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Adrian Tchaikovsky is a hugely popular science fiction and fantasy writer. His best known work is the Shadows of the Apt series, and his novel, Children of Time, won the 30th Arthur C. Clarke Award. I had the chance to ask him a few questions.
How have role-playing games affected your writing and world-building?
RPGs have been an invaluable training ground for a number of aspects of writing. In fact, given just how many of my contemporaries are gamers, I have to wonder just how many of the current genre trends have their roots in that shared experience. I used to have a spiel about “Grimdark” developing out of the propensity for player characters to never do the right or heroic thing in any given circumstances. For me, RPGs have contributed directly to both my realisation of character and my wider building of worlds, especially my gamesmastering experience. As a GM, you can’t rely on your players acting like well-behaved book characters and marching meekly from one place to another at your whim, and so you put a lot of work into your world, ensuring that you have at least a passing idea of what’s going on in any given corner of the map, in case your party suddenly takes a sharp left. Similarly, managing a cast of NPCs in a game, often at very short notice, is a good masterclass for getting behind the eyes of any character you need to, and building distinct characters out of your world’s axioms very quickly, which is particularly useful for epic fantasy novels with their typically large and diverse casts. And of course Shadows of the Apt arose out of a campaign I ran at university years before.

What parallels do you see between the “bioforms” in your speculative sci-fi book, Dogs of War, and present-day or near-future military technology?
In Dogs, the bioforms are kind of a competing strand of tech to modern warfare, after some disasters with autonomous military robots. I’m not aware of anyone tinkering up a Rex at this moment, but obviously there *are* military and semi-military uses for dogs, and even bees – both are good for bomb detection, for example, and the character of George the dolphin is derived from real world experiments in military cetaceans. The key difference is the level of enhancement that Rex & co get, which is somewhat beyond modern day tech, but maybe not so very far beyond, or maybe more butting heads with regulation than hard technological limits.
George R. R. Martin or Naomi Novak?
Both. I have large bookshelves. I do think Uprooted remains one of the most memorable books I’ve read, though.
Why do you choose to write both science-fiction and fantasy?
Both interest me in different ways, and fulfill slightly different needs. I love the freedom of creation that fantasy entails, and I love the satisfaction of having made something credible and yet wildly speculative, when I can get the science right in SF. And of course the marches between the two genres are incredibly permeable and have negligible border control. There’s a lot of SF in Shadows of the Apt, and I am experimenting with how much fantastical business the science will tolerate in books like Ironclads. There’s also the alluring prospect of penning a full-on space opera some day, or maybe a Dying Earth-style setting, where the science and the fantastical can be more equal partners.
What projects are you working on now?
Right now I’m cracking down on the last act or so of a sequel to Children of Time, which is going some very odd places. That’s been a while in the making – ideas have slowly been coming together since the original came out, but I knew I would need something particularly solid and interesting to go with, given the reception the original received. I have various other already-written projects that are going through the mill towards publication this year, too – the last Echoes of the Fall novel, the Hyena and the Hawk, plus a new fantasy from Rebellion entitled Redemption’s Blade, and the third Shadows of the Apt collection, For Love of Distant Shores, which is practically a bonus novel in the series as it’s a set of linked novellas following the same characters, rather than a set of shorts.

Adrian Tchaikovsky is the author of the acclaimed Shadows of the Apt fantasy series, from the first volume, Empire In Black and Gold in 2008 to the final book, Seal of the Worm, in 2014, with a new series and a standalone science fiction novel scheduled for 2015. He has been nominated for the David Gemmell Legend Award and a British Fantasy Society Award. In civilian life he is a lawyer, gamer and amateur entomologist.


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