01 March, 2010

Coffee with Alastair Reynolds

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.


Bryce L. said...

Oh, trilogy means 3... :) But seriously, every now and then someone will explain something that's obvious to everyone but me because I just assumed and we all know what that does.

Great interview and awesome opportunity. Sounds like a cool guy.

buddyt said...

Seeing that from the picture he is obviously a male (or an exceedingly cunningly disguised female) was it really necessary to refer to him as Mr Reynolds ?

If you are having coffee with the guy call him Alastair.

ediFanoB said...

One of my goals for 2010 is to read more sci-fi.
I read SEEDS OF EARTH by Michael Cobley. Next one will be CROSSOVER by Joel Shepherd.
THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN by Gene Wolfe and HYPERION by Dan Simmons are on my list too.

So far I didn't read a book by Alastair Reynolds.
After reading your post I will add PUSHING ICE to my list.

bloggeratf said...

@buddyt I'm half french - Mr. is the closest english equivalent to 'vous' which is a sign of respect.

bloggeratf said...


I'm scared to write anything now for fear of making you live another 100 years just to finish you pile! Pushing ice was great, but do Hyperion first. That is just a classic.

Valashain said...

I finished The Prefect recently and I loved it. I'm going to have to dig up some of his non-Revelation Space books. Pushing Ice a good place to start then?

bloggeratf said...

@ Val

Alastair thinks House of Suns is his best book. I haven't gotten to it yet but I would take his word for it... he is after all the author.

Pushing Ice was great though, so I highly recommend that as well.

Valashain said...

Wouldn't a writer always be convinced his last book is his best? ;)

ediFanoB said...

reading books is like a bath in fountain of youth :)

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what I like about it is the aspect of the book which Mr. Reynolds praised was its emphasis on making the reader think, that's exciting when we have to think to get ideas.m10m