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OtherView: Peter F. Hamilton

Sometime in the late 20th and early 21st Century, during an old incarnation of the OtherSpace website, we had the privilege of participating in a series of interviews with several science fiction and fantasy authors. Some of them joined us in-game for live chats, while others were kind enough to answer Q&A e-mails. I’d like to start doing that again in this decade. First, though, I’ll be posting the interviews that went before – for the sake of posterity!

Peter F. Hamilton was born in 1960 in Rutland, England. He has been writing science fiction since the mid-1980s. His most popular works include The Reality Dysfunction, A Quantum Murder and Mindstar Rising.

Wes Platt asks: Which character do you feel more kinship with? Joshua Calvert, the preternaturally lucky rogue/merchant or Father Horst, the fallen priest who must redeem himself? And why?

Peter F. Hamilton: Actually, I consider that both of them ultimately redeem themselves. The Joshua Calvert you meet at the start of the Reality Dysfunction is not the kind of person you could trust to save the universe. He grows and learns throughout the three books until he does become the person everyone trusts. For that reason, I suppose I feel the most empathy with him. Trying to keep an open mind is important to me, and seems to become more difficult as we grow older. So while I wouldn’t call him a role model, he certainly has my sympathy.

Kalouri asks: One scene from the first novel sticks with me – when one of the possessed captures an affinity bonded dog, saws its legs off and gets in its face, asking if it wants to go “walkies.” Should I take it from this you’re a cat person?

Peter F. Hamilton: The big argument in our house at the moment is do we go for keeping a cat or a dog, the way things are going I suspect we’ll wind up with a goldfish. That scene is just before possession, which gives the boy even less of an excuse for doing what he does. Which is the point of it. He’s showing how far away the IVETs have left ‘normal’ behaviour behind them, under Quinn’s leadership. I don’t put violence and horror in just for the sake of it. And as always, how much, is a question of ballance. Inevitable this varied between individuals. Proof that you really can’t please all the people all the time. I’ve long since stopped trying.

Dolfan asks: Of all your novels, which is your favorite and why?

Peter F. Hamilton: Tricky one. The new novel is always at the front of my mind, so I would tend to thing most highly about that. However, if badly pressed, I’d probably say the Reality Dysfunction, purely because of the way it turned out. Despite plotting it well in advance, it was never intended to be so large, and the way it was received was a huge pleasure.

Shadowstrike asks: What is it in your everyday life, if anything, that you draw upon when you’re writing? Your moods, events in your day, in your past, or what? What gives you inspiration as you write?

Peter F. Hamilton: Sometimes it can be nothing, then there are events which occur that I simply have to put in. For the next book I chronicle the character growing up in some detail, which meant going back and thinking of my own times as a teenager, not just the incidents, but the feelings as well. I’d like to point out that should you read Fallen Dragon, not all of that happened to me. To give you the best example about incorporating an everyday incident: I was sitting in a train as it pulled out of a station, and there was a girl on the platform with a red scarf tied round her ankle. I’d never seen anyone do that before, and she’s now immortalized it as the badge which the Deadnights wore in Night’s Dawn.

Blackstone asks: In an age of CNN and the World Wide Web, is information losing its meaning? Have we started to treat knowledge as mere trivia and have we become pedants instead of scholars?

Peter F. Hamilton: Having easier and wider access to knowledge can never be a completely bad thing. As always, it’s how we apply it.

Murdock asks: Which one of your books would you say was the easiest to write? Was there one that wrote itself, as it were? Why?

Peter F. Hamilton: That would probably by Quantum Murder. I’d already done the first Greg Mandel book, Mindstar Rising, and I’d plotted out what was going to be the second, The Nano Flower, so I was very familiar with the world I’d created for him. Then I read an article on foamed space, and the whole concept fitted very neatly into that world. I have the whole plot idea in less than a day. Sadly, it’s never happened since.

Delmarenno asks: When and how did you first start writing science fiction?

Peter F. Hamilton: I started in the second half of the eighties. As to how, it’s one of those stupid cliches, of reading a book and thinking: I can do better than this. It wasn’t one particular book, but at the time good SF was hard to find. So I went out and bought a typewriter. And, boy, do you quickly learn that you can’t do better.

Volaya asks: How do you avoid falling into the traps of making your aliens ‘culturally different humans?’ And make them instead really alien?

Peter F. Hamilton: Have I? Thank you. I’d say it comes from thinking out their background. Small things like if they have many legs they won’t have or like stairs. There is also the simple treatment of having them react to something in a completely different way than a human would. Again, go into their background or shape or psychology to provide a logical reason for that reaction.

  1. February 9, 2010 at 1:07 am

    Great interview, I was really excited to read it. I actually just finished Mr. Hamilton’s Fallen Dragon, and posted a review about it on my blog.

  1. February 9, 2010 at 1:10 am

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