An interview with sci-fi author Gary Gibson

Gary Gibson's new standalone sci-fi adventure is here at last.

Marauder is an adventure thrill-ride worth waiting for. Here Megan must race across space to reach the Marauder, an ancient space entity, to beg, borrow or steal its dangerous secrets. But the price for this knowledge may be just too high. Megan should know, as she still bears the scars from their last encounter … See here for more on that great plot and here for a free extract from Marauder. And for fans of Gary's Shoal trilogy, this book is set in that same universe, although you don't need the background for this standalone novel as it's set hundreds of years later. 

But first, Gary has opinions on writing, why we don't have our jetpacks and favourite sci-fi jargon below. 

1. What did you most enjoy about writing Marauder?

The thing I've found with books set in the Shoal universe is the same thing a lot of writers probably find, when working on any kind of series where there's some commonality in the characters or setting or both. It gets easier to come up with story ideas because you start to figure out things about the setting and/or the characters that never occurred to you. It's like you built a house and one day you walk in and, House of Leaves style, there are rooms that weren't there before. That's pretty much what writing new books set in the Shoal universe feels like. I was discovering places and ideas that felt like they were always there, and I just hadn't noticed them until now. But once I did notice them, I had no choice but to write about them.

2. For you, what are the benefits of writing a stand-alone adventure like Marauder, as opposed to a longer series?

Long series take a great deal of advance planning. It's essentially a single story broken down into very long chapters. That's fine, but it doesn't allow for a great deal of freedom in some respects. The Shoal trilogy didn't actually start out as such; it didn't occur to me I could maybe write a sequel to Stealing Light until I'd finished that book. And Nova War didn't arrive fully-formed either. When I started it, I had absolutely no idea what the third in the series, Empire of Light, was going to be about. But by that point I'd gained enough confidence in my writing I felt comfortable about, essentially, flying blind and seeing where I'd landed. Discovering those new, hidden rooms in the house I'd already built, as I said earlier.

3. Science fiction has promised us various pieces of future tech. We have smartphones, google glasses and microwaves, but are missing the personal jet-pack, the space elevator and the Star Trek’s transporter. Is there a piece of future tech you really want right now?!

I've always quite fancied Chevette's paper bicycle from Virtual Light. I think there's a cardboard one out there, but that strikes me as more of a proof of principle than anything you'd want to write in. Apart from that, a personal wormhole would be nice. Or essentially some kind of magic door you could use to step through and suddenly you're in New York, or Adelaide, or Tokyo or wherever. Of course, if such technology really did exist, our society would have to become radically different.

4. Do you have any favourite science-fictional words or jargon? And if so, what do you like about them?

Kurt Vonnegut's Chronosynclastic Infundibulum. Just roll it around in your mouth. Now say it like Carl Sagan would say it. It's like honey, isn't it? Also, "interociter" (from This Island Earth). Think of the things you could do with that word. 'Throw him into the interociter'! Or, 'I think your interociter is jammed'. Or, 'sir, using your interociter in this fashion is not only highly unhygienic, it voids the warranty entirely'.

5. Lastly, if you could say anything to yourself as a debut writer, with the experience you have now, what would it be?

That it's okay to trust yourself. Even when you get to be a novelist, you still can't quite be objective enough about the quality of your own writing, and whether it's objectively really any good. You're left with no choice but to throw it out there and let somebody else judge if it comes up to the necessary standard. That's not to say I'm now able to be completely objective about my stuff, but I now have enough technical awareness of how I write that I can usually tell if I'm doing something the right way or not.