Please welcome the always awesome Adam Christopher back to the blog! His brand new SF, THE BURNING DARK, dropped last month, and he stopped by to answer a few of my questions about it, and more! Also, we’ve got a copy up for grabs courtesy of the nice folks at Tor, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Congrats on the new book! Will you tell us a little about The Burning Dark and what inspired you to write it?
The Burning Dark started from a very simple idea – what if you had a traditional ghost story, but instead of it being set in a haunted house, it was set in a haunted space station? From there the whole novel kinda spiraled out – how many of those traditional spooky tropes could I keep intact, and how much would I need to crowbar into a space opera setting? What else can you do with this concept over the 100,000 words or so of a novel?
I also love urban legends, and had been totally freaked out by the story of the lost cosmonauts (a collection of mythical cosmonauts sent up by the Soviet’s before Yuri Gagarin, none of whom returned, their missions then erased from official history). It seemed the perfect thing to weave into my ghost story. That also tied into this thing I seem to have for mysterious signals and transmissions – in my debut novel, Empire State, you get a sense of that with the strange phone calls detective Rad Bradley receives from an alternate universe, and I’ve even got a half-finished novel based entirely around television signal hacking and creatures that inhabit various electromagnetic frequencies. Maybe I’ll even finish that book one day!
The book has already gotten great reviews, but is a bit of a departure for you. What did you enjoy most about writing it, and what was most challenging?
It’s a different kind of book to the ones published by Angry Robot, but I’m a fan of science fiction involving spaceships and aliens as well as the weirder, cross-genre sorts of stories I am more known for. Having said that, there is plenty of genre mash-up in The Burning Dark, which is space opera and a ghost story, with a touch of godpunk thrown in.
It was fun to write, because like every book I’ve done, it was the story that needed to be told. The genre itself didn’t matter – the story I had was sort-of space opera, so I wrote a sort-of space opera. Creating a whole universe from scratch was enjoyable but also the most challenging part, because I was worldbuilding on a large scale – knowing that this was going to be the setting for several books, I had to be careful to seed stuff for the next novels in the sequence, and make a world that was defined enough for me to re-use without having to go back and fix all kinds of problems or loopholes in future books. That was the first time I had to consider such factors, and I found myself looking at the story in a different way – particularly as I was editing, as I had the next book in the back of my mind.
Do you think readers will root for Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland?
I think so – he’s a war hero and a career officer, but he seems like a nice guy. You’d go out for a drink with him for sure. He’s thrown in the deep end along with the reader – although the reader has a slightly better idea of what is going on than he does! He’s pragmatic, strong-willed… but there is vulnerability there too. He’s trying to do his job, and face up to seemingly impossible circumstances, without cracking up. He manages to keep it together (mostly!), leading the reader through the dark until… well, I don’t want to spoil it!
What kind of research did you do for The Burning Dark?
A lot of the research was actually focused on military matters – The Burning Dark might be set 1,000 years in the future, but I wanted to create a setting that was easy for the readers to get into and recognize. The book isn’t military science fiction, strictly speaking, but nearly all the characters are Fleet personnel. So there are hierarchies and procedures and ways of handling things which I wanted to be at least mostly correct – the book is a work of fiction, and the Fleet is my creation, but it was important to get the feel of the setting right. If you can set the scene for the reader, they’ll actually do the rest for you, so long as you don’t trip yourself up anywhere along the way.
What do you enjoy most about writing, and reading, SF?
I guess it’s the fact that you can do absolutely anything with speculative fiction as a writer, and therefore as a reader you have to expect the unexpected. Which to me seems the perfect way to read (and write!). Speculative fiction also really encompasses every genre under the sun, so long as there is something otherworldly involved. The possibilities are endless!
Have you read any good books lately? Are there any that you’re looking forward to reading this year?
This year I’m trying to read a book a week, which will be an improvement on what I managed in 2013. There have been a few highlights so far this year – Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea is brilliant, and at the moment I’m reading Black Dog by Caitlin Kittredge. It’s not out until October, but damn, this is some good urban fantasy. Very dark and gritty, and well worth a pre-order.
I’m trying to mix in some non-fiction as well. Last year I adored The River of Doubt by Candice Milard, which is about Theodore Roosevelt’s insane journey into uncharted regions of the Amazon rainforest. I’ve also just finished Dark Invasion by Howard Blum, an account of the New York City Police Department’s fight against German terrorist cells just before the US entered the First World War. That thing about the truth being stranger than fiction is only a cliché because it’s true – and for writers, non-fiction is goldmine of ideas.
What’s next for you?
I’m deep in the edit for the next book in the Spider Wars sequence, The Machine Awakes, which is due out in April 2015. Once that is out of the way, I’ve got two more novels to write this year – one is a secret project which I hope to be able to talk about soon, and the other is the first of the LA Trilogy, due out from Tor in September 2015. Outside of novels, I’ve got a collaborative project which is currently in the early stages, but is looking pretty good.
So it’s a busy year of writing and editing for me, and if anything, 2015 is looking even busier – and it’s only just April 2014! But busy is good!
2.) Giveaway is for 1 copy of THE BURNING DARK by Adam Christopher to 1 winner
3.) Giveaway is open to all those with a US mailing address
4.) You must enter on or before 4/12/14
5.) Giveaway book courtesy of Tor
6.) Please see my Giveaway Policy.
About THE BURNING DARK:
Back in the day, Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland had led the Fleet into battle against an implacable machine intelligence capable of devouring entire worlds. But after saving a planet, and getting a bum robot knee in the process, he finds himself relegated to one of the most remote backwaters in Fleetspace to oversee the decommissioning of a semi-deserted space station well past its use-by date.
But all is not well aboard the U-Star Coast City. The station’s reclusive Commandant is nowhere to be seen, leaving Cleveland to deal with a hostile crew on his own. Persistent malfunctions plague the station’s systems while interference from a toxic purple star makes even ordinary communications problematic. Alien shadows and whispers seem to haunt the lonely corridors and airlocks, fraying the nerves of everyone aboard.
Isolated and friendless, Cleveland reaches out to the universe via an old-fashioned space radio, only to tune in to a strange, enigmatic signal: a woman’s voice that seems to echo across a thousand light-years of space. But is the transmission just a random bit of static from the past—or a warning of an undying menace beyond mortal comprehension?