Dave Hutchinson interview

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In August we caught up with author Dave Hutchinson at Nine Worlds in London. 

Are you enjoying the con so far?

I always enjoy Nine Worlds. It’s different to Eastercon of course. The emphasis isn’t quite so much on fiction – it’s more multimedia and general culture. Just saw a panel about villains, which was good … that was Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jeannette Ng, Anna Stephens and Mike Brooks.

Oh yeah, I saw that. That was good.

There was some conversation there about the Bond franchise, and the way the villains are frequently ‘othered,’ whether that’s a racialized other, or what-have-you. It struck me that it’s always been that way. Bond was always fighting the Russians, it was always the West versus the East. The Russians disappeared as the geopolitical other, although perhaps that dynamic has returned to some extent. But we are sort of looking for different ‘others.’

And meanwhile, there are increasingly plausible rumours about getting our first Black Bond.

Idris Elba? He’s a terrific actor. He’d be really good. One of the many reasons I hated Prometheus is that it totally wasted him.

I’ll watch anything that’s got him in it.

Y-y-yeah …

Haven’t seen Prometheus though! Maybe that’s …

You may want to draw the line with Prometheus. [Laughs]. It really is a terrible film.

What else do you plan to see at Nine Worlds?

There’s a panel this afternoon about dystopias. Their jumping-off point is that we’ve now passed the points when popular dystopias of the 80s and 90s were set. The Running Man and Blade Runner were both set roundabout now, I think.

And aspects of these cyberpunk dystopias have absolutely come true.

The world catches up with you. 1984 … 2001 … if you’re writing near-ish science fiction, the world catches up with you.

Yes. For example, I am a replicant.

I wish I was replicants. I could do with the help.

And with near future SF, there’s often that race against the clock. Can you get your story published before it becomes old news?

With any kind of SF, really. I edited an anthology years ago, and one of the stories talks about the star Betelgeuse. The author got in touch with me a few weeks later saying, “I’ve just seen this thing in Scientific American that says Betelgeuse is unstable. I’m worried it’s going to go nova.” Oh, for Christ’s sake Betelgeuse.

Betelgeuse, you could have done this any time in the last twenty millennia …

… and you had to do it now. Well, there’s absolutely nothing anybody can do about that.

OK, so the theme of Vector 288 is going to be economics.

About which I know absolutely nothing.

Don’t worry, me neither! In your Fractured Europe series, when you were writing your micro-states, did you think about things like –

No. Because if I started thinking about that, I would have wound up overthinking it. I would have wound up sitting down, doing research, learning how to do basic economics, and actually writing how each state traded with each other. It would have got in the way of the writing, I think.

So, in political discourse, economic terminology comes up. You’re listening to a debate, and it’s about the deficit or something. Most of us feel that we don’t really understand this stuff, and yet economics seems to kind of be in charge of the world, on some level.

This is the problem. The global economy is just so complicated nowadays. It’s semi-sentient. Nobody can understand it, nobody controls it. It just seems to do what it wants when it wants to. Which is a worry.

The 2008 crash, of course, which economists famously didn’t see coming. Although they’ll point out, ‘It’s not our job to predict the future.’

Yes, which to be fair was caused by not one factor, but a number of factors. For somebody like me, who has a less than basic knowledge of economics, it’s really strange to watch. It’s like watching this huge animal.

A sort of enormous blue titan crusted with aeons of moss?

Yes, like the Blob, all-encompassing, inexplicable, and we can’t do anything about it.

And yet you get high priests who do claim to command the Blob?

And they don’t command it. Tory austerity has just been at most a sticking plaster measure. It’s cosmetic. The big thing carries on regardless, and you can only effect little, local changes. Making things a little better or worse for people … usually worse.

Do you have things coming out we should be looking forward to?

I’ve just delivered a novella to Newcon, which is called Nomads. That’ll be coming out in the not-too-distant future. The fourth and final Europe book, Europe at Dawn, is out in November.

And anything you’re working on?

Another novel, for Solaris. It’s sort of a superhero spoof, but it’s kind of veering into Stephen King, Peter Straub territory at the moment, so I’m finding that interesting. Plus there are various odds and ends, things bubbling away. Keeping me busy, off the streets.

And how about reading?

I was a Clarke Award judge this year …

Oh! Your recent reading is a matter of public record.

I was also a Crime Writers Association judge for the Debut Dagger this year. So I’ve read an awful lot of crime recently.

Has that been announced yet?

Not till October.

Does everyone gather in the library?

I keep hoping that one year someone will rise to their feet and say, “I know you’re wondering why I gathered you here today …” But no, it’s a bit different to the Clarkes. They have nosh at a big hotel, a big a sit-down, white-tie affair. They really push the boat out.

There was some controversy about the Hugo Awards this year, wasn’t there? Worldcon 76 hoped to limit everybody to black tie.

Some people like to dress up. My first Worldcon, I was really startled. All the Americans who’d been in shorts and T-shirts getting drunk all weekend, all were suddenly scrubbed up in suits and ties.

To finish, I was going to ask you for reading recommendations, but if you’re judging …

On the recommendation of R.J. Barker, I’ve just read Mick Herron’s Slough House books, which I think are absolutely fantastic. I’m in awe of them.

I’ll look out for those. Thank you, Dave!

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