Exclusive Interview: “Paradise-1” Author David Wellington


There’s a quip people make when they haven’t heard from someone in a while: “You don’t call, you don’t write…”

But imagine if wasn’t a someone, but an entire colony, in deep space, really far from Earth, who were the ones not calling, not writing… Which is the set-up for Paradise-1 (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), David Wellington’s new sci-fi horror novel, and the first book of his Red Space series.

In the following email interview, Wellington discusses what inspired and influenced this story, including how, like the titular colony, it was something of a group effort.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Dikes


To start, what is Paradise-1 about, and when and where does it take place?

Well, I can’t tell you too much. Lots of surprises here. But let’s start here: Paradise-1 is the name of Earth’s first colony planet in another star system, about a hundred light years away. It’s a rocky, pretty barren world but the colonists seem happy. They’ve been given a chance to create a new life, a new start. Then, for some reason, they stop communicating with Earth.

The book starts fourteen months later. A crew has been assembled to go to the planet and see what’s going on. Alexandra Petrova is a skilled detective who just caught the worst serial killer in the history of Ganymede, but in the process, she screwed up a years-long investigation. Zhang Lei is the psychologically damaged last survivor of the doomed colony on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Sam Parker is a no account pilot with a mischievous grin…and then there’s Rapscallion, a robot who builds endless new bodies for himself with a 3D printer. For some reason, the government of Earth thinks this bunch are the best hope for the lost planet. But getting to the Paradise system is only where the story starts.

Where did you get the idea for Paradise-1?

You and I know no one ever really makes a piece of art alone. Think of all the people it takes to make a movie. Books might seem like an exception; it’s just my name on the cover, after all. In fact, this one was a deep collaboration with the whole team at Orbit. Especially James Long, my editor, who helped come up with the basic ideas and characters. So all the inspiration comes from him. I took his ideas and developed them, fleshed them out and did some world-building. It’s an interesting way to tell a story, honestly.

Is there a reason why you centered this around Earth’s first deep space colony as opposed to our third or fifth? Or, for that matter, it not being a deep space colony, but something closer, like maybe the first on Mars or one of Jupiter’s moons?

We wanted to make this place as alien as possible. This is a world unlike any other we’ve seen in our solar system. It’s a little like Earth, in that you can breathe the air, but…there’s a history to Paradise-1 that gets explored as the series goes on. It’s a very special place.

Speaking of which, in the interview we did about your sci-fi novel Forbidden Suns, the last book of The Silence trilogy, said that your editors suggested publishing that under the name D. Nolan Clark because, “They didn’t want people thinking this was a horror trilogy.” Does Paradise-1 coming out under your own name mean this is not just a sci-fi story, but a sci-fi horror story?

Very much so. Yes, this is science fiction and horror, two great tastes that go great together. Like my last book, The Last Astronaut, I’m using elements of both genres here to tell a big story.

So, how scary does Paradise-1 get? Is it as scary as some of your horror novels, is it scarier, less scary…and why was this the right amount of scary for this story?

I mean, the right amount? That’s up to you, and each reader individually. Some people like a good shiver down the spine, or a good jump scare (yes there are people who like jump scares, that’s why they exist). Some people prefer the deep, lingering dread you get from a terrifying idea. I went for a lot of that in the end. There are things in this book that will seem relatively innocent at first, but when you think about them, they’re going to make you very uncomfortable. So scary? Yes. Very.

Speaking of your horror stories, you’ve written nearly two dozen novels, as well as an issue of the comic book Marvel Zombies Return. Are there any writers, or stories, that you think had a big influence on Paradise-1 but not on anything else you’ve written?

I’m a huge fan of Roger Zelazny, and I think there’s a fair bit of his work in here. Taking the explicitly weird stuff and making it very personal to the characters, for instance. On the horror side there’s a fair amount of Ramsey Campbell in here, in terms of people in a cold world fighting to hold on to whatever warmth they can keep.

How about non-literary influences; was Paradise-1 influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games? Because having people going onto an abandoned space ship that’s connected to an equally empty colony makes me think of the game Dead Space.

When we started working on this book a big concern was that when people think about space horror, they think of Alien. They think xenomorphs. We wanted to take a different path here. So I went back and watched Event Horizon and Lifeforce and Pandorum. All very good movies (your mileage may vary) that take horror in a different direction. Of course, Paradise-1 is like none of those movies, but you might notice some inspiration here and there.

One of the biggest influences was the table-top role-playing game Mothership. It’s a game that started out as trying to recreate Alien but then just took off at right angles from itself. I ran a lengthy campaign for my friends, and in the process, I learned a lot about what makes space so scary.

Now, you’ve already said that Paradise-1 is the first book of a series called Red Space

Though you don’t find out what that means until volume two, which I’m working on as we speak.

Gotcha. So, what was it about this story that made you realize it couldn’t be told in just one volume?

The characters, for one thing. There are just some great people in this book, and I needed them to find answers to the big questions. I needed them to go on to further adventures. Well, some of them, maybe…no spoilers! Stop asking for spoilers!

So, how many books will there be?

This one’s going to be a trilogy, at the very least. Paradise-1 just scratches the surface of a much bigger story that needs room to breathe.

And do you know what the other two will be called or when they’ll be out?

All I can say is that Orbit and I are so excited about these books that we’re working on an accelerated publishing schedule. They gave me time enough to write the books and make sure they’re the best they can be, but we’re really just champing at the bit to show you more of this world.

Upon hearing that Paradise-1 is the first book of a series, possibly a trilogy, some people will decide to wait until all of the books come out before reading any of them. But is there any reason why you think people shouldn’t wait…or that they should?

Ha! Still trying to get me to reveal spoilers, I see…

No, I just want to know if I should read Paradise-1 or wait and read all three in a row like I did with The Silence trilogy.

Honestly, yeah, I think people should read this one now, and not wait. It’s a great stand-alone story. You could read this one and stop here and feel like you got a full experience, absolutely. But I hope people will come back for more. I’m hoping they’ll read this first one and it’ll make them want to know more. But definitely this first book is complete in itself.

Earlier I asked if Paradise-1 had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip things around, do you think Paradise-1 could work as a movie, show, or game?

A movie. Series of movies.

I love video games, but this is not that. I love Aliens, but this isn’t a bug hunt story. It’s far more about the characters and how the story changes them.

And if someone wanted to adapt Paradise-1 into a movie, who would you want them to cast as Petrova, Zhang, and the other main characters?

See, I hate this game because you get a certain idea in your head, and then, when they cast the movie, you’re like “that person? That makes no sense!” Except that person turns out to be perfect for the role. I’d love to see just out of the blue casting. Get Aubrey Plaza [The White Lotus] to play the robot. The robot has exactly her vein of wry, dark humor. I don’t know. I think all my female leading characters start out as Sigourney Weaver [Alien]. Alexandra Petrova is a twenty-something blonde woman of Russian descent, the daughter of a fascist dictator. Sigourney Weaver could play the hell out of this character. Just don’t use that terrible de-aging CGI. Doctor Zhang Lei from the book is a broken man, at least at first. He’s Asian, but this is the future so why not give the part to Adam Driver [Star Wars] or somebody like that? Robert Pattinson [The Batman] plays this kind of character a lot, and he’s good at it.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Paradise-1?

It’s very long. More than 700 pages. I know that can be daunting to some people but honestly, think of it as value for money. How much do you pay for a ticket to watch a two hour movie? This book will last you many hours. But seriously, it’s long for a reason. There’s no filler here, just a big, sprawling story. Don’t let the length put you off.

David Wellington Paradise-1 Red Space

Finally, if someone enjoys Paradise-1, which of your other books would you suggest they read next and why that one?

The obvious answer would be The Last Astronaut, my previous work of space horror. It’s a very, very different story, but it’s really good (if I say so myself). It was short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke award. And if you’re one of those people who waits for a whole series to come out, well, The Last Astronaut is a stand-alone book. Definitely worth a look.



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