One of the great perks of following author blogs is catching them as they pass through your home town, which in my case is New York City (drop me an email if you live in the area). A comment and an email generally suffice to get a book signed, and sometimes you even get an hour at a Starbucks to ask all the questions you can think of. That's what happened last week when Mr. Reynolds and his charming wife were kind enough to grant me an hour of their time. It was a great and memorable experience.
A brief note before you read the recap. The conversation wasn't recorded and I didn't take notes or anything silly like that, so any errors in fact can, and should, be blamed on me.
The most interesting part of the whole conversation centered around Mr. Reynolds forthcoming novel, Terminal World: he reads the reviews. He can't help it, or so he says. One of the things which surprised him most about those few early reviews already floating around the web is that they missed the central point/theme/issue (it was rather unclear which). Without having read Terminal World, I can't even venture an educated guess as to what that point is, but I plan on keeping an eye out when I get my hands on that sucker.
To flesh out the issue a bit, we talked about his influences. He mentioned that he has read, and re-read three times, The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolf. I recently finished Mr. Wolf's masterpiece, and I cannot agree more. The aspect of the book which Mr. Reynolds praised was its emphasis on making the reader think. For those of you familiar with the Book of the New Sun, you know as a reader that you must parse truth from fiction, exaggeration from reality. It takes work, which naturally immerses you in the story. So, my suggestion is to keep an open mind when you read Terminal World, don't accept every fact as a given. You have been warned.
Mr. Reynolds was fairly forthcoming about his next project, lamenting along the way the lag between writing a book and finding it in the hands of readers. He says the trilogy - three books for the novices reading this- will be set in three distinct time periods. First, starting roughly in 2150 the first novel will cover approximately 100 years. The second will cover a thousand years and the last, you guessed it, will cover 10000 years - it will thus come as no surprise that the working title for the books in 11k. Given that there was significant mention of NASA and space exploration, I can imagine the first book in the trilogy will deal with humanity reaching for the stars. Interestingly, and I am paraphrasing here, he also mentioned that it would be a new take on space exploration. By sheer coincidence, I had just finished reading James Blish's Cities in Flight, which Mr. Reynolds suggested had also been an influence on his next project.
Well, those were the meaty parts of our discussion. The rest dealt mostly with his writing habits and conference talks. He does a lot of both... most recently at Boskone, he was on an all-star panel discussing The Singularity. Did I mention that he also writes a lot? All in all, my 45 minutes of being a nervous fan were both fun and intellectually stimulating. Alastair is as down to earth as they come and isn't scared to answer questions honestly.
And so, I wish upon all of you a similarly fun fanboy experience. And cheers Mr. Reynolds, thanks for the chat.
Lastly, I just reread Pushing Ice, which I cannot recommend enough for any fan of science fiction.