Andrew Lane and Nigel Foster are the contributors for this week’s Take Five, a regular series in which authors and editors share five facts about their latest books. Their newest book is Netherspace, available now from your favorite book retailer or directly from publisher Titan Books.
Aliens came to Earth forty years ago. Their anatomy proved unfathomable and all attempts at communication failed. But through trade, humanity gained technology that allowed them to colonise the stars. The price: live humans for every alien faster-than-light drive.
Kara’s sister was one of hundreds exchanged for this technology, and Kara has little love for aliens. So when she is drafted by GalDiv – the organisation that oversees alien trades – it is under duress. A group of colonists have been kidnapped by aliens and taken to an uncharted planet, and an unusual team is to be sent to negotiate. As an ex-army sniper, Kara’s role is clear. But artist Marc has no combat experience, although the team’s pre-cog Tse is adamant that he has a part to play. All three know that success is unlikely. For how will they negotiate with aliens when communication between the species is impossible?
Andrew Lane and Nigel Foster:
1. Netherspace began when we met at bookstore in Dorset, South West England. (Winstone’s Book store, subsequently named UK Independent Bookstore Of The Year. The two events may or may not be connected). Anyway, we discovered a mutual love of HP Lovecraft and science fiction. And of the latter, were annoyed by continuing tropes. Like space ships are always so beautifully streamlined. Why? And noise is still travelling in a near-vacuum. And when humans meet aliens, they always find a way to communicate because they’re just like us, really. Even when it isn’t life as we know it, there’s always an understanding. So in our polite, English way we said B******* to that, let’s make it real.
2. Both of us grew up on classical science fiction. Andy’s background is a physics degree from Warwick then working in the defence industry before becoming a free-lance writer. Nigel spent a few short years in the British Army then emigrated to Canada to work in advertising and then the print and broadcast media. When we started Netherspace, we both swore it was not going to be a space opera. And then we wrote one! Although hopefully this has a little more depth than most. . . maybe the thinking reader’s space opera.
3. We thought long and hard how seemingly benign but unknowable aliens, come bearing gifts, would affect human society. The Earth we describe is the logical, albeit at times weird, result. There’s nothing put in simply for effect. Thing is, you don’t need to. The universe is strange enough, has enough possibilities, that it’s not really necessary. We also looked at unintended consequences. Humanity embraces trade with aliens. . . only to realise, possibly too late, that we’ve been colonised. Become dependent on alien technology. . . not all of which we understand, even if we know how to use it.
4. Similarly, our main characters are not heroes although they might do heroic acts. One is a female licensed Official Assassin. The other is a male artist who’s border-line psychopathic. The trick is to make them interesting; to get the reader empathising and rooting for characters that initially are morally dubious. Eastwood built a movie career doing the same thing! Of course as the book and series progresses the characters develop and change. And it might be for the better. Or not. . .
5. Yes, there is a boojum: Netherspace itself, or the ‘dimension’ which enables humanity to reach the stars. Look at it for too long and you go mad. Something seems to exist there with an unhealthy interest in – appetite for? – human beings.
And yet it has a terrible fascination for regular space-goers. It seems to possess them. In a way Netherspace is another main character. Certainly the reader’s understanding of it will change as the series progresses.