Jul 1, 2009

Follow-up on Alastair Reynold's Big Fraking Deal

For the past week, the SFF blogosphere has been abuzz with the news of Alastair Reynolds' BFD (Big Fraking Deal) with Gollancz. That figure (1,000,000 GBP) sounds high but it's also a 10-year, 10-book deal so while still considerable, it's not quite up there with the latest Yankees contract (or Manchester United if you are lucky enough to live where Reynolds books are released first). $150K per book is nothing to sneeze at. Unless you're Dan Brown, Stephen King, or John Grisham, I don't think too many authors would be turning that down. Make sure you add Reynolds to your Fantasy Science Fiction team.

Last week, Alastair Reynolds had a discussion with The Guardian which you can read here. I recommend checking it out as Reynolds offers some unique thoughts on Hard SF.

I don't like a lot of what's published as hard SF," he says. "Much of it is rightwing, reactionary crap." Hard SF's insistence on abiding by the laws of contemporary physics is more than just a straitjacket, he continues – it's also unrealistic. "If you're speculating about the state of knowledge 500 years from now, or even 50 years from now, there will clearly be things that will be known then that we would now consider to be nonsensical, or which would directly contradict present theories, in the same way that plate tectonics would have been considered pseudoscience 100 years ago."
I tend to agree with him here. A lot of Hard SF ends up being boring, incomprehensible, or both just because authors let their imaginations get reined in by the current understanding of science. While I think you need to stick to some Hard SF rules, the story should always be the most important element. The most critical aspect for me isn't 100% scientific accuracy, just internal consistency. (Star Trek reboot, I'm looking at you)

Reynolds also provides some insight on the (bad pun alert) novel ideas that might materialize over the next ten years.
As part of the discussions over the new contract, he was asked to sketch out an idea of where he might be in 10 books' time, he continues, "which is crackers. But actually it's not that hard to think of 10 books I want to write." At the moment he's hatching a trilogy charting man's exploration of the galaxy, inspired by a visit to the Kennedy Space Center last year. "It was almost like an epiphany," he says. "I was completely sold on the idea that this is still a valid ambition for us as a species." He's planning to chart a possible future open to us if we can pass through the planetary bottleneck which confronts us now, with books set in logarithmic jumps 100, 1,000 and 10,000 years into the future. With a refreshing lack of the reluctance many novelists show when asked to discuss as-yet-unwritten works, he describes how he is aiming to move beyond the well-trodden path of setting up fictional bases on the moon or Mars, and re-examine how the solar system might be conquered in the light of new scientific data from the last 10 to 15 years.
That sounds interesting. Almost everything I have read has dealt with the beginnings of colonization with the Moon or Mars or assumes it's already happened before the time frame of the book. It would be interesting how Reynolds thinks the colonization of our solar system might play out. I'm guessing we would get to Mars by 2100 and visit anywhere in the solar system we can land without dying by 3000. It will still be interesting to see how that plays out and how he intends on tying a plot to it.

Reynolds also discusses gender issues in SF, settling for imperfection, and why he became a SF writer. Go read it.

And for the love of Asimov, START PUBLISHING REYNOLDS WITH WORLDWIDE RELEASE DATES. I'm tired of waiting for the US editions.

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