BSFA Interviews: Adrian Tchaikovsky
In this series, BSFA member and author, Gareth Worthington interviews other authors to gain insight into their writing and their writing process and find out about their latest work. We begin with the author, Adrian Tchaikovsky.
1. So, to start, the one question I ask all authors: we all write for personal reasons, some of these change over time. Why did you start writing, and is it still the reason you write now?
In my teens I didn’t write, but I was very heavily into tabletop role-playing games. I loved creating worlds, basically, in immersive detail – worlds to visit and live in. When I was around 17-18 I ran into some books called the Dragonlance Chronicles that were, basically, a write up of someone’s Dungeons and Dragons campaign. This was the lightbulb moment that showed me that there was a path from the gamer I was to being a writer, and from that moment I didn’t stop. The main impetus – creating worlds that I could share with other people – hasn’t really changed, and in fact the skills involved are very similar.
2. Beyond the synopsis of Alien Clay, how would you describe your book to a fan?
Alien Clay, which is coming out 2024, is a book about alien ecology and human society and what happens when the two collide. A prison camp on an exoplanet where the biosphere works to wildly different rules to Earth biology. A repressive regime and a dissident academic. An environment of suspicion, informers and brutality. The themes of connection and alienation, with other people, with the wider alien world, for better or worse.
What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
“What the F*** was that all about?” Honestly, I’d be happy if people came away liking the social message of resistance to authoritarian regimes, but I’d be really happy if they just enjoyed the weirdness of the alien setup on Kiln, all the fun twists I run the ecology through.
4. Do you find creative writing a freeing, like chaos without boundaries, or is the process a well-structured battle plan?
I think there’s an overlap point between those circles. I plan a great deal, the setting details especially, until I’m sufficiently surrounded by detail that everything is drawing from a coherent whole. Whilst I do tend to plan the plot details, it all arises out of the world, and the actual writing process, discovering the details, is still very freeing. It’s chaos pulling a wagon.
5. As an author, giving your characters names is always tricky – how do you choose?
Unlike titles, where my hit rate is very poor, character names tend to arise naturally. Often I’ll have particular cultural conventions, especially in a fantasy world where I might have a variety of different origins to distinguish between. Sometimes I’ll have an artificial naming convention, such as using Shakespearean characters for the spiders in Children of Time. Names just tend to suggest themselves most of the time, and I suspect I’m influenced by the personal connotations of specific sounds.
6. What is next for you? Can you tell us a little about your work in progress?
Aside from next year’s Alien Clay there’s quite a list of upcoming books on the slate. The fantasy series I started with City of Last Chances is marching on with two books written (the 2nd book, House of Open Wounds, is out December 2023). I have a book out from Tordotcom/Tor UK called Service Model which is about robots following their logical programming to do ridiculous things – whilst I’d never say I wrote like Douglas Adams, this is probably the closest I’ll ever get to it. My novellas with Solaris are also continuing with a new round, starting with an environmental SF horror/thriller titled Saturation Point.
7. If you could write another genre what would it be and why?
I should say first off I’ve never felt any drive to do so. Reading and writing, I tend to need at least a touch of the speculative, so that even if I wrote something ostensibly in another genre, it would likely go weird in the middle somewhere. A lot of SFF authors expand into detective or historical fiction, which feel like neighbouring territories with a lot of commonality. I suppose the obvious one would be full-on horror, which is something that I’m playing with in my novella work, and have inched into in a kind of incidental way in books like Children of Ruin. I am a bit of a milquetoast though, so I’m jot sure I have the nerve for it.
8. Will you be at any events in the coming months?
I’ve just come back from Fantasycon, of course, so as I write, this is the down season for conventions. Having said that I’m doing a couple of literary festivals in the next few weeks, and in October I’m at Halcon in Halifax, Canada, which will be my very first time across the Atlantic.
9. Where can readers find out more about you?
With so much of the internet on fire, the best spot is definitely adriantchaikovsky.com which is kept reasonable up to date (mostly because my wife does it) and has a good contact form if people want to get hold of me. I’m generally around as @aptshadow on most social media, at least right now.