In Great North Road, space opera master Hamilton blends near-future science fiction with a pair of murder mysteries.
Several of your books feature mystery elements; which authors in that genre influenced you?
Not many. I don’t read a lot of detective fiction. Isaac Asimov’s SF mysteries were always a joy when I was growing up, also Larry Niven’s Gil the Arm stories. I saw this particular theme as one that can be used to explore the created SF world in a lot more detail than usual.
Is it easier or harder to write pure science fiction without the whodunit element?
This is a bit like how long is a piece of string. World-building for SF is always quite complex no matter what the theme of the story. I spend a lot of time trying to make the world believable, and getting the background details right.
What theme runs through all of your fiction?
I would have to say long-term optimism. There will always be people treated badly, which I feel is basic human nature and difficult to eliminate. I haven’t yet written a book in a far-future utopia, where all bad things are eliminated, but it would be fun to do that one day and introduce some subversion.
Your books have been often been labeled space operas. How do you feel about the classification?
Delighted by it. Space opera has always given authors a way to include a vast array of ideas and concepts. The opportunities it provides are limitless. Long may it reign.
How do you plausibly project science and politics centuries in the future?
Cautiously! Once you have extrapolated the effects a particular science will have on society—cheap clean energy, rejuvenation—the political impact is quite easy to predict. The two are twinned.
How have scientists responded to the science in your fiction?
I’ve had some good feedback, and the scientists I talk to are always happy to help explain projects and where their research is going and the potential they hope it can achieve.
In an interview a while back, you stated that 300 pages was your ideal length for a novel, but many of your books are much longer. Why the shift?
Lack of discipline? I will be trying to get the Fallers books down to a shorter length than the earlier Void books, but long does seem to be my default right now. Having said that, the children’s books I’m currently writing are less than 300 pages, so I know I can do it.