Today I am interviewing Tim Pratt, author of the new space opera novel, The Forbidden Stars, final book in the Axiom series.
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DJ: Hi Tim! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Tim Pratt: Thanks for having me! I’ve been publishing stories for 20 years and novels for about 15, and have done a bunch of different things, from urban fantasy to sword-and-sorcery to steampunk to middle-grade spy fiction! The Axiom series is my first space opera though, something I’ve wanted to try for ages. I have a day job as senior editor at Locus Magazine, a trade publication for the science fiction and fantasy publishing business, where among other things I write the obituaries. I live in Berkeley CA with my wife and kid, surrounded by a community of like-minded weirdos. I publish a new story every month at my Patreon, and have been doing so for over four years, so there are lots of stories there: www.patreon.com/timpratt
DJ: What is The Forbidden Stars and then the Axiom series about?
Tim: Short version: Several hundred years in our future, a ragtag crew of posthumans discover strange alien technology and uncover a secret that threatens all sentient life in the galaxy. They spend three books trying to end that threat.
Long version: About 600 years from now, humankind has spread to colony worlds throughout the galaxy, and have a centuries-long relationship with an enigmatic race of aliens known as the Liars, who provided the wormhole gates that enabled galactic expansion. The (partly posthuman) crew of the White Raven, an independent freight/salvage/occasional security ship operating out of a huge space station on the edge of our solar system, discover a “goldilocks ship” drifting among the icy planitesimals: these were colony ships with small crews in cryonic suspension and lots of seedbanks, sent out five hundred years before, in the early 22nd century, when the Earth was nearly destroyed ecologically. Lots of the ships were launched toward any halfway plausible possible planet in the “goldilocks zones” of nearby stars, sent on long slow voyages in the hope that some of them would find habitable worlds and keep humankind alive if Earth perished. There’s no reason one of those ships should be anywhere near our solar system centuries after it launched, and when the crew of the White Raven investigate, they find all but one of the ship’s cryo-pods empty, and discover weird (seemingly alien) technology on board.
When the crew wakes up the sole survivor on the goldilocks ship, a biologist born in the late 21st century, she reveals the existence of an unknown race of aliens, the Axiom, far more dangerous and sinister than the baffling-but-mostly-friendly Liars. Investigating her story, and figuring out what the strange technology on the goldilocks ship can do, leads to the revelation of secrets that threaten the survival of every intelligent being in the galaxy, human and Liar alike.
As the series continues, they face escalating threats from the Axiom and members of an alien cult dedicated to keeping the existence of the Axiom secret and safeguarding their eventual return.
Also there are jokes and kissing and weird giant bug-monsters and runaway nanotech and revolutions and virtual realities and horrifying medical experiments.
DJ: What were some of your influences for the Axiom series?
Tim: Iain M. Banks’s Culture series, M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchee Tract novels, Joanna Russ’s The Two of Them, Peter Watts’s Blindsight, various sorts of cosmic horror, and more, and more, and more.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Tim: The crew of the White Raven shifts a bit as the series goes on, but I’ll hit the highlights. Captain Kalea Machedo (Callie to her friends) is tough and pragmatic, sometimes stubborn and maybe a little reckless, and has a romantic streak and profound loyalty to her crew. Her girlfriend Elena Oh is an unfrozen time refugee from the 22nd century, a biologist and aspiring doctor, and she’s more patient and mild than Callie but capable of handling herself if things get rough. Their relationship is the emotional core of the series. Ship’s doctor and XO Stephen Baros is doleful and pessimistic, mostly, and is usually the voice of caution; he’s also a member of the Church of the Ecstatic Divine, a religious sect that believes in fostering a sense of community and connection with the divine by taking lots of really good hallucinogenic drugs. The ship’s computer, Shall, is an AI with a personality based on a template of Callie’s ex-husband, which makes their relationship a little fraught at times; he’s in love with her but she can have a hard time hearing his voice without it bringing up bad memories. The pilot and navigator/comms specialist, Drake and Janice, were in a horrible shipwreck years ago, and alien scientists attempted to save them, without knowing what human beings were supposed to look like; as a result, they share a single body that doesn’t look much like a baseline human’s. Drake is pretty cheerful, all things considered, but Janice prefers to expect the worst. Engineer Ashok is a cyborg and an “early adopter”; which is to say, he’s always the first to wire new and barely tested technology into his own body. He’s still more flesh than machine, but it’s getting close to the halfway point. He is very excitable and bad at reading social cues and a wonderful friend. Finally, the alien Lantern is a Liar who comes from a rare sect that always tries to tell the truth, no matter how inconvenient. She’s brave and resourceful and finds humans confusing. Together, they fight and/or commit crime!
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role the in story? Why?
Tim: In book three we meet Kaustikos, a machine intelligence embodied in a spherical drone, who works for a mysterious figure called The Benefactor that the crew is working with. Kaustikos joins the crew to act as the Benefactor’s liaison, and basically annoys the hell out of everyone by being manipulative, smarmy, and vile. Those kind of characters are great fun to write.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Axiom series like?
Tim: It’s in spaaaace. Specifically in our galaxy, more specifically in various colony systems, though a bunch of it takes place in our solar system. There are various polities, in the colony systems and in our system (the Jovian Imperative, based on Jupiter and its moons, is the major power here), and corporations that act like governments, and cults, and artist collectives, and so on. Space is big. There’s room for all kinds of cultures. The systems are linked by wormhole gates, and broadly speaking, those who control the wormholes control the system.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first two books of the Axiom series? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
Tim: They’ve been very positive! People like the queer romance, and the Liars, and everybody loves Ashok.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Forbidden Stars?
Tim: There are a series of guerilla actions/attacks on powerful repressive forces, with an oppressed underclass rising up to save themselves. That was fun… and feels pretty timely.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Tim: Their complete and total heartbreak at the series being finished, I suppose! (I will probably write some more stories, maybe even some novellas, but I think this is it for novels.)
DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing The Cross Cutting series? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Tim: That’s changed and shifted a bit, too, as the series went on, but broadly it’s about the importance of found family, and the necessity to stand up for what you believe in, and the way cultures and societies can be shaped by the stories we tell about ourselves.
DJ: I’m always curious when authors finish a series, how close to the original course they stayed when it is finally completed or if it ended up evolving and changing. Did the plot stay the same as you had first imagined it? How about the ending? The evolution of your characters?
Tim: I did the things I wanted to do. I don’t outline, really. I knew basically what each book was about, in terms of the threats that would be faced, but figuring out how to defeat those threats is where a lot of the fun in writing comes for me.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Forbidden Stars that you can share with us?
Tim: I have not memorized any swathes of the book, alas. Ashok gets a lot of good lines though.
DJ: Now that The Forbidden Stars is released, what is next for you?
Tim: I just signed a contract for a new book, which I hope to be able to announce soon! It’s a multiverse book. I love multiverse books.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Tim-Pratt/e/B001ILIG4M
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Forbidden Stars and the Axiom series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Tim: The giant starfish space station thing on the cover of The Forbidden Stars is *not* metaphorical.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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***The Forbidden Stars is published by Angry Robot and is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
The ancient alien gods are waking up, and there’s only one spaceship crew ready to stop them, in this dazzling space opera sequel to The Wrong Stars and The Dreaming Stars.
Aliens known as the Liars gave humanity access to the stars through twenty-nine wormholes. They didn’t mention that other aliens, the ancient, tyrannical – but thankfully sleeping – Axiom occupied all the other systems. When the twenty-ninth fell silent, humanity chalked it up to radical separatists and moved on. But now, on board the White Raven, Captain Callie and her crew of Axiom-hunters receive word that the twenty-ninth colony may have met a very different fate. With their bridge generator they skip past the wormhole, and discover another Axiom project, fully awake, and poised to pour through the wormhole gate into all the worlds of humanity…
About the Author:
Tim Pratt lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, Heather Shaw and their son River. His fiction and poetry have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, Asimov’s, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Subterranean, and Tor.com, among many other places (for complete details, see his bibliography).
His debut collection Little Gods was published in November of 2003. His second collection, Hart & Boot & Other Stories, appeared in January 2007, and was a World Fantasy Award finalist. Third collection Antiquities and Tangibles and Other Stories appeared in 2013.
First novel The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl was published in late 2005. It was nominated for the Mythopoeic Award, and won a Romantic Times Critic’s Choice Award for best Modern Fantasy, and an Emperor Norton Award (which has the coolest trophy ever: a bust of Joshua Norton).
Other standalone fantasy novels include Briarpatch (2011), Heirs of Grace(2014), and forthcoming short novel The Deep Woods (2015). His gonzo-historical novel, The Constantine Affliction, was published under pen name T. Aaron Payton in 2012. He co-wrote middle grade spy novel The Stormglass Protocol with Andy Deemer (2013).
In October 2007 he began publishing a series of urban fantasies featuring ass-kicking sorcerer Marla Mason. The first was Blood Engines, followed by Poison Sleep (April 2008), Dead Reign (November 2008), and Spell Games (April 2009). He serialized a prequel, Bone Shop, online in 2009. The fifth book, Broken Mirrors, appeared in 2010, followed by Grim Tides in 2012 and Bride of Death in 2013. Lady of Misrule is forthcoming in early 2015. Visit MarlaMason.net for details.
He’s written several roleplaying game tie-in fantasy novels, including one for Forgotten Realms and four for Pathfinder Tales.
Some of his poems have been collected in If There Were Wolves, including “Soul Searching”, winner of a Rhysling Award for best long poem.
He has edited two anthologies: a reprint volume of stories about infernal creatures, Sympathy for the Devil (2010) and an anthology of original stories inspired by classic tales, Rags and Bones (2012, with Melissa Marr).
By day he works as senior editor at Locus magazine, where, among other things, he write the obituaries.
He won a Hugo Award (for “Impossible Dreams” in 2007), and has been nominated for a Nebula Award, Stoker Award, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, a couple of Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, a Seiun Award, a Scribe Award, and two Ignotus Awards, among others. In 2004 he was a finalist for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.