Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Interview with David Nabhan, author of The Pilots of the Borealis

Please welcome David Nabhan to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Pilots of the Borealis is published on August 11th by Talos Press. Please join The Qwillery in wishing David a Happy Publication Day!

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

David:  Twenty-five years ago, owing to a number of large temblors I experienced living in Los Angeles, a catalog of data regarding a possible pattern of higher probability windows for seismicity in Southern California was compiled. Over the next two decades those studies gave rise to three books I wrote on seismic forecasting and hundreds of major media interviews, articles and papers all over the world. Wrestling for all that time with any number of scientific conundrums—having to do with earthquake prediction and every other “impossible” art that now is quickly becoming science fact—was an excellent curriculum for the very plausible science fiction in Pilots of Borealis.

TQAre you a plotter or a pantser or a hybrid?

David:  I’m tempted to say “plotter,” because with science fiction especially there are real and absolute parameters around any story, due simply to physical laws. I’d be fibbing, however, were I to say that a few great ideas (and escapes from dead-ends!) didn’t owe their origin to the seat of the writer’s pants. It helps to have a great editor too, no doubt.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

David:  Getting everything right. I write both science and science fiction and that means that there are literally thousands of facts that not only have to be checked, but explained properly and in a way easily understood and satisfying to read.

TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

David:  Well, the description of Pilots of Borealis at Edelweiss is “Top Gun heads to outer space in this throwback to the classic science fiction of Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein.” Those are real giants and I’m more than honored to have my name uttered in the same sentence with them.

TQDescribe The Pilots of Borealis in 140 characters or less.

David:  A look into a future where everything is exponentially heightened and amplified, including the unbounded daring of the human race entering its adulthood.

TQTell us something about The Pilots of Borealis that is not found in the book description.

David:  There is a love story hidden within this book, but one like few others. It’s a very poignant one, between two very incongruous characters. Pilots of Borealis is a fast-moving, death-defying thrill ride in many ways, but still, what every reader will take from it at end, where the lasting impact will be made, will have nothing at all to do with the exploits of the most celebrated and deadly mercenary of his time. Any tears and sighs wrung from the reader will be pulled from a different emotional well.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Pilots of Borealis? What appealed to you about writing Science Fiction?

David:  I wanted to bring to life the protagonist of Pilots of Borealis, Clinton Rittener. He’s someone that is impossible to meet without making a deep impression. There aren't too many characters in literature—in science fiction or any other genre—like him, at all. Yet, science fiction is the only place where a Clinton Rittener could be crafted. He's an embodiment of the kind of human being that might be forged in the confluence of multiple and ferocious perfect storms, but the product of tempests that can only take place in the future. Only science fiction is wide enough for this most unlikely of candidates to be thrust into such a terrifying crucible. But he's very much at the same time a man of our century too, especially the young Rittener, with his superlative achievements in mathematics, linguistics, science and diplomacy. The tattered remnants of that same humanism is nonetheless the foundation for how the horrific challenges sculpt one of the most dangerous, stony, lethal mercenaries in existence five centuries in the future…and yet bizarrely, a most extremely likable and engaging one nonetheless. It’s a real test for the reader not only to forgive him his many outrageous solutions—he’s a “pilot,” after all, and they have their own code unlike other humans—but also to try to avoid pulling for him, harder and harder with every turn of the page.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Pilots of Borealis? Why did you focus on Helium-3?

David:  We’ve all been schooled to dread a future where resources will be supposedly running out. This, in my view, should turn out to be the exact opposite of what tomorrow holds. We live in a Solar System that has such staggering amounts of energy and materiel, sufficient to power humankind for a mind-boggling number of millennia. There is enough iron in just the Asteroid Belt alone to forge the girders to construct a building ten stories high—across the entire face of the Earth. And, as far as power is concerned, the statistics regarding the Sun—and a Dyson Shell orbiting it which may someday glean much of the energy that now just washes out into space—indicate that energy in the far future could be as commonplace and taken for granted as the dirt upon which we walk. Fusion reactors will be the next step; they’re really not that far off. There is a furious race going on at this moment, among a half-dozen countries, to get a working fusion reactor up and running. Helium-3 may turn out to be indispensable to those reactors, which could make the surface of the Moon the next great Klondike, its regolith infused with the stuff, just waiting to be mined and shipped to Earth.

TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

David:  Clinton Rittener, the protagonist, and his foil, Nerissa were both the most difficult and easiest—by far. For starters, they resemble no one, either alive or in fiction. They are the most arrogant, self-reliant, sure-footed, superbly trained, fearless human beings that can be imagined—or better—that really can’t. It’s certain that readers will be completely enthralled with individuals like them, which makes things very, very easy. The hard part is getting the reader to fall into love with them. Clinton Rittener, for example, is an ex-soldier who led forces which cut a swath of death and destruction across Asia not seen since the days of Tamerlane. It was a task to nudge one toward not only allowing Rittener his redemption, but to convince the reader by the end that he or she had wound up on Clinton’s side. That…was…hard.

TQWhich question about The Pilots of Borealis do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

David:  Question: Be honest. There have been so many sci-fi books written, taking place in space. We will have seen this before, right? There must be quite a few themes and motifs that will seem almost re-hashed and bordering on stale? Isn’t this at least partially a fair guess? Answer: No.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Pilots of Borealis.

David:  To set the stage, there is no city like Borealis. It is so incredibly rich, beautiful and visually stunning that visitors are warned to take it in by snippets; too much too soon can be almost physically daunting. Clinton Rittener is preparing to take part in his first “piloting” match there, where athletes actually fly around Borealis’s dome—the light gravity and artificial wings allow for that—propelled by their own muscle power. And these “pilots” are, well, they’re something else…..“For Rittener, a newcomer to Borealis, everything else now was as distant as the heliopause at the far edge of Sol’s reign. Indeed, he was displaying the endemic condition of all neophytes to the city. He was “drifting.” Even moments away from being thrust into a do or die crucible, no matter that every ounce of his determination should have been spent on preparing himself for the looming trial—he was drifting. The pilot next to him snapped a warning. ‘You’d better get the stars out of your eyes, Clinton. This may look like Heaven, but these angels around us here, they’re more like the kind that flew with Lucifer.’ ”

TQWhat's next?

David:  The sequel to “Pilots of Borealis” is already finished, so it’s just a matter of letting the market decide if it should see the light of publication. In the meanwhile, I’m very fortunate to have my opinions about seismic forecasting judged by the media as fully meriting the nation’s attention. I’m constantly writing op-ed commentary pieces for magazines and newspapers worldwide and invite your audience to access many dozens of the more recent ones, archived at www.earthquakepredictors.com

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

David:  It was my pleasure. Thank you so much for your interest; I’m very much obliged.

The Pilots of the Borealis
Talos Press, August 11, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 236 pages

Top Gun heads to outer space in this throwback to the classic science fiction of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein.

Strapped in to artificial wings spanning twenty-five feet across, your arms push a tenth of your body weight with each pump as you propel yourself at frightening speeds through the air. Inside a pressurized dome on the Moon, subject to one-sixth Earth’s gravity, there are swarms of chiseled, fearless, superbly trained flyers all around you, jostling for air space like peregrine falcons racing for the prize. This was the sport of piloting, and after Helium-3, piloting was one of the first things that entered anyone’s mind when Borealis was mentioned.

It was Helium-3 that powered humanity’s far-flung civilization expansion, feeding fusion reactors from the Alliances on Earth to the Terran Ring, Mars, the Jovian colonies, and all the way out to distant Titan. The supply, taken from the surface of the Moon, had once seemed endless. But that was long ago. Borealis, the glittering, fabulously rich city stretched out across the lunar North Pole, had amassed centuries of unimaginable wealth harvesting it, and as such was the first to realize that its supplies were running out.

The distant memories of the horrific planetwide devastation spawned by the petroleum wars were not enough to quell the rising energy and political crises. A new war to rival no other appeared imminent, but the solar system’s competing powers would discover something more powerful than Helium-3: the indomitable spirit of an Earth-born, war-weary mercenary and pilot extraordinaire.

About David

David Nabhan is a science and science fiction writer. “Pilots of Borealis” is his first book in the sci-fi genre (Skyhorse Publishing/Talos Press). He is very well-known, however, for his controversial books and papers in seismology; he’s the author of “Earthquake Prediction: Answers in Plain Sight” (2013) and two other books on seismic forecasting. Mr. Nabhan has been featured in the media many hundreds of times (television, radio, newspapers, magazines). He is a retired teacher having spent two decades teaching public school in South Central Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Unified School District—fifteen of those years as an Earthquake Preparedness Coordinator.

Website  ~  Twitter @DaveNabhan  ~  Facebook


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