Graham Storrs is a former research scientist and interactive multimedia specialist. These days he lives and writes in the Australian bush. He has published many short stories in magazines and anthologies as well as five novels: the sci-fi thriller, Timesplash, and its Aurealis Award shortlisted sequel,True Path;the augmented reality dystopian thriller, Heaven is a Place on Earth; a sci-fi comedy, Cargo Cult; and The Credulity Nexus, a near future thriller dealing with the rise of transhumanism.
His blog is at http://grahamstorrs.cantalibre.com/ and he’s always happy to chat on Twitter, where his monicker is @graywave
1. It is only just over a year since your first novel came out, and you appear to have been pretty busy since then! What book (or books) are you currently working on?
My latest novel, The Credulity Nexus, has just been released. This is an exciting project for me as it is the first book in a very long series set in my world of Placid Point and spanning ten thousand years. It deals with first contact and the rise of transhumanity – two subjects that fascinate me. There are three phases in my plan for the whole. The first is an open-ended series set in the near future when humanity is coming to terms with the transhumans among us. I’ve written two books in this series so far and The Credulity Nexus is the first. The second phase is a trilogy, based about four hundred years from now when we have our first contact with extraterrestrial species. I’ve written two of these books already and have just begun writing the third. The final phase is another trilogy, set ten thousand years in the future. The story is told by one of the characters from the second phase – a sentient robot – but it will eventually involve characters from the very first series as it unfolds. I’ve only written the first of these so far but I’m very much looking forward to finishing the trilogy.
So, at least eight books in all (possibly more), and I’ve written five so far. It’s the biggest writing project I’ve ever undertaken and, even after five novels, I’m still completely gripped by it. Of course, some of these books were written before my first novel was published. I really don’t write that fast!
2. Your second novel True Path was was shortlisted for an Aurealis award and forms part of your Timesplash series. Could you tell us more about the world and time-traveling science in these books? Do you have plans for any more?
Timesplash had quite a history before Pan Macmillan/Momentum picked it up. Back in 2011/12 it became a Kindle best-seller as a self-published novel. But that’s another story. I wrote it as a stand-alone novel but Momentum asked for a sequel. I really couldn’t understand how I could do it at first. I mean, how could lightning strike my protagonists twice without it appearing contrived and unrealistic? I was in a funk for weeks, drawing giant mind-maps of all the possibilities. Then inspiration struck and True Path was the result. I suppose after all that hand-wringing, I must have forgotten to turn off the inspiration tap because a third Timesplash idea came to me almost straight away and a third novel – working title FORESIGHT – was the result. I pitched it to Momentum and they very kindly agreed to publish that one too. The publication date is set for October 9 2014, so there isn’t long to wait!
The series is set in the near future. Some time in the 2030′s the world hits “peak oil” – where global supplies begin to diminish and prices go through the roof. The world is plunged into a massive depression which leads to the collapse of many nation states – including the USA. Only Europe and China manage to hold on to a reasonably advanced civilisation, but even there, things are very bad. In the chaos, a couple of young PhD students – now living in poverty – discover the secret of time travel into the past. You can’t go far back because the energy requirements are exponential, and, when you get there, you can’t change a thing, but if you try hard and set up some serious temporal anomalies (like shooting your grandmother), you can create a “timesplash” where causality goes haywire just for a while until the universe sorts itself out. But the craziness flows forward to the present and creates yet more causal mayhem. With small jumps back, the amount of weirdness in the present is enough that kids at rave-like “splashparties” can get off on it and a big, underground youth culture builds up around it all. But then one guy takes it too far and goes so far back and creates such a big timesplash that the backwash in the present destroys a small town and kills people. Terrorists and criminal organisations, even rogue states, are quick to realise that a new weapon has become available to anyone who can afford to fund the splash teams.
3. You have already tried your hand at a few different styles of sf ranging from thriller to comedy – do you plan to stick with sf in the future?
I love science fiction. It is mostly what I read and it is all that I write. I’ve tried my hand at crime (I have a couple of things published under a pseudonym) and fantasy, even literary fiction, but it is science fiction that gets my pulse racing and my head fizzing. I love the world-building and I love the exploration of ideas. I take the ideas very seriously. Recently I’ve been working on a novel about the Fermi paradox (why haven’t we met any aliens yet, when we should have done on most reasonable assumptions?) but I’ve had to abandon the book after 45,000 words because I’m not yet happy with my answer. One day I’ll work it out and get back to the novel. Similarly, while I wrote Heaven is a Place on Earth in the style of a Robert Goddard thriller, I also used it to explore questions about how much trust we can place in authority as we move into a world increasingly dominated by augmented and virtual realities – questions I find extremely vexing!
I don’t find science fiction in the least bit constraining. It’s a huge and unexplored universe of possibilities and genres. As you say, I’ve written thrillers and comedy, I’ve also written police procedurals, horror, and other forms (even a ghost story) all under the sci-fi umbrella. The Timesplash series is as much a love story as it is a time-travel thriller. I’m very serious about my sci-fi and a complete nerd when it comes to defining what’s in and what’s out! But it is such a rich literature – from Ursula le Guin to Gregory Benford, it is full of deep and fascinating explorations of the human psyche and the physical universe, beautiful writing, and awesome ideas.
So, yes, I’ll be sticking with sci-fi – probably until the day they prise my cold fingers off my keyboard.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
To my shame, I have only recently discovered George Turner, one of the great Australian sci-fi writers. His novel, The Sea and Summer, was recently re-released as part of the Gollancz’s SF Masterworks series – otherwise I might never have come across it. It was a disturbing revelation that there was a sci-fi author this good whom I’d never encountered before – and an Australian one at that! It’s a bit like meeting Aussie sci-fi fans who haven’t read Greg Egan. That guy is one of the sci-fi authors I admire the most, and yet you’d be amazed how many people have never read him – or even heard of him!
Another Aussie writer who has knocked my socks off recently is Alexandra Long. Not sci-fi at all but lit. fic.. I found a short story collection of hers in a second-hand book shop and I thought it was brilliant. And yet… I can’t seem to find anything else by her. She may be the same Alexandra Long who, after starting as a novelist, switched to screen writing and had a number of moderate successes in the 90s. If anyone knows more about her, please let me know!
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
In five years’ time, I expect I’ll be publishing, writing and reading exactly what I am now. Reading mostly science fiction, and writing and publishing only science fiction. There are huge changes taking place in the industry but I think I’ve already gone past what some people are struggling with. I’ve never had much patience with how slowly the future arrives!
I only really began my fiction-writing career in earnest in 2008 – after a series of road-to-Damascus revelations about what the publishing business is all about. The ebook revolution was well underway by then and as far as I could see, print had already begun its slow death-spiral. I began submitting short stories and manuscripts and was shocked to find that most of the big-name publishers and mags would still only accept submissions on paper! Fortunately, most of them have now caught up with the 20th Century and may one day even make it into the 21st. You still see it, though, in odd pockets here and there.
I have never had my fiction published in print (except in some anthologies and magazines which had electronic and print editions). For me a book is a story, it’s ideas, it’s the world it builds, the characters, the language and so on. The technology used to make it available is irrelevant, so why not go for the easiest and cheapest – and that is presently what ebooks provide. All of my novels are electronic only. I know this means that some readers won’t be able to access them, and that’s a shame, but this is 2014, for heaven’s sake. It’s time things changed. I bought my first Kindle in 2009 – as soon as it became available in Australia. I have not bought a paper novel since then (except for second-hand books). Eventually, all paper books will be converted to ebooks but, increasingly, a good many ebooks will never be available on paper. People who don’t read ebooks are already missing out and this trend will continue to the point where books printed on paper will become an oddity – a luxury item for those who like collecting things. That won’t happen in five years but we will all have moved a few more paces in that direction.
I began experimenting with self-publishing as soon as the tools became available and “free”. These days I’m more comfortable publishing my own work than selling my rights to a publisher. Unless something drastic happens and publishers find new and effective ways to sell books, I can only see them becoming increasingly irrelevant in the supply chain between writer and reader. There is much still to do to bring order to the currently disrupted publishing world – more effective ways need to be found to make books discoverable online, financial systems for sales and author payment need to be streamlined, territorial licensing makes no sense any more, and so on – but the direction of the trend is obvious.