GeekChocolate was recently in the presence of three noted science fiction authors Ken Macleod, Iain M Banks and Charlie Stross, at a talk at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, moderated by Andrew J Wilson editor of Nova Scotia: New Scottish Speculative Fiction, a 2005 anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories. A full report on the talk will be available shortly, but in the meantime, we wanted to share with you their answers to the three questions we put to them about the best novel to introduce them, their upcoming work, and what classic science fiction novel they would most like to see filmed.
Geek Chocolate – If you could suggest one book as a starting point for a reader new to your work, which would you choose, either because you feel it’s the most accessible, or because it best represents you?
Charlie Stross – Ha ha! It depends what the reader likes, because I write in a number of different sub genres within the field. If they like spy thrillers, I would point them at The Atrocity Archives without question; if they like space opera, I would point them at either Saturn’s Children or Iron Sunrise; if they want near future stuff I would point them at either Halting State or its forthcoming sequel Rule 34; if they want more of an alternate history or fantasy background I would point them at the Merchant Princes books.
Ken Macleod – These are two separate questions. I think the most accessible of my books in general is probably Learning the World; the most representative is The Stone Canal.
Iain M Banks – Probably one of the first two, Consider Phlebas or Player of Games. One is big and spectacular and stuff, the other one is more like a conventional novel, so I think they’re both a relatively easy conduit to the Culture superhighway.
GC – Of the classic science fiction novels which we will never likely to see on the silver screen, leaving aside questions of budget or how stubborn Hollywood is, which would be your dream to see up there?
KM – I’d quite like to see A Canticle for Liebowitz, if not on the silver screen, at least on the small screen. I think it would make a very good minseries.
CS – I am struggling a bit. I’m trying to think of one that would make a good dramatic production. I suspect you could probably make some pretty good mileage out of Larry Niven’s Ringworld, and you would need modern special effects to do it. That would be an interesting one to see.
IMB – Define golden age in this context.
GC – One of the examples I have is that I cannot believe nobody has filmed A Fall of Moondust. It’s structured as a screenplay, it’s one set, primarily, it could be done so easily, or The Kraken Wakes, Ringworld, The Forever War.
IMB – Yeah, well, okay, that’s two there, I’ll give you The Forever War and Ringworld as well, very happy to see those, and actually, another one, Tiger, Tiger, or The Stars, My Destination as it’s also known.
GC – That’s been talked about, it’s never happened.
IMB – I’d go with that, that would be my absolute favourite, that’s one I’d really like to see.
Andrew Wilson – I’ve got more than one. Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss, which I think is a great story, and it’s doable on a reasonable budget. Other than that, I think Tiger, Tiger, definitely, or The Demolished Man, both of which could be approached. There’s a case for quite a lot of stuff. I think out of Robert Heinlein, you might want to take the “juveniles” which are actually not juvenile at all, they are easily readable by young people, but they have a lot of value in them. I think something like Citizen of the Galaxy is worth looking at, that’s interesting, it’s probably a bit intellectual for a “juvenile.” On the other hand, for pure batshit craziness, The World of Null-A by A E Van Vogt. Crazy, crazy stuff. Charlie and I joked about this in the past, we almost wrote a story together, but Doc Smith’s Lensman stuff. I’m not saying you wouldn’t have to fix some stuff, like the female characters, but all of his characters are barely two dimensional, but actually you could do work on the characters, but you’ve got great galaxy smashing stuff, you’ve got the fact that the Lensmen are not just humans but aliens as well. I think you could do something with that.
GC – I recently wrote about Larry Niven’s Ringworld and my criticism was the female characters are objects, and I pointed out, yes, Heinlein’s women were in many way objects as well, but they were objects in charge of their own life, who were a lot more fun and had a lot more character.
AW – And speaking of women, Ursula Le Guin should be looked at, maybe not the big novels like The Dispossessed, which is not particularly filmic, but something like City of Illusions. And Harlan Ellison, although he would be a difficult man to work with, but he did adapt very well, A Boy and His Dog came out pretty well as a low budget seventies film, with Don Johnson, would you believe, before he was famous. I fancy having a crack at writing a script for I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. Not exactly a date movie.
GC – What can you tell us about your next work and when will we see it?
KM – My next project is a novel that I’m pitching to my editor at the moment, so I’m not going to say any more!
IMB – It’s a mainstream novel, called Stonemouth, two words put together, so one word, and it will probably be April. It could go, in theory, earlier, but I don’t think I could persuade the publishers to do it. It would be March, but I’m going to be writing the next Culture novel next March.
GC – And do we know what that’s going to be yet?
IMB – Absolutely no idea whatsoever, nothing, nada. All I know is that it will be definitely be science fiction, that’s 100%, and 99.9% certain it will be Culture. I quite enjoyed going back to the kinetic fun of Surface Detail and I’d like to do something a bit like that again, something that is fairly explosive. Kinetic would probably be the word that’s best.
CS – The book I’m currently working on is The Apocalypse Codex, which is the sequel to The Fuller Memorandum, it is nearly finished, and it will be out July 2012. It will be immediately followed, in a work sense, because I’m bloody overdue starting it, by collaboration with Corey Doctorow entitled The Rapture of the Nerds, which will be out round about the same time through Tor in the United States.
The Edinburgh International Science Festival recently finished, but the 2012 festival is already in the planning stages.
Special thanks to Frances Sutton and Jen Wood on the Science Festival media team for their kind assistance, and Blackwells Bookshop for organising the event.
Ken Macleod’s The Restoration Game is currently available; Iain M Banks’<
a href="index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=83:surface-detail-iain-m-banks&catid=38:books&Itemid=59" target="_self" title="Surface Detail"> Surface Detail will be released in paperback in late May, and Charlie Stross’ The Fuller Memorandum will be released in July.
Ringworld has already been featured in GeekSchool, and Non-Stop will be covered in the very near future
Please follow the links for more from Iain, Charlie, Ken and Andrew’s appearance at the Edinburgh Science Festival, our interview with Iain and our reviews of Iain’s novel Transition and Ken’s novel Intrusion