The following is an interview via email that author Peter Cawdron was gracious enough to grant myself. Peter is the author of a collected series of science fiction stories stories titled Galactic Exploration. I found it to be an engaging read. [Book review]
Through a series of most fortunate events, I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to chat with Peter.
The following is an exclusive email interview exchange with the author, where I ask him abut his inspirations and processes he used to approach writing the collection of stories.
After reading the compilation of short stories titled Galactic Exploration, I found it to be an easy-to-read science fiction platform. And the science in the story was made easy in how it was explained to the reader.
I found the concept of the reach of humanity out to the deep recesses of space to be nicely explained and the process of the journey, entertaining.
So I have to ask…
Q: How long have you been writing?
I’d find myself reading classic works of science fiction, loving the concepts being put forward, being enthralled by the story line, only to run into some hitch that threw me out of the narrative. More often than not, it was filler sections, a bunch of backstory thrown in somewhere after the halfway point in the novel to pad out the story. And I’d find myself wondering why the writer went in this or that direction. In my mind’s eye, I’d rewrite that section, coming up with different motivations, scenarios, etc for the characters. After a while, I figured, rather than rewrite mentally, why not give writing a crack myself.
I’m not a plotter. I don’t build convoluted plans or story-lines to follow. I have a vague, general idea where a story is going and some key points I want to hit along the way. Then I do my best to paint the character into a corner. Often, I’ll be stumped on how to get them out of a certain predicament, but I think that makes their escape more natural than contrived.
Q: Do you come by this talent of yours naturally, or did you go to school and build these skills?
Just picked it up along the way. The hardest thing for any writer to do is to divorce themselves from their stories and see their writing critically. Like every other writer, I’d like to think I’ve just written the next NY Times best seller, but the reality is that’s for the readers to decide, not the writer. I’m forever re-reading something I wrote and critiquing it further.
I’m glad to hear you think it comes across in easy-to-grasp terms, as that’s something that worries me about Galactic Exploration. It’s a bit too heady and nerdy. There’s some great scientific concepts in the story, but stories are about characters on a journey, not hard scientific concepts, so I’ve toned things down in my latest novel, Monsters, focusing more on character.
Q: I also loved how you presented your work of fiction and then followed it up with explanations of different aspects that pertained to these stories was a wonderful end-cap. What inspired you to do that?
The afterwords were fun, allowing me to crystallize some of the science behind the stories. I wanted to include them so readers would realize that science fiction isn’t just fiction set in a futuristic realm, with a few lasers and rockets thrown in for good measure. Science fiction is fiction that would fall apart without the science.
Q: When you come up with an idea… do you research if it’s been done before or do you charge head-long into it and not worry about it?
Oh, I tend to dive headlong into it. In the words of Cory Doctorow, “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but that’s far enough to make it the whole way home.” (or, at least, that’s my paraphrase)As for ideas being “done before,” I’m reminded of TS Eliot, who said, “immature poets imitate, mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” The same has been said of writing, that good writers borrow, great writers steal, but seldom do you hear the rest of the concept, that great writers develop ideas into something different, something better. Plagiarism is never called for, but enlarging on great ideas is a wonderful way to write. My novel Anomaly was criticised as being a “fanfic” ripoff of Carl Sagan’s Contact, and I openly acknowledge the influence and inspiration of Contact in the afterword, but Anomaly is not fan fiction, it is an entirely different approach to the possibility of first contact with intelligent extraterrestrial aliens. That’s not to say Anomaly is better, but it is refreshingly different and I hope it inspires other writers to explore other possibilities and extend the idea further.I understand why that particular Amazon reviewer called Anomaly fan fiction, though, in that it is heavy on the scientific, technical details and lacks strong characterisation. So that review was a good reminder for me to avoid information dumps and to weave more of a character journey into subsequent stories. And that’s the thing about criticism, it need not be crippling, it can be formative.
If you enjoy smart science fiction, I recommend checking out this indie collective of stories.
Galactic Exploration on Amazon