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 War. Paul 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: 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: 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.
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The Quiet War by Paul McAuley
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