Talking with George

by wjw on March 24, 2018

So here I am at the Jean Cocteau Theater in Santa Fe, being interviewed by George R.R. Martin.  Right at the start he says I’m an important guy, so I must be.

The whole interview runs an hour and twenty-two minutes, so prepare yourself for a surfeit of delights.

I’ve had some download trouble with this massive file, but have faith, you’ll hear it all eventually.

Jerry March 24, 2018 at 11:47 pm

Sweet! You and Mr. Martin reminded me of a couple of musicians jamming not for a recording session, but for yourselves and for the sound.

Etaoin Shrdlu March 26, 2018 at 5:14 pm

You sound a lot like Tom Selleck. 🙂

Etaoin Shrdlu March 27, 2018 at 9:10 pm

So, having listened to the whole thing now, I have two questions:

1. You called the Peers “collaborators”. To me, that implies that they have some other option, but I don’t see one — somewhere in book 1, you mentioned that rogue biotech researchers tried to create a Shaa-killing virus, and the Shaa destroyed the entire planet that they were on (much as Michi Chen killed a billion or so people on Bai-Do); you also mentioned that the Lai-Own were the only ones who gave any credible battle opposition, however minor, to the Shaa conquest. (I sort of envision this as Apollo style lunar landers trying to fight against Star Wars star destroyers.) Since the Shaa were so technologically advanced as to be impossible to resist, and they imposed the Praxis system on every conquered race, what could the Peers have done to not be “collaborators”?

2. Related to your deep research, I’ve been wondering about Martinez’ and Sula’s new tactical system (I call it “the Shrdlu Shuffle” — it’s a new phrase, I just made it up — oops, wrong novel. Anyway). Did you come up with the various parameters for assessing how and when to starburst on your own, or were the factors based on something found during your research? I’m curious, because Freeman Dyson did something similar during WW2 when he convinced the RAF that their bombers had to fly in tighter formations so that they could offer mutual fire support against German fighter aircraft. His conclusion was the opposite, but then again the threat was very different — no antimatter weapons available yet back then. Also, how did you come up with the notion of having the ships travel in a known pattern along the convex hull of a dynamic system?

wjw March 28, 2018 at 11:39 pm

Apropos collaboration, I think you have some choices when your state gets conquered by another.

1. You can resist, which in the case of a Shaa conquest means you die along with a lot of your neighbors and relatives.

2. You can try to behave normally insofar as you can, without actively aiding the conquerors, but not looking for trouble, either.

3. You can actively support the invaders and promote their interests, up to and including the persecution and execution of your own people. You could become someone heading a puppet government, like Vidkun Quisling or Pierre Laval, or a brutal thug like Paul Touvier or Joseph Darnand, or a compliant technocrat like Jean Bichelonne.

It’s this last category that provided the first Peers. By the time of the Naxid War, the Peers had evolved into less active collaborationists than a kind of hereditary ruling class, but they were still on top of a very brutal system.

The Lai-own had their own space navies and had fought their own space wars, so they were a little beyond the Apollo stage, but not as far as, say, The Expanse. In any case, they put up a much more effective resistance than expected, largely because they had actual experience.

I chose weapons and tactical systems based primarily on what would make a cool, effective action scene. I also benefitted by my previous career as a nautical writer, because I was aware of tactical systems used by sailing navies, and I did my best to adapt these to a three-dimensional space environment.

When I needed to describe how the new tactical system worked, I knew that Sula would use mathematical terminology, so I described to my mathematician friend Michael Wester what I wanted, and he gave me the appropriate terms. (He also got due credit in the acknowledgments.)

Etaoin Shrdlu April 2, 2018 at 8:09 am

I think the collaborator aspect might be part of the backstory concepts that you internalized but didn’t put into the novels. Perhaps a prequel novella some day?

I remember the credit to Dr. Wester; must be nice to have a mathemagician to call upon. 🙂 Interesting that wet navy tactics might be useful in space as well.

wjw April 2, 2018 at 8:24 pm

It’s not as if the Peers think of their ancestors as oppressive flunkies of the ruthless invaders. They think of them as superior individuals who strove to uphold the eternal principles of the Praxis.

Since I’m writing from the point of view of Peers, alternative points of view don’t come up much.

Etaoin Shrdlu April 3, 2018 at 7:04 pm

Well, there’s always Sula. 🙂

I still have a hard time reconciling her positive achievements with how utterly evil she is.

I wish I’d been able to read these and the Dagmar Shaw novels about 40 years ago. I learned a hell of a lot about character development and plotting from them.

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