Karen Lord and Tobias Buckell’s “The Mighty Slinger”

New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean
New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean

Q: Tell us about your story in Bridging Infinity?

We wanted to tell an unapologetically Caribbean story, no explanations, no watering-down. People from small nations often travel far for work and get overlooked by large corporate and political interests. We made them the heroes that saved and mended our broken, used-up Earth when no-one else was willing to give it a chance.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your story?

A little bit of history, a little bit of now. There’s a hint of the building of the Panama Canal in there (many West Indians were part of that), and the tradition of sociopolitical commentary in kaiso goes back for generations and remains strong.

And the in-crowd knows that The Mighty Sparrow’s real name is Slinger Francisco. Our protagonist’s name is a nod to that. The people who travel to labor bring their memories and culture with them, so we wanted to show a future where diaspora continued and how vibrant it was.

Q: What do you believe makes a good science fiction story?

A good science fiction story isn’t so much the extrapolation, but the part where it holds up a mirror to a very important part of us that exists right now.

Q:  What are you working on now? And if people like your story in the book, what other work of yours should they seek out?

Read more Caribbean SF! The anthology New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean (edited by Karen Lord) is already out in the UK and will be released in the US very soon, in mid-November. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, so we’re not being biased when we say it’s brilliant!

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Ken Liu on “Seven Birthdays”

Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

Q: Tell us about your story in Bridging Infinity?

My story starts out as a “climate change” geo-engineering story based on ideas circulating in the scientific community but soon veers in an unexpected direction. It explores themes of family, our post-human essence, and the weight of history, which are close to my heart. But best of all, it features multiple “kites” at astronomical scales. Who doesn’t like kites?

Q: What was the inspiration behind your story?

I wanted to take the idea of mega-engineering and scale it up to be as grand as I can imagine and still be (theoretically) possible. To tell a story at an epic scale within the compact space of a short story is a challenge I enjoy.

Q: What do you believe makes a good science fiction story?
If the reader exclaims, “why didn’t I think of that?” then it’s a good SF story.

Q: What are you working on now? And if people like your story in the book, what other work of yours should they seek out?

I’m working on the next book in my silkpunk epic fantasy engineer-as-hero series (The Dandelion Dynasty, which includes The Grace of Kings and The Wall of Storms). I’m also trying to sketch out my next project, a near-future hard scifi novel.

If readers enjoy “Seven Birthdays,” they may also enjoy my story, “The Waves,” which was published by Asimov’s and collected in Humanity 2.0, edited by Alex Shvartsman. They may also like the stories in my collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories.

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Stephen Baxter on “The Venus Generations”

Xeelee: Endurance by Stephen Baxter
Xeelee: Endurance by Stephen Baxter

Q: Tell us about your story in Bridging Infinity?

Venus ought to be a twin of Earth. Instead, a little too close to the sun, a runaway greenhouse effect long ago removed all the water and covered it in an atmosphere as thick as an ocean. Even compared to Mars it’s a massive challenge to terraform – but a few thousand years from now a dynasty of engineers attempts it anyway, with disastrous personal results.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your story?

It’s set in my ‘Xeelee Sequence’ future history, in which I’m working on new novels. That sort of project generates its own ideas. I have a useful Venus in the far future; how did it get that way?

Q: What do you believe makes a good science fiction story?

Like all stories, sympathetic characters facing a strong dilemma. And ideally all aspects of the story deriving from a plausible bit of scientific speculation.

Q: What are you working on now? And if people like your story in the book, what other work of yours should they seek out?

I’m just finishing The Massacre of Mankind, a sequel to HG Wells’s The War of the Worlds. Out in January 2017. As for other work – look for Xeelee: Endurance, more recent short fiction in the Xeelee universe. And the first of the new novels, Xeelee: Vengeance, out in September 2017.

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Allen M. Steele on “Apache Charley and the Pentagons of Hex”

Hex by Allen Steele
Hex by Allen Steele

Q: Tell us about your story in Bridging Infinity?

“Apache Charley and the Pentagons of Hex” is set in the expanded universe of the Coyote series, which are novels and stories that take place elsewhere in the galaxy besides the 47 Ursae Majoris system but share the same background. In this instance, it’s a story taking place on Hex, a not-quite Dyson sphere that I previously explored in a novel of the same title.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your story?

After Hex was published, a couple of readers pointed out a design flaw in my not-quite Dyson sphere: a sphere comprised if trillions of hexagons (i.e. six-sided circles) would need a few pentagons (i.e. eight-sided circles) here and there in order for the whole thing to fit together, even if the sphere is 2 a.u. in diameter. One of these readers, a fellow I met at a SF convention, then told me exactly where those pentagons would geometrically be located, and this intrigued me. What if someone noticed these locations, thought there was something special about them, and went out to discover what it was?

Hex
The Hex Star System

Q: What do you believe makes a good science fiction story?

An often overlooked quality of a good SF story is its verisimilitude, the impression made upon the reader that it could actually occur. No matter how wild or bizarre the concept may be, the author has to make it seem realistic enough that the reader will believe in the story enough to enjoy it. So the stranger the concept, the harder the author has to work to create that verisimilitude and yet keep the story from getting bogged down in details. It can be a real challenge, but that’s why I like to write the sort of SF that I do.

Q: What are you working on now? And if people like your story in the book, what other work of yours should they seek out?

I’m reluctant to discuss what I’ve just begun working on, other than it’s an effort to bridge hard-SF and fantasy in that sort of realistic manner I’ve just described. If people like my story in this collection, they’ll probably like Hex, too (not to mention Coyote and the other novels in the series).

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Karin Lowachee on “Ozymandias”

The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee
The Gaslight Dogs by Karin Lowachee

Q: Tell us about your story in Bridging Infinity?

The concept of the anthology intrigued me, but to be honest I cycled through a handful of ideas before settling on the one that became Ozymandias. The title refers to the sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of my favorites since I was young, because of the theme of inevitable collapse or destruction that follows some great creation. At the center of the story is a n’er-do-well named Luis Estrada and the AI SIFU who occupy a giant “light station” in space, which is essentially like a lighthouse in the cosmos, albeit military owned. Hijinks ensue.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your story?

I thought of the enormity and isolation of something that would essentially be a beacon and replenishment depot for military convoys in space. It would be mostly run by an AI, but for redundancy purposes, entail a human live-in engineer. As Luis came alive on the page, I realized I wanted a more light-hearted approach – a character who is not in awe of any feat of engineering, but would rather just make a buck. He would be the perfect point-of-view to kind of de-romanticize these massive creations that humanity tends to take such pride in. I wanted to explore the concept of destruction, the fact that things built by hand (or robots) can still be taken down. We shouldn’t get too cocky about our achievements.

Q: What do you believe makes a good science fiction story?

To me, science fiction is a genre of ideas, metaphor, exploration. It’s a boundless genre with the potential for great depth – of both emotion and concept. Everything from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series can be folded under the umbrella of science fiction. This is why I love writing in the genre. It can take any number of avenues – some people are deft at exploring the scientific side, others the psychological or sociological. Ideally, for me, there’s some combination of a few facets. Science fiction is a literary thought experiment that writers pursue to some sort of conclusion.

Q: What are you working on now? And if people like your story in the book, what other work of yours should they seek out?

“Ozymandias” takes place in the same universe as my Warchild science fiction series, albeit in an earlier era. The tone is a little different from the series but it’s essentially the same style. I just wanted to toss in another note to the world I’d created in the book series. I’m currently writing the fourth novel in that series, as well as other projects that will hopefully take flight before too long.

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