Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing the science fiction author James Lovegrove.
James Lovegrove published his first novel at the age of 24 and has since had more than 40 books out, including The Hope, Escardy Gap (co-written with Peter Crowther), Days, The Foreigners, How The Other Half Lives, Untied Kingdom, Imagined Slights, Worldstorm, Gig and Provender Gleed. His short fiction has appeared in magazines as diverse as Interzone and Nature and in numerous anthologies. He has written extensively for reluctant readers, with titles such as Wings, The House of Lazarus, Ant God, Cold Keep, Kill Swap and Dead Brigade. He has also produced a sequence of teen fantasy novels, the Clouded World series, under the pseudonym Jay Amory. He is a regular reviewer of fiction for the Financial Times and lives in Eastbourne on the south coast of England with his wife Lou, sons Monty and Theo, and cat Ozzy.
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AN INTERVIEW WITH THE SCIENCE FICTION AUTHOR JAMES LOVEGROVE
– Solaris Books will publish a three part retrospective of your early works and the first volume will be published in December 2014. The first volume contains Days (1997) and Untied Kingdom (2003). Have the original texts of these books been revised in any way in this volume?
Not in any way. These are the same texts that Solaris have previously published as ebooks, taken from the original published editions. I suppose I could have gone through them making alterations here and there, perhaps updating the odd reference, but I don’t really see the point of doing that. Although the world has changed a great deal in the decade or so since they were written, the ideas behind the stories remain consistent and as true as I can make them.
– How would you describe and advertise Days and Untied Kingdom to readers who haven’t read them yet?
Don’t come to these novels expecting military-SF action-adventure thrillers in the manner of my Pantheon novels or the Dev Harmer books. They’re both satires – one about consumerism, the other about a Balkanised Britain – and have a wryer tone to them, like Ballard but with jokes. There’s plenty of thrills, spills and chills in them, but not as much in the way of fantasy or SF trappings as readers of my more recent work might be used to.
– Do you already know which books will be included in the second volume or will this information be revealed later to readers?
The second volume is going to contain Provender Gleed and Worldstorm, and the third The Hope and The Foreigners. Originally there were going to be only two of these omnibuses, each showcasing three novels apiece, but that would have meant the books running to well over 1,000 pages, which would be undesirable, and indeed almost impossible, in production terms. So we’ve settled on doing three instead.
– Your latest science fiction novel, World of Fire, is the first book of the Dev Harmer Missions series. How would you describe it to readers who are thinking of reading it? What can readers expect from it?
This is slam-bang, in-your-face, no-holds-barred, no-punches-pulled, full-blooded outer-space adventure, as fast-paced as I can make it, with outlandish monstrous animals and a race of AI extraterrestrials as the main adversary. I’ve been reading a lot of classic, Golden Age pulp fiction lately, and the Dev books are intended to hark back to that era, not in their content but in their overall tone and execution. I’m not trying to re-create Flash Gordon here, say, or Doc Savage, but channel the spirit and energy of those stories and their authors into something contemporary.
– The protagonist in this new series is Dev Harmer. What kind of a character is he?
Dev is a can-do kind of guy. He gets inserted repeatedly into new, dangerous situations and has to get up to speed within moments and cope, because the alternative is most likely his death. He works for a non-governmental agency, Interstellar Security Solutions, who beam his digitised consciousness into specially cloned bodies and send him on peacekeeping missions along the border between the human-colonised areas of space and those owned by Polis+, the AI race. It’s a kind of futuristic Cold War, and Dev is one of the people whose job is to make sure the hostilities doesn’t turn hot. He’s an indentured servant of ISS and is trying to earn back his true body, which is currently on ice and being rebuilt for him after he suffered near-fatal injuries in combat. He’s fast-thinking, quick with a quip, but I think very relatable because he’s not a superhuman, he’s just highly competent and efficient. He’s sort of an anti-James-Bond, not suave, not sophisticated, not a killing machine, someone who gets things done, but not necessarily in the cleanest or prettiest of ways.
– The Dev Harmer Missions series sounds interesting and original, because the events in the first book take place on a planet where the conditions are extremely dangerous. How did you come up with the idea of writing about this kind of a planet?
The Big Concept behind the series is that each book is set on a different planet and each planet is an example of some kind of environmental extreme. Alighieri in World Of Fire is like Mercury in our solar system, its surface superheated during the daytime by its close proximity to its sun. Its human inhabitants live in subterranean cities, mining helium-3, and going above ground even during nighttime is hazardous and potentially fatal. I just thought it would be fun to have Dev venture into places where everything is poised to kill you. Space is a dangerous place, and in the series, very few of the planets colonised by the Terran Diaspora are what you might call holiday resorts.
– The follow-up to World of Fire, World of Water, will be published next year. Will it be a direct sequel to World of Fire or is it a standalone book?
World Of Water begins mere moments after World Of Fire ends, but it’s a standalone story. The idea is that the books happen in sequence but you don’t necessarily have to have read the previous one in order to catch up. Further down the line certain characters may recur. I’m definitely thinking of reintroducing someone from World Of Fire in the third or perhaps fourth books (no spoilers as to who that someone is). I want there to be continuity and consistency in the series’ chronology, but I’m also doing my best to make each individual novel a satisfyingly self-contained reading experience.
– Is there anything you’d like to add?
I’m really hoping readers will give the Dev books a chance. If they’ve liked my Pantheon novels, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t like these as well. Dev is cut from the same mould as the protagonists of some of the Pantheon books, especially David Westwynter in The Age Of Ra, Gid Coxall in The Age Of Odin and Lex Dove in Age Of Voodoo. He’s a good soldier who’s also trying to be a good human being, thrust into events that sometimes seem beyond his control but which he learns to master. If there’s any common theme uniting the Pantheon novels and the Dev books, it’s that.
– James Lovegrove