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By Patrick (2007-08-09)
Dear Mr. Hamilton,Let us begin by thanking you for taking some time off your undoubtedly busy schedule to kindly answer our questions.
Q: Without giving anything away, what can you tell your fans about The Void Trilogy, and The Dreaming Void in particular?
The Dreaming Void is set in the same Commonwealth universe as Pandoraís Star and Judas Unchained, about 1,300 years after the close of the last book. Some old characters crop up, as well as some interesting new ones. The Commonwealth as a society has of course moved on, there are now several different types of human, with the Highers and Advancers being the two largest and most vociferous groupings. Highers enhance themselves with biononics, while the Advancers follow a route of genetic modification to Ďimproveí themselves.
Q: Will you be touring during the course of the summer and the fall to promote The Dreaming Void? If so, are there any specific dates that have been confirmed as of yet?
Iíve been told by my editor at Del Rey to leave a space in my diary for April 2008 for a possible visit to the US. No specific dates and cities yet.
Q: Will it be necessary to have read The Commonwealth Saga, which takes place in the same universe, prior to reading The Void series, or is it completely stand-alone?
I wrote the Void with the intention of it being completely stand alone. It was one of the things I was very conscious of while writing it, and kept asking my agent if there are too many unexplained references to things which happened before. He and the editor didnít think there were, so hopefully itís just writerís paranoia. For myself, I feel the references to events from the other two books give it a nice sense of a universe with history.
Q: Your fellow SF author Justina Robson has described her admiration of the highly disciplined way you write, planning the details of chapters ahead of time and so forth. How would you describe your own writing process?
That was very kind of her. Spending time working out plotlines and location notes is essential for me. There are some authors who can sit down to a blank page, and simply start writing a novel. Iím not one of them.
Q: What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?
With reference to the above answers, adding a decent amount of depth to the worlds and places I create.
Q: With authors such as yourself, Alastair Reynolds, Richard Morgan and Neal Asher, British SF seems to be flourishing at the moment compared to a general downturn in the genre, particularly in the United States. Why do you think this may be? And have you been tempted, as so many SF writers have, to switch to writing Fantasy?
Thatís a question that youíll have to ask the publishersí marketing departments. The number of readers certainly hasnít declined, so why SF popularity is falling I donít know. As to writing fantasy, there are sections in The Dreaming Void which are set in a world very reminiscent of a medieval magic society. So far the response Iíve had from the few people whoíve read it was very positive about those parts, so who knows. But I donít want to write anything just because I think it will sell. If I have a story that would benefit from being set in such an environment, then so be it.
Q: Were there any perceived conventions of the science fiction genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write those different series?
Not specifically break, no. However, there are definitely some horror elements in the Nightís Dawn trilogy, which were fun to blend in to a hard SF setting. And with the first Commonwealth books I enjoyed the thriller and detective elements. Now the Void has some sections which verge on heroic fantasy. All these make for interesting concepts when mixed together and given a good shake.
Q: With a renaissance in screen SF underway, particularly on television, has there been any more interest in adapting your works for the screen? I could imagine Greg Mandel working as an ongoing series, for example. Would you consider writing something for the screen if asked, such as for the new Doctor Who series?
Iíve had a few inevitable enquiries from producers, which also inevitably lead to nothing. As for screenwriting, itís a very different skill to novel writing, and at the moment I donít have the time. But Iím sure it would be fun to give it a go one day.
Q: Death, as a force that humanity is trying to defeat or avoid, seems to be a major theme in Nightís Dawn, Misspent Youth and the Commonwealth books. Was this a conscious choice at the outset for these stories?
Not so much death, but I am interested in the theme of where medical science is supposedly taking us. As a species weíre just not psychologically adjusted to living for more than a century, yet billions are being poured into research that leads to increased life expectancy. Suppose it works out, and we can live for three of ten times longer than today. Thatís the kind of question which SF exists for.
Q: A Second Chance at Eden collects together your short fiction from the Nightís Dawn universe. Are there any plans to collect your short fiction from outside that setting?
My short story output is incredibly small and slow. I did do a couple of stories between books this time around, mainly because I have a tough time saying no to Gardner Dozois. At the current rate I should have enough for a collection in another five years or so.