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Greg Bear : writer ‘til the end of times

Greg Bear started to write in 1964 when he was 13. Destroyers, his first short story, was published in 1967. His first novel, Hegira, is released in 1979. While awarded in 1983 with two Hugo and one Nebula for two shorts (Hardfought and Bloodmusic), he’ll wait until 1985 to enjoy public recognition for Eon. Out of the press three years later, Eternity would raise him as one of the very best in science fiction...

Par Emmanuel Beiramar | Emmanuel Tollé
11 décembre 2008 | Mis à jour 26 décembre 2008
Greg Bear : writer ‘til the end of times
Greg Bear : writer ‘til the end of times

Is there any relation between City at the End of Time, your last  novel, and Clarke's The City and the Stars ?

Greg Bear : CITY was certainly inspired by Clarke’s far-future vision, and the tradition that Clarke drew from, including Olaf Stapledon. Clarke’s novel bears something of a resemblance to William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land (1910), with the last city on Earth as its setting. So many  other influences contributed as well—including of course H.G. Wells with his apocalyptic vision in The Time Machine.



What are your upcoming projects after the City at the End of Time ?

Greg Bear :  I’m currently in the final stages of a follow-on novel to Quantico, with many of the same characters involved in hi-tech political suspense—this time with an economic component. In Quantico, I speculated there was a severe economic downturn coming—and now it’s here. This new novel will follow the consequences into the near future.



You've already written some books taking place in other people's universes (Foundation, Star Trek, Star Wars). How does it feel to write in those conditions? Any special technicality?

Greg Bear :  I’ve enjoyed writing these novels, and found the folks I worked  with to be dedicated and helpful. Janet Asimov in particular was very  supportive and generous. Also—to my surprise—I was given a lot of  freedom while working on my stories.



Should we take your The Way series, the future you imagined at the  beginning of your story isn't right viable anymore, as USSR as we knew  it ceased to exist. That kind of situation does happen often enough in  science-fiction, and 2001 would be another great example. How does a  writer feel, when the future he imagined just vanish?

Greg Bear :  The Eon series could use a bit of an update, no? But the situation  of the mid-1980s actually seems to be returning—not so much a Cold War as a struggle for influence between Russia and the western nations. A few tweaks in the language and the situations, change a few dates—and I believe Eon would still resonate, without major revisions. Certainly the Communist angle would be downplayed—that seems to be more and more a movement that was born and almost died in the 20th century.



Darwin's Children depicts an America where the danger the SHEVA children might represent is used to feed an obsessive fear for security. Was it a direct result from post 9/11 United States climate?

Greg Bear :  I had plotted out much of DARWIN’S CHILDREN before 9-11, but after, was given a number of opportunities to see how the U.S.government works by being invited to participate in government-sponsored exploratory sessions, dealing with unexpected security threats. One of the earliest meetings was attended by a wide range of people involved not just in the military, but in public health, and the information they conveyed was extremely useful in putting together a broad picture of how the United States might respond to a biological crisis. The political angle was equally obvious, given the history of the United States and many confirmations from the headlines about rising levels of hate crime and discrimination.


Ebook readers like Amazon's Kindle or Sony's left science-fiction to enter our reality. How do you see the future of books, real and virtual ones?

Greg Bear :  I think the future for electronic readers is very bright indeed. I’ve been addressing this possibility for over fifteen years now, in talks to librarians and teachers and tech workers around the world.The transition has been a little slow, however—technical issues matching with a slow response from many readers, who, like me, still love the feel of books. But the convenience and design of devices like Kindle are very attractive, and young readers in particular should adjust without difficulty.



Science-fiction often takes its roots from the present, and what we expect or fear from the future. But do you think it may have a real impact on the future?

Greg Bear :  Dreams, adventure, and inspiration are crucial to young scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs—and many of the most influential people I’ve met... in fact, a majority... are still readers of science fiction. From Jules Verne to H.G. Wells, on to Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the twentieth century was shaped by visions first expressed in science fiction—space flight, the nuclear age, the various and continuing medical and biological revolutions. Scientists and engineers do the hard work and most of the heavy lifting, of course!



Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, Greg Egan... Is there a special quality to the Greg forename that make good SF writers?

Greg Bear :  Certainly seems possible! We’ve had to expand our club of Killer Bs over the years, including a V, Vernor Vinge... and perhaps we should also bring in all the Gregs. Of course, we can’t neglect the GeorgesGeorge Zebrowski, George Orwell, George Clayton Johnson, George O. Smith, or the Z’s, Roger Zelazny—or back to the Rs, with Robert Silverberg... What a game this could be! I look over my paperback shelves and find heavy concentrations in the H’s as well...And now there’s another Bear, Elizabeth.


As a reader, and especially when you first entered the world of SF, was there some book(s) which specificaly influenced you? The kind of book which had you think: that's the things I want to write?

Greg Bear :  My grandmother sent me four SF paperbacks when I was ten years old, back in the early 1960s, that had a tremendous influence on me. One was a Tarzan novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, another, The Skylark of Space by Edward E. Smith, the third, Starship by Brian Aldiss, and the fourth, a John Wyndham novel —Out of the Deeps. What a terrific range of reading material! At that point, I was still reading Tom Swift books, but soon began reading Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov and Poul Anderson and a great many other authors. Within a year, I was reading pretty much everything connected with science fiction. My first real science fiction novel, however, was Red Planet by Heinlein—borrowed from a local library sometime in 1960 or 1961. I wanted to write (and did) books very much like all of these novels, except perhaps Tarzan...


Should we talk about other SF writers books., is there one you'd like to have written?

Greg Bear : That’s rather like asking if there are any other children I’d like to be the mother of... Considering the hard work and occasional crazy pain that goes into writing a novel, I’d much rather read someone else’s output and enjoy it without contemplating the effort involved! There are a great many novels I admire and even a few I’ve used as exemplars for my own books. John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar comes to mind, as well as The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke, and of course Childhood’s End. But there are literally dozens of other books that touched me to the point of inspiring my own work.

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