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OtherView: Greg Bear

Science fiction author Greg Bear took the time to answer a few questions from the players at jointhesaga.com back in 2004:

Newt from OtherSpace asks: In Eon, you had Earth undergo an event that you called The Little Death, which, if I remember correctly, was a limited nuclear exchange that in the end led to all-out war. Do you see something like that as still being possible, what with the present ‘hawkish’ stance of the US? If so, what do you see being the end result and, if not, why not? What do you think will prevent a nasty confrontation (either with or without some form of WMD) from happening?

Greg Bear: I’ve given some thought to revising EON to reflect present reality, but have not yet made substantial progress. I doubt a nuclear exchange, limited or major, will happen anytime soon. The world situation now is almost unimaginably different from what it was in 1980-84, when I was writing EON. WMD are always a possibility–vigilance is certainly required. But what worries me more than a possible attack, under present circumstances, is the response on our part. We may do ourselves more damage, in the long run, through the limitation of civil liberties and the destruction of constitutional protections than any terrorist could do to our population or infrastructure. I call this “autoimmune disease,” which is when the body’s cops start destroying healthy tissue to get at a possible infection. Remember–an anthrax attack might kill hundreds, smallpox thousands, but flu still kills tens of thousands every year, and somehow we cope. It’s the reflex psychological response that makes terrorism so effective. We must police our own reactions very carefully.

Fionnlagh from Chiaroscuro asks: What’s your perspective and opinion on President George W. Bush’s expressed desire to move ahead with a manned Mars mission and a return to the Moon?

Greg Bear: Bush gave a surprisingly well-prepared, well-thought-out speech, hitting most of the required bullet points with skill and grace. (I wish we had been so thoughtful and prepared and informed about Iraq and other neo-con issues.) That said, no bucks, no Buck Rogers–and we are so deeply in debt now that any increase in NASA’s budget, even one so obvious and essential as this, will face stiff opposition, even from conservatives. Let’s see how it works out. NASA is clearly rejuvenated with this mandate. And it’s long overdue.

Althea from Chiaroscuro asks: What new forms, beyond hypertext fiction, do you think will emerge as a result of the increased interest in web communication? Do you think print narratives will be a thing of the past?

Greg Bear: Print has stuck around for sometime, and it’s still the medium of choice for thoughtful and informed discourse. Still, publishing as a whole has taken some major hits in recent years–fiction sales down thirty percent across the board–and I have to blame part of that on DVD sales. (I love DVDs–I’m speaking from experience here!) People on airplanes or relaxing on beaches no longer need to carry paperback books–a lap top or DVD player will provide excellent movies, game players are easy to stow and portable, and the market share for books–as I predicted ten years ago, a little prematurely–is starting to slip. For my views on such changes, please refer to MACHINERIES OF JOY REDUX on my web site, http://www.gregbear.com!

Ruu from Reach of the Empire asks: How did you get involved with the New Jedi Order books, and how you did you come to write Rogue Planet. Did they contact you, or did you contact them about it, or … just how did that work out for you?

Greg Bear: Del Rey sent a list of authors to Lucasfilm and they okayed the ones they wanted. Del Rey then approached me to ask if I wanted to write a book in between George Lucas’s first two films of the new trilogy. The chance to write about Darth Vader as a teen-ager was too choice to pass up! Working with the Lucas folks was a delight–professional crew, very helpful. I was flexible enough to incorporate a few changes as the screenplays progressed, and they gave me some real freedom to tinker with characters and such. I treated it was working with a movie crew–with an unlimited special effects budget!

Rushii from Reach of the Empire asks: You’ve been writing science fiction for a long time now – or at least compared to how fast the field of science changes. Do you find the topics you draw on for ‘speculative fiction’ shift with what science breakthroughs are en vogue at the time? Your most recent novel, Darwin’s Children, deals with evolution, genetics, and virii among other things, after all – all popular subjects on the leading edge of today’s scientific field.

Greg Bear: I love trying to keep up with science and finding territory not yet over-explored by my exceptionally capable colleagues. Biology was obvious–I had some interesting theories, the field was expanding at an incredible pace (and still is) and I thought I could contribute a little. It turns out, these novels were met with a very encouraging and sympathetic reception–and a lot of help from working scientists! I still get together at professional meetings and conferences and try to keep up with the latest discoveries. Most recently, I gave a talk at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, sharing the podium with some of the world’s finest virologists and discussing viruses and evolution–a treat! I hope to soon post that talk on my web site, as well.

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