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Thursday, 11 October 2012

Are you asking yourself the right questions when you write sci-fi?

The October Question
Peter Salisbury

I have been interested in science and science fiction for as long as I can remember. The whys and hows of the world around me have always been of great fascination. From the age of twelve, I have read science fiction novels, short stories and 'real science' journals. My favourite author is probably Larry Niven, especially his Ringworld books, and his Gil Hamilton SF detective stories. A book I admire and have re-read many times is 'Slaves of the Klau' by Jack Vance. If you want to look further afield another author I would recommend is Stanislav Lem, who wrote the novel 'Solaris' which has twice been made into a movie.

When I write my own science fiction, I ask myself several questions:

  1. How will humans behave in a thousand years?
A study of the way humans lived two thousand years ago shows us that they had remarkably similar needs, fears, frailties and preoccupations. We also like to think of ourselves as no less courageous, compassionate or loving than they were. The simple mention of biting into a pungent citrus fruit, like a lemon, or the taste of roasted meat, or of food cooked in spices, must have the same effect on us as it did thousands of years in the past. So, when I write about the future, I assume that those human characteristics will still be present a thousand years and more from now.

  1. What technology will be available in the future?
Readers with science backgrounds and those with 'humanities' backgrounds have commented on how realistic they find my stories set in a future where space travel, cloning and being able to transfer consciousness from one body to another are simply what people do.

If something doesn't seem logical or plausible to me, then it won't to anyone else. I have 'invented' a number of futuristic pieces of equipment, several processes and methods of travel. For me, they have to be able to function the same way as they would today. People in the future will need to use equipment in a way which is a natural and effective extension of their everyday existence.

  1. What will aliens think of us?
In science fiction meeting aliens is easily possible. It may never happen in reality, or it might happen next week. To speculate about what aliens may be like and how they may behave are questions which interest most of us, I believe.

It is possible there are aliens whose only thought is conquest, their murderous nature making them thirsty for the blood of humans. This isn't a surprising thought, nor is it one which requires a great leap of the imagination; we only have to look at our human past for examples of such behaviour.

I made a conscious decision that the aliens which crop up in a couple of my books are suspicious of humans. They shun contact with us, believing themselves to have loftier ideals, a more equitable society, and they avoid conflict where-ever possible. They see us as the threat, rather than the reverse.

  1. If aliens exist, what do they look like?
The first aliens I wrote about are completely naked, not that it's easy to tell. Why? Because their skins are covered in chromatic cells which disguise their exact shape, and which also form an additional method of communication. My direct inspiration here was the extraordinary abilities of cuttlefish to radically change their appearance in a matter of seconds.

In General
When I'm writing, I almost never read anything else. If I do, it is in a completely different genre. This has become slightly complicated by my having written several short stories which could be described as mild techno-horror. Another description might be what happens when science goes wrong, or is used against us. I have also written a series of short stories about humans escaping from zombies, and have a work in progress set in an ancient and dying faery kingdom.

My books are based on the premise that there is quite enough pain and suffering in the world already, without adding to it in works of fiction. Consequently the lead characters in my books strive to resolve conflict without bloodshed, using their wit, inquisitiveness and love of life to achieve their goals.

My resources and my research include scientific journals, my experiences as a technical writer abstracting from chemical patents, and the internet. The resource I value most highly is my imagination, although the only time that seems to operate is when I am actually writing. Perhaps one day someone will discover where our minds find original ideas, how we make up stories. Does our ability to tell stories come from the collective unconscious, is it a gift which only humans possess, is it divine inspiration? The answer, surely, must lie somewhere in the future…

Passengers to Zeta Nine

The second of Peter Salisbury's Passenger novels. Each book can be read in sequence or as a standalone story.

The electronic mind patterns and DNA records of Raife Harris and Doctor Nancy Zing have been travelling for one hundred and twenty years. They will be the first humans to see Zeta Nine.

The AI system aboard an Explorer ship is only interested in worlds habitable by humans. Raife and Doctor Zing are naturally excited when they wake to find Explorer 5017 in orbit. The viewscreen displays a beautiful Earth-class planet covered in lush vegetation and warm seas. Even better, there is an apparent absence of biohazards and predators. Everything looks perfect but is it too good to be true?

Follow the pioneers' journey as they fight to maintain their colony. Together they battle against unseen dangers, explore a forest canopy which conceals an ancient mystery, and discover a cache of curious metallic objects.

Amazon Author Page                Blog

Passengers to Zeta Nine is a best-selling sci-fi, selling more than fifteen hundred copies since its launch. Passengers to Zeta Nine is the second novel in the Passengers Series. The books are set in the future where mankind have colonised many worlds. Expansion has continued for many hundreds of years without encountering a single alien species. When aliens are discovered it is realised that they have been aware of humans for a very long time but have chosen to avoid all contact.

Passengers to Zeta Nine, along with the first and third novels in the series, is available in both Kindle and paperback editions. The fourth and fifth novels are in progress. Peter Salisbury has also published several short stories and a book named The Old Store, which contains twenty-six episodes and is on its way to being republished next year as an extended episodic novel. Its theme is a mixed group of families struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

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