Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Greg Bear has been writing professionally for forty years. His works range from memorable short fiction, like “Blood Music” and “Hardfought”, to novels like Eon, The Forge of God and Darwin’s Radio. His latest novel is a a near-future thriller called Quantico, available from Vanguard Press. (See SF Signal review.) SF Signal had the opportunity to talk to Greg via email about the Quantico, Eon and making books available online for free.
SF Signal: Hi, Greg. What prompted you to write Quantico? How did you get the idea, and did that idea change as you were writing it?
Greg Bear: A visit to the FBI Academy to attend a conference on the future of crime and criminal investigation gave me a chance to speak with agents and law enforcement officers from around the country. It was a fascinating and sobering experience–these people have some of the most difficult jobs on the planet, are under constant scrutiny, and without them, we’d be in very serious trouble indeed. The stresses these responsibilities produce, in a time of political change and terrible threat, seemed to me perfect for a new kind of thriller–a near-future, hardcore look at where we might end up if we keep making strategic screw-ups, and continue to misuse and abuse our front-line defenders, be they military personnel or law enforcers.
SFS: Was there any backlash from the book?
GB: None so far. Lots of interested comment.
GB: There’s always that danger. I made sure the techniques and situations I discuss in Quantico are convincing, without providing usable guidelines. That said, I’m pretty convinced there are people out there–not necessarily Islamic terrorists–who are smarter and more clever than me, and have already worked through their own scenarios. We need to be prepared, to thoroughly understand the possibilities.
SFS: Did you do any research on the FBI or other government agencies depicted in Quantico?
GB: Of course! Many books and texts, journalism, official and unofficial web sites, and of course, that visit to the Academy itself. Over the last eight or nine years, I’ve also become pretty well acquainted with government agencies and research labs–including Fort Detrick–and have attended several Washington DC security conferences since 9-11. I’ll be attending another such conference with Homeland Security this May.
SFS: Did you get any feedback from former or current agents after the book was published?
GB: Not on this book. The political situation at the Academy and within the FBI has changed since my visit in 2000. I did not feel this kind of text could be officially examined or recognized by the FBI in their current political situation and with their current responsibilities.
SFS: A current hot topic is authors making books and stories available online for free. What’s your take? Is this something that would interest you?
GB: I offer a lot of content online for free at www.gregbear.com, and there’s more content being posted at www.Quanticothebook.com even as I write. As for posting actual stories and novels–there’s no reason to do that, as long as they keep selling through traditional and newer channels. Darwin’s Radio and Darwin’s Children have been e-book bestsellers for years now.
SFS: Eon was the book that made many folks Greg Bear fans. What was the genesis for the idea of The Way and of Eon?
GB: The Way and the Stone came into my head back in the late 1960s, after reading a speculative article in Analog by Larry Niven on strange planetary configurations. His ideas merged in my head with a Syd Mead poster called “Disaster at Synchron,” but I went way beyond what they were thinking of. I then added a touch of Rendezvous with Rama–used some of the background from my own “Wind from a Burning Woman,” published in the late seventies, and went wild!
GB: That was extraordinary work, and an extraordinary experience. It would be fun so have such talented people attempt a film.
SFS: Would you trust Hollywood to not muck up the story?
GB: Most of the talent that worked on the CGSociety Eon Challenge has no connection with Hollywood! But I’ve been blessed with excellent screenwriters on two current projects, and there’s a wealth of talent in LA today. It could turn out quite well, with the right people–and the right budget, of course.
SFS: If you were to adapt Eon as a film today, what nation would you use to replace the Soviet Union?
GB: The Russian Republic. Vladimir Putin seems to be re-creating a dictatorial superpower piece by piece, along the old Soviet lines, but with a more robust economy. Could be formidable.
SFS: What’s the next project we can expect from you?
GB: I’m putting the last few chapters together for a novel called City at the End of Time. It’s a significant departure from anything I’ve written before–but with a time-scale and a future history that dwarfs all my previous novels and stories.
SFS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?