Saturday 8 August 2015

Interview with Stephanie Saulter

Stephanie Saulter writes literary science fiction. Born in Jamaica, she studied at MIT and spent fifteen years in the USA before moving to the UK. In 2010 she launched the Scriptopus interactive website for writing short fiction. Stephanie blogs at and tweets as @scriptopus. The third volume of her acclaimed ®Evolution trilogy, Regeneration has just been published by Jo Fletcher books. She was kind enough to take the time from her busy release tour to talk to us about her books.

The Future Fire: Regeneration closes the ®Evolution trilogy. How do you feel it differs from the first two volumes, Gemsigns and Binary, in tone, theme or genre?

Stephanie Saulter: All three books share a family resemblance, in that they are multi-layered and tightly plotted, with multiple points-of-view and a central thriller-type narrative thread around which all of the other plotlines weave in and out. They’re character-driven science fiction with a strong literary emphasis.

Gemsigns is the most urgent, probably the most overtly political and I think the most intrinsically angry book; the parallels it draws with racism, xenophobia and homophobia are pretty evident. Binary treats these issues with greater subtlety and takes a longer view, both forward and back; it’s very aware of the need to confront and somehow reconcile with damage done in the past, and to take those lessons forward in thinking and planning for the future. Regeneration shows that future struggling to become reality; it’s about the mechanisms of politics and business and the ways in which they intersect, about how the opposing forces of conservatism and progressiveness operate. If Gemsigns was an all-or-nothing response to a crisis, and Binary about uneasy accommodations made under less than ideal circumstances, Regeneration is concerned with the difficult compromises that are necessary if a society is to achieve change without carnage.

TFF: How do you think a reader of Regeneration who hadn’t first read the previous books would get on with the story?

SS: I think all of the stories stand on their own. There’s a gap of around three and a half years between the events of Gemsigns and those of Binary, and then eight years between Binary and Regeneration, and they each have their own distinctive, self-contained narrative arc; they were written to work as individual tales set within an extended chronology. Having said that, there’s no question that readers of the previous books will have a deeper and more nuanced understanding of some aspects of Regeneration, because they’ll be aware of events in the history of the characters and their contemporary culture that a new reader won’t.

But that doesn’t mean a new reader can’t or shouldn’t pick up Regeneration first. Think of it this way: if something drastic happens to someone you’ve only recently met, you’ll still grasp the significance of it and you’ll empathise with the effect it has on them. An old friend of the same person, knowing more than you do about their history, may understand its resonances with their past in a way that you can’t. They may comprehend more of its ramifications in the present than you can. That doesn’t make your reaction less valid, or diminish the value of your response.

TFF: In one sentence, why should readers of The Future Fire go and find your books?

SS: The ®Evolution novels are deeply concerned with the negotiation of social, cultural and political responses to disruptive technology, artificial evolution and the eternal question of what it means to be human.

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