5 QUESTIONS: Gary Gibson, author of Survival Game
07 August 2016
By Rob Cox
Following up the explosive Extinction Game, Gary Gibson returns with the tremendous Survival Game, which sees American adventurer Jerry forced into an uneasy alliance with Katya, a scientist for the Russian Empire, in the hunt for a supremely dangerous artefact that both quickly realise could wipe out whole worlds. We spoke to Gary about the writing of Survival Game prior to its release next Thursday. You can read an exclusive extract right here.
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1. What's the 'elevator pitch' for Survival Game?
If Extinction Game was about putting the last men and women from multiple post-apocalyptic realities into one room to see what happens, then Survival Game is about the danger of finding something that can give you anything you can imagine, but at the cost of destroying everything you ever knew or cared about.
2. The complex relationship between Russia and the USA form the backbone of the story - what made you explore that in particular?
Mostly I wanted to hark back to the kind of SF written in the Eighties, when the Soviet Union was still very often a part of an imagined future: Survival Game gave me an opportunity to play in an otherwise outmoded sandbox. However, I wanted to avoid the cliche of Soviets bad/Capitalists Good, which is why there's also a second, alternate, imperial Russia, doing some very bad things. Of course, none of the three major powers depicted in the story are "good" beyond what they each do to ensure their own survival (hence the title). There's also the fact that introducing a new, outside character allowed the reader to see the Pathfinders through a separate set of eyes.
3. Are there any specific Apocalypses in pop culture that inspired your own?
The only reasonable answer is: all of the above. If you write a standard post-apocalypse story, you're stuck with that specific apocalypse. You can't realistically portray _all possible_ apocalypses in a single setting unless you're writing comedy or satire. Rather than specific examples, it's more accurate to say that it's a sub genre that appeals to the part of us that's eternally fascinated with the notion of a ruined world.
4. Which book would you always recommend to someone, and why?
A Scanner Darkly, by Philip K. Dick, for those unfamiliar with science fiction; Neuromancer by William Gibson, for those with a taste for noirish experimentation; and Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson for those who've already read the other two.
5. What's your top writer's tip?
My top writer's tip? Well, the one thing nearly all unpublished writers do in my experience is write about a character standing on a hilltop thinking about something that's already happened, rather than showing that inevitably far more interesting thing actually happening. Show us the cool thing, don't just describe it through the perspective of some bloke standing in his kitchen staring out the window at his garden for thirty pages.