Steven Gould is the author 8 Science Fiction books including the just released 7th Sigma and the New York Times best-seller Jumper, which was made into a movie not too long ago. He has been nominated for many awards for his short fiction including for the Nebula and Hugo Awards. 7th Sigma takes us to a time close to our own, but to part of America that has been changed by metal eating bugs turning the land back closer to that of the Old West.
MH: Thanks for joining us. Now most people are familiar with you from Jumper, but with your latest release 7th Sigma you've gone for something completely different with more of a Sci-Fi Pulp Western. What brought about 7th Sigma?
STEVEN: 7th Sigma was born of my love of Rudyard Kipling's Kim, Manly Wade Wellman's Who Fears the Devil?, the place I live (New Mexico), and studying the martial art aikido for sixteen years. As I've said elsewhere I wanted to have the multi-cultural semi-lawless sort of setting that colonial India was and I achieved a little of that in the post-infestation territory. Kim has a semi-vignette sort of structure but Who Fears the Devil? even more so--it was a fix-up, more of anthology, of Wellman's Silver John stories, previously published in magazines. I wanted the chapters to be story like in of themselves. Tor.Com published "Bugs In the Arroyo," a slightly modified version of chapter 15, and "A Story With Beans" is also set in the territory. I have a different story, "Rust With Wings," which takes place in the first days of the infestation appearing in a 2012 YA Apocalyptic Fiction anthology called After edited by Ellen Datlow and Teri Windling.
MH: I was wondering if we were going to get a look at the earlier day of the infestation. The format reminds me a lot of serialized stories with every section seemingly being able to stand on its own while still creating an overarching story as well. Kim Monroe is a really intriguing character. He is very independent yet respectful in an Old West kind of way. Was this always his story or were you tempted to focus more on the bugs or Ruth?
STEVEN: Early on, I was definitely trying for that each chapter had a small arc. Some are more stand alone than others, like the chapter with the feral dog pack, and the sections dealing with the thief. The last third of the novel, though, is more continuous.
This was always Kimble's story but it's not a very internal viewpoint. I was trying very hard to show, not tell, and I think we see more of Ruth from Kimble's viewpoint so we possibly get more of an emotional sense of her. The respect thing for Kimble comes less from the old west and more about traditional Japanese dojo culture.
MH: 7th Sigma seems like only the first in a series. Will be seeing more of Kim and get to the bottom of the bugs?
STEVE: There is definitely some unresolved stuff with the bugs. I know where the bugs come from. The US government does, too, but doesn't want to share that with the world. Other governments want to know. The next book would involve Kimble being involved with the central issue of the bugs and the associated issues of foreign intelligence agents trying to figure that out, too.
However, that's not the next book I'm writing. I'm currently working on the last chunk of Impulse, the sequel to the Jumper book, Reflex. We'll see how the 7th Sigma does before worrying about its sequel.
MH: Well, I certainly hope we get to see more of Kimble. This brings up an interesting point that Steph Swainson recently came out about her belief that publishers require a book a year and the stress that put authors under. Yet you've been known to go as long as 4 years between releases. Do you think publisher's drive author's to do a book a year. Do you agree with her at all that if can effect the quality?
STEVEN: I suspect I would have a better career if I would write faster and I'm trying, but it's not absolutely necessary to be the fast writer. Between Gravity's Rainbow and Vineland Thomas Pynchon had a short story collection but Gravity was published in 1973 and Vineland was 17 years later, to the month. A Feast For Crows by George RR Martin was out in 2005 and its sequel is out just now.
I'm not saying I have the audience or the talent of Pynchon or Martin, but people often have careers that don't involve a book a year or multiple books a year. And some people do.
If I'm reading her bibliography correctly, Elizabeth Bear had 4 novels out in 2005, 3 novels out in 2006, 5 novels out in 2007, 4 novels out in 2008, 3 novels out in 2009, and 2 out in 2010. 1 of those was a collaboration.
In other words, careers are as different as writers are. There's no doubt that without the JUMPER movie, I would not be a full time writer now, not because of the movie money, but because of the movie publicity that still brings people to my back list.
I might be able to write faster and even better but I'd be happy with one book a year. I'm trying.
MH: Everyone having a different career is how I've always seen it. Now I've heard rumors that the Jumper movie sequel is in the works again. Are you privy to anything?
STEVEN: I have not heard anything official about the sequel to the Jumper movie. I've seen articles that quote some of the actors as it still being on the table but Doug Liman is involved with other projects. Obviously I would be delighted if it was. There's no publicity like movie publicity. It's television, newspaper, web, billboard, etc., and it all leads back to the original book. I also get some cash if they make a sequel and that wouldn't suck either. Kids heading off to college and all that.
MH: What is it about Aikido that has kept you involved for 16 years? Have you been looking to work in your interest into a book for a while?
STEVEN: I was always interested in aikido. As a teen I did both Judo and Karate, but I wanted a martial art that I could practice for the rest of my life. One of the great things about aikido is a technique doesn't have to do lasting harm (or you can kill someone with it). It's the Martial art you can use on a inebriated relative at the family reunion without getting kicked out of the family. This choice, not to inflict harm, is an advantage as I don't have to hesitate to respond to an attack. Worrying about the harm I might do =would= cause me to hesitate.
My third novel Helm actually has a bunch of aikido in it, but it was written after I'd been practicing only about 3 years. I was much more interested in talking about the actual techniques, then. Now I'm more interested in talking about dojo culture and the relationship between teacher and student.
MH: Now on to the important stuff. What is your favorite type of hat? Living in the South West you must need one.
STEVEN: I'm terrible with hats. My favorites are broad brimmed panamas but they're the hardest to take care of. The most effective one I own, a baseball cap with an integrated drape to protect the neck and the sides of the face, looks the dorkiest. I used to wear a Khaki fedora reminiscent of Indiana Jones but it got trashed. Thankfully no balds spots yet so it hasn't been critical, but I am a redhead so keeping the sun off my skin is a priority.
MH: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Is there anything you'd like to say to close us out?
STEVEN: Thanks for having me. If you or any of your readers are at the WorldCon in Reno, do say Hi. It's my first worldcon in a very long time.
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