Excerpts from the interview:
“In City at the End of Time, I'm paying homage to writers who, in their greatest days, transformed science fiction and fantasy, going back to George D. MacDonald and Lewis Carroll, to William Hope Hodgson, to Arthur C. Clarke, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis....
“Of course the master of them all is Olaf Stapledon. Every time I reread Stapledon (whom I started reading when I was 16), I keep finding stuff I thought I invented. In Last and First Men, there is artificial matter in the Neptunians' structures on the planet Neptune. Wil McCarthy has a patent on programmable matter, and I wrote about 'false matter' in Anvil of Stars, but Stapledon did it first.
“When I was a kid reading The Night Land and The House on the Borderland and other stories by Hodgson, I realized there was a continuity in British fiction. Everyone had read H.G. Wells, of course, and in The Time Machine, Wells takes us to the end of that possible universe. The House on the Borderland has passages that echo a kind of Irish mystical version, with another journey through time and space; in The Night Land Hodgson does his take on extreme future evolution, but again that Irish mysticism creeps in, so it reads more like fantasy or horror than science fiction.
“Because of stylistic oddities, it seems to me Hodgson might have written The Night Land in his youth. The novel's romantic prose style may be an attempt to imitate William Morris, and Hodgson doesn't quite pull it off. Yet the imagination in that novel is utterly extraordinary. It is not a strictly scientific imagination. For him, the Night Land is the result of evolution through immense spans of time, and the world producing these monstrosities is a changed Earth, so the Last Redoubt is a technological preserve against scientifically created monsters. But as I read the book, I see a metaphysical place: these are not creatures of this Earth, not things you could perceive developing from the science we know now, so it takes on a broader aspect. The novel shows Hodgson's pure native brilliance at work. Some of his visions are among the strangest, most heart-rending and spooky of any novel, science fiction or fantasy.”
“Right now I'm working on a follow-up to Quantico. My whole approach to writing is, have fun and branch out. It's part of an old tradition! I remember when Larry Niven collaborated with Jerry Pournelle and I thought, 'Oh my gosh. Is this the end of the Larry Niven we know and love?' They went on to write amazing books -- including one of my favorites, a scientifically-observed religious fantasy, Inferno. Every time an author tries a different road, we should celebrate, not complain.
“What concerns me is the feeling that science fiction now must be a single thing, something with rocket ships. Not that I don't love rocket ships! If you go back to when I was a kid in the 1960s, Analog regularly published political tales with technological angles, from writers like Joe Poyer, Ben Bova, and Mack Reynolds. In the 1970s, writers like Scortia and Robinson and Clancy would transform these themes into a major sub-genre, the technothriller, which I believe legitimately belongs in science fiction.”
“Science fiction and fantasy make up a literature shaped and created largely by nerds, and that's one of the reasons the literary collective has rejected us. We spend far too much time thinking about science and nature, not so much time puzzling over the vagaries of fashion and social interaction... Nerds don't recognize most social boundaries -- in time, space, or culture. We generally don't discriminate or reject based on eccentricities -- how could we? Nerds can not only be unconventional, we can be irritating. But nerds got us through World War II (our nerds were better than their nerds) and later powered the extraordinary changes the world went through in the last half of the 20th century. We see the mark of nerds everywhere, from Alice in Wonderland to the moon landing, modern physics, modern biology, the computer revolution. Here in Seattle, we live within shouting distance of some of the most powerful nerds on earth. Nearly all the ones I have met read and love science fiction, and they're changing the world in creative and often controversial ways.
“More power to nerds!”