Excerpts from the interview:
“Anyone who writes fiction in English is lucky. There's a more or less unified market and it's enormous; pity the poor Dane or Finn, with the equivalent of one medium-large city as audience! Being Canadian is an additional advantage; you're halfway between the UK and the US, in terms of cultural distance, and so have a better shot at appealing to each. English-speaking Canada was founded by refugee Americans -- the Loyalists -- and thereafter maintained links with both. My mother and my father's mother were English, for example.
“As to the impact of Canada on my writing... hard to say. There's the historical background; Canada's history starts with an enormous disaster (the American Revolution, from our point of view) and then goes through a century or so of being a loyal Dominion of the Empire. It tends to give you a somewhat different perspective; more pessimistic, and perhaps more modest. Nobody's ever talked about the 'Canadian Century'!
“With alternate history you avoid the difficulties of near-future speculation so it doesn't date nearly as fast as other varieties of science fiction, although the change points people like to address do go through fads and fashions (apart from the perennially popular World War II). If you pick something more obscure, most of your audience doesn't know what the hell was involved.”
“SF isn't even very good at predicting technological changes. It tends to take the change that's the buzzword of the present and just extrapolate it, extrapolating the upward curve as though it was going to continue accelerating forever. So you get these Singularity types who believe in a Rapture of the Geeks where we're all going to be uploaded or disappear with a wet sucking 'plop' one day! But that isn't the way it works. I think what really happens is that particular technologies accelerate rapidly for a while and then level off.
“Look at aircraft and rockets. Back in the '50s and '60s, huge atomic-powered rockets were the thing in science fiction. Faster and faster, further and further, faster than light. We had been going through a period of really rapid acceleration in maximum speeds: Kittyhawk, jets, the first things in orbit.... But that levels off. We're still flying at about the same speeds the Beatles did on their second American tour, and I give you any odds that the commercial airplanes of 20 or 30 years from now are still going to be flying between six and seven hundred miles per hour. We did all the easy stuff, and it turns out that the rest of the stuff is very hard.”
“I read history obsessively; it's been my second great love, outside of science fiction, since I was a teenager. And you always come across these points where things could have happened one way or another, just as easily. (But I don't think conditions are as sensitive as some people have made it when they took and ran with Chaos Theory to an excessive degree -- all the butterflies in China aren't going to make it hot in Minneapolis in the winter!) Another appeal of alternate history is that everyone has one of those turning points in their own life.”
“The book I'm working on now, third in the 'Change World' series that started with Dies the Fire, is borderline alternate history. I just had a big, unexplained change happen in 1998: all higher technology stops working. People are convinced that alien space bats or something of that nature are responsible, because it's a finely tailored change. Doing research on that was tough! Changing one law of nature is like eating one salted peanut. It's really hard to confine things that way without totally losing internal consistency, but I think I managed to pull it off.”