In this week’s PW, Lenny Picker chats with Alastair Reynolds about Blue Remembered Earth. Here are the Qs and As that didn’t make it into the magazine.
Lenny Picker: Many of your novels have been called dark and dystopian-do you agree?
Alastair Reynolds: Not really. “Dark” is such a cliché. And I don’t see my work as being particularly dystopian. Most of my futures are democracies. They might be stressed by external effects but that doesn’t make them dystopian.
LP: Do you embrace the space opera label?
AR: Occasionally, but more and more often I’m getting weary of it. It imposes a set of expectations which are as often as not are not going to be met. Just because a book has space travel and other worlds in it doesn’t make it space opera, but you’d be forgiven for thinking the opposite judging from some of the reviews and commentary in the field.
LP: With a limited number of science fiction plots, how do you avoid repeating yourself?
AR: I don’t think sci-fi’s toolkit of plots is in any way more limited than any other sphere of literature. Really, it’s what you do with the plot that matters. Readers will forgive any old hackneyed plot if the story is told with a freshness of vision. I don’t worry about it. I’m not the same writer I was 10 years ago so even if I attempted to re-tell one of my existing books, it would come out differently.
LP: How have religion and politics evolved in the future of Blue Remembered Earth?
AR: I don’t say much about religion. It’s probably there in the mix somewhere. I’m not religious myself but I don’t see religion
disappearing as a force in society any time soon. I suppose I’d like to see a bit more of a shift in the direct of enlightenment thinking generally, but—as they say—some of my best friends are religious and they seem as tolerant and open-minded as anyone else. Political systems in the book are, I think, broadly similar to today: there’s mention of a scandal in the Pan African parliament, for instance, so we still have parliamentary democracy, a version of the UN etc. I didn’t want to make it like Star Trek where all these contemporary institutions have been swept away.
LP: How much of an effect does readership requests have on continuing a series or writing sequels?
AR: Not much. I’ve steadfastly resisted requests for a sequel to Century Rain (lots of people didn’t like it, but a pretty good number did, judging by the emails). On the other hand, I’ve always said I’d like to return to the universes of Pushing Ice and House of Suns and I hope to do so one day.
LP: Will you return to the Revelation Space universe?
AR: Yes, one day.
LP: You’ve praised a book I’m unfamiliar with, Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix—can you talk a bit about it and how it impressed you?
AR: I’m in danger of saying too much about it. It’s a wonderfully dense and imaginative slice of space-based SF, dealing in the grandest of themes. It was the first cyberpunk space opera, with an imaginative boldness almost unseen in the field beforehand. A reviewer at the time described the book as feeling as if Sterling had been to the future and come back to report on what he’d seen. That captures very well the feeling of off-hand weirdness and stone-cold plausibility running through the thing. It’s dated in only very minor ways since 1985: the characters record things onto tape, there’s no real sense of virtual or augmented reality. But in every other respect, it’s still ahead of the game.
Read the rest of the Q&A in this week’s issue of PW.