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alastair reynolds

interview 01:05

An interview with Alastair Reynolds

'Revelation Space' and it's attendant novels are breath of fresh air into the science fiction genre, and we thought it'd be a good idea to sit down and pick Mr. Reynolds' brain for awhile. We had plenty of questions on any number of issues, and Mr. Reynolds was kind enough to make time for them all. We conducted our interview via telephone at around 1pm EST, on Mar. 4th, 2004. After getting some logistic issues out of the way, we got down to the nitty gritty (yeah, that's right... we went there... we said that. nice)


[DGN] You've been writing short stories for well over a decade now. Was there a tangible point when you felt ready to take on the novel format, or was ‘Revelation Space' something you had been working towards for awhile?

[AR] Yeah, I've been working to it. I mean, even before I sold my first short story I was working on early versions of that book. There was never a point where I wasn't writing, but I started working seriously on short fiction probably when I was about 18. At that point I had already written two novels, just in my spare time for my own amusement. When I was about 19, I found out that there were science fiction magazines that you could submit short stories to. I put quite a bit of effort trying to break into ‘Interzone', the UK magazine. All the while I was trying that, I was also working on an early draft of the novel. I sold my first short story in 1989 which came out in 1990. Throughout the 90's I started, abandoned, picked up and reworked various drafts of the novel. It was always going on there in the background.


[DGN] If I'm correct, you have a couple short stories coming out later this year.?

[AR] At the moment I've got one coming out in Interzone, and another one in a paperback compilation for the end of the year ('Constellations', edited by Peter Crowther, clarification via correspondence). Schedules do change, so I don't know when that's going to happen.


[DGN] With the success of ‘Revelation Space' and the subsequent novels, do you still intend to keep writing short stories?

[AR] Oh yeah, absolutely. I really enjoy writing short stories, and I'd write more of them if I had the time. I've never been super prolific – I think even in a good year I've only written about four or five of them. If I haven't at least written and tried to sell a couple, I'm slacking. I wrote a couple last year and a few this year. I've got plans for stories that I'll sit down and write when I've got a bit of time. I think short stories are a really good discipline for any writer. For me they're a way to try stuff that pushes me a little bit more. To try out things that wouldn't necessarily fit in the novel that I'm writing at the moment.


[DGN] Would you say ‘Revelation Space', ‘ Redemption Ark ', and ‘Absolution Gap' are for all intents and purposes a trilogy, in so far as continuity of characters and plot lines are concerned?

[AR] Well, I never thought of it as a trilogy. I don't mind people calling it a trilogy but I don't think of it as one myself. It was never conceived as one. I think if you look at most trilogies, no matter how they're written, they do tend to have one central character, a main character who appears in all novels. With these books, the focus shifts to different characters in each novel. There's quite a gap of time between each book. The way I thought of them were of snapshots of larger events. It just ended up as three – it could have been four, it could have been five.


[DGN] So you consider 'Chasm City' to be on the same footing as any of those novels?

[AR] Yes, it's definitely the same setting. The way that happened was I had finished 'Revelation Space' and was trying to sell it. Selling it took two years and in that period I wrote basically the first draft of 'Chasm City' . I had that down and ready when they made an offer for 'Revelation Space'. Most publishers are keen to know if you have anything else you're working on, so I was able to say I had another book which was set in the same universe, a prequel to it.


[DGN] For your readers to get the best experience, do you think 'Chasm City' should be read before the three other novels, or after?

[AR] I don't think it really matters to be honest. It's clear you should probably read 'Revelation Space' first, of the three that relate to the Inhibitors (editors note: The three, in order, are 'Revelation Space', 'Redemption Ark'. and 'Absolution Gap'). You might as well read them in the order they were written (editors note: This refers to 'Chasm City' after 'Revelation Space' and before 'Redemption Ark'). In some respects I think 'Chasm City' is a better written book than 'Revelation Space', so there is a progression of writing there. Different characters are handled a bit better. It doesn't have quite the same hard SF scope to it, which some people might miss. I had an email from a guy last week who's read all my books in exactly reverse chronological order and he said he hadn't had any problems. So you know, what the hell? Just read them as you find them.


[DGN] You intially wrote 'Revelation Space', and then followed it up with 'Chasm City'. After that, had you always planned on returning to the world and characters you had begun (in 'Revelation Space')?

[AR] Not really. I'm not really one for planning things in great detail. I never really think more than one book ahead and usually I'm not even thinking beyond what I'm working on at any given moment. I think by the time I'd written 'Chasm City' and sold 'Revelation Space' I had a bit of distance from it, and saw how I might go back and continue that story. The message I was getting from people was that they wanted to hear more about it, as there were some unresolved questions there. I felt that there was some mileage in that universe. I still do – I still think that there are areas of it I want to go back to and explore.