Monday, June 10, 2019

Peter Cawdron Interview - Reentry

Photo Content from Peter Cawdron

Peter Cawdron is an Australian science fiction author, making hard scifi easy to understand.

His debut novel Anomaly has gone on to sell over 75,000 copies around the world, while his zombie story What We Left Behind was selected by Kindle Scout for publication with Kindle Press.


Print Length: 304 pages
Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (June 11, 2019)
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Language: English

Praise for REENTRY

"It's good to consider the AI possibilities ahead. Peter Cawdron's REENTRY is a marvelous read but also an intriguing scenario for what might go on within the superintelligences." Vernor Vinge, Hugo Award-winning author of A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
When I look back at my teachers, it’s their passion that resonates with me today. They loved teaching. Whether it was ‘Dr. V.’ in music, Mr. Madden in Chemistry or Mr. Horne in Physics, their enthusiasm was contagious. When it came to the sciences, they showed me that the world can be understood rather than being cryptic. They encouraged curiosity and treated their students with respect. I think they saw more in us than we did in ourselves.

What was your favorite book as a child and why?
As a child, Treasure Island. It was the hero’s journey, swept away on a swashbuckling adventure. For me, it’s still the stuff of dreams.

As a teen, The Hound of the Baskervilles. I loved all the Sherlock Holmes stories, but that one more so than the others because of how cryptic and mysteriously it unfolded.

As a young adult, Dracula. Sure, it was scary, but more than that, the hero was someone ordinary. No princes or kings, no Die-Hard John McClane, just average, every day people tackling the extraordinary against the odds.

It’ll come as no surprise I’ve written stories such as NOSFERATU as a tribute to Dracula and THE HOUNDS OF HELL as a modern take on Sherlock Holmes, as both books have heavily influence my writing.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
Pace yourself. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Learn from one book to the next. Write for the love of literature as art, not for acclaim or money. The greatest reward is found in the privilege of connecting with others through tiny black marks scattered across a white page.

In your newest book, REENTRY; can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?
Artificial Intelligence is scary. As Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have noted, it holds the potential to destroy humanity and perhaps is more dangerous than nuclear weapons or chemical/biological warfare. And yet, peering into the future is more art than science. I thought, perhaps, we’ve overlooked something. Maybe we’ve read our own destructive tendencies into an intelligence that is yet to exist. Could there be other possibilities? REENTRY examines the notion that in the same way humanity has had a renaissance and enlightenment, so to AI needs more than cold logic and calculations.

The real danger of AI isn’t found in a self-aware intelligence, it is in humans manipulating dumb machine learning (something that has already been weaponized in Brexit and the 2016 US election). True intelligence includes more than logic, it requires reason and empathy, so I’ve explored how these could emerge in REENTRY.

For those who are unfamiliar with your series; MARS ENDEAVOUR, how would you introduce it?
Most book series are cyclical, meaning, each book follows roughly the same pattern with different settings and situations, but largely the same arc. In the MARS ENDEAVOUR series, I wanted to step outside that and have two entirely unique books—books that could be read and enjoyed independently.

RETROGRADE explores the challenges of living in a research station on Mars, following gritty science and the emotional demands of knowing a war has broken out on Earth. It’s a book about trust and living with the consequences of mistakes.

REENTRY contains the same characters, but is set on Earth, and looks at the confusion that surrounds war and blurs peace. Whereas RETROGRADE is dystopian, with the world falling apart, REENTRY is utopian, looking at how we recover from disaster and start life again.

Aside from Liz, which of your characters do you feel has grown the most since book one and in what way have they changed?
The artificial intelligence is the counterpoint of the main character, Liz. Over the course of two novels, we see it’s character arc develop, at first from a distance as the antagonist, then in detail as the war ends.

One of the astonishing aspects of the 20th century is the outcome of World War II. The two great Axis powers, Germany and Japan, became models of peace, prosperity and progress. For those that lived through kamikaze attacks or who suffered in concentration camps, the future would have been unthinkable. Who would have believed these nations would become allies of the West? And yet they did. I’ve modelled REENTRY on the same notion, that our past does not define us, but rather it becomes a turning point.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
This isn’t so much a movie as a scene from a Stephen King story… but in high school a friend and I were asked to go to the admin block to pick up a skeleton for the biology department. To the best of my knowledge, the skeleton belonged to a teenaged girl that died in floods in Bangladesh. I doubt she willingly donated her bones to science, but there she was, with a metal screw in the top of her skull, hanging from a simple steel frame, doomed to haunt our classes forever, never to graduate. As teens, it seemed wrong to have one of our own condemned to a lifeless existence, never experiencing joy or friendship, so we decided to take her on a tour of the school.

First stop was a classroom with a solid wooden door. We knocked. The teacher, in the middle of a class, called out, “Come in,” but poor Sally couldn’t open door handles with her feeble stick-like fingers and boney knuckles, so we knocked again. Somewhat irate, the teacher yelled, “I said, Come in!” To which, we knocked slightly louder. Finally, the teacher threw open the door and promptly screamed before chuckling in delight and calling us rascals. I think Sally would have approved. Certainly, the teens in the class roared with laughter.

From there, Sally wandered throughout the school, sticking her head around the corner of a door, peering through the glass and tapping on windows with her zombie-like hands. Each time, both teachers and kids alike responded with shock and then delight at this macabre deviation to their day.

“Sure beats being locked in a cupboard, huh, Sally?”

Finally, with the hour almost up and the corridors about to be flooded with school kids rushing to the next class, we returned to the biology department. For once, we knocked with genuine resolve. We were here. Our task was complete. The biology teacher opened the door and screamed—and yet she was the only one actually expecting Sally on her metal stand.

I don’t know what happened to Sally after that. We only ever saw her on the odd occasion they let her out of the cupboard for discussions about anatomy. As horrific as her death must have been, I’d like to think she would have enjoyed that one sunny afternoon walking around our high school thousands of miles from where she was born and raised.

What’s your favorite movie of all time and why?
REIGN OF FIRE because it took a ridiculous concept (a modern world devastated by dragons) and made it realistic and believable. Also, there’s one scene where the two main protagonists argue and fight—remarkably, they’re both right. Neither is wrong. They simply have different perspectives and priorities. I loved that. Rather than clich├ęd morals, the story grappled with real world concerns. 10/10 stars from me!

Besides, what’s not to love about Christian Bale, Matthew McConaughey and Gerard Butler teaming up in a film?

If you could live in any period in history, where would it be and why?
About a hundred years in the future when science has overhauled the medical field entirely. Seriously, the first person to live to five hundred years of age was probably just born. I suspect most of us, though, will fall a little short of that revolution.

What did you do for your last birthday?
For my 50th birthday I gave away free copies of all my novels as ebooks (for about three days), sharing my work with roughly 30,000 readers.

1. The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (1887). Seriously, On the Origin of Species is a lot for most people to wade through, but the letters of Charles Darwin are a glimpse into his personal life. In particular, at one point, he said he felt his theory of Natural Selection was akin to “confessing murder.” As someone that came from a fundamentalist, religious background, I felt the same way, but was relieved to learn the truth about how life has flourished on Earth over billions of years.

2. War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells. I love old fashioned science fiction. From Jules Verne’s From Earth to the Moon to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, these novels still excite me.

3. Who Goes There? John W. Campbell, Jr. Most people know this as the Hollywood blockbuster The Thing. Who Goes There? is a beautifully constructed story with science at it’s heart. It’s no wonder it was transformed into a movie, but the book still holds a few surprises.

4. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson. Forget the movie. It borrowed the name but never did the story justice. This is another genre-defining novel that stands as a classic. Vampires reinvented, and wait till you figure out the title.

5. Forever War, Joe Haldeman. Joe was a Vietnam vet and it shows in this raw look at the prospect of interstellar war. Haldeman grapples with the futility and heartbreak of fighting while the world changes back home. Stunning.

6. Fault in Our Stars, John Greene. And if you get the chance, follow up with This Star Won’t Go Out, by Esther Earl (who inspired Fault in Our Stars). Just beautiful. Keep a box of tissues handy.

7. The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick (Volumes I-IV). I love PKD’s work and even wrote a story called Little Green Men as a tribute, using his stylistic features and plotting. PKD continues to inspire my writing.

8. Sphere, Michael Crichton. I have a love/hate relationship with Michael. Sphere has helped inspire several of my novels, but a number of his stories infuriate me. As much as I enjoyed Jurassic Park as a movie, the book is fundamentally anti-science, and I suspect laid the foundations in the 90s for a lot of the anti-science movements of today. The diatribes are just vile and treat science with distain as though it were no better than some obscure new age religion. The same holds for his novel State of Fear, which undermined decades of genuine research into climate change, delaying the action we desperately need to take to curb the devastation we’re causing to the environment. Michael, you disappoint me.

9. Contact, Carl Sagan, you loved the movie, but have you read the book? If not, you’re in for a wonderful surprise as there’s a lot that didn’t make it into the script.

10. Reentry, Peter Cawdron, although I might be slightly biased on this one ;)

After almost dying on Mars, astronaut Liz Anderson returns to Earth, but not to a hero’s welcome. America is in turmoil. The war is over, but the insurgency has just begun. So while life on Mars may have been deadly, at least up there she knew who the enemy was. Along with her, Liz has brought the remnants of the artificial intelligence that waged war on two planets. Buried somewhere deep within the cold electronic circuits lies the last vestiges of her dead partner Jianyu. Liz is torn, unsure whether he’s somehow still alive in electronic form or just a ploy by an adversary that will go to any length to win. Heartbroken and treated with suspicion, she finds herself caught up in the guerrilla war being waged on Earth, wondering if the AI threat is truly gone, or if it has only just begun.

You can purchase Reentry (Mars Endeavour #2) at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you PETER CAWDRON for making this giveaway possible.
3 Winners will receive a Copy of MARS ENDEAVOR and REENTRY by Peter Cawdron.
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JUNE 18th TUESDAY Insane About Books REVIEW
JUNE 19th WEDNESDAY A Dream Within A Dream EXCERPT
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