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Adam Roberts - Four Way Interview

Adam Roberts is commonly described as one of the UK's most important writers of SF. He is the author of numerous novels and literary parodies. He is Professor of 19th Century Literature at Royal Holloway, London University, and has written a number of critical works on both SF and 19th Century poetry. His latest novel is The Real-Town Murders.

Why science fiction?

Because it's the best thing in the world. I work for the University of London, which is to say: in effect, I'm paid to read books (and teach them, and write about them) and that means I read a lot of books; and that means you can believe me when I say that SF/Fantasy, and especially (even though it's not something I write) YA SF/Fantasy, is where all the most exciting writing is happening nowadays. You might wonder why I think so: but that's a whole other question, and you've already used up your four ...

Why this book?

So, I came across an account of one of Alfred Hitchcock's (many) unfinished projects. Late on in his career this was, in the 1970s: he had the idea for starting a movie with a pre-credits sequence inside a fully automated car factory: robots only, no human workers at all. He envisioned the camera following the whole process of a car being assembled. The audience would watch the raw materials being delivered by automated truck at the back of the factory; and then the camera would pan along the assembly line, robots fitting the body panels together, inserting the engine and so on. No humans anywhere; absolutely everything automated. At the end of this sequence the camera would follow the now fully built car out of the factory, to roll down a ramp and join a long line of similarly assembled autos. A man would come along with a clipboard to check the build. He would open the boot of the car and .... inside would be a dead body. 'If only I could figure out how that dead body got into that car,' Hitchcock said, 'I would make that movie.' But he never could, and so the movie was never made.

That captured my attention, so I started wondering how I would carry that story onwards. SF gives you options a regular whodunit doesn't (teleportation, for instance), and writing a book that kicked off with that premise would enable me to indulge all my Hitchcockian impulses.

What's next?

Real-Town Murders is, I think, my seventeenth-novel. They've all been different. I've never, for instance, written a trilogy, or dekalogy, or an endless string of episodic yarns. Indeed, it's become something of my USP, insofar as a writer as obscure as I am can be said to have a USP. But when I was thinking what to do next I found myself thinking: since I've never before written a sequel to one of my novels, writing a Real-Town sequel would be doing something new! So: I'm presently writing a Real-Town sequel.

What's exciting you at the moment?

H G Wells! I've been contracted by Palgrave to write a 'literary biography' of him, and so at the moment I'm reading through his entire backlist of titles. I've read all his SF of course, and some of his mundane novels, but by no means all; and there are plenty of other things I've never gotten around to. At the moment I've hit a really rich seam of absolutely fascinating and brilliant non-sf novels that he wrote from about 1910 through to the end of the first world war, concerning which I had not previously been aware. Genuinely exciting to discover these! I'm blogging each title as I go, so you can see for yourself: wellsattheworldsend.blogspot.co.uk

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