|Fate of Worlds: An Interview with Edward M. Lerner|
|conducted by Dave Truesdale|
Three years following 2004's Ringworld's Children, Edward M. Lerner teamed up with Larry Niven and began writing prequels to the original Ringworld novel. Known as the Fleet series, the books are: Fleet of Worlds (2007), Juggler of Worlds (2008), Destroyer of Worlds (2009), and Betrayer of Worlds (2010).
In August of 2012 came Niven and Lerner's capstone to both the Ringworld and Fleet series, Fate of Worlds, which closes out both series in a single triumphant work of vivid imagination and colorful adventure, fraught with enough action, intrigue, surprises and human drama to satisfy any SF fan.
Ed Lerner was kind enough to answer some questions about the series and his feelings about the end to this marvelous journey, the five books he wrote in six years based on the classic Ringworld novel that wowed fans and critics 40+ years ago. If you haven't had the pleasure of reading an Ed Lerner novel, his Fleet books are an excellent place to start. Pure quill SF for the intelligent reader looking for the often forgotten Sense of Wonder.
(For anyone new to Known Space, the Fleet appeared in Larry's 1970 classic novel, Ringworld. Though the Fleet was an awesome setting -- five worlds in formation, shooting through space at relativistic speed, home to the truly alien Puppeteers -- we barely get a glimpse it. We see only bits of one world of the five. I wondered: what of the other worlds? We meet a single Puppeteer, by his own admission insane and not representative of his species, and briefly the avatar of a second. We never see even two Puppeteers interact. I wondered: what of Puppeteer society? What sort of economy, culture, infrastructure, and -- well, everything -- enabled a trillion aliens to coexist in so little space?)
When my turn on the panel came around, I told Larry why he should write a story set in the Fleet of Worlds. He said he didn't have a plot for that story. A few months later I contacted him to say, "Well, I do."
Within the year, we had delivered Fleet of Worlds to our agent.
As for who wrote what, Larry calls collaborating with me a spectator sport. That's droll (and from one of the genre's masters, quite the compliment), while failing to do himself justice. I wasn't starting from scratch! I built on Larry's rich legacy of memorable worlds, species, futuristic technologies, storylines, and characters. I had fairly free rein to make use of his Known Space universe.
As you surmised, I wrote the first draft of all five novels in the Fleet series. They're my plots. In the process, I contributed new worlds, species, technologies, storylines, and characters. I like to believe they will prove memorable, too. (I'm especially fond of the Gw'oth species: scary-smart starfish.) Larry weighed in whenever some premise of mine failed to gibe with his notion of, say, Puppeteer behavior. When he offered such feedback, I adjusted. One does not mess with the proprietor of a universe!
One storyline of the Fleet series -- the destiny of New Terra, a human colony world unknown to everyone in the Ringworld story arc -- could only be concluded after the Ringworld books. That's how Fate of Worlds ended up concluding two series.
All authors have favorites among their characters. Larry is attached to his fearless starship pilot, Beowulf Shaeffer, in whose adventures -- years before Ringworld -- readers met Puppeteers and first encountered several worlds of Known Space. I've become attached to Sigmund Ausfaller, the paranoid intelligence agent. Sigmund was a shadowy figure in some of Larry's early stories, more plot device than character. Those stories were written in first person, from Beowulf's point of view, and we learned little about Sigmund. After Sigmund's starring role throughout the Fleet series, however, we know all about him. It turns out (and I say this from reader feedback, not merely expressing authorial opinion) that paranoia doesn't preclude a protagonist being charming and sympathetic.
(Edward M. Lerner's next novel Dark Secret, a solo space opera, will be serialized beginning with the April 2013 issue of Analog.)
Dave Truesdale has edited Tangent and now Tangent Online since 1993. It has been nominated for the Hugo Award four times, and the World Fantasy Award once. A former editor of the Bulletin of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he also served as a World Fantasy Award judge in 1998, and for several years wrote an original online column for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
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