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Q: Out of the Dark is an expansion of the novella you wrote for the Warriors anthology. What made you decide to turn the story into a full length novel?
Weber: There were several reasons, really. One was that I really liked the story and felt that in the novella I’d been forced to neglect too much of the rest of what was happening elsewhere on the planet in my concentration on Stephen Buchevsky, Mircea Basarab, and Romania. A second reason was that Tom Doherty really liked Out of the Dark and thought it would make a good expansion, possibly even the first book in a new series. A third reason was that it let me write “near-future” science fiction, which I don’t usually get to do, and that was a lot of fun.
Q: Out of the Dark is a detailed account of resistance to an alien invasion, with multiple battle scenes from multiple viewpoints. How do you approach writing these scenes?
Weber: I think the first requirement for writing a battle scene from multiple viewpoints is to know what happens in the battle. The second requirement is to know the characters who are going to provide your viewpoints. Generally, before I start writing the actual scene, I know basically how a battle is going to progress but don’t know all of the details. And since the characters that provide my viewpoints often appear only in “their” battle scene, I don’t know all the details about them before I start writing the scene, either. I do have to have a general feel for who they’re going to be and what their background is, just as I have to have the “skeleton” of the battle firmly in mind, but it’s still pretty general. And if it’s a land battle, especially, I have to have the terrain nailed down very firmly before I begin writing, as well.Once I have the general course of the battle planned and the basic character traits, history, and attitudes in mind for the participants from both sides, the battle develops as a back-and-forth exchange. One side acts. My viewpoint character(s) on the other side experience the consequences of that action, and act or react. Sometimes there’s a cascade of actions from one side without an actual response from the other side, but the “receiving” side still experiences the results. The nature of the character determines how he or she personally perceives those results, of course, and hopefully the result for the reader is a fully developed perception of what’s going on from both sides. One thing that helps me do multiple-viewpoint battle scenes is my belief that it’s necessary to “play fair” with both sides of the engagement. Both sides have to be “real people,” experiencing real consequences of what, after all, is a pretty horrible event, and trying to get “inside the heads” of people trapped in something like that adds texture and verisimilitude. It also acquaints the reader with characters on both sides rather than turning one side into cardboard targets whose deaths are suffering are thus somehow less important.
Q: One of the families in Out of the Dark, the Dvoraks, survives the invasion because of a hidden compound in the backwoods of North Carolina. Any personal inspiration for that? Do you have a secret survivalist cabin hidden away somewhere?
Weber: No, I don’t have a secret survivalist cabin hidden away somewhere. Sometimes I wish I did.The location for the Dvorak/Wilson cabin is pretty close to someplace I spent several summers back in my late teens, which was…let’s just say it was “several decades” ago and leave it at that. I’ve always loved that area, and I decided I’d go back there for the book. As for the characters, there are bits and pieces of quite a few people—including my own family—in the Dvorak and Wilson families. I’m a South Carolina boy, after all, and I’ve been hunting in several of the places touched on in the book. As far as the Dvorak & Wilson Indoor Shooting Range is concerned, let’s just say that my real-life brother-in-law and I share a lot of the proprietors’ interest in firearms. You could sort of think of it as a wish fulfillment in an alternate universe, in that respect, at least.
Q: Many of your science fiction novels—Honor Harrington, the Safehold Saga, and now this new offering—feature aliens of some kind. Do you believe in alien life?
Weber: I think the existence of alien life has to be pretty much inevitable given the size and scope of the physical universe. And I think that anywhere there’s life, there’s the potential for intelligent life to arise. I don’t know how high probability an event intelligence represents, and I don’t think we can know that until and unless we have some comparative intelligences to look at. At the moment, everything we think about intelligence life is conditioned and constrained by our limitation to a one-planet, single-species perspective. We can speculate, we can argue probabilities, and we can belabor one another over the virtues of competing theories about the evolution of alien intelligences, but we simply can’t know. As far as I’m aware, we still can’t put a finger on the point in the development of the human species at which one can say “This is where intelligent life began.” Until we can do that in our own case, and until we’ve been able to look at the track record of some other intelligent species, meaningful speculation on the frequency with which intelligent life arises — and, even more, on how that intelligence may be similar to or different from our own — is really impossible. And, frankly, I think that the probability of two intelligent species encountering one another at roughly the same level of technology is low unless both represent expanding interstellar civilizations. How long has each of the species been a tool-user? How rapidly or slowly has their technology advanced? Did someone during the equivalent of their Roman Empire develop the scientific method and kick off their species’ industrial revolution 2,000 years earlier in their home world’s evolution? How “inevitable” has the pattern of our own technological development been, and how might some other species’ development differ from the pattern ours has followed?Because of the distances involved on the interstellar scale, I think meetings between intelligent species are going to be rare. And I also think most of them are going to be the equivalent (only more so) of cannon-armed Europeans encountering hunter-gatherer societies or perhaps pre-iron civilizations in the New World. The latter, in some ways, is what happens to the Shongari in Out Of the Dark, actually. With a twist, of course.
I'm one of those people who loves science fiction, but not fantasy or horror or anything mystical or magical. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Jim Dulian
Interesting and well written, but the conclusion was a little too science fantasy for me.Published 26 days ago by Roland D Kankey
Ugg! The ending. I was happy with the book until the last 5%. The ending was so out of left field that I had to tell my friends, even those who wouldn't read this kind of book. Read morePublished 26 days ago by conan
Not a bad book, but the ending was just too far out there. It reminds of the old stories that had the hero trapped in a pit surrounded by lions, an impossible situation. Read morePublished 1 month ago by H. Lett
I have enjoyed David Webers books for some time and this book did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the twist at the end.Published 1 month ago by Karen Ebeling