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An Interview with Lou Anders

Now, I’ve said on panels and in interviews before that I think SF has four “functions”, which are 1) to predict the future, 2) to inspire the future, 3) to caution us about behaviors that might lead to undesirable outcomes in the future and 4) to examine the present through metaphor and exaggeration. And as you can probably guess from my previous response above, I would include steampunk as a branch of alt history. I know a lot of people dismiss steampunk as pure fantasy, but these days, I sort of feel that way about any depiction of human crews on FTL vehicles flying between the planets. Stories of parallel earths out there in the multiverse seem more realistic in light of quantum mechanics, not that realism, or more properly verisimilitude, is a requirement of all forms of SF.

As an editor, are you noticing any interesting trends in sci-fi, positive or negative? Do you think the age of spacefaring-dominated sci-fi is over? Will starships give way to cyberpunk?
Again, starships already gave way to cyberpunk, back when JG Ballard was proclaiming that innerspace was more interesting than outer space and Gibson was penning Neuromancer. But cyberpunk gave way to Space Opera sometime around the turn of the millennium, or found its synthesis with it in works like John Meaney’s To Hold Infinity. These are all musical chairs, with every subgenre getting its place at the front. Right now, techno-thrillers are waning (or being published out of category), steampunk is king, and truly hard SF is moving to the smaller, independent houses. As for current trends, and one that is very interesting to me, we are still in the early days of a wave of global-perspective SF, as typified by writers like Paolo Bacigalupi and Ian McDonald. Another trend is the rise of young adult fiction and the recognition that a lot of adults read in the YA category. I think we’ll see an increasing number of SF authors move into YA, as Scott Westerfeld and Cory Doctorow have done.

What about trends in fantasy? Within the last year, I’ve seen sword & sorcery on the shelves again, both classic reprints and new tales. Is the age of the “900-page Tolkien-esque fantasy epic in nine parts” coming to a close?
Hardly. The most read names in fantasy are still JRR Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind. But we are in a post-GRRM era in which the morally ambiguous sensibilities of sword & sorcery are informing epic fantasy, giving us authors like Joe Abercrombie and Steven Erikson. This isn’t new (Glen Cook) but it is currently being given the recognition it deserves, this occurring alongside a revival of interest in the works of Howard, Leiber, Moorcock, etc… As a huge, lifelong fan of S&S, I am personally thrilled with this.

Steampunk technology within fantasy worlds seems to be a growing trend, which isn’t surprising after a couple of Star Wars generations grew up with a melding of tech, magic, and wonder. What are your thoughts on steampunk? (And if sword & sorcery is resurgent, where are our new sword & planet tales?)
I’ve already addressed the first part of this question, so I’ll just say keep an eye out for forthcoming Pyr books from Tim Akers, Mark Hodder, Andrew P Mayer, Mike Resnick, etc… and add that I think Steampunk is evolving beyond Victoriana, moving into other times and places (example: George Mann’s Ghosts of Manhattan, set in a post-steampunk Roaring Twenties) and even into fantasy (example: Adrian Tchaikovsky’s brilliant Shadows of the Apt series, and magnificent Tim Akers’ Heart of Veridon and forthcoming The Horns of Ruin).

As to Sword & Planet – let me give a shout out to the guys at Paizo for their excellent Planet Stories line, doing its dead level best to keep classic sword & planet alive. We don’t see a lot of contemporary Sword & Planet, but I’ll be watching the John Carter of Mars movie closely to see what sort of an effect it will have on our genre. Burroughs was my first, best love, so I’d love to see S&P make a sophisticated comeback.

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1 Free SF Reader { 06.01.10 at 1:05 am }

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4 Lou Anders on Art Directors/Editors and Illustrators « Greasy Pig Studios :: Arvin Bautista { 06.01.10 at 7:22 pm }

[…] Anders, editorial director for Pyr, Prometheus Books’ sci-fi/fantasy imprint, also serves as art director when it comes to the boo… who also, to my delight, rightfully proclaims Ender’s Game to be the Harry Potter of science […]

5 Geek Media Round-Up: June 2, 2010 – Grasping for the Wind { 06.02.10 at 8:02 am }

[…] Redstone Science Fiction interviews Lou Anders of […]

6 simply scott { 06.02.10 at 10:44 am }

Hurray! Based on Pohl’s definition, I have indeed written a science fiction novel! Just hope everyone likes it! Awesome interview! Nice to hear someone talking without the typical sci-fi nerd condescending tone that is so typical on so many blogs/forums/sites.

7 The Great Geek Manual » Geek Media Round-Up: June 1, 2010 { 06.02.10 at 3:10 pm }

[…] Redstone Science Fiction interviews Lou Anders of […]

8 Pete Miller { 06.05.10 at 11:34 pm }

Thanks for the really terrific interview. Interesting to hear Lou talk about the trends, but very discouraging for the SF reader, but I’m sure “regular” SF will very go away entirely and eBooks will allow many books with smaller audiences to thrive.

9 Interview with Lou Anders | The DARK CRUSADE { 06.07.10 at 9:32 pm }

[…] June 7th, 2010 § 0 In case you missed it, I con­ducted an inter­view with Lou Anders. The inter­view appeared in the most excel­lent first issue of Red­stone Sci­ence Fic­tion. Below is an excerpt. You can read the entire inter­view here. […]

10 Elizabeth Campbell { 06.08.10 at 8:58 pm }

What great questions for a leading publisher in the industry. This is really interesting insight for me as an SF/F reader. Thanks!

11 Pyr-o-mania: Three New Lou Interviews for You (Say That FIve Times Fast) { 06.11.10 at 4:25 am }

[…] Hardy, an engineer who works with scientific research on the International Space Station, and one with Yours Truly (conducted by author David Alastair Hayden). Check it out and give them your love. […]

12 First Issue Survival | The Blog at GateTree { 06.13.10 at 4:43 pm }

[…] interviews would reinforce the fiction. Instead, io9 and several other sites picked up the kick-ass interview with Lou Anders done by our friend David Alastair Hayden and traffic went through the roof. As that excitement […]

13 Interview with KS Augustin « The World SF News Blog { 06.14.10 at 7:33 pm }

[…] Personally, however, I feel SFR is a completely different kettle of fish because of those two letters … “SF”. Because I incorporate science-fiction in my books, I feel compelled to include some deeper insight into the human condition. To me, that’s what it means to write sf or anything sf-related. Lou Anders, quoting Frederik Pohl, said it best in his recent interview at Redstone: […]

14 Redstone Science Fiction #1, June 2010 | Redstone Science Fiction { 06.18.10 at 8:22 pm }

[…] Lou Anders, Editorial Director of Prometheus Books’ science fiction and fantasy imprint Pyr with David […]

15 Black Gate » Blog Archive » A review of Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery { 06.23.10 at 5:07 pm }

[…] again, in a Redstone Science Fiction June 1, 2010 interview: “Swords & Dark Magic (co-edited with Jonathan Strahan) is our attempt to examine, and if […]

16 Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery – Strahan & Anders | von Darkmoor's thoughts { 06.24.10 at 12:39 am }

[…] in a June 1, 2010 interview at The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review. Lou again, in a Redstone Science Fiction June 1, 2010 interview: “Swords & Dark Magic (co-edited with Jonathan Strahan) is our attempt to examine, and if it […]