All this week we’re celebrating the release of The Lowest Heaven, a sci-fi short story spectacular which features some of the hottest names in modern genre publishing and contains exquisite celestial photography from the collection of the Royal Observatory Greenwich.
For your reading pleasure we have a High Five interview with SF maestro and BSFA winner Adam Roberts.
Adam Roberts was born two-thirds of the way through the last century. He is a writer of science fiction, and a professor of nineteenth-century literature, and he lives a little way west of London. His most recent novels are By Light Alone and Jack Glass.
Adam’s short story in The Lowest Heaven is called An account of a voyage from World to World again, by way of the Moon, 1726.
What was the inspiration behind your story in The Lowest Heaven?
Indirectly, Coleridge. Because of some academic work I was doing on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, I read Shelvocke’s Voyages (they’re online! Google books! First edition!) — an early eighteenth-century account of a privateer voyage into the Pacific that includes lots of things (including: a mad sailor shooting an albatross; ice and snow; parching droughts) that Coleridge adapted into his poem. Then, having read it, I found myself thinking about the Age of Exploration, and SF’s habit of plumping for gleaming futures over gnarly alt-pasts. The form and style of Shelvocke is beautifully estranging (something we need more of in SF, not less); and the spirit behind the book is something very un-contemporary; the very opposite of risk-averse. I started thinking about the need to recapture something of that Explorer’s spirit if we want to move out into the solar system.
What is it that attracts you to science-fiction as a genre and what one sci-fi thing, be it book, movie or real life event, has influenced you the most?
I grew up immersed in SF; I read it obsessively, all the time, and it would be hard to separate out one thing that influenced me the most. What attracts me to it now is what attracted me to it then: the imaginative capaciousness, the scale and wonder: the fact that it is the nearest thing we have to a literature of possibility, in the fullest sense of that word.
I’ll bet you £5 I can seek out new life and new civilisations. Then I can talk confidently about ‘my fiver mission, to boldly go …’
I would name all my spaceships (and yes, I’d have a fleet. Why not?) after Elvis Costello songs. My first would be called ‘The Poet’s Rest’. The second Riot Act. The third … look, I don’t want to outstay my welcome …
The age ol’ question, do you think we’re alone in the universe?
No but yes. By which I mean: intelligent life is bound to be out there (given the size of the joint); but, pace Kant, intelligence shapes perception and consciousness, and that means, in intersubjective terms, we are prevented from living in the same cosmos as a genuinely alien intelligence, as they are from ours.
Finally, we say J for Jetpack, you say J for…?”
JPEG. But don’t open the file! It may contain a virus.
If you want to know more about Adam then check out his website here.
The Lowest Heaven is released this Thursday 13 June 2013 from Jurassic London. For more information check out the website here.