An interview with Jonathan Strahan about Meeting Infinity

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Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Jonathan Strahan about his latest anthology, Meeting Infinity (Solaris Books, December 2015).

Meeting Infinity is part of The Infinity Project series.

Jonathan Strahan is an award-winning editor, anthologist, and podcaster. Since 1997 he has has edited more than forty anthologies including The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Infinity, New Space Opera, and Eclipse anthology series. He is the recipient of the World Fantasy Award, a three-time winner of the Locus Award, a four-time winner of the Aurealis Award, and an eight-time Hugo Award nominee. He is the reviews editor of Locus, and the co-host of The Coode Street Podcast. He lives in Perth, Western Australia with his wife and their two daughters.

Click here to visit his official website.


RS: Your latest anthology, "Meeting Infinity", will be published by Solaris Books in December 2015. What kind of a science fiction anthology is it? What can readers expect from it?

JS: This is hard science fiction at it’s best, I think. Meeting Infinity is a book that asks serious questions about our future — where are we going, how will we have to change to survive, will we still be human when we get there — but casts the answers to those questions as some of the most engaging and entertaining stories I’ve read.

Readers can expect the kind of science fiction that has appeared in Edge of Infinity, Reach for Infinity and others – a great variety of science fiction stories, ranging from tense thrillers to light adventure, from fun to some really serious stuff.  What will they find? Well, like the book itself says there are dark age barbarian princesses, Mexican ninja zombies soldiers, icy interrogators of networked intellects, searchers for eternal youth, warrior families hiding in the corners of a future haunted by machines bent on our destruction, and distant deep space protectors of humanity’s future.

It’s a book I think really came together very well.

RS: How did you select the stories that were included in "Meeting Infinity"? Was it challenging to edit this anthology?

JS: Meeting Infinity is an original anthology. The means the stories here aren’t so much selected as created. I gave a lot of thought to the kind of questions Meeting Infinity should address and who was best suited to answer those questions. I then sent out invitations to some of the best and brightest writers of SF we have and they really outdid themselves, sending me some truly wonderful stories.   The ones that went into the book were the ones that resonated the most with me as a reader, that were most engaging, and which actually talked about living in a possible future.

I do think editing any “Infinity” book is challenging. I want each one to be better than the last, each one to cover new ground. So finding new writers to engage with, like Simon Ings, Kameron Hurley, Madeline Ashby, Ramez Naam, and Benjanun Sriduangkaew, none of whom I’d worked with before, was really important. They all brought something fresh to the book. Then there was finding some balance, making sure stories were diverse, took different points of view, and really did engage with the question of how we’d have to change ourselves to thrive in the futures we might find ourselves in. I think that was important and really worked well. It was also wonderful to have some well-known voices in the book. Gregory Benford returning to the Galactic Centre for a follow-up to Great Sky River was particularly exciting, though I love all of the stories in the book.

RS: Did you have any guidelines to authors who contributed to this anthology?

JS: I try to keep away from giving authors guidelines that are very detailed. Instead my focus is on picking the right writers and then giving them a space to create in. I asked each of them to imagine a possible future and then look at how we might have to change as human beings to thrive and survive in that future.  I also asked them to be sure they were writing hard SF and that they kept their stories tight. The stories in the book do all of those things. Short, sharp future shocks, one and all.

RS: "Meeting Infinity" is part of the "Infinity Project" series. Could you tell us something about this series?

JS: I love short stories. I love fantasy, I love horror, I love mainstream and I love hard SF.  The Infinity Project started with the idea of producing one book that showcased modern hard science fiction. That book, Engineering Infinity, was a real success and I discussed following it up with my editor Jonathan Oliver. Looking around, it seemed to us both that no-one was consistently looking at the heart of science fiction, it’s core if you will, so we thought that the Infinity Project could do that: provide a venue where we could explore classic SF themes in a modern context with some of the best writers out there. Edge of Infinity looked at the middle future, an industrialized solar system. Reach for Infinity looked at how we might get off Earth and move into space and ultimately to the starts.  And other volumes will continue with that. Meeting Infinity looks how we change to meet the future. It’s a series very close to my heart and I love editing it.

RS: How does "Meeting Infinity" differ from the other anthologies in "Infinity Project" series?

JS: It’s the first to really look inward at how we as people are changed by the world we live in.  Previous Infinity volumes looked at the grand adventure of getting off Earth, living in our Solar System, and then moving to the stars. This one puts humanity center stage, and I think it shines for that. It also introduces some new writers to the Infinity Project, which is very exciting. Any book is a music made up of many voices. This group combines some well-known voices with some new ones. I hope that will continue as the series grows.

RS: Will you edit more "Infinity Project" anthologies in the near future?

JS: Yes, definitely! I love the “Infinity Project”, as I’ve said, and I hope to keep editing them for some years to come. I’m currently working on the next book in the series, Bridging Infinity, which will focus on living in, around and with the sort of grand engineering projects that have been a mainstay of science fiction for generations.  Think Dyson Spheres, wheelworlds, artificial inland seas and all of that. It’s proving to be enormous fun already. It should be out late next year. And I don’t think that will be the last of the Project. I’m talking to my editor now about ideas for future volumes, and we’re both pretty excited about what we can come up with.

RS: Is there anything you'd like to add?

JS: Just that the Infinity Project really is an extended love letter to the science fiction genre. Along with some wonderful writers, we’re taking the opportunity to present great stories that are real science fiction, but that are fresh and modern and new. It’s been a privilege to work with the writers we’ve had on board so far, and it’s something I hope to be doing for years to come.