This Interview with Peter F Hamilton was carried out by TC in October 2001.
This interview is mostly related to Fallen Dragon. The interview is spoiler free and Fallen Dragon will in no way be ruined for you if you read this interview.
TC: What was the inspiration for the new universe in Fallen Dragon?
PFH: The universe of Fallen Dragon came about because I wanted to portray starflight as an immensely difficult venture. A lot of stories, including my own, make it all too easy, the press a button and you're there type of voyage. Hopefully, this version which includes immense, expensive ships, no commercial profit, and difficult conditions everywhere you go, will help to make the setting a lot more believable.
TC: It's hard not to read that as a comment on NASA, ESA, etc..?
PFH: More of an observation. The space agencies are trying to do a great deal on a very small relative budget. If anything I suppose I'm lamenting the cost of hardware and how difficult we still find the engineering. Given how old the space age is now, it's very frustrating that we haven't got a lot further than we have.
TC: Do you have any hopes for us at a spacefaring species? Or will we need at-the-moment impossible technology to make it viable/possible?
PFH: Space travel and industrial development depends on getting into orbit cheaply. After that, things will really start to open up. Every new launch vehicle is advertised as being more efficient and cheaper than the last, but they still all use chemical rockets. We need something different and radical to do the job properly.
TC: Fallen Dragon seemed very political compared to The Nights Dawn trilogy, some sections seemed like direct attacks on popular idiologies. Am I reading to much into it? If not, then what prompted this?
PFH: No, no attacks, it's more irony or satire, taking what today sounds harmless and extrapolating it until it becomes extreme. As to what prompted that, politician come up with phrases like stakeholding which seem to have little or no substance whatsoever, and should be shown up as such.
TC: Are you interesting in economic theory or have you studied it for this book?
PFH: No professional interest, although my wife is an accountant and knows about such things. Again what I write about is projected from today's current trends.
TC: On the characters: They all seem to be a lot more well rounded, when we are used to (in both yours and others books). Was this a conscious decision or are you just getting better?
PFH: I'd like to think I'm getting better, however I think it's probably a consequence of concentrating on just a few principals rather than dozens as I did in Night's Dawn. This allows me to examine and explain them in a lot more detail.
TC: Which was you favourite character?
PFH: Calandrinia on Santa Chico, someone you can sympathise with (I hope) and also someone who is outside the human norm.
TC: Lawrence is sort of the ultimate "French Legionnaire". Running away and joining the army. A very unlikely hero - if a hero at all. What do you feel about him and how was it to write with such a main character.
PFH: Lawrence in his early life was easy to write about, I just had to dig down into my own teenage memories of peer pressure and girls, and how hopeless I was at the whole scene. In his later life he was more difficult to write, although in a dead-end job he was still complex enough to rise out of it when the opportunity arose. All in all, he's a good man, but gets there by the wrong route.
TC: What's you reaction if I say: "We need heroes".
PFH: It depends on circumstances. If we manage to build utopia, we won't need them. In order to get there, I suspect we do. I'm also not sure we'll ever arrive.
TC: What was the inspiration for the Ring Empire?
PFH: Classic SF used to have its empires based in and around the galactic core. Now there are several theories that say the radiation in the core would be too intense for anything to live there. Which actually poses a neat question of what type of life actually would eveolve, but that's for another book. So if I can't have the core itself, I'll settle for the next best thing. And the view would be quite something.
TC: Is this the first in a series or a standalone book? The universe seems so well thought out that it opens for lots of options even if the story it self is self contained and nicely wrapped. You could do "The Young Lawrence Kicks Ass (on the planet of scantly clad women)", "Tail/tale of the Dragons" or "Round the Ring Empire in 80 days".
PFH: No, no follow-ups planned.
TC: A bit more seriously: Any thoughts on doing an Ring Empire novel?
PFH: The idea of doing one in the ring empire with just aliens as characters is quite appealing, but it would have to wait a while.
TC: What are you writing at the moment?
PFH: Just finished writing Misspent Youth, which is set in Europe in about 40 years time and deals with the first person to be rejuvenated.
TC: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.
PFH: You are welcome.
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