Q & A with Eric Flint
Did you know that Eric Flint is an old-school logistician with a penchant for social change? There’s that, and he’s just a pretty cool guy who has accomplished pretty cool stuff in his time as an author with Baen Books since establishing Baen’s Free Library more than a decade ago. We took some time to interview this year’s Guest of Honor to get to know more about the author and his latest activities:
(Q). You can be credited as the genesis of Baen's Free Library, an invaluable resource of novels available to the public completely free; it includes not only your works, but those of your peers such as Larry McNiven, Lois McMaster Bujold, Harry Turtledove and K.D. Wentworth. Similarly, you've been an outspoken opponent of DRM, copyright, and measures to reign in online piracy. How have you seen debate of and the attitude towards piracy change, especially given the recent spate of supposedly piracy-targeted bills (i.e. the U.S.' SOPA and PIPA, Europe's ACTA)?
(A) There's definitely been a change in attitude in publishing with regard to DRM, at least among most authors and editors. I think some corporate bean-counters are still devoted to DRM, but most people actively engaged in the work of publishing (as opposed to the financing of it) have become convinced that DRM is a detriment.
(Q) Arthur C. Clarke famously said science fiction could be described as an "escape into reality", as it so directly deals with issues of the human experience. With that in mind, do you believe science fiction is an inherently political genre?
(A) Yes -- at least in the sense that historical fiction usually has a political dimension. People don't normally think of science fiction as a branch of historical fiction, of course. But the truth is that most SF can be pretty accurately characterized as alternate histories of future societies, and to one degree or another such stories have as at least one component the use of projected future politics as a mirror held up to current politics. That's obvious in such works as Heinlein's Starship Troopers, but you can find the same thing in most SF.
(Q) Alternate history doubtlessly requires a Herculean amount of research; the real quandary seems to be choosing a singular era or year in which to set your stories. How, out of the expanses of recorded history, do you decide when and where to set your story?
(A) The first and most important criterion for me is that there are social and political issues at the center of the story whose resolution in a different manner than actually happened would have made an important difference in history. The second criterion is that I generally avoid historical periods that I think have been overworked, such as WW2 and the American Civil War. The third criterion is that I'm not interested in purely military issues, despite the fact that my AH novels invariably include a lot of military action. To put it another way, I'm not interested in changing the outcome of a given battle simply for the sake of the battle.
(Q) You have a new book, 1636: The Kremlin Games, out on June 5th and an edited anthology, Ring of Fire III, out in August. What projects are you currently working on?
(A) I recently completed a new novel in the 1632 series with Chuck Gannon titled 1636: The Papal Stakes, which is coming out in October. (For those familiar with the series, this book is the direct sequel to 1635: The Cannon Law.) I am currently working with a number of co-authors on several other novels in the 1632 universe. One manuscript was just finished and three more are well underway. I'm also putting the finishing touches on the next novel in the Heirs of Alexandria series that I'm doing with Mercedes Lackey and Dave Freer. The novel is titled Burdens of the Dead and it's a sequel to Much Fall of Blood. I believe it's scheduled for publication in March of next year. I am working on a novella for the next volume in the Clan of the Claw anthologies, edited by Bill Fawcett. And I'm about to start, with David Weber, another novel in the Honor Harrington universe which is a sequel to Torch of Freedom.
(Q) What have you been reading, listening and watching as of late? Anything you'd recommend?
(A) I just finished the Hunger Games trilogy. I liked the first two books but I thought the third one didn't hold up. That didn't surprise me because while the story works very well as a straight adventure story, the background setting is just too flimsy and implausible to really sustain a full trilogy. The movie was very good. I also enjoy the TV series of George R.R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice. And of course I read a number of works by my (many) co-authors.
(Q) This year's SoonerCon theme, "I'll Be Back to the Future", intersects at time-travel and alternate history; so, if you could personally step through time, past or present, what would you seek to accomplish?
(A) That can be answered in two words -- "good things" -- or would require a monumental essay so I'll leave it at that.
Join us for this continued discussion Saturday (6/16/12) of the convention at “Eric Flint: The Author as an Activist”. You can learn more about Eric Flint, and our other guests by visiting our Panelist link.