Today we sit down and talk with author Richard Abbott about himself and his fascinating book.
DM: What is the title and genre of the book you want to tell us about?
RA: The title is Far from the Spaceports, the genre is Science Fiction
DM: Can you summarize your book in one sentence?
RA: A human-AI partnership tackles hi-tech financial crime among the asteroids.
DM: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
RA: It’s near-future science-fiction, so should appeal to people who like to speculate what the next hundred years or so might bring. I’ve had good feedback from people who know about today’s IT and finance industries, and can see how this sort of situation could easily come about as and when we expand into settlements elsewhere in the solar system. It’s not so much an action book as an exploration of how crime might be committed and tackled in such a situation.
DM: How did you come up with the title?
RA: The book title is also the title of a song which features in the book. I’ll talk a bit more about this in the ‘fun fact’ section below.
RA: The cover was designed by Ian Grainger (http://www.iangrainger.co.uk/) after a lot of conversation and ideas going to and fro between us. I wanted a picture which would suggest the story’s main location in the asteroid belt. We also tried to include something that would indicate the AI part of the story but nothing worked well, so we stuck to the natural world.
DM: What are your biggest writing influences?
RA: Ursula LeGuin was the science fiction writer who – years ago now – introduced me to the idea that the genre could be thoughtful and provocative. Much later I discovered Harry Harrison and his laconic style, along with a whole wealth of other science fiction writers. I tend to prefer those whose vision of the future is optimistic rather than pessimistic.
DM: Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
RA: That’s a difficult question! Probably Slate, the female AI half of the partnership. Why is she my favourite? Well, I could go all psychological and say that she represents part of my own anima, but I suppose it’s more likely I can easily imagine the enormous help she would be in my day job. And the more I wrote about her, the more her emerging personality grew on me.
DM: How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
RA: A young man called Dafyd, who is a minor character in this book. He’s basically spoiled and idle, and I can’t think of many reasons to like him.
DM: If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?
RA: It’s very geeky, but at one point I made an assertion that something would not be possible in the low gravity of one of the moons of Mars. Later on I rechecked it and found that it would work after all. It’s something to write my way out of in the sequel, I guess.
DM: Now, as you mentioned, can you give us a fun fact or a few about your book?
RA: The song of the title is put into the mouths of a (fictitious) music group called The Descenters. However, the original ‘Far from the Spaceports’ song originated as part of a family holiday contest many years ago. At the time – and this dates the event quite nicely – there was a computer came called Descent which was very addictive. Sadly it s unplayable on a modern machine, but the book is, in part, a commemoration of that.
DM: What other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike?
RA: I must admit, I don’t really know of any. People have written about high-tech crime before, but normally in an Earth-based setting. I don’t know of anyone writing about it in the solar system at large. The idea of being an investigator appears a lot n science fiction, but often people jump past the solar system stage and go straight for a plot set more widely among the stars. If other people are writing about this kind of stuff, I’d love to read them.
DM: Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
RA: Well, I like walking in Britain’s National Parks, but that is not really very unique. I started writing historical fiction, set in the ancient near east in the Late Bronze Age, and intend to keep both genres going in parallel. But right now the science fiction definitely has centre stage. For a day job I really do work in financial IT, so there’s a good deal of authenticity in the technobabble. However, I don’t get to travel into space and don’t identify myself with Mitnash, the central human character of the book.
DM: How can we find out more about you and your books?
RA: I maintain a web site at http://www.kephrath.com/ and regularly blog at http://richardabbott.datascenesdev.com/blog/. Both of these places combine my interest in history and historical fiction along with science and science fiction. Or follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/richard.abbott.777) or Google+ (https://plus.google.com/u/0/+RichardAbbott).
DM:What can we expect from you in the future?
RA: There is a sequel in progress, with working title By Default. All being well I hope that will be released in the second half of this year. That involves the main characters Mitnash and Slate having to do some investigative work on Mars and its moon Phobos, as well as back among the asteroids.
As well as that, I intend to keep the historical fiction series going for a little longer, with a seafaring plot linked to the tin trade.
DM: What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
RA: If you like the book, tell others about it! Reviews on blog sites, Amazon, Goodreads and so on are all extremely valuable to authors. It doesn’t matter if the review is short or long – all authors value the interest and feedback more than the actual words.
DM: Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get published?
RA: First and foremost, persevere in writing what you want to, and work hard to get the technical presentation right as well as the creative ideas. If a major publishing house isn’t interested then in today’s world there are lots of other options – small publishing hoses, often dealing with niche areas, or of course self-publishing which is now easier than it has ever been in the past.
Can you give us an excerpt from your book?
No problem. This is from a little over half-way, in a musical interlude featuring The Descenters.
There was a sudden roar of appreciation from the main room, and at the same moment Slate buzzed me. Show time. As I went back via the bar, five musicians paraded in and took up their positions. The Descenters had arrived. Slate whispered to me the names of each, and their instruments of choice, and would have gone on to give complete biographies and skills matrices if I had let her.
They kicked off with a few warm-up numbers, mostly taken from one of their earlier concepts, Fraggle. These were basically all instrumental show-off pieces, with the lead singer joining in once the other threads of sound were well under way. His voice was every bit as high-pitched in the flesh as in recording, and I couldn’t see any obvious bio-enhancements. Nor could Slate, so maybe it was authentic. At any rate the scent, peripheral tracking and subliminal shots made for a considerably more rounded experience than what I had listened to on the Harbour Porpoise.
After nearly an hour they were done with that, and enjoyed the wild applause and cheers of the audience. The hostesses circulated with drinks again. I was, I insist, entirely sober still, and well able to conduct with Slate a detailed analysis of the main guitarist. She was able to swap effortlessly between several stringed instruments, including a beautifully atmospheric steel-string slide rigged up on a trestle. She also teased odd harmonics out of the strings far more often than anyone else I had seen.
Before long they came back for the main set, Blow the Reactor and Home to Bed. The earlier funky instrumental melodies were swapped for soaring lyrical numbers – by this time I had no idea what the words meant, but they certainly sounded inspiring. The Descenters had a habit of launching into a weird melange of musical experiment, verging on pure noise, which suddenly resolved into heart-plucking beauty when you least expected it. Then lyricism exploded into a series of straight dance tracks as the evening built to a climax.
I had never seen low gravity dance, and the closest thing I could think of was old vids of punk pogo moves. But where the most enthusiastic punk rocker on planet Earth could never get above their own knee height, here on Bryher the vaulted cavern was full from top to bottom with wild excitement.
Far from the spaceports
and the friendly taverns,
there are deep dark caves
and looming caverns.
There’s gold and platinum,
copper and lead,
and a whole lot of robots
that want you dead!
I watched the Scilly Isles at play, convinced that whether sober or drunk, my planet-shackled sense of gravity and space would never let me dance like that. The whole room shook as the crowd joined in the refrain.
About Richard Abbott:
His first science fiction book, Far from the Spaceports, introduces Mitnash Thakur and his virtual partner Slate as they investigate financial crime in the asteroid belt.
His first book, In a Milk and Honeyed Land, explores events in the Egyptian province of Canaan. It follows the life, loves, and struggles of a priest in the small hill town of Kephrath.
A follow-up novel entitled Scenes from a Life begins in Egypt. It follows the journey of a scribe as he travels to discover his origins. down the Nile from Luxor and finally out into Canaan.
A third book, The Flame Before Us, is set in the middle of calamity. New settlers are arriving from the north, sacking cities and disrupting the established ways of life as they come. This story follows several different groups each trying to adjust to the new situation.
Author readings from both In a Milk and Honeyed Land and Scenes from a Life are available online as YouTube videos.
The short story The Man in the Cistern is set in the same location as In a Milk and Honeyed Land, but around ten years later.
The short story The Lady of the Lions is set in the same location but around one hundred and fifty years earlier.
Triumphal Accounts in Hebrew and Egyptian is the ebook version of his PhD thesis which, for those who want the technical details, supplies academic underpinning for some of the ideas and plot themes followed up in fiction.
Richard lives in London, England and works professionally in IT quality assurance.
When not writing words or computer code, he enjoys spending time with family, walking, and wildlife, ideally combining all three pursuits in the English Lake District.