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Tells "the Absolute Truth"


By Karen Bennett

[James Alan Gardner was interviewed via e-mail in January, 2003.]

The paperback version of Trapped came out in October 2002. What has reaction to it been like?

Reaction to my books is always quiet—a few e-mails, a few news postings, and not much else. Of course, I would love to have beautiful groupies throwing themselves at my feet in paroxysms of ecstasy, but mostly it's a lot of positive reviews and three-line messages, "Hey, I liked your book." Trapped is therefore getting the same response as all my other novels.

Eos has accepted your proposal for your next novel, Radiant. You've said on your website, "I don't have much to say about it...except that it will feature Festina Ramos and a novice Explorer who's uncannily like a young version of Festina herself." Can you tell us any more about it now?

Radiant features a young Explorer fresh from the academy who accompanies Festina to a planet that sent out a mayday two seconds before going completely silent. They find a Mary Celeste situation (everyone's disappeared, reason unknown) and must figure out what happened. Also involved are intelligent clouds, miniature T-Rexes, an insane Explorer, and the Balrog from Hunted. (The Balrog is a major player in the story; the central question of the book is "What does it mean to be more than human, and would you choose to be so if you had the chance?")

Speaking of Balrogs...what did you think of the Balrog in Lord of the Rings part 1, The Fellowship of the Ring?

I liked the Balrog. Like most fans of the original books, I worried that we'd see something cheesy...or at least cheesier than the Balrog that existed in my imagination. But the movie version was much better than I feared. I wasn't blown away by it—I don't think any visual representation could live up to the emotional one in my head—but the movie's Balrog was good enough that it didn't ruin the mood. That alone is a huge accomplishment.

Former Explorer Opal Quintelle, who's a minor character in Trapped, struck me as uncannily like Festina as well—although she isn't Festina. Does this tie into Radiant? Is there a secret conspiracy about clones of Festina? (Are you making your readers paranoid?)

I love making my readers paranoid...and it's no accident that members of the Explorer Corps resemble each other in many respects. Radiant reveals that nobody really knows how the Explorer Corps got started, or how it took its present form. I don't want to give away too much more than that. Suffice it to say, I enjoy writing all these books in the first person, where narrators like Festina believe they're telling the reader the Absolute Truth About Explorers...and they're wrong, wrong, wrong.

In Trapped, about one in a thousand Earthers have psychic powers. If you had your druthers (and were sure nobody wanted to enslave you), what power would you like?

The best power in Trapped is the one displayed by the boy Sebastian—basically the entire planet is your friend and wants to help you out by doing whatever it takes. Since that's a bit too general for a question like this, I'd say that I have a soft spot in my heart for the ability to fly; it's one of those fundamental human fantasies with a lot of mythical power.

Of course, being able to fly is simplistic compared to other more-than-human powers. When you asked that question, I started thinking about superheroes from comics...and I'm taken with the idea of being Flash, Green Lantern, or the Atom from the old Justice League. (Being Superman would also be nice, but it feels like cheating.)

Did you take fencing lessons while researching for Trapped? Do you now have a new hobby?

I did a bit of fencing in university—enough to know I wasn't going to be Zorro after only three hours of training. I soon headed in other directions, but it's nice to have a tiny bit of experience when I want to write about sword-stuff. (Of course, I take Kung Fu now, which also helps writing fight scenes. I'm pleased that Trapped finally gave me the chance to write some real martial arts.)

Did you take one of the guided tours of the Sir Adam Beck Niagara Generating Station No. 2 [at Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada] when you were researching for Trapped? What cool things about the station did you leave out of the book, as you had to leave out the witch-catching gate at Death Hotel?

I did take a tour of Sir Adam Beck many, many years ago. That certainly influenced the power-plant sections of Trapped, but I haven't been back recently to refresh my memory. Instead, I just referred to pictures in reference books...and from sheer perversity, I decided I liked the ambience of the plant circa 1930 rather than changes they've made since then, so that's what I put in the book. I think the 1930s style fits better with the sense that by 2457, the plant is an aged monstrosity where all the equipment is patched together with spit and binder twine...



Also on this site: interview with James Alan Gardner in 2001.


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