Stephen Baxter is an English science-fiction author. Since 1987, he has published forty books in the genre. Before becoming a writer Stephen was a student of STEM subjects, studying mathematics and engineering as degrees and went onto to teach maths, physics and information technology for several years. His science fiction novels have been published in multiple languages and have won several awards including: The Philip K Dick Award, The John W Campbell Memorial Award, The British Science Fiction Association Award and the Arthur C Clarke Awards to name just a few. His novel Proxima is our featured audiobook this month. If you want to find out what inspires Stephen to write sci-fi, check out our interview below…
What inspires you to write science fiction?
The same thing that inspired me to read it from a young age. Philip K Dick once said that he saw reality as a kind of chessboard. The here and now is just one square on the board, and it contains fascinating stories. But you also have all the squares on the column behind you – past ages – and ahead, the future to come. And to either side you have more columns, of pasts and futures that might have been, all of which is unknown. Science fiction lets you explore all those wider possibilities, and it can add to your understanding of the context of our own little square.
Science fiction offers the chance to explore imagined possibilities, can you say what role does science fact play in your writing?
In my case a lot. To write science fiction was an early ambition but that led me into studying science, maths. Now I attend, and contribute to, conferences on our future in space, etc. All this sparks ideas to explore. The scientists’ account of the world keeps changing; I think you have to keep up if you’re to write relevant fiction.
Is there any particular writer who has impacted upon the way you write or think about the genre?
Many, but I’d pick out Sir Arthur C Clarke. I was lucky enough to collaborate with him on four novels. He had a combination of a mastery of near-future science and engineering with ultimate cosmic visions that was always compelling, and that’s what I aim for myself.
Some of our readers are new to the genre, if you could give them one reason to try it, what would that be?
The purpose of the genre is to show the world as it might be one day. Try it and see what tomorrow might bring – just as our today was once imagined in the science fiction of Jules Verne and HG Wells.
Tim Peake is on a mission to the International Space Station for six months. Can you imagine yourself exploring space on this kind of mission?
I once applied to be a guest cosmonaut on the Russian space station Mir – eventually Helen Sharman made the trip. I didn’t get very far with my application, but given the chance I’d have gone like a shot!