Given that they both write epic sci-fi space opera stories, you might think Peter F. Hamilton (of the Salvation Sequence Hamiltons) and Gareth L. Powell (of the Embers Of War Trilogy fortune) would be cordial at best and bitter rivals at worst. But once again, your cynical nature has gotten the best of you, because the two not only get along, they actually appreciate each other’s work enough that they decided to collaborate on (what else?) an epic sci-fi space opera story. In the following email interview, Peter and Gareth discuss their new novella Light Chaser (paperback, Kindle), as well as their mutual admiration society membership
Peter F. Hamilton (photo by Neil Lang), Gareth L. Powell (photo by TomShot Photography)
To begin, what is Light Chaser about, and when and where does it take place?
Peter: It takes place in space across thousands of lightyears, over a period of tens of thousands of years. Not bad for a novella.
As to what it’s about, at its core it’s a love story, but in a time of revolution and liberation in a universe that isn’t quite as straightforward as we’ve been led to believe in terms of its quantum structure.
And how did you come to write Light Chaser together?
Peter: Gareth came to me with an idea for an immortal space goddess / trader traveling round planets in a loop which took a thousand years to complete, and asked what I thought about it. I said: it’s fine, but how about if we set it in the universe of my earlier novella, A Window Into Time. He said: great, but we should give her a cause. Me: nice, so why don’t we…
And is there a reason why Amahle’s companion is a cat and not a dog or a fish or some alien that just happens to be cat-like? Y’know, like a flerken or a loth-cat?
Gareth: In one of the opening scenes, Amahle encounters a marketplace. I was trying to imagine what an immortal space princess might be interested in purchasing, and the only thing I could think she needed was company. Especially company that couldn’t talk back. Besides, I’m a firm believer that every ship needs a cat.
Peter, you said that Light Chaser is set in the same universe as your novella A Window Into Time. I assume Light Chaser is written in such a way that someone doesn’t need to read Window first, but if someone does, what will they get out of Light Chaser that they wouldn’t if they haven’t read Window?
Peter: It doesn’t make any difference if you’ve A Window Into Time; there is no connection between characters or time or place in the two stories. Having Light Chaser set in the same universe, in terms of how the fabric of reality functions, simply allows for a specific set of circumstances.
Gotcha. Anyway, Light Chaser sounds like it’s a sci-fi space opera story. Is that you’d describe it?
Peter: Definitely, unashamedly, boldly: space opera. Hopefully in the grandest sense as pioneered by Edmond “star smasher” Hamilton (no relation) and E.E. Doc Smith.
Gareth: I tend to class most of my work as space opera because I can’t be bothered to split hairs when it comes to sub-genres. If it’s got a space travel and epic adventure, it’s a space opera as far as I’m concerned.
Light Chaser is not the first book for either of you. Are there any writers, or maybe specific stories, that had a big influence on Light Chaser but not on the other books you’ve written?
Gareth: In the story, Amahle travels at close to the speed of light, which means less time passes for her than it does in the outside world. So, she sort of stands outside history, regarding normal planet-based humans as transitory mayflies. I guess in that respect, she’s similar to the scatterlings in Alastair Reynolds’ House Of Suns, or the Ultras in his Revelation Space universe. But you can find similar figures in the ramscoop pilots of Larry Niven’s Known Space, or the soldiers in Joe Haldeman’s Forever War.
Peter: Literary sci-fi has a multitude of near-lightspeed starships and the time compression effect they have, they’re part of the zeitgeist. This is our take on the concept.
How about non-literary influences; was Light Chaser influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
Gareth: In the sense that the main character is a traveler apart from the world, maybe Doctor Who was an unconscious influence.
Peter: I’d go with the film Triangle, a story of the mind-numbing horror of being trapped in a time loop. They’re not always as cute and fluffy as Groundhog Day, you know.
While Light Chaser is the first book either of you have written with someone else, you’ve both written short stories with other people. Peter, what did Gareth bring to Light Chaser that you did not?
Peter: The start.
Actually, once we’d thrashed out the setting and basic plot, it was a fifty / fifty project, each creating the different settings and situations we dropped our protagonist into.
And Gareth, same question to you about Peter?
Gareth: I’ve long been a fan of Peter’s work. He created some fantastic future societies for Amahle to visit, and I was absolutely awestruck by the epic quality he brought to the opening scene, which involves something smashing into a star at relativistic velocities.
Both of you have written sci-fi space opera novels that were each part of a series. Peter, you have your Salvation Sequence, while Gareth, you have your Embers Of War saga. Is Light Chaser part of a series as well? Aside from being set in the same universe as A Window Into Time, of course.
Gareth: We currently have no plans for another book in this series.
Now, along with Light Chaser, you’ve both put out new books in the last couple months. Peter, you recently concluded your Salvation Sequence with the release of The Saints Of Salvation. People can learn more in the interview we did about it, but real quick, what is that trilogy about, and when and where does it take place?
Peter: At its core it’s about trust and how that can be abused on a massive scale, and the consequences of that. Of course, the story is dramatized in a future setting with aliens and wormholes and portals and a grand human quest, populated by flawed characters. So, in the end it winds up being about human determination.
Gareth: The Recollection takes place in a world where strange portals open on mid-twenty-first-century Earth. When Ed Rico’s brother falls into one of these portals, Ed and his sister-in-law journey through the portals to find him. Meanwhile, four hundred years in the future, space trader Katherine Abdulov struggles to regain the trust of her influential trading family. And in deep space, an ancient threat begins to stir…
Honestly, I had so much fun writing The Recollection, it’s good to see it gaining a wider audience with this re-release.
Like Light Chaser, The Recollection is a sci-fi space opera story. Do you think people who enjoy Light Chaser will like The Recollection as well, and vice versa?
Gareth: I think anyone who enjoys Light Chaser will love The Recollection, and my Embers Of War trilogy, as they also blend action and humor with examinations of big themes: our place in the universe; life, love and death. All that good stuff.
And Peter, same question to you about Light Chaser and the Salvation Sequence.
Peter: Perseverance is a big theme in both stories for me. I’ve always said my stories are optimistic in the long term, although that doesn’t stop me putting the characters through hell to get there. So yes, if you liked one, you should enjoy the other.
Okay, good, because I liked both. Moving on, I asked earlier about the movies, TV shows, and games that influenced Light Chaser. But I’d like to turn things around, if I may, and ask if you think Light Chaser could work as a movie, show, or game?
Peter: I think a one season TV series would be the best format fit for this. Given it has an episodic structure, it’s the obvious (to me) choice.
Gareth: I think Peter’s right. There’s maybe too much there to unpack in a single movie, so a standalone TV series would seem the best idea.
And if someone was going to do that, who would you want them to cast as Amahle and the other main characters?
Peter: For a TV series, I’d vote for either Heledd Gwynn or Rakie Ayola. Both were in the BBC series The Pact, which I’ve just finished binge watching. Both of them were outstanding in it, though playing very different characters. Either of them could slip right into Amahle’s shoes with ease.
Gareth: I think those are both excellent choices.
Finally, if someone enjoys Light Chaser, Peter, what book of Gareth’s would you suggest they read next, and Gareth, same question for you about Peter’s oeuvre.
Gareth: I’m a big fan of Peter’s Commonwealth series, starting with Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained and continuing through The Void Trilogy and The Chronicle Of The Fallers. Seven hefty novels set in the same universe, following many of the same characters through centuries of history. It’s a staggering achievement, and one I heartily recommend.
Peter: I’m going for the obvious, and say: Embers Of War. The start of a great trilogy.