Why 8? Because I couldn't think of 9.
Neal Asher (born 1961 in Billericay, Essex, England) is an English science fiction writer. Both his parents are educators and science fiction fans. Although he began writing Science Fiction and Fantasy in secondary school, Asher did not turn seriously to writing till he was 25. He worked as a machinist and machine programmer from 1979 to 1987 and as a gardener from 1979 to 1987. He published his first short story in 1989. His novel, Gridlinked was published in 2001, the first in a series of novels made up of Gridlinked, The Line of Polity, Brass Man, Polity Agent, and Line War.Postcyberpunk? Who the heck wrote that wiki entry? He writes great books. No labels are needed apart from that.
Asher's novels, with one exception, and most of his short fiction, are all set within one future history, known as the "Polity" universe. The Polity encompasses many classic science fiction tropes including world-ruling artificial intelligences, androids, hive minds, aliens and time travel. His novels are characterized by fast paced action and violent encounters. While his work is frequently epic in scope and thus nominally space opera, its graphic and aggressive tone is more akin to cyberpunk. When combined with the way that Asher's main characters are usually acting to preserve social order or improve their society (rather than disrupt a society they are estranged from), these influences could place his work in the subgenre known as postcyberpunk.
Now for the crappy questions and eight not to shabby answers.
Q. Why should people read your book/books?
Neal: There is no compelling reason why anyone ‘should’ read my books because that implies something deeply meaningful and relevant, perhaps something with trenchant social comment, maybe some revelation about past events, or maybe something at the forefront of the ‘literary’ field ... something worthy. All I can tell you is why people might enjoy reading my books. They offer an escape from the hum-drum reality of day-to-day living; the canvasses are large and full of that good old science fictional sensawunda; I don’t allow my characters to spend too much time examining their own navels; I will not spend paragraph after paragraph discussing how the baddy was abused by his father or wanted to screw his mother; the books offer weird aliens and alien ecologies, monsters both alien and human, space ships big enough to alter the tides on the worlds they orbit, intrigue and plot twists, space battles, action, time travel, science and far future technology. As far as ‘should’ is concerned, if someone enjoys all the above then they should give my books a try.
Q. What made you start writing Fantasy / Science Fiction?
Neal: As a child and then teenager I had wide and varied interests – biology, electronics, art, chemistry, physics etc – and then writing to ape those people whose work gave me such pleasure. By my twenties I realised that if I was ever to succeed at anything, I would have to narrow my focus, that if I carried on as I was I would end up a Jack of all trades but master of none. Art? Nah, I’d seen what was getting the accolades in the art world and didn’t get it at all. The sciences? No, I didn’t have enough qualifications to get to the stage I wanted, which was of course developing laser weapons and space drives (Hah!). I chose writing because I enjoyed it and because all my other interests, in one form or another, could also be included.
Q. What's your next book and when is it due out?
Neal: My next book is The Departure, which is a title full of double meanings. It is a departure from the Polity in that I am telling the tale of the early years of the ‘Owner’ who will be found in short stories in my collection The Engineer ReConditioned. It comes out next August (though maybe that date may change) and, on the day I type this, I will be sending the final edited typescript to Macmillan. Here’s the blurb:
Like Wellsian war machines the shepherds stride into riots to grab up the ringleaders and drag them off to Inspectorate HQ for adjustment, unless they are in shredding mode, in which case their captives visit community digesters, or rather whatever of them has not been washed down the street drains.
Pain inducers are used for adjustment, and soon the Committee will have the power to edit human minds, but not yet, twelve billion human being need to die before Earth can be stabilized, but by turning large portions of Earth into concentration camps this is achievable, especially when the Argus satellite laser network comes fully online…
Alan Saul has taken a different route to disposal, waking as he does inside a crate on the conveyor into the Calais incinerator. How he got there he does not know, but he does remember the pain and the face of his interrogator. Janus speaks to Saul through the hardware implanted in his skull, sketching the nightmare world for him. And Saul decides to bring it all crashing down…
Q. How much research and planning goes into each book/series before you start writing it?
Neal: The most research I do is when I’m writing a book in a series and have to reread previous books and keep on checking detail. Beyond that I don’t really plan much. I don’t write out a synopsis first and I don’t have post-it notes stuck all over the wall above my desk. For me, writing books is precisely the same voyage of discovery my readers embark on when reading them. If I knew precisely what was going to happen next I’d get bored. However, I do wonder just how much is going on in my subconscious, when I find out how neatly a lot of the plot elements eventually tie up.
Q. Who do you believe are the most influential writers in the genre? Past and present.
Neal: I guess the old greats have to come first, like Asimov, Heinlein and Clark, and then there are those who knocked a kink in the thinking like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. But I have to say that this isn’t a subject I think about very much – I leave that to the self-styled academics of the SF world to waffle on about. I know who my influences are. They start from A for Asimov and go through to Z for Zelazny and all have had their effect on what I produce.
Q. If you had to be transported into a fictional world from any author, which one would you choose?
Neal: My own. Yeah, things get a bit fraught out on the border of the Polity, but within it life can be pretty good. You can live forever, choosing from a range of options to that end: you can upload to crystal in a golem chassis, a drone, a static AI, and the greatest threat to your life will be boredom. You can travel by runcible or ship to numerous strange and interesting worlds. The need for manual labour or a nine-to-five job ended centuries before. You can upload skills and other knowledge to your mind. Seems pretty good to me.
Q. What do you do for fun?
Neal: I write books... Also I swim, drink wine and sit in the sunshine. I blog, annoy people on message boards, grow plants, build, renovate furniture. Really, when I’m not writing books I’m the eternal tinkerer. I love to make and repair stuff, even when the time-saving and sometimes cheaper option would be to go and buy it.
Neal: The first one I ever answered, because it meant I was worth interviewing.
Thanks for that Neal. Once again you prove you're one of the most fan friendly authors out there.
You can follow Neal's Crete adventures and all things Asher on his blog, The Skinner.