Jeffrey A. Carver - Confronting a Malicious Entity at the Edge of the Galaxy
JEFFREY A. CARVER was a Nebula Award finalist for his novel Eternity’s End. He also authored Battlestar Galactica, a novelization of the critically acclaimed television miniseries. His novels combine thought-provoking characters with engaging storytelling, and range from the adventures of the Star Rigger universe (Star Rigger’s Way, Dragons in the Stars, and others) to the ongoing, character-driven hard SF of The Chaos Chronicles—which begins with Neptune Crossing and continues with Strange Attractors, The Infinite Sea, Sunborn, and coming in 2019, The Reefs of Time and its conclusion, Crucible of Time. As our Author of the Day, Carver tells us more about The Chaos Chronicles.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Chaos Chronicles is about.
The Chaos Chronicles is a long story arc that starts a couple of centuries in the future and goes forward from there. Our hero John Bandicut makes the first human contact with an alien intelligence, out on Neptune’s moon Triton, in the person of a noncorporeal named Charlie, who takes up residence in his mind—and proposes a preposterous-sounding mission. Guided by Charlie the quarx and a strange alien being/machine called the translator, Bandicut steals a spaceship and rockets off in an attempt to save Earth from a rogue comet.
That’s just the starting point, of course. As a consequence of this mission, and through the wonders of alien technology, Bandicut and Charlie wind up at a place called Shipworld, out at the edge of our galaxy. Shipworld is an enormous habitat housing refugees from numerous worlds throughout the galaxy. However, there are dangers on Shipworld, and soon Bandicut and some remarkable new alien friends are on the move—not exactly voluntarily—to save first one place and then another from catastrophe. From the boojum on Shipworld, to the undersea Maw of the Abyss on the world of the Neri, to the ancient Mindaru attacking the stellar nursery of the Orion Nebula, they teeter constantly on the edge of failure, confronting the impossible.
Featuring a cast of intriguing aliens and alien worlds, and inspired by the science of chaos, the Chronicles spans hundreds of years of human history, fifteen years of the author’s career, and is now nearing a climax with the impending publication of the fifth and sixth volumes: The Reefs of Time and Crucible of Time.
The book currently on sale includes the first three novels: Neptune Crossing, Strange Attractors, and The Infinite Sea.
The books are part of a continuing story, and are best read in order. That said, I have done my best to make sure that someone coming in at the midpoint can make sense of it all. But you’ll enjoy them a lot more if you read from the beginning. It’s about growth, and the development of friendships and love, and discovery. Take it from top.
You also authored Battlestar Galactica. How was this different from working on The Chaos Chronicles?
Writing BSG was a wonderful change of pace for me. It was a novelization of the miniseries that kicked off the Ronald Moore “reimagined BSG,” and was a relatively quick project for me. I had just finished drafting Sunborn (Book 4 in Chaos), and I needed a switch. At the time I was offered the chance to write in the BSG world, I was not yet a fan of the show. But immersing myself in the script and the story bible and the DVD of he show itself turned me into one. What was most different about it was that I wasn’t creating a story; I was taking a story and transforming it into a novel, a very different medium. The story-inventing lobe of my brain got to rest a bit, while the writing-craft side of me went to work. (I’ve written at somewhat greater length about the experience in the fascinating book of essays Somewhere Beyond the Heavens: Exploring Battlestar Galactica, published a few months ago.)
Why Sci-Fi? What drew you to this genre?
I have been reading SF since I began to read. I grew up with Tom Swift, Jr., and then Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, and then all the classic SF writers: Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Nourse, and so many more. I never didn’t want to read SF, and I was about twelve when I first took pen to paper to write “The Mysterious Midnight Ride,” which I still have somewhere around here. Science fiction isn’t just about space and the future. It’s about ways of thinking about the future. It’s about training your mind for change. And yes, it’s about the wonders of the universe, too. How can anyone not love it?
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’ve often said that writing science fiction is pretty much the only thing I’m qualified for! And there’s some truth in that. I went to a great school (Brown University), and I got a graduate degree in ocean resources management (University of Rhode Island), but I really didn’t train for any other career. You’re stuck with me as a writer! (Oh--and a teacher. I’ve taught at many writing workshops, both for kids and for adults.)
On the other hand, I’m pretty handy. I tend to build and repair things around the house. I was an avid scuba diver for many years. And I am a licensed private pilot, though unfortunately the cost of flying outran my ability to pay for it, so I haven’t done any flying in quite a while. Now I ride my moped, or my recumbent bike (usually with my border-collie mix alongside), or I rollerblade to stay active. (I’m fortunate in living right next to a great bike trail.)
I also enjoy drumming, strictly as amateur. You can read about that here: https://www.starrigger.net/2018/09/05/drumming-with-jeff/ and even see a very short Youtube video here: https://youtu.be/mhn0HBaIPTQ
Your books contain a lot of twists and the stories are unpredictable. Do you plot this all out before you start writing, or do some of it just "happens" along the way?
Sometimes I drive myself crazy with the way I write. I’m an extremely intuitive writer, which is another way of saying I don’t know what I’m doing until I do it. I often try to outline, but I just don’t see the bends in the road until I get to them—usually in the middle of the night in a rainstorm, with one headlight out and the wipers broken. It takes me a long time to write, partly because I go down a lot of blind alleys, or across long stretches of “What am I doing here?” I often write my first drafts as an act of sheer faith and folly, praying silently, “Don’t let this be dumb when I get to the end!” Usually, amazingly, it works out. But I do a lot of rewriting.
I should also say that my writing group—a small group of fellow writers, with whom I have been working for more than forty years now (!!)—is an enormous help. They nudge me when needed, boost my spirits when needed, and tell when I’m doing something stupid. It’s very important to have people who will tell you when you’re doing something stupid. So you can stop. :)
You also teach writing. Please tell us more about this.
Teaching is fun, and I’ve done it at places like the New England Young Writers Conference, working with high school kids; and on educational TV, with satellite links to classrooms (this predated the internet—just); and with adults, right here in Boston; and even with students at MIT. Some of my students have gone on to do work I admire greatly. In fact, one of my students (he’s actually a software engineer/writer/artist) has created several of my book covers! Including the one for the forthcoming The Reefs of Time!
I never fail to learn from my students, and that’s fun, too. I’d do it more often, but it’s time consuming, and I have trouble keeping up with my own writing while I doing it.
Does writing about surreal worlds and enigmatic scenes present any particular problems?
I love writing about surreal worlds and enigmatic scenes! That what makes it fun! Or one of the things, anyway. Writing a whole novel set underwater on an alien world (The Infinite Sea) was a great challenge, and so was setting a whole novel inside the Orion Nebula, confronting malicious AIs from out of the deep past (Sunborn). That’s actually what set in motion the two-volume “Out of Time” sequence, about to be published.
I started that novel as The Reefs of Time, and it proved very difficult to write, for a whole lot of reasons. It took me eleven years, and it grew in the telling until it was too huge to publish as a single book. With great trepidation, and with the assistance of my then-editor for Tor Books, I decided to split it into two. Life has a funny way of handing you surprises, though. Tor decided it had been too long since the last books, and they no longer wanted to publish it. Surprise! It worked out okay, though, because I am a member of an author cooperative called Book View Café (BVC). (Look it up online! It includes some great writers.)
With the assistance and encouragement of my colleagues at BVC, I undertook to publish the new books myself. I have been publishing my backlist titles in ebook form for years, and that’s when I became involved in BVC. Great people, and a great source of knowledge and practical help.
The Reefs of Time is coming out from my own imprint, Starstream Publications, in association with BVC, in July. Crucible of Time is coming out in September. Ebook and print. You can preorder Reefs right now! In fact, I encourage it! https://www.starrigger.net/books/chaos/the-reefs-of-time/
That’s what I’m working on now, powering the engine of publishing my own books. One of my BVC colleagues is doing the cover layout; another is proofreading for me. I am, this very day, working on the typesetting and layout of the print versions. I will be working very hard on promotion in the next three months. I am going to be a very busy person.
When I can, I will start writing the final novel of the series, Masters of Shipworld. After that? Who knows? Maybe it’s time to return to my Star Rigger Universe for a while. Or maybe something altogether different.
Also, look for a Kickstarter campaign—starting soon, I hope. I need to raise money to put all of these books into audiobook form!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
The best place to learn about me is at my website: https://www.starrigger.net I also have a Facebook page, and I enjoy interacting with friends and readers there. (Infrequently, though. It can be a time sink, and I try to limit my time there.) My blog appears both places, and that’s where you’re most likely to find out what I’m doing and thinking about.
You can also sign up for my Very Occasional Newsletter, at http://bit.ly/CarverNews.
And with that, I think I’ll sign off, and get back to work on the books! Thanks for tuning in!