Today, I’m honoured to present one of the biggest-selling authors in science fiction: Peter F Hamilton, a household name within the genre for over 20 years. Peter F Hamilton is known for writing space opera as epic in scope as each book is in size – most recently, the Salvation trilogy. In between edits for the final volume of Salvation, he was kind enough to sit down for a chat over a virtual cuppa…
What do you love most about science fiction as a genre? Or put another way: why do you write SF?
The limitless possibilities. SF is the literature of ideas, and that manifests itself at many different levels, from the basic drama of conflict in the plot to the nature of the worlds and times where it’s set. You can include as many or as few themes as you like, each one removed from the current world. Hopefully some of them will resonate with the reader and make them question some aspect of what they see around them.
What influences your writing? (How) have those influences changed over your career?
My early influences were the SF writers of the seventies and early eighties – the genre classics. My reading has broadened since then (though the quantity has declined), and I’ll often feed in themes I see in current news and technology trends. I’d like to think I’ve learned more about how to handle characters.
What trends or tropes are you intrigued by in modern SF?
I’m way behind on what’s current, but it is nice to see that good old space stories are still prominent. They’ve changed a lot, but that kind of basic optimism – that we’ll have a future that involves exploration and new frontiers – is a welcome counter to the amount of dystopian stuff that’s come out in the last few years.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of humanity? Do you think we’ll make it out into the galaxy?
Short term pessimist, long term optimist. Right now, our politics and climate is a toxic mess; but there is so much going on in the background – growing awareness and research of new cleaner technologies – that are inspiring. As to space travel, the arrival of cheaper, reusable launch systems is promising. I’m hoping to see people reach Mars within the next twenty years. Maybe by then we’ll have a clearer idea about interstellar travel. I can’t see any technological reason why we can’t send AI probes out there in the next hundred years -which brings us back to politics and cost…
What inspired the Salvation trilogy?
Belief. And how we always seem put our trust in people we shouldn’t. People seem to have an inbuilt need to have faith in promises, which is so prominent in how politics has swung back to more extreme positions now after a couple of decades chasing the centre. It goes back to how fundamentally decent the majority are, and how that makes exploitation easy for those who lack a moral compass. Salvation also provides a spotlight on how aliens really will not hold the same convictions as us. What the aliens are doing in Salvation is something they truly believe will benefit humans. No spoiler to say: it doesn’t.
Does writing a new series get easier?
Each time I start writing in a new universe I tell myself this’ll be easy, I have the experience and know what I’m doing, so everything will just click into place. Each time I find out I’m wrong.
Where would you recommend a new reader start with your work (and why)?
I’d suggest one of the standalone novels, either Fallen Dragon or Great North Road, as that doesn’t involve committing yourself to a series. Alternatively, a collection of short stories, either A Second Chance At Eden or Manhattan In Reverse. For a younger reader, try the Queen Of Dreams trilogy, which is a magical fantasy for middle grade.
What was the best SF book you read this year? What SF books or films are you looking forward to in 2019?
My To Be Read pile is depressingly tall, but I really enjoyed Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir and Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald. Next year I’m keen to read Bone Silence, the final part of the Revenger series by Alastair Reynolds. On TV, I’ll be watching The Boys Season 2.
Know your enemy – or be defeated.
AD 2204: an alien shipwreck is discovered on a planet at the very limits of human expansion – so Security Director Feriton Kayne selects a team to investigate. The ship’s sinister cargo not only raises bewildering questions, but could also foreshadow humanity’s extinction. It will be up to the team to bring back answers, and the consequences of this voyage will change everything.
Back on Earth, we can now make deserts bloom and extend lifespans indefinitely, so humanity seems invulnerable. We therefore welcomed the Olyix to Earth when they contacted us. They needed fuel for their pilgrimage across the galaxy – and in exchange they helped us advance our technology. But were the Olyix a blessing or a curse?
THE FAR FUTURE: many lightyears from Earth, Dellian and his clan of genetically engineered soldiers are raised with one goal. They must confront and destroy their ancient adversary. The enemy caused mankind to flee across the galaxy and they hunt us still. If they aren’t stopped, we will be wiped out – and we’re running out of time.
Fight together – or die alone . . .
In the twenty-third century, humanity is enjoying a comparative utopia. Yet life on Earth is about to change, forever. Feriton Kane’s investigative team has discovered the worst threat ever to face mankind – and we’ve almost no time to fight back. The supposedly benign Olyix plan to harvest humanity, in order to carry us to their god at the end of the universe. And as their agents conclude schemes down on earth, vast warships converge above to gather this cargo.
Some factions push for humanity to flee, to live in hiding amongst the stars – although only a chosen few would make it out in time. But others refuse to break before the storm. As disaster looms, animosities must be set aside to focus on just one goal: wiping this enemy from the face of creation. Even if it means preparing for a future this generation will never see.
Salvation Lost by Peter F Hamilton is out now from Pan MacMillan.
Many thanks to Peter and to Bethan James for giving me the chance to host him here at There’s Always Room For One More.