Ben Bova is one of the most iconic science fiction writers of our time. But for his new novel, Power Surge (hardcover, digital), he’s crafted a tale that, sadly, may not be as fictional as we might hope. In it, Dr. Jack Ross heads to Washington D.C. in hopes of changing our nation’s energy policy for the better, only to be rebuffed by politicians with another agenda. “Like many of my novels,” Bova says, “Power Surge examines the interaction of high technology with national and international politics.” What makes the book work so well, though, is that for Bova, this story isn’t as fictional as we might think for different reasons.
I always like to start with the basics. Was the story you’re telling in Power Surge inspired by anything particular, maybe something you’d seen in the news?
In the 1960s I worked at the research laboratory where the MHD [magnetohydrodynamic] power generator was being developed. We were at the point where we were ready to build a demonstration MHD power plant. But neither the utilities industry nor the federal government was willing to fund the demo plant. MHD has not been allowed to develop into its full capability as a result.
When you set out to write this novel, was the intention to make a political point about energy consumption and environmental protection?
My point was to show that we have many improvements in energy production and environmental protection available, but political forces often strange these developments in their cradle.
Is the main character, Jake, based on anyone in particular, or a couple people?
Jake is a composite of several persons, including me.
How much research did you do into both the science aspects and the political ones?
I have lived through this kind of story, more than once. The science is as accurate as I could make it, based on my personal experience. Same with the politics.
But in writing the book, were there any times when you had to fudge the facts a little to make it a better story?
The only “fudging” in the novel is that the energy plan — including MHD — succeeds. Would that the real world were so.
You’ve written a lot of science fiction novels and stories. Power Surge is not sci-fi, though. But does that have an impact on how you wrote it, either from a practical standpoint or a stylistic one?
The kind of science fiction that I write is based solidly on known science, with some extrapolation. I feel that the only difference between Power Surge and my out-and-out science fiction novels — such New Earth — is the era in which the story is set.
Do you think fans of your sci-fi novels will enjoy Power Surge, though?
I think anyone who reads Power Surge will enjoy it. I only hope it will also make them think, and understand how politics can delay or even stop beneficial technological progress.
All of its political intrigue makes me think Power Surge could be a pretty cool movie. Has anyone approached you that?
No scintilla of interest from Hollywood.
If given the opportunity, would you want to write the script for it?
I would happily collaborate with an experienced script writer.
And if they asked you for ideas as to who should direct, script it, or play Jack, who would you suggest and why?
I would keep my mouth shut.
Ha! Finally, you’ve written a ton of great books over the years. If someone really liked Power Surge and wanted to read something else by you next, which of your books would you recommend?
My novels Transhuman and Immortality Factor deal with contemporary biomedical research that are leading to greatly extending human life spans. My “Grand Tour” novels [which include Return To Mars, The Precipice, and Titan] show how the human race will expand through the solar system and then out toward the stars.