Gareth L Powell talks to Forbidden Planet!

5 February 2018

We're very pleased to have had a chat with author Gareth L Powell - about his new book, and life after the monkey!

Can you tell us a bit about your new novel, Embers of War?

Embers is set in the aftermath of a destructive interstellar war, and revolves around the heavy cruiser Trouble Dog. Having taken part in a heinous war crime, she’s accidentally developed a conscience. Only however much she tries to help her fellow star-farers, violence has a way of seeking her out.

This is your sixth novel, and you’ve written numerous short stories. Do they get easier as you progress? Or is it a new journey every time?

Every novel presents its own set of challenges, and this was no exception. After the simple, stripped-back language of the Ack-Ack Macaque trilogy, I made a conscious effort to up my game with Embers, and take my writing to a whole new level. It’s also the first novel I’ve written in the first person.

How do you go about building a new SF reality?

I start with the characters and the journey on which I want to send them. I construct everything else around the needs of that story. In order for the characters in Embers to be war veterans, I needed to construct an interstellar human society with at least two incompatible factions. Everything else falls into place.

Is it difficult to write a sentience that’s not human? Is Trouble Dog more than human, or is she less?

Trouble Dog is an artificial consciousness, but she’s running on neural cells cloned from a dead soldier, and some of that humanity has started leaking into her thought processes. She’s started developing a conscience, and feelings for her crew. So there’s a tremendous conflict in her mind between these burgeoning emotions and violence for which she was designed. And I think that’s something to which we can all relate—that conflict between what we want to do and what we have to do.

Do you ever base characters in your books on people you know? (Go on, we won’t tell).

I did once include a particularly odious office manager from one of my former day jobs in one of my short stories, and then gave him a particularly gruesome death. That was pretty satisfying.

What kind of person will love Embers of War?

Obviously, I hope this book will appeal to the kind of readers who enjoy novels by Ann Leckie, Iain M. Banks and Becky Chambers, and fans of Firefly and Cowboy Bebop. But also, I hope it will find a readership among people who wouldn’t necessarily expect to enjoy space opera. While there are space battles and ancient alien ruins, a set of very human stories lies at the heart of the book.

Thanks Gareth! You can join Gareth signing Embers of War at Forbidden Planet Bristol on Thursday 22nd February from 6 - 7pm!