Interviewed for Matrix
by Ian Whates
Is the type of science fiction you write
a fair reflection of the type of science fiction you particularly
Eric: It is. I like both action-adventure
SF, planetary exploration etc, thriller and detective type
SF (though not so much Hard SF) which I enjoy writing (for
example, The Virex trilogy and the Bengal Station
series); and I like slower, more contemplative SF, along the
lines of that written by Chris Priest, Michael Coney, Arthur
Sellings, and Richard Cowper – which I think is reflected
Q2: Throughout your career you have written
both novels and short stories. Which form gives you greater
Eric: By far the short stories. I think
I'm better at them, and something about the short form, the
turning of a plot within a matter of pages, gives a great
deal of satisfaction during the process of composition. A
novel is a bloody hard slog. Also, I prefer reading short
stories to novels, especially within the genre.
Q3: You’ve been writing Kéthani
stories over many years. What was the initial inspiration
for the stories and their setting?
Eric: I wanted to do something very quiet,
very English and particularly very Yorkshire; I wanted to
write a series of emotional stories about a group of friends,
and how their lives were changed by a single – if momentous
– event. (Although it wasn't until I'd written the third
or fourth tale that I realised I wanted to write a series
of them.) And I wanted to write a series of SF stories in
which I could mention Timothy Taylor's beer in every tale!
Now that you have produced a Kéthani novel, which
effectively provides a conclusion to the story sequence, is
this your final word on Kéthani?
Eric: I think it is. There is enough material
in the idea to go on, exploring every aspect of the changes
that would come about if an alien race came to Earth and gave
us immortality. But the whole aim of the novel was to be very
oblique about the central idea. I feel that, if I were to
expand upon what was already written, I'd be somehow contravening
the ethos of the tales.
Q5: As a reviewer as well as a writer,
you have to read a large amount of fiction. Do you ever find
there’s a danger of what you’re reading bleeding
over and influencing what you’re writing?
Eric: Yes, if it's good. We're always influenced
by what impresses us. But I try to keep writing and reviewing
well apart. It's difficult, as I'm a slow reader, but as a
rule I never write while I'm reading.
Q6: What are you currently working on?
Eric: I've just finished the first draft
of a novella, the sequel to Starship Summer, entitled,
predictably, Starship Fall. I'll leave that a while
and move onto the third book of the Bengal Station sequence,
Cosmopath, which I have to deliver by December. And
this morning, while waiting for a bus, I had a mini-idea for
a short story, which I hope to do in the next day or so.