the novel progressed.

MH: Hello Mr. McAuley, welcome to Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to catch-up with us. Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself?

McAULEY: I was born in England back in the steam age, went to school during the space age, worked in various universities during the rise of the digital age. I used to be a scientist (biology: interactions in plant-animal symbioses); then I was a scientist/SF writer; then I was a university lecturer/scientist/SF writer, and reached a point where I either had to give up my academic job or become a full-time writer. Chose the latter, haven’t regretted it.

MH: What was the inspiration behind The Quiet War?

McAULEY: We have to go back more than a dozen years, when I started writing novellas and novelettes set on various moons of the gas giants and ice giants of the outer reaches of the Solar System. As I deepened and widened my research into the landscapes and histories of those moons, I was overwhelmed by their amazing variety and exoticism. For decades, SF has been imagining all kinds of strange and bizarre worlds that might be orbiting other stars, and all the time they were right here in our backyard. A variety richer and stranger than we could imagine. So that was one big influence: the images sent back by the two Voyagers and Galileo and Cassini, and trying to turn them into landscapes which human beings could inhabit. The kind of thing that Arthur C Clarke and Kim Stanley Robinson (and JRR Tolkien, come to that) were and are so good at. There’s also a reaction against the default californication of space habitats in 1970s and 1980s - every illustration looking like an architectural rendering of a mall, that most deadening and soulless iteration of large enclosed spaces. I wanted to imagination a much wider variety of biomes and closed ecosystems, and inspiration for that came from studying all kinds of gardens around the world, as well as years of curiosity about how biological systems fit together.

MH: One subgenre that is on the rise in at least the public eye, if not in literature, is Green Punk (see Do you think The Quiet War is Green Punk? And what do you think about the movement?

McAULEY: It isn’t *intentionally* Green Punk because I hadn’t heard of the term until this very moment. It is fairly critical of turning environmentalism into a creed in which faith and good intentions are more important than actual observations and understanding of natural systems. Usually signified by a totemic reverence for charismatic species like polar bears or whales, and only a glancing knowledge of the complexity of ecosystems and their ultimate dependency on humble microorganisms. And it does share Green Punk’s credo about use of appropriate technology, something I developed more fully in a previous novel, The Secret of Life, where the more extreme radical greens would tailor themselves to live off the land. The point being, in the end, that nature isn’t something that cares about us; but we are, by our overwhelming numbers of use of dwindling resources, must care about nature.

MH: The Green Saints, while important to the back-story of The Quiet War isn’t explored in-depth. Can you tell us a little more about them and the inspiration?

McAULEY: I was thinking of the influence of Rachel Carson on environmentalism in the 1960s, and speculated in a very vague way about what might happen if the green movement became a religion - or at least, fused with one or more the world’s major religions. The Green Saints are living embodiments of that fusion, hugely influential in their time (after a sudden and catastrophic environmental disaster) but more revered than followed by the time The Quiet War starts. So if they’re sketched in a little vaguely it’s because they’re part of the texture of the back-story.

MH: The idea of humanity repeating history and trying to control one another comes up a bit in The Quiet War. Do you think humanity as a whole can overcome this?

McAULEY: It would require either a vast effort of collective will, or a massive change in human nature. There have been various experiments in harnessing collective will - Soviet Russia is an obvious example. An attempt to create a kind of modernist utopia that very quickly fell apart as its leaders fought amongst themselves. We can always hope that the next attempt will be better, of course, but the chances aren’t great. So any break-out from old patterns will require some kind of change in human nature, perhaps through reengineering ourselves. Which may, of course, lead to all kinds of new and unpredictable problems.

MH: You keep a very active blog and often post large sections of your books to them in addition to copious articles. Do you feel having such a presence has been important to your success?

McAULEY: The books are the main thing. I spend most of my creative time and energy on them. The blog is a spin-off from all that activity, really. A kind of scrapbook. Notes on some of the things I’ve encountered during research, of passing and more permanent enthusiasms, and half-formed (or half-baked) ideas more notion than thesis. And like many authors I put up extracts and other free stuff in the hope that they might interest people passing through the blog to check out the actual work. I have no idea how well that works, but it’s cheap and relatively easy to do, so why not?

MH: Awhile back Stephen Hawking put out a statement saying humanity needed to start spreading out into space and living there or our race will die. What is your feeling? Is humanity destined to die out?

McAULEY: Well, I’m very dubious about the lebensraum argument for space exploration and colonization. As Oliver Morton has pointed out, there’s always New Zealand. As for long-term survival of the human species, well, apart from a few archaebacteria, all species on Earth have either died out or evolved into something else. I don’t think that Homo sapiens will be any different, except in one respect: we’re developing tools that may enable us to rewrite our genetic inheritance. So we might become the first self-determined species, able to improve ourselves at will. Or before we’re able to do that, our burgeoning overpopulation may cause a massive reboot of Earth’s ecosystems. Either way, our decedents won’t be much like us.

MH: Gardens of the Sun, which is the sequel to The Quiet War was just released in the UK. Where does the story go from The Quiet War and do you think GotS will be the last book with these characters? Also, do you know the planned US publication date from PYR?

McAULEY: Publication of Gardens of the Sun in the US is presently scheduled for March 2010. In one sense it’s a direct sequel to The Quiet War, in that it picks up and follows the stories of the characters in the first novel through the aftermath of war and the development of new tensions. But I prefer to think of the two novels as a diptych. The first about the onrushing inevitability of war; the second about attempts to win some kind of conciliation and new direction out of war’s aftermath. The first is the lesson; the second is the lesson learned.

MH: Who are some authors/books you think are under appreciated and deserve a wider audience?

McAULEY: Apart from me? Sticking to SF, I think that authors like Cordwainer Smith, Cyril Kornbluth, Joanna Russ, Thomas Disch, James Blish, M John Harrison, and Pat Cadigan deserve wider attention. For the quality of their writing, for their vigorous inquiry of convention, and because they wrote (and write) at a slant to the genre’s mainstream. That isn’t easy, it’s a big risk with generally little reward, but it opens up all kinds of possibilities that are later exploited by other authors.

MH: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

McAULEY: Thanks for asking me what I’m going to do next. It’s one of two things, and I’m not sure yet which is more urgent (which may mean that I end up doing something I haven’t yet thought of).

MH: Thank you for your time. I’m looking forward to US release of Gardens of the Sun early next year.

You Might Also Like:
The Quiet War by Paul McAuley
Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams
The Walls of the Universe by Paul Melko


Anonymous said...

Great interview Hatter! I'm halfway through The Quiet War right now and am absolutely loving it. It also rekindled a my passion for SF. Via la advenutre!

Anonymous said...

Great Interview - really liked hearing about the Greenpunk aspect

The Mad Hatter said...

After reading The Quiet War it had me thinking a lot about Green Punk. Originally I was hoping to have McAuley do a guest blog about Green Punk, but his schedule didn't allow it.