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One Way by S. J. Morden (Q&A) @Gollancz @ComradeMorden #OneWay #Mars #ScienceFiction #MurderMystery

Welcome to another enticing science-fiction interview here on Always Trust In Books. I am lucky enough to have one of my favourite SFF authors of all time on the blog today. Simon Morden has blown me away countless times with his fantastic Metrozone and Down Station series. I was on the look out for more of his work and here we are. One Way is a murder-mystery set on the surface of Mars. You can view my review of One Way here, it was brilliant!. I had the opportunity to put some questions to SM about his work and he gave some excellent answers. Please enjoy the Q&A and pick up the book as soon as you can!

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10.04.2018 / Gollancz / Science Fiction / Paperback / 336pp / 978-1473222564

About Simon Morden

Dr S. J. Morden has won the Philip K. Dick Award and been a judge on the Arthur C. Clarke Award. He is a bona fide rocket scientist with degrees in Geology and Planetary Geophysics. ONE WAY is the perfect fusion of his incredible breadth of knowledge and ability to write award-winning, razor-sharp science fiction.

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About One Way

A murder mystery set on the frozen red wastes of Mars.

Eight astronauts.

One killer.

No way home.

A murder mystery set on the frozen red wastes of Mars.

Eight astronauts. One killer. No way home.

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WE STAND AT THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA

Frank Kittridge is serving life for murdering his son’s drug dealer. So when he’s offered a deal by Xenosystems Operations – the company that runs the prison – he takes it, even though it means swapping one life sentence for another.

THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A BETTER TIME TO BE ALIVE

He’s been selected to help build the first permanent base on Mars. Unfortunately, his crewmates are just as guilty of their crimes as he is – and he’ll have to learn to trust them if they’re to succeed.

THE FUTURE OF SPACE TRAVEL IS IN SAFE HANDS

As the convicts set to work on the frozen wastes of Mars, the accidents multiply. Until Frank begins to suspect they might not be accidents at all . . .

XENOSYSTEMS OPERATIONS: MAKING DREAMS A REALITY

There’s a murderer amongst them, and everyone’s a suspect.

Pick up a copy: Gollancz / Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

Q&A Section

Thank you Simon for taking the time to answer a few questions. I am a huge fan of your Metrozone series and your Down trilogy. What was your initial inspiration for One Way? / Have you always wanted to write a murder mystery set on another planet?

(I’m combining questions one and two, because it makes more sense that way) It had never occurred to me before: in an inexplicable turn of events, my publishers took me out for a beer or two, and suggested ‘have you thought about writing X before?’ The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I was interested. Which was clearly their evil plan all along. Then came the hard part of malleting out a synopsis and convincing the bean-counters that we were onto something more substantial than a beery conversation. I think I’ve got away with it so far.

Can you give us a few details about some of the interesting concepts and ideas that you explore within your novel?

The front-and-centre idea that I explore isn’t the scientific or technical aspects of living on another planet: it’s the morality of using criminals as indentured labour. We have, more or less, removed state-sanctioned slavery from the roster of crimes committed by civilisations (although a debate about the level of a minimum wage is both urgent and necessary), but using convicted felons as essentially cheap state labour is a growing practice. I think we should revisit the whole idea.

Something else that I expect readers to be uncomfortable with is me humanising some genuinely terrible people. Frank is inside for murder, yet he’s the main character. Other members of the crew have also killed, and hopefully they’re written in such a way that they are sympathetic to some degree. The whole area of what society means by punishment and rehabilitation is becoming increasingly polarised, but almost everyone currently in prison will someday be out. We seem to have very little idea what that means.

Is there a particular element of the novel you especially enjoyed writing about in One Way?

Well, I got to write about Mars, which was brilliant. And yes, obviously, I’d love to go, though probably just for an extended visit. The idea of ‘colonising’ Mars is very much in the future, although a lot of the papers I had to read to give the sense of verisimilitude seem to have made inroads into the technical problems.

It is, inevitably, the human factors which present the greatest problems to putting a permanent, sustainable habitat on Mars. And touching on those, on how people work together, order their priorities and sort out their difficulties, was also strangely, perversely enjoyable.

What sort of challenges did you face when writing One Way?

The challenge was mainly about using accurate science to undergird the plot, without getting bogged down in the technical detail.

Obviously, I love the technical detail. I’ve read all manner of scientific papers in the process of writing One Way. But even I have to admit it doesn’t make great narrative. So while there is technical detail, hopefully it doesn’t read like an aside to the reader, in the infamous “as you know, Bob” style, but stuff that real people would actually say to each other or think about while they’re on Mars. Stuff that might keep them alive just a little bit longer.

Did you always know you were going to become a SFF writer?

I hadn’t really occurred to me to be anything other than a reader for the longest while. I was going to be a scientist until science ran out of money in the early 1990s, and then I found I needed a creative outlet (doing experimental science is super-creative and keeps the brain very busy) so I started dabbling in stories. Things simply progressed from there: first collection and first novel both came out in 2002. I was 36 at that point.

Are there any authors that influence your writing on any level, even this far into your career?

Oh, certainly. I think it’s really important that any writer, at any point in their career, seeks to do better, or at least different, than last time. I don’t think I’ve written the same book twice, even those which are in the same series. That probably annoys my publishers, but it keeps writing fresh for me.

Two writers who have been and remain enormous influences on me are Ray Bradbury and Julian May. Bradbury, for his poetic, almost mythological storytelling and his believe in the general goodness of people – love is often the driving force behind many of his stories. And May, for her deft plotting: the number of storylines she held in tension during the Saga of the Exiles/Galactic Milieu series were simply breathtaking, and in less accomplished hands, would have fallen apart completely.

How long did it take you to plan and write One Way?

A few weeks to plan. Six months to write. I went straight on to the sequel, No Way, and wrote that in six months too. The research for both, and the editing of One Way, had to be fitted all in those twelve months. Fortunately, I’m pretty good at deadlines. Work-life balance? Not so great… Seriously, I don’t recommend that. I got absolutely nothing else done.

Can you tell us in five words what being an author/writer means to you?

Dressing gown until lunch time.

Do you take the time to celebrate finishing your novels?

Kind of. Mostly by starting another one, because my editors at Gollancz are cruel task-mistresses. Sometimes I have a little holiday, in which I tidy the study of all the post I’ve been ignoring, hoover the floors for the first time in months and possibly regrout the bath.

Okay, so I’m not very good at this bit, am I? I’ll try and do better in future.

Have you got a hobby/activity you do to wind down from all the writing?

Two, really. The first is running. I’ve been running semi-seriously (more ‘comedy’ running at the beginning) for a few years, and I finally joined a running club back in November. They regularly break me and my slightly faulty body, but it’s actually the sheer physical exhaustion that I’m looking for, the point where there’s nothing but the road and the effort of the next step.

The other is book binding. I’ve recently started making books from scratch: from printing and folding, to collating and sewing, to trimming and covering. And in contrast, it’s a really slow process. Nothing can be hurried. Everything is done by hand. Glue takes time to dry, things need pressing at various stages. It’s creative as well as technical. I like that.

Finally, have you read a book/article recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this post?

Two books I’ve read very recently and thoroughly enjoyed – I tend to read things that don’t resemble what I’m writing in any way. The first is the anthology “The Djinn Falls in Love” edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin (Solaris 2017). None of the stories included fall below good, and some are simply phenomenal.

The second is Michelle Paver’s “Thin Air” (Orion 2016), an allegedly-fictional account of a between-the-wars Himalayan climbing expedition. She absolutely nails the voice of the narrator. The ghost might not be real, but the terror most certainly is.

Thank you Simon for these answers. I always love putting questions to SFF authors as they constantly give fascinating responses. Simon has been a huge part of my reading for many years and I can always make time for him and the ambitiously intense novels that he creates with his background in modern science. Simon Morden is one of those writers who you can easily binge on his various books. I highly recommend his Metrozone and Down Station series and look forward to posting my review for One Way very soon. 

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