Skip to main content

David Whitehouse - Four Way Interview

Dr David Whitehouse studied astrophysics at the world-famous Jodrell Bank radio observatory. He is a former BBC Science Correspondent and BBC Science Editor. He is the author of five books including The Sun: a biography and Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and has written for many newspapers and magazines including The Times, The Guardian, Focus, New Scientist and the Economist. He regularly appears on TV and radio programmes. Asteroid 4036 Whitehouse is named after him. His latest title is Apollo 11: the inside story.

Why space?

I have been interested in astronomy since I was four years old. I recall the exact time. My mother and I were Christmas shopping in Woolworths on the Soho Road in Handsworth, Birmingham. I pointed to a very big book - an encyclopaedia  - that I wanted, but mum thought I wanted the rather thinner book on astronomy I was leaning on. Needless to say I wasn’t happy on Christmas Day, but a few days later I read it, and was hooked forever. It was the time of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. 

Why this book?
I wanted to find a new way to write a book about Apollo 11 for the 50th anniversary, to produce a narrative that was closer to the story and more intimate with the protagonists. I treated it almost like a screenplay editing what people said to produce pace and tension. I’m glad people think it’s different and like it. What more can a writer ask?

What's next?

My next book is finished but I can’t say what it is but it’s not about space. I’m working on a few more ideas at the moment. I decided that I have done my solar system books (Moon, Sun, Earth books) and I will look farther afield. Once again I am looking for a new approach. 


What is exciting you at the moment?

Bookwise I am thoroughly enjoying “The Map of Knowledge,” by Violet Moller, “The Tangled Tree,” by David Quammen, and “The Making of Poetry,” by Adam Nicholson. I read all the new science books that come out but I can’t honestly say many of them excite me.

Comments

  1. Still writing THE MOST AMAZING books, the last every bit as good as the first, if not better! David Whitehouse is like a fine wine; the older he gets, the better he becomes!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Infinity Plus: Quintet (SF) - Keith Brooke (Ed.) ****

When I was younger there was nothing I liked better than a good, deep, dark (frankly, often downright miserable) science fiction story, and this collection delivers excellent modern examples that would have fit easily into a thoughtful if downbeat 70s collection such as the 'New Writing in SF' or the Interzone magazine of the day (one was actually first published in Interzone, in 1987 - the rest date between 1989 and 2010).

If I'm honest, I prefer more upbeat fiction now, but that doesn't stop me appreciating the quality of these five stories, put together by the SF website and publisher Infinity Plus. I've rarely seen a better contradiction of Margaret Atwood's putdown of science fiction as being limited to 'talking squids in outer space.' What we have here is pure character-driven storytelling with not a mention of space, spaceships, ray guns or aliens. It's the inner world, not the outer trappings of sci fi tropes that interest these writers.

On…

The Lost Planets - John Wenz **

Reading the first few lines of the introduction to this book caused a raised eyebrow. In 1600, it tells us, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake 'for his radical views - that not only was the Sun just one of many stars, but those stars likely had planets around them as well.' Unfortunately, this bends the truth. Bruno was burned at the stake for holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith - for conventional heretical beliefs amongst which his ideas on cosmology were trivial. This was an unfortunate start.

What John Wenz gives us is a people-driven story of the apparent early discovery of a number of planets orbiting other stars, made by Peter van de Kamp and his colleagues at Swarthmore College in America, most notably connected to a relatively obscure star called Barnard's star. Wenz is at his best dealing with personal conflict. The book really comes alive in a middle section where van de Kamp's discoveries are starting to be challenged. This chapter works wel…

Bone Silence (SF) - Alastair Reynolds *****

Of all the best modern SF writers, Alastair Reynolds is arguably the supreme successor to the writers of the golden age. He gives us wide-ranging vision, clever concepts and rollicking adventure - never more so than with his concluding book of the Ness sisters trilogy.

Neatly, after the first title, Revenger was written from the viewpoint of one sister, Arafura and the second, Shadow Captain, had the other sister Adrana as narrator, this book is in the third person. It neatly ties up many of the loose ends from the previous books, but also leaves vast scope for revelations to cover in the future if Reynolds decides to revisit this world (he comments in his acknowledgements 'I am, for the time being, done with the Ness sisters. Whether they are done with me remains to be seen.')

As with the previous books, the feel here is in some ways reminiscent of the excellent TV series Firefly, but with pirates rather than cowboys transported into a space setting. Set millions of years in…