Q&A With Jeffrey A. Carver

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Q&A With Jeffrey A. Carver

Mickey Mikkelson connected me with my current guest, Jeffrey A. Carver. Jeffrey is the author of the sci-fi series The Chaos Chronicles. The current two-part novel in the series, The Reefs of Time and Crucible of Time is currently out. He also wrote the Nebula nominated Eternity’s End. He is a recipient of the Helicon Awards’ Frank Herbert Lifetime Achievement Award for writing science fiction. 

Q: Jeffrey, would you like to tell the readers about The Chaos Chronicles series & Eternity’s End? How did you come up with the concept both for the series and the standalone book?

A: Hi Bianca, it’s good to meet you—and your readers! 

To start with, the books you mention are all series books (although I have written standalone novels, as well). The Chaos Chronicles starts with Neptune Crossing and continues with Strange Attractors, The Infinite Sea, Sunborn, and finally The Reefs of Time and Crucible of Time. The last two were actually written as a single novel, but the story grew so much in the telling that I split it into two books for publication. But you definitely want to read them together as a single story, set within the larger continuous story arc of The Chaos Chronicles. 

Eternity’s End is part of an altogether different series, loosely called the novels of the Star Rigger Universe. The Star Rigger books are mostly independent stories set within the same future history. But there are threads that run among them. 

The Star Rigger books came first, with my very first novel and several that followed. One of those books was Star Rigger’s Way, and it described the method of star travel that binds all of these books together. The gist is that when a ship submerges into the hyper-dimensions of interstellar space (known as the Flux), it enters a realm of currents and natural movements that map only indirectly to normal-space. Rivers of current may flow from one star system to another, and the distances are very different from the distances of normal-space. Navigation requires the star rigger (pilot) to reach out through a sensory net and interpret the Flux by wrapping their own imagery around the existing currents. They might turn their ship (in images) into a submarine, or a glider, or a bird, or really anything that is personally compelling while still conforming to the shape of the Flux. It’s a lot like the creative process, really. Real creatures such as dragons live in the Flux, as well. All of the books in this series have star rigging as the common thread. Now, Star Rigger’s Way introduced a number of details that later spun off into other stories. A mention of dragons grew later into Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger. A minor character in Star Rigger’s Way spawned the question, “Whatever happened to that guy Legroeder, anyway?” Eternity’s End began with my answer to that question, and it grew into an epic-length novel that took me many years to write. It delved into questions of individual lives, intertwined with a “Flying Dutchman” of the stars, threats of interstellar war, piracy, unexpected romance, and a great deal more. It’s one of my books that I’m proudest of, and it was a finalist for the Nebula Award. (And, by the way, it’s available in a terrific audiobook narrated by the award-winning Stefan Rudnicki. As are the Chaos books.) 

Now, my series The Chaos Chronicles started as a kind of answer to some long stories I had been writing, which were personally rewarding but not necessarily a good way to earn a living as a writer. I conceived the Chaos books as a series of much shorter, fast-paced books that would cumulatively tell the long kind of story that I seem temperamentally destined to write. The trigger for Neptune Crossing was, first of all, reading the book Chaos—a fascinating exploration of chaos theory—by James Gleick. Secondly, I read an article in the Planetary Report about the chaotic movements of bodies in the solar system, in particular comets and asteroids. The main character, John Bandicut, sprang into my head as a man for whom inner chaos was a way of life. He worked as a mining survey pilot on Triton, the moon of Neptune. An unfortunate neurolink accident had rendered him susceptible to a condition called “silence fugue,” which in turn rendered him susceptible to contact by an alien intelligence that was lying in wait beneath the ices of Triton. This set off a chain of events that led ultimately to his taking crazy risks in hopes of saving Earth from a rogue dark comet—and, in consequence, seeing his own life spun off in directions he would never have imagined. The rest of the series takes place out in, and beyond, the galaxy—and sets Bandicut and several alien companions in motion against truly cosmic forces, including agents set upon killing sentient stars. The latest 2-part novel, The Reefs of Time and Crucible of Time, take two characters to the center of the galaxy, a billion years in the past, and weave together quite a tapestry of personal and planetary lives. 

That’s a long way of saying that this is a series you can immerse yourself in, for quite a while. Each individual book, however, is a self-contained story within that story arc. 

Q: What drew you into writing sci-fi?

A: I loved science fiction from my earliest days of reading as a child. I lived in the world of Tom Swift, Jr., and then Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, as a kid. Once I discovered the Winston series of SF for young adults (you could always recognize those books in the public library by the rocket ship on the spine), I was truly hooked for life. I started writing a little bit in secondary school—I still have my hand-bound booklet The Mysterious Midnight Ride, which I wrote in sixth grade. When I later attended Brown University as an undergraduate, I became seriously devoted to the art and craft of science fiction, despite the fact that at that time, there was no one at the university with the background to help me learn. I was several years out of college when I sold my first short stories, to Fiction and to Galaxy SF, and then my first novel. I write slowly, but I’ve never stopped. By the way—my plan for the Chaos books to write short, quick novels? Didn’t last long. Reefs and Crucible took me eleven years to complete!

Q: Are you currently writing your next book in The Chaos Chronicles Series, a new series, or a standalone novel?

A: I am writing the last volume of The Chaos Chronicles, tentatively titled Masters of Shipworld. I’ve had some problems with writer’s block, and with life and health issues getting in the way. So, progress has been slow. But that’s my focus now, to bring that story arc to its full circle. 

Q: If Hollywood were to snatch up your books (if they haven’t already) who would be your ideal cast to play the characters you created from your imagination?

A: Boy, that’s hard. For the Chaos series, someone like a younger Mark Ruffalo would be perfect for John Bandicut. Maybe Emily Blunt for Antares (who is an empathic alien Thespi, but very human like). For Julie, who is human, hmm. Someone who is a little more like the girl next door. Maybe a younger (but not ditzy!) Kaley Cuoco? Or Florence Pugh? Jenna Coleman? Karen Gillan? I’m showing my seniority, here. Most of the actors I can think of are already too old! Most of the rest of the characters are aliens, so the faces aren’t as important… although, now that I think about it, Doug Jones—Saru on Star Trek—could be a good Ik. 

And listen, Hollywood—pay attention, just for a moment, please! The Chaos Chronicles would make a great streaming series!

Q: Would you say that your worlds and characters you built from your imagination are taken from bits and pieces of real people and places?

A: Of course. Here’s one example: There’s a scene in Neptune Crossing where John Bandicut is required to operate some machinery that he’s not been properly trained on. The controls aren’t even properly labeled. He makes a complete fool of himself. That was me, on a summer job in college, working on an automotive assembly line! Totally. I also wrote a short story called “Shapeshifter Finals,” about a human wrestler in galactic games, against a shapeshifter. Straight out of my days as a high school wrestler. 

More generally, the process of writing always involves a blending, a synthesis of real experiences with imagined experiences. It’s all in a day’s work for a fiction writer. 

Thanks so much for your time and questions!