Lee Murray's Speculative Fiction Show - Dave Hadwin
Welcome to Lee Murray’s New Zealand Speculative Fiction Show, an interview series featuring star acts from NZ’s science fiction, fantasy and horror community, including news, insights, and sneak-peeks of their latest performances.
Today my guest is Dave Hadwin. Dave is new to our local speculative community, but he isn’t new to speculative fiction having already completed the first book in an epic science fiction series entitled All Tomorrow's Children. Welcome, Dave!
Tell us about All Tomorrow's Children. Why Mars?. Where did the story came from? Why this story?
I used to take a lot of long walks. While in that head space, I found stories developing from a union of the historical content I was watching or reading and sheer imagination. Eventually, it built up to a point where I decided to write some of these stories down. This first notebook contained a collection of notes and maps and sketches. Out of these sketches came a solar system with an organised colonisation plan. I realised that each planet could have their own stories. The notebooks contained some Martian specific content and so I did a 4-page trreatment of the Mars story. This was where it really started. The key idea is that even though it is set 150 years in the future, it is set in this world. I draw a lot of inspiration from history. I'm always looking to draw on events and how they unfold. Causality is fascinating.
I wanted to tell a story about colonial issues. This is something still facing us today. We are still dealing with the problems of the last great colonial age 100 years ago and, if we settle on other planets, we will face the same issues again. I wanted to bring corporate themes and individual ambition to the fore. Also, the concept of the human condition and the origins of evil is something that ties in to human ambition very well. This is, for the most part, a story of the journey to independence. It is a well known end, but I want to approach telling it in a no holds barred way that reveals the best and worst of the human condition. I want to explore how the humans involved evolve and develop. This is primarily a human story.
The late Stephen Hawkings once stated: “I don't think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space.” He also said: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.” Do you agree?
I believe that this is true for the most part, although not as a lot of people may think. I'm not a fan of the development of electro-mechanical technology toward lifelike ends. Today a lot of effort is being put into artificial intelligence. Some in the form of humanoid robots, some in the form of driverless cars and some in the form of touchless inputs for phones and computers. For some reason, I'm not a huge fan of any of this. The human condition is such that we should focus on the human question first. Deal with the things we lack as people before trying to copy ourselves electronically.
You won't find any robots in my writing. This sort of thing doesn't really spark my imagination. I come from a Biology background and maybe this shows. I believe that if we spread to the planets and moons of our solar system there will come a moment in human evolution where we come face to face with creatures who look just like we do but they have evolved to meet the world they live on or we have genetically modified them to this end. We may find them hostile.
The greatest danger to the human race will come from our choice in how people use the biological tools at out disposal in the future. You find this belief in my writing personified in the super soldier Athraithe, which is just Irish for changed. The Athraithe have had to fight for existence against a group of fanatics the result of which is their numbers are now capped. The intelligence that we need to face as we spread to the stars may look much more like ourselves than we are willing to admit.
What books inspired you as you were growing up?
I am a prolific reader and have read countless books over the years, but there have been a few entries in that vast roster that have stood out. I remember receiving a dual copy of HG Wells The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man. The Invisible Man was fine but I have never forgotten The War of the Worlds. It is just an amazing piece of science fiction. The World Set Free was also memorable. A terrifying piece of modern prophecy. Frank Herbet's Dune series is also pivotal, especially in inspiring me toward writing epic futuristic fiction myself. I have read everything in this family of stories including all of his son, Brian Herbert's books. I have to admit to being a bit of a Tolkien nerd. I have read all his books and all of the extra content since published. I am one of those people who knows all of the characters and places and whys and wherefores. That's just the way it is.
I have a deep fascination toward crime history and especially Jack the Ripper and similar gothic Victorian content and will never forget picking up a copy of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at 11 or 12 years old and this was burned into my brain. It opened the door to other similar books but this was the first. I love dystopian literature and Brave New World and 1984 both set a standard in Literature for me in what you can express and the depth of human deception involved. Fantastic.
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy scratched a comic itch no other book ever managed to do in quite the same way. I came to it via the old TV series and as I've always loved that mad British sense of humour that I love in Monty Python or The Goons or Red Dwarf. For great compendiums of Sci-fi content I have enjoyed the works of Isaac Asimov as a kid and Phillip K. Dick later on. Both have produced some of the most inspiring most far reaching fiction ever written.
Finally, at university, I was introduced to Stephen Baxter's books by a friend. The first books I read were his Manifold trilogy: Time, Space and Origin. Together with his Destiny's Children Series It showed me how to put together books involving complex ideas written in the same universe each with different themes and different stories with the same characters doing different things in each story. My brother and I both got hooked on Baxter's work. I also drew a lot from his book Voyage, an alternate historical look at mans first voyage to Mars.
You have outlines for further novels in this series, set on Venus, Earth, Jupiter, and you also have some accompanying short stories drafted. When you set out to write the first book, did you expect the work to be so expansive?
To a degree, yes. When I wrote the first treatment of the Mars story I already had a map drawn up in my notebook of the Solar System colonisation plan and I had begun writing a long-form poem in the same universe based on people born in international space. I hadn't sorted out the stories of most of these locations yet, I had barely sorted out the Mars story but the potential was there. Things grow with the writing, however. As the Mars book grew, and the universe grew with it, further stories appeared out of the fog. The scope of the Mars story has certainly grown with the writing however. One of the more significant developments comes in the shape of the character of Karla Ljungstrand. Karla began as a sounding board for Daniel Godwin's thoughts and you never actually met her at all. She quickly turned into one of the most vivacious, interesting characters in the story, from my point of view anyway.
Which character in your work is most like you, and why? A director has optioned the film rights. Who would you hope would play the role?
This is a difficult question. I've actively tried to avoid making any one character a mirror of myself. But at the same time a few characters have a piece of me in them. Daniel Godwin maybe the most recognisable. He has a similar deep thinking temperament sometimes to his detriment, and I would likely react similarly if exiled as he is.
Dan would need a strong male lead he would need to be able to express his deep thinking, his strong relationships with close friends and with his paramour Karla. He also commands deep respect with his soldiers without being commandeering and an actor would need to find a place for this in the performance. In recent years, I have seen Leonardo DiCaprio produce some amazing performances and would be interested in seeing what he could bring to the part. Mat Damon could also be an interesting choice. The Martian and the Bourne movies have seen him command solitary type roles and he could pull off the deep brooding part of Dan's character.
Do current events impact your writing in any way?
Not as much as you might think. Historical events have influenced the writing a lot more. An example would be that at 15, my grandmother gave me a lot of old historical magazines and the one that stuck out was the one about the Rape of Nanking or the Nanking Massacre in China at the hand of the Japanese in 1937. Something stayed with me. When I found my self writing a book about a fight for independence, I had to recreate my own massacre in the Rape of Kuraekh. However, I was watching a thing about China the other night and found myself taking notes about the hustle and bustle of the street level of these Chinese super cities that I wanted to include in my descriptions of Mars, so who knows what influences you?
In a former life you were a teacher. How does this impact on your writing, if at all?
No, not really. My training in human Biology has had a greater influence than that of the Teaching. There's a bit of Ecology in the book some Genetic Engineering and a Sci-fi look into human evolution.
If you could choose any interplanetary movie or television franchise to live in (other than your own) which would it be?
Firefly. I love that Universe. I would have to be a Browncoat or independent though. The Alliance is a bit dodgy.
Three things you think will be obsolete in ten years?
Personal Computers/Laptops. Plastic Credit/Debit cards. Remote Controls.
You’ve won the lottery and bought your own space shuttle with your winnings. What name will you give your craft?
Egalitarian Dawn – Kind of ironic really
Chomungaelia, if I stay very stuck in-universe thinking.
Can you explain how the language of your world is vital to the world building?
Chomungael, the Martian language, is central to the setting up of culture and relationships in the book. Primarily, it distinguishes between the Earthborn and the Marsborn, which becomes the core division and source of conflict in the latter half of the novel. Its Russian roots speaks of the origin and history of the Martian people seen in the story and the character of the people who settle on Mars in the Early days. The Martian Civil War sub plot is also founded completely on the origins of these people. If you travel 150 years into the future and land on a planet, a country settled by a specific group of people who originally had their own original non English language and customs, and who have lived for 120-130 years in that land, what, then, is expected? I'd expect names, places and cultural cues to be unique. That is where the Chomungael language and culture comes from and the approach I take to world building. It needs to make sense.
How much research do you do in order to make your work believable? Care to share an interesting tidbit you might have discovered while researching your work?
I'm always researching. If I come up against a detail I do not know in writing or in world building I will endeavor to search out a workable answer that I can use in my writing. The language has been researched extensively. I was introduced to a Russian lady named Yolanda who does translations and she translates words and phrases to Russian for me over email. She is wonderful. I then convert the Russian to Martian based on a rubric of my own design (following further research on language evolution). I can now read in Cyrillic and am learning Russian myself.
Because the future I have created follows a second renaissance period, researching technology is always interesting as I am looking for realistic tech that also could be made more feasible by future new renaissance advances such as nanotechnology, for example. It needs to remain at a comfortable level of accessibility for the reader, though. It must be recognisable. When researching space flight propulsion mechanisms, I needed to find something that fitted this brief. I came across a form of ion propulsion called VASIMR, Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rockets. This is currently being researched and I believe has been built in a university lab. With a bit of reading around, and a few journal articles later, I was convinced that I could conceivably put a time on a trip from Earth to Mars at three weeks, given that it is made more viable through the technology available in 2150. I was excited to base such a vital element of realism in the story on real life technology.
When taking a journey do you look for the quickest route, or the most scenic?
I love to see the sights along the way especially if there are neat things to take a look at or beaches to swim at. However, on a long trip I do like to get there and unpacked so figure that one out.
We wish you all the best with the series, Dave. Can’t wait to see it on the bookshelves!
Dave Hadwin spends his days listening to audiobooks, writing and ejoys boardgames, swimming and bulding scale models. He has a background in Human Biology and Microbiology and writes a blog about living day to day with Mental health
Dave's blog webpage: www.theblackandwhiteview.com