Paul McAuley tells us about The War of the Maps
23 March 2020
Forbidden Planet are delighted to welcome Paul McAuley to our blog page, telling about his latest novel, War of the Maps!
Q: War of the Maps is set on an artificial world, surrounding an artificial sun. Please can you explain a little about how this works?
Well, it’s the far future, when many things not yet possible now are ancient history – including the construction of Dyson spheres, shells or flocks of worldlets build around stars to capture all their energy. This particular Dyson sphere, the world of War of the Maps, is a shell enclosing the remnant of Earth’s sun after it has passed through its red giant phase and contracted to a white dwarf. Because that remnant is small and dense and relatively cool, the shell is relatively small (although much, much larger than any planet) and is at a distance such that the gravity of the white dwarf at its heart generates a pull on the outer surface equivalent to that of Earth.
All of this was inspired by a speculative research paper published a few years ago – anyone interested in details can read it here:https://arxiv.org/abs/1503.04376
Q: What does a ‘map’ mean, in the context of the story?
Several things, including the planetary maps laid out across the world ocean, and the maps of the information encoded in DNA.
Q: What is a ‘lucidor’, and is this mission typical of their usual assignment?
Lucidors are a kind of police who regulate the use of scarce resources in a desert country – the lucidor at the centre of the novel’s story specialises in taking down people who misuse technology. He’s chasing an old enemy against the wishes of his country’s government, so no, it isn’t typical at all. Which is why he is in trouble from the outset.
Q: They say ‘write what you know’ – how true is this of your work?
If novelists wrote only about what they know, they would be writing autobiographies, not works of the imagination. But even the most far-flung SF novel is informed by the times in which its author happens to be living when they wrote it, and I’m sure, with its extreme bioengineering and wreckage caused by war and climate change, the very far future of War of the Maps contains deep traces of the present.
Q: You’ve won multiple awards, including the Clarke, the Philip K Dick Memorial Award and the BFS Award for Best Short Story. Do you feel that this pressures your expectations of yourself, when you write?
The prizes are lovely compliments, but are relevant only to the novels and stories that won them. Any pressure of expectation is entirely my own, is pretty much constant from novel to novel, and driven always by the fear of failing to live up to the initial concepts of shape and theme.
Q: And the most important question of all – have you yet managed to walk every street in the London A- Z?
A challenge I mentioned a long time ago, and which still isn’t complete. I’ve walked across considerable parts of the City, East London and the West End, along the Thames, and most especially North London, where I live. But there are still many places where I haven’t yet set foot, and given my haphazard expeditions into the city’s vast and dense map, I doubt that I ever will cease from exploration. But finishing it isn’t the point.