Paul Melko’s first novel is the best book I haven’t read yet this year

I like Paul Melko. Don’t tell him that, because he’ll become insufferable. But just between you and me, his short fiction rocks, and if his first novel, out today, is anything like his short stuff I’m going to like it a lot. 

Singingularity’s Ring CoverThe book’s called Singularity’s Ring, and it had its genesis in one of his best short stories.  More info about the book is at www.tor-forge.com/singularitysring, and you can also buy it from Amazon. 

So who is Paul Melko? Glad you asked. Here’s a short bio, and a Q&A with and about the man himself.

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Paul lives in Ohio with his beautiful wife and four fairly wonderful children. He is an active member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, where he sits on the board of directors as the South-Central Regional Director and is chair of the Grievance Committee.

Paul’s fiction has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy, Spider Magazine, The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Talebones, and other magazines and anthologies.  His work has been translated into Spanish, Hungarian, Czech, and Russian, and it has been nominated for the Sturgeon, Nebula, and Hugo Awards.  Singularity’s Ring is his first novel.

His blog is at http://paulmelko.livejournal.com/

1) What was your inspiration for writing Singularity’s Ring?

This is all Lou Anders’ fault.  He was inviting authors to write stories for his upcoming anthology entitled Live Without a Net back in 2001.  “Give me something where the internet and computers are not the be-all and end-all of technology.  Give me something different,” he said.  “What kind of future would that be?” I wondered, thinking his anthology wouldn’t find a lot of takers.  Of course, my subconscious rolled the idea over and over, and by the next morning I had the genesis of “Singletons in Love.”  That story went on to be reprinted in Dozois’ The Year’s Best Science Fiction, and it became the second chapter of Singularity’s Ring.

2) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

As a youth, I read to escape and loved a good science fiction yarn: Heinlein, Farmer, Harrison, Haldeman, and Panshin.  These days, I’m reading more YA fiction as my daughter starts to read: Westerfeld,  Rowland, and Tolkien.  Just this last week, my son started reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It’s been fun to re-read it with him.

3) Summarize the book for our viewers.

Singularity’s Ring is set several decades in the future, and the world has collapsed in a technological cataclysm.  Most of humanity has died or disappeared in a singularity event, and what is left of humanity is being shepherded carefully by Pod Society.  Pods are an experiment in multiple humans: duos, trios, quartets, and quintets of humans that share thoughts and emotions among themselves.  The environment is unstable and the world seems on the brink of another cataclysm.  Apollo Papadopulos has been bred to fly a starship through the Rift, a remnant of the singularity event.  Only forces don’t want him to succeed.  And, amazingly, someone has come down the space elevator from the supposedly empty Ring.

4) Why did you decide to make Apollo a quintet?

My protagonist is not one person, but five.  Lou Anders didn’t want silicon computers, so I created a biological computer:  Apollo Papadopulos is five humans altered to think as one.  As such, his thoughts benefit from the synergism of their network; he can make great intuitive leaps, understand things quickly, and come to more logical conclusions.  Of course, there’s a trade-off.  You or I would see him (them) standing still, grasping hands for seconds at a time while he (they) come to consensus.

5) What (besides writing) do you do for fun?

Recently I took up Taekwondo.  My children started last year, and it looked like so much fun, I joined them.  I was right; it was fun.  We’re all blue belts.  We’ve managed to not break anything in the house yet.

6) What sort of research did you do to write this book?/What kind of preparation do you do when you are writing?

Singularity’s Ring is an adventure story that follows Apollo from the Rockies to Geosynchronous Earth Orbit to the Amazon and Congo.  There’s also, of course, an orbital structure, the Ring.  The scope of the book allowed me to draw on the details of these exotic locales, as well as create a technological artifact that’s larger in diameter than the Earth.

7)  What are you writing now?

I just turned in the novel-version of my Hugo-, Nebula-, and Sturgeon-nominated novella “The Walls of the Universe.”  This is a parallel universe story in which one version of my protagonist tricks another version out of his life.  Farmboy John Rayburn is cast into the multiverse, and tries to get home again.

I am drowning, and please don’t save me

“Dead Horse Point”, which ran in Asimov’s in ’07, will be appearing in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Vol. 2 — and the coolest thing is having my little boat of a story swamped by fictional goodness from some of my favorite writers. I mean, come on. Swanwick, Gaiman, Sterling? And stylists like Rickert, Link, and Ford? Plus a friend of mine, Ted Kosmatka, has a very cool story in here.

Here’s the TOC, and click the image to see a larger version of the cover:Best SF and F of the Year -- cover

  • The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate, Ted Chiang
  • The Last and Only, or Mr. Moskowitz Becomes French, Peter S. Beagle
  • Trunk and Disorderly, Charles Stross
  • Glory, Greg Egan
  • Dead Horse Point, Daryl Gregory
  • The Dreaming Wind, Jeffrey Ford
  • The Coat of Stars, Holly Black
  • The Prophet of Flores, Ted Kosmatka
  • Wizard’s Six, Alex Irvine
  • The Cambist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics, Daniel Abraham
  • By Fools Like Me, Nancy Kress
  • Kiosk, Bruce Sterling
  • Singing of Mount Abora, Theodora Goss
  • The Witch’s Headstone, Neil Gaiman
  • Last Contact, Stephen Baxter
  • Jesus Christ, Reanimator, Ken Macleod
  • Sorrel’s Heart, Susan Palwick
  • Urdumheim, Michael Swanwick
  • Holiday, M. Rickert
  • The Valley of the Gardens, Tony Daniel
  • Winter’s Wife, Elizabeth Hand
  • The Sky is Large and the Earth is Small, Chris Roberson
  • Orm the Beautiful, Elizabeth Bear
  • The Constable of Abal, Kelly Link

Cover art by John Berkey

It will be out in March ’08 and you can order (for $19.95) at Amazon.  More info is at Nightshade Books.

An interview with Heidi, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style

Heidi Ruby Miller has been doing a cool thing for some time now — Heidi’s Pick Six. Basically, she interviews SF writers by sending them 12 questions and letting them pick six to answer. It’s like Alberto Gonzales’ congressional hearing — everyone knows that you’re only going to answer half the questions, then lie about the rest. Or maybe it’s more like a Rorschach test in which you’re allowed to ignore any blots that make you think about The Incident.

You can see which six I chose to answer– or more interestingly, which I avoided — and make your own diagnosis. It’s at
http://ambasadora.livejournal.com/149044.html

Second Person, Present Tense, Third Language

Agua-Cero: Second Person, Present Tense

Agua-Cero, a Columbian SF anthology, was launched Friday, with a Spanish translation of “Second Person, Present Tense” appearing in the table of contents as “Segundo Person, Tiempo Presente”.  They wanted me to provide an audio or video introduction to play at the launch party — which I thought was a cool idea — but since the only recording equipment I own is a crappy gaming headset, I struggled for a couple days before finally giving up and sending them at the last minute a static-y and awful-sounding audio file.

(If only I had the mad skillz of James Patrick Kelly. Not to drop names here [plonk], but because Jim is also in the anthology, and because he’s  an SF podcast pioneer [podoneer?] , I wrote him an e-mail asking what he was doing for this intro — and of course he already had all the equipment and whipped out a probably great-sounding audio recording in no-time. Which means that if this trend persists, it won’t be enough to just write stories, run a website, and update a blog  — SF writers are all going to have to become recording artists. And what about video? My god, does anybody really need to see the glorious physical specimen that is the average SF writer? Okay, Andy Tisbert is an exception, because he’s a rock n roll front man who gets chicks to scream when he takes off his shirt, and James Patrick Kelly The Cover of Agua-Cerohas that cool goatee thing going, but trust me, I’ve been to conventions, most of the SF revolution should not be televised. Wait, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, Agua-Cero…)

The anthology was edited by Hernán Ortiz and Viviana Trujillo, who have been great to work with. If you live in Columbia, or if you speak Spanish, buy the anthology!

“Unpossible” Now Not Unpublished

Oct-Nov F and SFHowdy, folks. On the stands now in the October/November “All-Star Anniversary” Double Issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction—a story about all those children who had fantastic adventures in the “lands beyond”, and what happens when they hit 50, realize that life hasn’t lived up to the storybook ending, and try to go back. (Hint: You can’t go back.) A Genuine Stan Lee No-Prize goes to the reader who can spot all the kiddie-lit allusions in this one.

Pointing out a Dead Horse

The August issue of Asimov’s is out now, with “Dead Horse Point” in there somewhere. Tangent Online called it “a poignant tale of love and desperation.” Full Review.

(I’m just stoked to be on the same cover as Bruce Sterling, Rudy Rucker — my hero — and good friend Jack Skillingstead. It doesn’t get any more fun than that.)

Gabriel McKee has an interesting discussion of the story in SF Gospel, his blog focused on “explorations of religion in science ficiton and popular culture.” He raises the point that concept of space-time in the story is similar to Augustinian eternalism. I would have mentioned eternalism in the story, except I didn’t know about it until I read McKee’s blog. I should really read the reviews commentary before I write the story—that would save time and make me look smarter.