DIS­TANT EN­COUN­TERS

You don’t ac­tu­ally get to meet the aliens in Steven Erik­son’s first con­tact novel Re­joice

SFX - - Red Alert -

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.

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