Infinite Possibilities: Chatting with Keith Brooke

December 16, 2011 at 4:09 pm Leave a comment

Peter Fitzgerald catches up with prolific, local based, science fiction (or SF) author Keith Brooke.

Always on the forefront of innovation, Keith Brooke is an important name in the science fiction community. Not only has he had an absolute mountain of material published, with over 100 short stories published as well as more than 10 novels across two pen names, he is also always at the forefront of innovating how science fiction, and literature in general, is acquired and then experienced.

The Infinity Plus logo

Most notably, Keith was the creator of Infinity Plus, a website where writers could have their favourite pieces of short fiction, published long ago in some obscure and perhaps long discontinued magazine, republished to be accessed for free by the almost infinite readership of the World Wide Web. Infinity Plus closed its virtual doors in 2007, but the archive is still available online. Infinity Plus has since made a return, with Brooke once again taking on the latest innovation in publishing.

So with so much on his plate it was fairly obvious what I needed to ask him first.

You always seem to have something on the horizon. Can you tell us what you have coming up?

A draft of the cover for Brooke's upcoming novel, alt.human.

As you say, I always have lots of things on the go. I have two books due out in the next few months. One is alt.human (summer 2012), a big science-fiction novel set in an alternative version of our world that’s crammed full of aliens. It’s a subject I’ve always shied away from: I find it hard to take portrayals of aliens seriously for more than a few pages, which makes it hard to write about them in a believable manner. But I reasoned that after twenty-plus years as a professional science-fiction author I really should have a go, hence this novel.

The other book is an academic book about science fiction that I’ve edited, Strange Divisions and Alien Territories: The Sub-genres of Science Fiction. It’s been a great book to work on as it gave me the opportunity to approach some of the field’s top authors to ask them to write chapters. I’m just putting the finishing touches to this one, and it’s due out around Christmas this year.

What’s made you decide to finally take the alien plunge? Did something inspire you, or was it just that you felt it was time to take on the challenge?

It wasn’t a conscious decision, but I don’t know if there was something bubbling away in the depths of my mind. It was twenty years since my first novel came out and there was still one big science-fiction theme I hadn’t really tackled: aliens. I’d stalled for a while on a novelette about aliens; I’d reached halfway but couldn’t see where it was going. Then I was asked to write a chapter about language in SF for a linguistics book and it all fell into place: language shapes thoughts, so we need to understand aliens’ languages if we’re to understand the aliens themselves. That solved my problems with the novelette, and success with that led me to think more about aliens and our place in the universe, and then on to the novel.

Did you find it strange doing an academic book on the field you write in?

The academic book was a fascinating project. Rather than write it all myself, I invited a dozen top SF authors to write about a sub-genre they’re identified with. The idea was to produce a book with academic rigour from the perspective of working authors and I think we’ve achieved that. It was great to be working with people at the top of their field: Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who’s won all the top awards for her alternate histories, James Patrick Kelly, who was a key figure in the cyberpunk movement that transformed SF a couple of decades ago, Alastair Reynolds, one of the leading exponents of the new space opera, and so on.

And on top of all that, been dabbling with e-publishing. How has your venture into this area been going?

A selection of the titles on offer from Infinity Plus ebooks.

It’s been interesting, to say the least. A year ago I launched the infinity plus ebook imprint, and we’ve brought out books from winners of most of the major SF and fantasy awards, including Eric Brown, John Grant and Lisa Tuttle. It’s very hard to predict what will work and what won’t, but we’ve had a couple of notable successes with both our infinities anthology Iain Rowan’s One Step Closer topping the Amazon charts for several weeks. Publishing is changing rapidly, and it’s fascinating to be closely involved in an area that has grown so quickly.

Finally, I believe you’re a resident of Wivenhoe. It’s somewhat of a creative hub with quite a few talented people such as yourself having a fair bit of success. Is this something you’re aware of and has it had any effect on you? Is there a Wivenhoe ‘vibe’, or anything of the like, that is inspirational to creative types?

I’m not sure there’s really a Wivenhoe effect, but living in an artistic community is certainly something I appreciate. There’s something nice about knowing you’re not the only rather eccentric person who shuts himself away and makes things up, or creates in some other way! I love all the connections: a few years ago two writer/editor friends were visiting from Florida, and they also knew Martin Newell, so I took them to visit him in Wivenhoe while they were over. It is, as they say, a small world sometimes!

Find out more about the Infinity Plus imprint here.  Also, learn more about Brooke’s illustrious career at his website.

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