Ten Questions About Crash, By Guy Haley
I am disappointed to learn that Guy Haley did not work on an actual death ray. That being said, I am happy to learn that his new book is out, and that he’d like to tell you about it. Drum roll please — Guy Haley!
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?
I’m Guy Haley, part-boggart, part man, all English. I grew up in a burrow under the Yorkshire moors, not far from where Heathcliff used to tramp; although I’d have been under his feet. He’d have never seen me coming. They never do. I used to steal the teeth of travellers and sell them for charms at the fairy market before I got a job writing. Silly humans. I smell of peat and damp earth.
Some of that is a lie, here’s some truth: I’m a journalist/magazine editor-turned-author. I worked on SFX magazine, Games Workshop’s White Dwarf and then Death Ray (it was a magazine, not an actual death ray). When Death Ray went bust, I took up writing full-time. I’ve written seven books for Angry Robot, Solaris, and the Black Library, plus a bunch of short stories, with more on the way. I also write articles, a blog http://guyhaley.wordpress.com review, copyedit books and other stuff. Y’know… Things. Articulate, no?
I come from the north of England and live in its south, not that will make much sense to those over the pond, but it’s important to me. I have a massive dog. I love SF and fantasy, always have, always will. I have far too many toy soldiers, a four-year-old son, four brothers, and a half-Swedish wife. Did I mention I have a massive dog? I have a massive dog. He is called Dr Magnus the Malamute and he is my friend. I wander the hills with him and pretend to be Aragorn. That’s about it.
GIVE US THE 140-CHARACTER STORY PITCH.
An interstellar colony effort goes spectacularly wrong. The few survivors are forced to battle against a hostile alien world and each other. (Whoop! 140 on the nose!)
WHERE DOES THIS STORY COME FROM?
My novel Champion of Mars was very well received by Solaris, so I asked if they’d like to see some more pitches. They said yes. I sent them four or five that I had pre-brewed in my brain; they chose what became Crash. That made me panic, as it was the least developed.
The inspiration’s a combination of lots of different things, but key among them are: the current rise and entrenchment of the new plutocracy of the super-rich, the (hopeful) inevitability of mankind’s spread into space, my musings on hierarchies in society, and my deep and abiding love of stories involving crashing and/or messed-up colony ships that create all kinds of problems for the poor souls who survive. Oh, and this quote from Kenneth Boulding, “Anyone who believes in indefinite growth on a physically finite planet is either mad, or an economist.”
HOW IS THIS A STORY ONLY YOU COULD’VE WRITTEN?
I had an idea a while ago for a series of books that explored a whole bunch of diverse human colonies that had been separated for centuries, after disaster struck a large colony fleet some time in the very distant past. My daydreamy concept followed how the colonies had survived, how they had developed, how they got back in touch with each other, the tensions this contact engendered and the threat they find themselves facing in the stars. Crash – sort of – explores how this universe (currently lodged only in my noggin) came about. Although I must say it’s very much become a hard SF standalone. You don’t have to live in my head to enjoy it, and that would be impossible anyway. Crash is its own thing totally, a book about power, and parenthood, and the persistence of the species. It would be nice, however, to spool up the stardrives on my space opera, so go and buy Crash.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING CRASH?
For my early books, I was asked to submit very detailed chapter-by-chapter breakdowns. I did so grudgingly. Planning in detail is not my natural bent, I much prefer to wing it. Although, thinking about it, this may not be the truth any more. It’s probably a yearning for my carefree youth when I was very workshy, and a hope writing was more Bohemian than it actually is. Everything professional I’ve been involved in has needed planning, and I tend to be quite meticulous about it. I never was as a teen, and it still takes me ages to sit down to start planning, but planning is a big part of me now. So, I’m lying to myself. But “Free!” I thought, “Free to spread my creative wings.”
Or, you know, just be lazy. Anyhoo, turns out Guy Haley writing a not-planned novel takes twice as long, twice as much panic and twice as much beer as Guy Haley writing a planned novel. This book was hard; the hardest I’ve done yet, I think. Mostly down to the not-planning thing.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN WRITING CRASH?
Plan my next novel.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT CRASH?
I liked the organic nature of it, the way that the ideas grew and twined around each other and layered up like some melancholy Russian symphony. I liked that the characters didn’t do what I wanted to and did their own thing all the time. One got pregnant, another turned out to be far nicer than I thought he would. Maybe they would have been less free had I nailed their feet to iron wheels and sent them spinning along the tram-lines of a plan, maybe not. What I like most about writing full stop (or period, you Amerikaners, you) is that it’s not entirely dissimilar to reading. You get to discover a story, much as you do when you read someone else’s book. At its very best, writing is like channelling a real world only you can see, and you become more of a chronicler than a creator. Or does that sound crazy? Do I sound crazy? I sound crazy, don’t I?
Most of all, I love that it has a really big spaceship falling out of the sky. I love spaceship crashes, and I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time lavishing detail on the fiery plummet of the ESS Adam Mickiewicz, to pleasing effect. Plus all the alien ecology stuff. That was loads of fun!
GIVE US YOUR FAVORITE PARAGRAPH FROM THE STORY:
Man, this is the toughest question. Which is your favourite child? Do you have a preferred eyeball? Hard – really, really hard. It’s like something an evil drug baron or a Nazi would ask you before cruelly deleting said paragraph.
But, let’s go for the opening paragraph (okay, technically two, but the first is one sentence):
At first Dariusz Szczecinski was dead, then he was not.
Machines hurried him to life more quickly than they should. Preservative fluids were sucked from his circulatory system with undue haste, warmed blood pumped into its place. Mechanisms whose own time was shortly to come ran slapdash checks; the provenance of emergency. High percentiles were lowered, risks were taken that would not ordinarily have been taken. For long seconds the essence of Dariusz hung upon the fences that separate the living from the dead.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A STORYTELLER?
Also out this month I have my second novel for The Black Library, Skarsnik, about the the eponymous Goblin King, the Warhammer world’s most devious greenskin. I love goblins. Really, I do. I’ve been playing Warhammer since I was ten, and this was a cool project for me.
The Black Library has way long lead-in times, so I’ve written another novel for BL – The Death of Integrity – since I finished Skarsnik, and am currently writing my fourth, which I can literally tell you nothing about or they’ll cut my favourite paragraphs off. Besides that, I’m mucking around with short stories and waiting on the go-ahead for a couple more original novels.