While so many space opera stories takes place only a few hundred years in the future, writerTom Toner is doing something different with his six-part series The Amaranthine Spectrum by having it take place thousands of years from now. But then — as I learned during the following email interview about the third book, The Tropic Of Eternity (hardcover, Kindle) — Toner also doesn’t consider this saga to just be a space opera.
For those unfamiliar with this series, what is The Amaranthine Spectrum hexalogy about, what is The Tropic Of Eternity about, and aside from being the third book of six, how else does The Tropic Of Eternity connect to the previous books in this series, The Promise Of The Child and The Weight Of The World?
The Amaranthine Spectrum is a space opera set over 12,500 years from now in the 147th century, when humankind has diverged into a dozen separate species and the world has changed beyond recognition. The Tropic Of Eternity continues on directly from The Weight Of The World, the second book in the series, by following Lycaste — a giant, troll-like introvert stranded far from home — Maneker the immortal human, and Ghaldezuel the dwarfish knight on their misadventures across the galaxy.
Where did you get the idea for The Tropic Of Eternity, when in the writing of The Amaranthine Spectrum did you come up with this idea, and how different is the finished novel from that original idea?
I got started on The Tropic Of Eternity as soon as The Weight Of The World went in for its copy edits. This was always going to be the most complex of the three — introducing new characters, species and worlds into the mix while resolving all the major plot threads and unifying the series as a whole — and so the process of just writing notes took about a year and a half before I sat down to do any serious typing on the laptop, totally buggering the deadline. If anything, the finished novel’s even more ridiculous than I thought it would be, which I hope is a good thing.
The Tropic Of Eternity, like the other books in The Amaranthine Spectrum, has been called a space opera. Is that how you see it, or do you think there are other genres or combinations of them that describe these books better?
I think it’s more of a fantasy novel set within a space opera, being too far-flung for much recognizable science. There are tin spaceships and paper cities and talking animals, singing sea monsters and dinosaur-built A.I.; all sorts of mad stuff you wouldn’t necessarily find in hard sci-fi.
Now, I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you that calling this book The Tropic Of Eternity made them think of Henry Miller’s Tropic Of Cancer and Tropic Of Capricorn. But is there anything particularly Miller-esque about The Tropic Of Eternity?
I enjoyed [Miller’s 1941 novel] The Colossus Of Maroussi, but it was never a conscious decision to use a Miller-esque title…besides the meandering sort of travel book that exists at the heart of each of the Amaranthine novels. The name comes more from a measurement or limitation being expanded, the map suddenly made much larger. In the case of these novels, we begin small scale on a Mediterranean beach, before travelling through the rest of the continent, then beyond the planet to the surrounding stars, and finally to the fringes of the Milky Way and on into the Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies, with a brief visit to the depths of the afterlife in between. It’s just as pretentious with all its multiple meanings as my other book titles.
Aside from Miller, are there any authors, or specific stories, that had a particularly big impact on The Tropic Of Eternity, but not on The Promise Of The Child and The Weight Of The World?
When I started my notes for this book I was doing some backpacking with my wife and reading Paul Theroux’s Happy Islands Of Oceania, and I tried to concentrate that wanderlust in the Harald Hundred chapters, a travelling Amaranthine who I’d love to write more about, possibly in separate novellas or even full novels.
How about movies, TV shows, or video games? Did any of them have a big influence on The Tropic Of Eternity?
Probably a lot of things, subliminally, but nothing I can put my finger on. I think events were already set in motion by the previous two books, and, as the author, I wanted to let the pen run at this stage and see where things went, rather than force too much on the narrative.
Now, you have said that The Amaranthine Spectrum will be a hexalogy, a six-book series. Is that still the plan?
I have a pretty clear idea of where the novels are going and a 20,000-word outline for the fourth book already, which is designed as a sort of Wizard And Glass-style prequel set 79 million years before the events of book 1, The Promise Of The Child. That said, I’m already well into a new, and much weirder, space opera called Aphelion, which has nothing whatsoever to do with The Amaranthine Spectrum, as well as being about halfway through a horror novel.
And just so people are clear, The Amaranthine Spectrum is not two connected trilogies, it’s a six-part series, right?
The original story arc was made up of six parts, but the more I wrote the more I could see more books over the horizon, so — if I live that long — I’d love to take the story all the way to its conclusion. It’s a really an evolutionary saga all about — spoiler! — the legacy of the dinosaurs, the end of humanity and the spread of our mammalian offshoots into the surrounding galaxies, so the real ending lies much, much further away. Book 3 resolves things in the first act quite nicely, though, and, I hope, wraps things up by answering a lot of questions.
As you know, some people wait until every book in a series is available, and then they read them in a row. But is there any reason — a story-based reason — why someone shouldn’t wait until all six books are out before reading them? Or a reason why they should?
I’m always giving away spoilers by accident in interviews — especially live ones when I’ve had a few drinks; I gave away the massive twist at the end of The Promise Of The Child the other day at a reading in Bristol, oops — so the longer these books are out there the more I’m not going to be able to resist ruining them for potential readers.
Obviously, you don’t want to get invested in something and then have to wait, but the third book rounds off the story in quite climactic ways, I think.
Earlier I asked about whether any movies, TV shows, or video games had inspired The Tropic Of Eternity. But has there any interesting in adapting this series into a movie, show, or game?
There was a tiny little flicker of interest, right at the very start, but that was all. Maybe they realized how much it would all cost to make. Most of the cast aren’t human, so you’d need hundreds of millions of dollars worth of motion capture or prosthetics or puppetry. It’s also such a big story that only TV would do it justice, I think. It would never happen in a million years anyway, but it’s always fun to imagine.
If The Tropic Of Eternity and the rest of The Amaranthine Spectrumwas to be adapted into a TV show, who would you like them to cast in the main roles?
For main roles, I think Ben Whishaw [Skyfall] would be perfect digitally enlarged and warped into the protagonist Lycaste, a nine foot, color-changing ogre crippled with shyness; followed by Hayley Atwell [Captain America: The First Avenger] as Eranthis; Rupert Everett [Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children] as Hugo Maneker; Toni Servillo [The Great Beauty] as Sotiris; Gary Oldman [Darkest Hour] as Cunctus; Alfred Enoch [How To Get Away With Murder] as Harald Hundred; Cara Delevingne [Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets] as Pentas; Ed Harris [Westworld] as Sabran; Bill Skarsgard [It] and Ben Mendelsohn [Rogue One: A Star Wars Story] shrunk and deformed into Huerepo and Ghaldezuel, respectively; Yayan Ruhian [The Raid] as Hui Neng; Christoph Waltz [Spectre] as Von Schiller; Emma Thompson [Stranger Than Fiction] as Liatris of Albina; Bill Nighy [The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy] as Jatropha; and a new actor — or perhaps a different blend of faces — in every scene for Aaron the Long-Life, a bit like the Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus.
Finally, if someone’s enjoyed The Tropic Of Eternity and the rest of The Amaranthine Spectrum, and they’re looking for something to read while waiting for books 4, 5, and 6 to come out, what space opera series would you suggest they read next? And just to keep things interesting, try to think of ones you really like but aren’t super well known like Iain M. Bank’s Culture novels or John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series.
I’m going to plug some seriously underappreciated friends’ books here: The Kenstibecseries by Jon Wallace [Barricade, Steeple, and Rig] a fun and fast-paced take on the apocalypse; the Stationseries by Al Robertson [Crashing Heaven and Waking Hell], an extraordinary techno-noir mystery set inside an asteroid; and the terrific Relic Guildseries by Ed Cox [The Relic Guild, The Cathedral Of Known Things, and The Watcher Of Dead Time].