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By Patrick (2006-10-18)Q: For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, give us a taste of the story that is CROSSOVER.
Crossover is the first book in the adventures of Cassandra Kresnov. Sandy (Cassandra) is an experimental artificial person, created to fight a war for the progressive League against the conservative Federation. The League took a risk in making her more intelligent than their usual creations, in order to make her more dangerous... but this gave Sandy a greater degree of creative free will as a result, and she decided she didn't like the League's war, and defected to her former enemies, the Federation. The story starts in Tanusha, the 57-million-strong capital metropolis of the planet Callay, where Sandy is incognito attempting to make for herself a new life as a civilian. Except that her past, of course, catches up with her, and mayhem ensues.
Crossover has elements of cyberpunk, military SF and political thriller, but is neither entirely one nor the others. Mostly it's a character driven story about a woman struggling to make sense of her own existence, and to find a place for herself in a frequently hostile world.
Q: What can readers expect from the subsequent two volumes of the series?
A further development of Sandy, her relationships and circumstances in Tanusha, some of which improve, and some get worse, but none of which are ever simple. I've been really pleased with the number of different levels on which Sandy's character works, both on the personal and dramatic level, and also on the more philosophical issues that her existence raises. And of course there's any number of great action sequences for her to get involved with. After you spend this much time with a character, she begins to seem like an old friend, so it's been really nice to get to know Sandy better over the course of the series.
Q: What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?
I'd like to think I've got more than one! But overall, I think maybe realism. It's one thing to come up with a cool idea for a story, but another to make it seem like it's really happening as the reader reads it. I've always loved stories that seem absolutely real, whether in books or on film or TV, where the creator steps aside from the process and makes him or herself invisible, thus allowing you to suspend all disbelief and just sink into the story and become absorbed by it. That's what I try and do in my writing, to create an immersive experience. Probably the biggest part of that is character development, which is hugely important to me.
Q: What authors make you shake your head in admiration?
There's lots of people I admire, but I don't really like listing them because lists just feel too forced and artificial. And I admire lots of writing that isn't fiction, too, like current-affairs columnists... I get inspiration from lots of places, TV and movies too. But I will say that CJ Cherryh was a big influence on me growing up, she was the first writer who demonstrated to me that head-burstlingly intelligent, and wickedly entertaining, were not mutually exclusive concepts.
Q: What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write CROSSOVER and the Cassandra Kresnov series in the first place?
I'd had an idea for a super-warrior in my head for a long time, I've long been fascinated by the concept of great power, and the morality plays entailed in deciding how to use such power. Not in superheroes so much, because so few of the great American superheroes actually kill anyone, which seems to me the true essence of great power -- the power of life and death. Comic book superheroes always seemed to me to be dodging the issue -- the villain threatens to kill entire nations, and Superman responds by punching him in the jaw... no. That's a false moral choice, because Superman gets off cheap -- he never has to make the truly hard choices, the choice of whether or not to take life... and possibly a lot of life... and as such, he never acquires much depth for me as a character. Sandy's dilemma is much deeper, because all of her power is derived from lethal force, and she's the kind of person who'd much rather be loving life than taking it.
But it never occurred to me to make her fully artificial until one day I was reading the manga of 'Ghost in the Shell' by Masamune Shirow, and some characters were talking about how in that world, cyborgs with human brains have souls, and wholly artificial minds do not. It seemed a strangely metaphysical and possibly indefensible notion... and what if you were artificial, and quite certain you had a soul, and deserved all the same rights as cyborgs or straight humans, but no one believed you? And then it occurred to me that this could be the super-warrior concept I'd had before, and the proverbial light flashed on in my head -- her ethical dilemmas, her struggle for a purpose in life, the discrimination against her, the fear she generated, the broader politics of her creation... etc. And I knew I had to write a book about her. Possibly several books.