I am extremely happy to have interviewed one of my favorite authors, Star Trek and science fiction scribe Christopher L. Bennett. His works include numerous Trek novels, such as the Department of Temporal Investigations series, Orion's Hounds for the Titan series; as well as his original science fiction novel, Only Superhuman, an interesting mix of hard science fiction and comic book heroics.
Here is his official biography from his Facebook page: CHRISTOPHER L. BENNETT is a lifelong resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, with bachelor's degrees in physics and history from the University of Cincinnati. He has had multiple works of short fiction published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact as well as the online magazines DayBreak and Alternative Coordinates, and has written critically acclaimed science-fiction tie-in novels including STAR TREK: EX MACHINA, STAR TREK: TITAN: ORION'S HOUNDS, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION: THE BURIED AGE, two STAR TREK: DEPARTMENT OF TEMPORAL INVESTIGATIONS novels, X-MEN: WATCHERS ON THE WALLS, and SPIDER-MAN: DROWNED IN THUNDER, all of them with a hard science slant. ONLY SUPERHUMAN is his first original novel.
His novels are known for their hard science slant, and I asked him about research, science in stories, and what else he would like to write.
Thank you for being interviewed on this blog.
CLB: I’ve always been interested in science, and always been a fan of hard science fiction. And it’s just the way my mind works; I’m a pretty logical, meticulous kind of person. I need to understand why something is happening, what the basic mechanism behind it is, in order to write about it.
CLB: Those are both cases where I started with the scientific idea. DTI came from wanting to tackle the mess that was Star Trek time travel and find some reasonably coherent explanation for it all. Only Superhuman began with the realization that the technologies for human enhancement that were on the horizon—bionics, genetics, robotic exoskeletons, and the like—could one day give us superhuman powers, and that made me wonder if something like superheroes could ever really exist.
When reading a novel, is bad research easily spotted? Does it take you out of the story? Have you ever stopped reading a book, saying "that's impossible!"
Of course, the level of accuracy I strive for depends on what universe I’m working in. My “default” universe, where Only Superhuman takes place, is the one I try to keep the most credible overall. My standards are looser in my Star Trek work or in the universe of the two “Hub” stories I’ve had published in Analog, and they were looser still in the Marvel Comics-based novels I did a few years back, X-Men: Watchers on the Walls and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder, though I still tried to work some good science into both.
As for my writing schedule, it’s very inconsistent. I try to develop more discipline, but I just have a weird attention span—I get very focused on one thing for a while, then it shifts to another and I kind of have to go with it. So I tend to work in fits and starts, going from periods of high productivity to periods of low productivity. Ideally I can make the best of that by working on multiple projects at once—when my attention starts to wander from one project, I try to shift gears and work on a different one for a time.
Of the environments and civilizations I have gotten into print, there are a number that I’m quite proud of. In my original work, I like the diverse asteroid-belt society of Only Superhuman and the alien ecology of the title planet in my novelette “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele.” In my Star Trek work, I’m particularly proud of the Gum Nebula interstellar community and ecosystem from Orion’s Hounds, the Manraloth and ancient galactic history from The Buried Age, and my interpretation of fluidic space from Places of Exile.
On the other hand, you don’t really need a university-level expertise in a subject to write fiction about it. You’re just telling a story, so creating the feeling of believability is the most important thing. If the needs of your story require ignoring or fudging certain facts, then don’t hesitate to do so, although it helps if you can concoct a plausible-sounding handwave. For the purposes of a story, it’s often enough just to sound like you know what you’re talking about. Like the saying goes, “The key is sincerity—if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
Once again I'd like to thank Mr. Bennett for being interviewed for my blog. His novels can be purchased at most retailers. Christopher L. Bennett can be found at these links.