Transcript of science fiction author Gary Gibson's filmed talk.
My name is Gary Gibson, I'm a professional science fiction writer. I've been writing for maybe 20 years or more. I've been writing books for slightly more than 10 years, published for slightly less than that.
[Question on screen] What inspired you to become a science fiction writer?
When I was a kid my dad was a journalist. My parents, my family were all journalists. My dad in particular, working on a Glasgow newspaper, shared a desk with the book reviewer and all the science fiction books that came through never got reviewed. They went straight to me and my brother, so I tended to angle straight for those.
They just had this promise of this wonderful future of things that could be, of things that could be imagined. It just seemed so much more interesting that what seemed like a fairly grey childhood in Scotland, in Glasgow in the 1970s. So I was very drawn to the colourful ideas and the concepts.
It just seemed a world beyond the things I knew at the time. And it was a lifelong romance between me and the genre after that.
[Question on screen] Where do you get your ideas from?
The kind of thing I write has more to do with a sense of awe. Really, when you're dealing with things like new space opera, which is probably the bracket I fit into, that's about taking a look at the universe and thinking in very cosmic terms. Quite literally cosmic terms. That is, where did the universe come from, where is it going, is there an ultimate purpose?
I think everything in my writing career so far has essentially been my take on the last 20 minutes of the movie '2001 [a space odyssey]'.
It's just that whole concept, the idea that there's an unknown strangeness out there. What could it be? What can we anticipate out there? We almost can't anticipate what's out there.
So I'm always trying to tap into that. That sense of awe and strangeness and wonder of what may or may not lie out there.
[Question on screen] Is there a creative process for turning your ideas into stories?
I think creativity is a skill you learn to get better at, like the act of putting words into the right order. I think after a while just thinking of ideas, eventually ideas start coming to you more and more easily until you almost have too many ideas floating around in your head.
So there's no real process. It's just a process of association and various ideas will bang about in your subconscious and sometimes something will come together and it will float up to your conscious mind. You'll go: 'Oh, that's a good idea'.
Or perhaps you read something in a newspaper or in a science article online and it will connect with something else in your head and you think: 'Those things would go together, there's a story there'.
[Question on screen] So can you give us a definition of science fiction?
[Laughs] You can't really define science fiction because it's a whole bunch of literary traditions that came crashing together. And every time they crash together, they merge together and create new forms. And they create new forms or merge again into other forms again so it's very hard.
You can talk about one form of science fiction and it has absolutely no relationship to something else at the other end of the spectrum. In terms of defining, it's more like a grab bag of multiple mini genres all bagged together for commercial convenience more than anything else.
But for me it's the old cliché of a sense of wonder. And I think it's about that. Science fiction is about taking elements of the world and putting them together in ways so that it seems fresh and new.
I think it serves a similar purpose that Surrealism did and Dadaism did. It was a deliberate attempt to shock the senses. Putting things together in a way that couldn't have been anticipated but actually might, in some cases, be technically possible.
It was the idea that there was something more coming in the future. That tomorrow wasn't going to be the same as today.
[Question on screen] Now that you mention the future, what is your involvement with ebooks?
I started up a small ebook imprint re-printing books by authors I know because I realised a while ago I knew a great deal of authors who had, at the time, been quite successful. But because of the nature of the publishing industry at the time, they were no longer in print.
But they often still had the rights to that work so there was no reason not to re-publish it. So I started up a small re-print label for ebooks specifically because the costs are basically zero, called 'Brain in a jar books'. It just seemed to kind of sum up what I was trying to do there.
And that's been going reasonably well. We've got books by current authors, older authors, all kinds. But the point is it's stuff that's been out there, it's proven itself, it's been successful and now it has a chance to be found again.
So what would you say to someone coming across your novels in 100 years time?
I'd say: 'So, how much did I get wrong?' [Laughs]