My friend and fellow Milfordian the writer Liz Williams has tagged me for a blog tour of writers. The idea is to answer four questions and then link to two other writers who can also answer the questions.
I’ve done this a bit late (sorry Liz) and have yet to find my second victim, so this is all a bit of a shambles really, but never mind – on with the show!
1. What am I working on?
I’m working on a number of things. First and foremost is my non-fiction, popular book on Infrared Astronomy – with a developing web page attached to this blog. This is due with my publishers in the middle of May, which is one of the reasons I’ve been a bit delayed in answering these questions. The book tries to show much of the current state of our knowledge of the universe and how observations at infrared wavelengths have helped get us there.
Next is the short fiction. As well as writing non-fiction I also write SF, as anybody paying attention to this blog will probably have realised. I’ve been writing short SF for a while and continue to do so, though I’m in a bit of a dry patch as far as having submissions replied accepted or (I’m looking at you Analog) replied to. Current short fiction work in progress concerns environmental recovery, uploaded consciousnesses, and some rather worrying nanotech, as well as hidden agendas and identities. And there’s some politics in the subtext as well.
Finally there is the Novel In Progress, which has been in progress for quite some time. I was going to be working on that rather more in the past few months, but the non-fiction book contract had to come first. The book’s working title is The Bourbaki Conjecture, it is set in a future where human civilisation in the inner Solar System has been destroyed in an event known as the Collapse, and concerns events a hundred years after this when the small crew of a cargo ship find a survivor during a salvage mission. The elevator pitch tagline is: ‘If knowledge can kill you, what is the price of ignorance.’ The book is, in theory, the first of a trilogy.
2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?
In the non-fiction real, my work differs in that I try to tell a story at the same time as I’m presenting facts, and in that I try to present some idea of what life as a professional astronomer can be like. The opening section of each chapter in the IR Astronomy book is a small vignette from my experiences.
My non-fiction differs from others in that I am trying to write not only fairly hard SF – in that I try not to mess with real physics etc. too much – but I am also concerned with the conduct and meaning of science as well as its results. Being a working scientist provides me, I think, with an unusual perspective on this.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I write because it’s fun. When writing fiction – at least at first draft – it’s like watching a movie or listening to the radio but the pictures are better and nobody, not even you, knows what is going to happen next.
The non-fiction came as a bit of an accident, but it has led me to find out more about areas of astrophysics I’ve not worked on before and to look at the broader picture of some of what I am doing. Communicating my work to a general audience has always been important to me, and this book is part of that.
4. How does my writing process work?
This is not an easy question, as I think my writing process is still evolving. I certainly needed an entirely new approach for the non-fiction book.
For fiction I like to have an idea of where I’m starting – this can be as little as a phrase or a single image of a scene – and where I am going. Getting from one to the other is then something of an adventure.
For non-fiction, I think the key to me has been finding a story to tell. This can be the simple narrative of how something was discovered or how a technology developed, or it can be how a particular problem was worked on from different directions. Finding this story has proved crucial to how I’ve written the different chapters in the book. Before the story there was just a set of results. After I find it, I have a structure on which to hang the results.
Next victim: Guy Martland: http://guytmartland.blogspot.co.uk
And another victim will be added shortly!