Friday, 16 October 2015

Blog Tour - Horizon by Keith Stevenson

Thirty-four light years from Earth, the explorer ship Magellan is nearing its objective - the Iota Persei system. But when ship commander Cait Dyson wakes from deepsleep, she finds her co-pilot dead and the ship's AI unresponsive. Cait works with the rest of her multinational crew to regain control of the ship, until they learn that Earth is facing total environmental collapse and their mission must change if humanity is to survive.

As tensions rise and personal and political agendas play out in the ship's cramped confines, the crew finally reach the planet Horizon, where everything they know will be challenged.

"Crackling science fiction with gorgeous trans-human and cybernetic trimmings. Keith Stevenson's debut novel soars." - Marianne De Pierres, award-winning authors of the Parrish Plessis, Sentients of Orion and Peacemaker series



Welcome to the Horizon Blog Tour! Read on below for an excerpt of Keith's amazing novel, and for the chance to win a copy of it! 

Excerpt -

Cait waited a moment then launched herself into the tube, reaching out as she moved along to acquire some spin. Nadira disappeared from sight, tumbling over the lip at the far end in one graceful move.

It had been obvious from the start that Nadira’s last-minute inclusion on the mission was going to be problematic. The nukes that took out targets in the Middle East and Asia, and prompted the Compact’s formation, had been followed by fifty years of bitter and protracted Pax-led sanctions. Nadira’s presence on board was meant to herald a new era of détente between the Compact and the Pax Americana. But while politicians made and broke alliances almost without thinking, the wounds history inflicted on individuals took longer to heal.

Cait swung herself over the lip of the tube, feeling her internal organs settle as she descended the ladder and stopped halfway. On the floor below it was easy to forget where you were, but from this vantage point the curvature of the drum was more obvious. The layout inside clustered the harnesses, med lab, gym, ship controls and so on against the fore and aft walls, leaving a broad walkway running around the midpoint. Lighting and colouring were muted and shadows minimal, giving an illusion of space, but it was still just the inside of a large can. An odd place to spend the best part of a century.

She took a breath, feeling oddly separated from the others below. She realised that up until now things had been easy, despite the bickering. Lex’s attentions too had been part of a game they’d played on the out-system leg. But now it was very different. Out here they could be sure their bodies would never be found if disaster struck. There would be no one to mourn them, no marker to show how far out they’d come. Sure, this had been the case when they were mere light days from Earth. But it felt more true out here, in the space between the stars. The hard, uncaring void, as Sharpe would say before pulling some stupid terror-stricken face and doubling up with laughter. She just wasn’t sure how far she should go in adapting herself to that difference. She couldn’t quieten the nagging feeling that she was pushing too hard just to keep up the illusion of moving towards a solution — forcing Lex to wake Bren early, ordering the reboot without a more considered study of the situation. Her head hurt too much, and she wanted to sleep. How could that be when she’d only just woken after forty-five years?

People reacted differently to emergency situations — herself included. Under the circumstances, perhaps Nadira’s continued aloofness was understandable. Cait wondered what reaction was the right one for her? She felt dizzy again and clung to the ladder, closing her eyes and breathing deeply. The drum servos hummed through the wall, maintaining the spin. Inside there was light, air, everything was quiet. It was hard to believe they were in the midst of an emergency, hard to keep focusing on that. But the emergency was real. And that was why she had to keep going.

Holding onto that thought, she finished her descent and made her way back to Lex. He looked up from his monitor as she came close and shook his head.

‘No change. The implant’s hooked up but I haven’t been able to influence it. I don’t even know if it’s functioning.’

‘Keep a close eye on her,’ Cait said. ‘We’re going to reboot the main computer.’

‘What difference will that make?’

Cait frowned. ‘I don’t know. Just watch her, okay?’

She glided over to the command port again. Her PAL was settled above the port, already linked to Harris’s.

‘I’m in position, Harris. Ready when you are.’

‘It’ll just take a moment,’ Harris said over the link.

Cait began setting up her screen to monitor the key systems simultaneously.

‘You have to stop her! Don’t let her do it!’

Cait turned at the noise. Bren was trying to get up; Lex was struggling against her. She turned to look at Cait, eyes wild as she forced Lex’s hands away.

‘Don’t reboot Phillips, Cait! You’ll kill us all!’

Keith Stevenson Q&A: 

Keith Stevenson, welcome back to Smash Dragons!

You have the unique honour of being the first author to return since we started our interview series (I should probably get a trophy made for you or something). So I have to ask… what’s new with you? 

Thanks, Matt. It’s déjà vu all over again. Since Horizon launched last November I’ve been head down getting on with my space opera, The Lenticular Series. I’ve been working on this off and on for over a dozen years now. I don’t like to precisely calculate how long it’s been in case I freak out. But I’m about halfway through a rewrite of book two now and I hope to have the first two books ready to show my publisher in the middle of next year.

Horizon has been gaining a bit of a cult following amongst readers here in Australia. How have you found the response to it so far?

Well it’s a pretty fraught thing for any debut author to put a novel out there. But I’m particularly happy with how readers have engaged with the environmental message and concerns of the book as well as really enjoying a deep space adventure with a strong, character-driven plot. We sold over 1,000 copies in the first 9 months and it still seems to be selling well. I couldn’t be happier.

Take me through the journey of getting Horizon off the ground. Was it a long process? Or did it happen rather rapidly once you had a handle on the story?  

Compared with how long I’ve been working on The Lenticular Series, it was pretty quick. One of the reasons for that was that I wrote about two-thirds of it for the Novel Class as part of my Certificate in Professional Writing and Editing at TAFE. Nothing focuses the mind more than having to hand in chapters every fortnight to your tutor! The other bonus of the Novel Class was the requirement to hand in a very detailed plot synopsis up front. It really meant I had to lay the groundwork early on, which made the rest of the process quicker. By comparison, the Lenticular Series plot has been much more organic, because I’ve been following my nose and discovering things along with the characters.

Last time we spoke I asked you about the world building in Horizon and how you incorporated issues such as climate change into it. Since then we have seen little or no action against this looming threat. I’m curious; do you think we may well see events unfold in real life as they do throughout the book? 

I’m afraid I do. I was at a Science Week event a couple months ago and talked to a climate scientist who confirmed we’ve pretty much blown our chance to keep the average temperature rise below 2 degrees. Action is becoming more and more urgent. Extreme weather events trigger some of the occurrences in Horizon. We’ve already seen some of that in the past couple of years and there’s worse to come. This year in particular is going to be particularly hot with an El Nino event, which is already making its presence known. It’s a huge concern.

Are there plans to revisit the universe Horizon is set in anytime soon? 

I’m concentrating on the Lenticular right now, but there’s potential to develop Horizon a bit more, possibly into an expanded novel. Some of the comments I’ve received from readers have suggested new elements to weave into the current story, which would be interesting to explore. And then there’s always the question of what happens next… It all depends on how the Lenticular is received.

One of the things that I loved about Horizon was its technological believability. You grounded so much of the story in advancements that are just around the corner, and it was fascinating reading to say the least. Did you undertake much research when getting Horizon off the ground? What was your favourite piece of future tech to explore?

I love science but academically I was a scientific dunce. So I researched the heck out of Horizon. I reckoned if I could understand a scientific concept I had a good chance of explaining it in the story to other non-scientists.

The most mind-bending scientific concept I used was the zero point energy that powered the ship’s drive. Basically it’s about the theory that quantum effects mean particles come into existence randomly in the interstellar vacuum and you can harvest energy from them by feeding them into nano-sized tubes that force the electrons orbiting the nucleus of the particle to ‘slow down’ and fall into a lower energy state.

Even now my head hurts just thinking about it, but it’s also kind of wonderful.

The opening scene of Horizon is gripping to say the least. How did that sequence in particular come about?  

Well it starts off with my main protagonist waking up in the dark and choking on something stuck in her throat. I was riffing on Alien and the whole facehugger vibe, which I thought was kind of fun, and might play into the kind of fear the movie evoked.

And of course when you’re starting a novel you have to get the reader asking what the hell is going on in the first paragraph. So what better way than to have the ship out of control, the heroine half-choking to death and finding the dead body of one of the crew? And yes, it was as fun to write as it is to read.

Who was your favourite character in Horizon to write? Why?

Hands down that would be Lex, the ship’s doctor and exobiologist. Firstly because he’s a smartarse who likes to cause trouble. But mainly because he has some deeply held principles about protecting the planet Horizon against all the odds. That forces him to consider taking drastic action against his crewmates and he questions whether he can do that, but also if he can’t, what the means for who he thought he was. So for the reader he moves back and forward between being one of the good guys or being one of the bad guys but for reasons you can totally understand. Yes, I have a lot of time for Lex.

If you could spend the day with one other science fiction writer in order to pick their brain who would it be and why? 

I’ve just finished Seveneves by Neal Stephenson and I really loved how he wrote about our current space tech and all that good stuff about orbital transfers and catching comets and so on. It was like Gravity and The Martian combined on steroids. So I could use a day just talking to him about spaceflight. I’m sure I’d get a dozen stories-worth of ideas.

The recent increase in interest for space exploration has left many feeling positive about the future mission to Mars and beyond. As a science fiction writer what has been your take on this explosion of interest? Do you think we shall colonize Mars in our lifetimes? 

I do indeed and I’m really happy to see how people are responding to NASA’s work and to movies that depict believable space exploration.

I know there are huge technical challenges, but there are so many scientific and long-term economic reasons to do it, not to mention ensuring the human race can survive if Earth gets totalled by a stray asteroid, that we will do this. It’s about the greatest adventure of the human spirit I can imagine, and that alone is worth it. We’ll start small and there may be setbacks along the way, but we’ll quickly build on our successes and spread out across the solar system within the next century. I wish I could live that long to see it.

And finally, why should science fiction readers rush online and buy Horizon immediately?

I’ve read science fiction all my life and Horizon is exactly the science fiction book I’d want to read: believable technology, space exploration, great characters, a high stakes mission, and a fast-paced plot with murder, betrayals and reversals all along the way. And it’s cheap ☺

Keith, thanks for coming back to Smash Dragons! 


Thanks, Matt. Long may your dragons smash.

About the Author: 

Keith Stevenson is a speculative fiction writer, editor, reviewer, publisher and podcaster. He was editor of Aurealis Magazine - Australian Fantasy and Science Fiction from 2001 to the end of 2004 and formed the multi-award winning independent press coeur de lion publishing in 2005. In 2014 he launched Dimension6 magazine and became a speculative fiction reviewer for the Newtown Review of Books. He blogs about the ideas and issues behind Horizon at http://www.horizonbooks.com.au and  you can learn more about his work at www.keithstevenson.com.

Keith can also be found lurking online at the following addresses: 

https://twitter.com/stevenson_keith
https://www.facebook.com/keithstevensonwriter
http://www.keithstevenson.com/

You can purchase Horizon directly here and at other online retailers. Keith will also be awarding an eCopy of Horizen to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter (see below to enter) during the tour, and choice of 5 digital books from the Impulse line to a randomly drawn host.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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