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Author Interview – Alasdair Shaw

Alasdair Shaw is a prolific science fiction writer, both of novel-length works, and anthologies. I had a chance to catch up with him and ask a few questions.
You’ve edited a couple science fiction anthologies. How do you find your authors? What drives you to keep putting these out there?
I enjoy doing them. Mostly it is a way of giving back to the author community. We are a friendly and helpful bunch, by and large. I wouldn’t have been as successful as I am if others hadn’t helped me, so this is my way of helping.
I post a call for submissions on KBoards, UK Kindle Forum, SFF World and Scribophile, and a selection of genre author Facebook groups. The one for my next anthology, The Renegade, is here. A lot of submissions, however, are from word of mouth.
Philip K. Dick or Douglas Adams?
Oh, easy. Douglas Adams.
I am not a great fan of Dick’s writing. His books have inspired many great films, and Bladerunner is one of my all-time favourites, but for sheer enjoyment of reading it has to be Adams.
How has your experience as a secondary teacher affected your writing?
I haven’t noticed an effect on writing scifi. My background as a physicist does cause problems, notably the ingrained habit of writing in the third person passive.
However, my experience teaching and as a lead examiner has lead to being invited to contribute to several textbooks. It’s quite an honour to see my name on a book that tens of thousands of students will use!
The beach or the mountains?
In contrast to the Philip K Dick vs Douglas Adams question, that’s a real challenge. Both have that amazing sense of ‘edge’ and a wildness that allows you to connect with what’s around you. I’m going to take the standard scientist get-out and argue that it depends on external factors.
If I’m with my family, then it has to be the beach. Both daughters do like walking and climbing, and have summited some easy mountains with me, but their real love is the ‘beachside’. My partner is also at her happiest by the sea.
If I’m on my own, then I’d go mountains. Here’s nothing more grounding to me than walking and scrambling solo (except perhaps caving).
Of course, if I were particularly to cheat, I’d choose both. One of my most spectacular walking descents was in Greece. The summit was a ruined chapel, and I went down through olive groves of red-winged grasshoppers, along rocky paths cut into the sides of the mountain, down past ancient monasteries and into the low-lying fields. I ran out of water about an hour from the end and it was mid-afternoon, having started the ascent from the hotel at dawn, and on reaching sea level kept going, ending up swimming amongst a host of colourful fish.
What are you working on now?
I’m in the last haul of the first draft of my next novel. It’s called Opportunity and is in the Two Democracies: Justice series.
It stars Dave, the head of security at an out-of-the-way space station. Overworked and under-resourced, he has struck up a marriage of convenience with the local mob boss. However, when the station manager is murdered in a novel manner, his little department comes under scrutiny.

Alasdair studied at the University of Cambridge, leaving in 2000 with an MA in Natural Sciences and an MSci in Experimental and Theoretical Physics. He went on to earn a PGCE, specialising in Science and Physics, from the University of Bangor. A secondary teacher for over fifteen years, he has plenty of experience communicating scientific ideas.
After stints living in Cambridge, North Wales, and the Cotswolds, he has lived in Somerset since 2002.


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