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News & Features » November 2015 » Steven Savile: “The Ecology of a Writer”

Steven Savile: “The Ecology of a Writer”

To celebrate the release of Sunfail, the latest book in our Infamous Books imprint curated by Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, we’ve asked author Steven Savile to share with us some words about his inspirations and how he came to create his latest conspiracy thriller. 

The Ecology of a Writer Sunfail
(or at least this writer)
by Steven Savile

There’s one question I’ve been asked more than any other, and it’s not “Where do you get your ideas?” it’s “What are you passionate about?” which translates to: What do you want to write about?

Until a little while ago I never had an answer for it. At least not a satisfying one. You may be surprised to hear it’s taken me years to work it out. I never thought there was a unifying theme to my work. Hell, I always assumed that was for smarter people than I to tell me, not for me to say, “Oh my work is about our blight on the landscape,” but there you go.

Shadow of the Jaguar (Primeval) and “Black Water” (Torchwood) were both very different takes on ecology and environmentalism. Jaguar was the trafficking of endangered species and “Black Water” was a thinly-veiled oil story. There’s Father London in London Macabre, which is battled by a golem-spirit whipped up in the 1800s from the thick smog polluting the air. In Tau Ceti, it was the terraforming of a new world in the shadow of an oppressive regime. With Sláine, the land was being soured and drained of magic. In Laughing Boy’s Shadow, the city of Newcastle—where I grew up—was a living, breathing entity being torn apart by the depression of the 90s. Hell, the First Contact SF novel I’ve been plotting for a while revolves around the discovery of a last man from a dead planet.

I’m a kid of what I call the Michael J. Fox generation. We were bombarded by fear: how sex would kill us, how CFCs would tear a hole in the ozone layer big enough for the sun’s radiation to melt the polar caps and drown us, and how the rainforests were dying out. We were haunted by images of the Exxon Valdez and the dying birds slick with black oil. And so much more. It was a constant flow of disaster. Unsurprisingly, movies like The Day After TomorrowArmageddon, and so many others focused on the idea of an environmental reset. Then there was that whole Mayan Apocalypse 2012 thing a few years ago. Avatar was a big picture environmentalist thing, too. It’s something that is in the air, I guess. I can’t say exactly where the idea for Sunfail came from, but I do remember being fascinated by the reports of birds falling from the sky, then hearing about shoals of fish washing up dead and animals fleeing Yellowstone and it all started to knit together. I wanted it to be more than just a Lone Ranger story, but I admit I absolutely adore that deep-rooted mythological archetype. Stories that last, I think, are ones that resonate with us on more important levels, that tap into things we’re passionate about. I don’t want to call it message fiction, because that’s just preachy, and no one likes being preached at, but when a story taps into something in the zeitgeist, then it can rise above simply being rollicking good fun. Take a look around: we’re surrounded by big business, big banking, big pharma and so many other unchecked prime movers, even our access to the news of the day is predicated upon the motivations of the mega-wealthy. We hear what they want us to hear. We react to it the way they tell us we should react.

It’s the end of the world as we know it . . . but are we fine?



STEVEN SAVILE, a multiple finalist for the British Fantasy Award, has written for Doctor WhoTorchwood, Primeval, Stargate, Warhammer, Sláine, Fireborn, Pathfinder, and other popular game and comic series. He wrote the story for the international best-selling computer game, Battlefield 3, which sold over five million copies in its week of release, and served as head writer for the popular online children’s game, Spineworld. He is coauthor with Albert “Prodigy” Johnson of H.N.I.C. Sunfail is his latest novel.

Posted: Nov 3, 2015

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