You don’t actually get to meet the aliens in Steven Erikson’s first contact novel Rejoice
His first foray into science fiction territory, Steven Erikson’s new novel, Rejoice (subtitled A Knife To The Heart), is more inspired by the Malazan Book Of The Fallen author’s long-time fascination with the ideas surrounding first contact than an interest in UFOs themselves.
“I wanted to come at it almost from an anthropological point of view rather than a scientific or technological one,” explains Erikson, who apart from drawing on the numerous novels that have been written about aliens falling to Earth was also influenced by Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.
“I saw that film when it first came out and was blown away by the optimism and subversion that was implicit when the Men in Black are ignored at the end,” he recalls. “The idea that when aliens first make contact, they would simply ignore our basic hierarchies and political structures really appeals to me.”
Rejoice’s temperamental President Kent has been compared to Donald Trump, although Erikson actually first embarked upon the novel before the last US election. “I was certainly paying attention in the run-up and figured ‘this guy’s going to get in’,” he admits. “But the characters are all analogues, not real people, as I simply wanted to put them in place and then have the alien contact ignore them.”
Instead the omniscient AI that represents the aliens liaises with sci-fi writer Samantha August, though Erikson insists that her character is not autobiographical. “I just asked myself who would be the most useful point of contact,” he explains. “After scratching various people like politicians, scientists and even diplomats off the list, it occurred to me that the one section of the population that actually explores these ideas is sci-fi writers. They’re also well exercised in imagination, which will be crucial when it comes to first contact.” SJ
Rejoice is published on 18 October.