SF² Concat interviews Greg Bear



The US author Greg Bear has been active in SF since he was small. His first published story was Destroyers at 16 years of age. He was been involved in US fandom for many year before his first novels, Hegira and Psycholone were published in 1979 aged 28. His presence became felt (to put it very mildly) in Europe in 1987 with the UK publishing of his 1985 novel Blood Music and he has been well worth keeping an eye on ever since.


Concatenation: From your website you seem to have written SF and been earning from it since you were quite young. Has any other career beckoned?

Greg Bear: Briefly, a career as an illustrator attracted me -- even managed to do the cover for the Tor edition of Psychlone. But the competition was too fierce, and I was very slow at handing in cover art! When I was younger, special effects seemed a wonderful career as well--back in the days when there were maybe a hundred jobs in that business in the entire world. Now... a little different!

Concatenation: Which writers have in the past generated your interest in SF?

Greg Bear: Too many to list here, certainly. E.E. Smith and H.G. Wells and Verne and Olaf Stapledon and Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury and on and on and on -- you name it, I've read them and gleaned some inspiration from their best work.

Concatenation: Which of the newer generation of writers do you currently enjoy?

Greg Bear: There's a fine crop, everyone from Kay Kenyon and Louise Marley through Kathy Ann Goonan and Chris Moriarty and Paul McAuley and Stephen Baxter and Greg Egan (who ranks higher on Google as a "greg" than I do!) and then we move on to Ted Chiang and Syne Mitchell... all great. Too many to list here. The Golden Age continues.

Concatenation: (Egan ranks higher because he's a computer programmer and Google is run, well by...) Anyway, 'infection' does seem to be a thing running through a number of your novels (cf. Blood Music, Vitals and the Anvil series). Is there anything behind this fascination?

Greg Bear: Either infection or transfer of information. If you look deeper, you'll see I'm interested in how things talk to each other--from the sub-atomic and the cellular to the human level. The whole universe is about information transfer, coercion, persuasion, and cooperation.

Concatenation: Your novels tend to be hard SF. What is the attraction for this form of SF to you?

Greg Bear: It's the most difficult to write, and the game with the tightest rules. It demands hard thought and self-critical reassessment, and that's where it's at for me--though I do like the freedom of fantasy and the dark moods of supernatural lit and horror. My fantasy, however, does seem on occasion to turn off hardcore fantasy readers--it seems a little too rational and believable.

Concatenation: Any plans to depart from your current hard SF trend?

Greg Bear: Del Rey and Harper Collins UK will be publishing my high-tech ghost story, Dead Lines, in June. I consider it science fiction -- but it's also a highly traditional tale of haunting and the supernatural.

Concatenation: Were you aware that Darwin's Children is being marketed by Harper Collins as a thriller (not SF)? Was this your choice? And if not how do you feel about it?

Greg Bear: The thriller label is purely a publisher business decision--trying to find a larger audience, outside the core SF readership. It's a delicate balance--not offending SF readers, but at the same time reaching out to Crichton's and Cook's and Clancy's audience. They've had some success at it -- but my suspicion is that that extended audience arrives in a large way only with a motion picture or television connection, which hasn't quite happened yet, though we're very close with The Forge of God at Warner Brothers. Publishers simply do not have enough money to compete with media.

Concatenation: Writing hard SF what do you do to keep up with the latest developments in science?

Greg Bear: I read the journals and texts and talk to scientists whenever I can. The research is my hobby, and it never ends. I love the feeling of riding the wave of current discoveries in biology--and every day I learn something basic that I should have known years ago. It's a great way to keep wrinkles on my brain.

Concatenation: Any current developments do you reckon will be more important than they may seem to us now?

Greg Bear: New discoveries in viral and transposon research -- a la Darwin's Children -- are going to revolutionize the way we deal with medicine and genetics. As well, epigenetics--the study of how genes are controlled, switched on and off--is a fabulous area for research. The simple notions of past genetics are rapidly being transformed into a complicated sea of possibilities, ripe for science fictional exploration.

Concatenation: SF has seen a number of developments, new wave, cyberpunk etc,. What do you think will be the next big thing in SF?

Greg Bear: Good storytelling. The rest is sound and fury, signifying highly successful self-promotion. To my chagrin, I've managed to avoid most of the labels--and hence, a lot of the shockwave riding that seems to fascinate many readers. But I'm not complaining--my books have staying power. Most of them are still in print, twenty and more years after first publication--and that's not bad.

Concatenation: You have received several awards for your work over the years. If, for some obscure reason, you could only retain one, which one would it be and why?

Greg Bear: A single good letter from a happy reader. Those are worth more than anything else, and can make my entire writing week go smoother.

Concatenation: Thank you very much. We greatly look forward to Dead Lines.

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