the pill. Dante would never have understood our attitudes toward sex.
Known Space is exotic. You’ve got the coolest, most original aliens. You’ve got Canyon and Silvereyes and Plateau and Jinx and We Made It and a bunch of other arresting marginally-habitable worlds, not to mention the Ringworld and the Fleet of Worlds. And of course there’s Harlequin’s Moon and Svetz’ version of Mars, and the Smoke Ring in your other work. One of the reasons I keep coming back to it again and again over thirty years is that your places feel like places, not just “Planet California, with an extra moon.” What drives this? Why do you feel it is that so few authors have an interest in a sense of uniqueness and place in their fictional locations? Do you feel location drives the social evolution of a people? Are there any neat concepts for worlds that you’ve come up with, but never really got around to using in a story?
“It was raining on the planet Mongo.” Lots of SF feels claustrophobic, as if planets were all about the size of a village. It makes the storytelling easier for a lazy writer.
I like my planets big and various.
There were rules in DOLE’S HABITABLE PLANETS FOR MAN. Poul Anderson wrote articles on how to design planets; some writers were shocked, preferring a more poetic approach. I looked for the exceptions to Poul’s rules. Jinx was the first prolate spheroid in SF, and the variation emerged naturally.
Then if I get lazy, I only follow about six characters—and if I want six billion, I write with Jerry Pournelle.
Speaking of which, will we ever see more of the planet Silvereyes? You used it in your story, “The Color of Sunfire,” but it still feels tantalizingly offstage to me. Is there anything you can tell us to flesh it out a bit? For instance, I get that it’s a water world, but what are the humans settlements built on?
All I know about Silvereyes is that there are maybe five patches where Slaver sunflowers have taken over. I used Slaver sunflowers in WORLD OF PTAVVS and then in Ringworld, after drawing one in a math class. I don’t need to show Silvereyes again.
Ah, nuts. I was hoping you might revisit it since you’ve revisited a lot of your old characters in the last ten or twelve years. People who’ve been on the shelf for quite a long time - Nessus, Beowulf Schaeffer, Svetz - of these, the most pleasant surprise was Svetz in “Rainbow Mars,” because he just felt spot-on perfect. It didn’t feel like it had been thirty years since you’d written the last book in that series, it didn’t feel like it had been more than a month or two since you’d used him last. Is it hard to recapture the voice of these older characters?
I can’t speak for all my older characters. As for Svetz, I wrote five stories about him, then—I never stopped thinking about an orbital tower as the legendary Beanstalk. The tale didn’t get off the ground until I thought of setting it on Mars. Then, wow, the possibilities multiplied without limit.
I’m glad you found Svetz unchanged. Or amplified. He’s an easy character to write with.
As your talents have gotten defter over the years, do you find there’s something you can bring to them that wasn’t there before? Is this what causes you to bring them out of retirement?
Yes, I’ve learned enough to add depth to older characters. More to the point, I sometimes find more to say on the subject. I don’t want to be caught retelling an old tale unless there’s more to be told.
You didn’t mention Carpenter in ESCAPE FROM HELL, but he’s a perfect example. It was Jerry who kept thinking about the theological implications—and I had a wonderful opening.
Speaking of Dr. Pournelle, you collaborate more than any other genre author I’m aware of. Just off the top of my head, I can think of about twenty-four or twenty-five books you’ve co-written, and I’m sure I’m lowballing that by quite a bit. That’s the kind of thing that non-writers assume is really easy - “Hey, let’s split the work!” - but having spoken with a number of different authors, all of them confirm that it isn't. It’s really, really hard. Far