Interview: Daniel Marcus on “Bright Moment”
– Tell us a bit about the story.
Arun is a scientist working on project to terraform a Jovian moon in a distant solar system. While on R and R, surfing the moon’s ammonia ocean, he catches a brief glimpse of a large, squid-like life form. After he determines that the ocean-dwellers are sentient, he must choose between continuing the terraforming project, which will wipe them out, or tying to stop it.
– What was the inspiration for “Bright Moment,” or what prompted you to write it?
I had an image of someone surfing kilometer-high waves on the ammonia ocean of a Jovian moon, the giant ringed primary filling half the sky. That’s all I had — this very striking visual. So I wrote the scene and started asking questions. Who is this guy? What is he doing there? What happens next? Once I started pulling on the terraforming and first contact threads, the rest of the story pretty much wrote itself.
– What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?
Not much. I validated my recollection that some Jovian moons are believed to have subsurface ammonia oceans; putting them on the surface didn’t seem too much of a stretch. The terraforming scheme seems viable, requiring only a few centuries of advancement in plasma physics and nanotechnology!
– Most authors say their stories are personal. If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal?
I worked for many years as an applied mathematician at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, designing algorithms for very large scale scientific computing applications. Some of this work was ethically challenging and I have since been very interested in the interplay between the practice of science and the moral compass of its practitioners. How does one reconcile work that is supported and sanctioned at a societal level with one’s own beliefs when these do not align? I’m not interested in preaching a particular position, but in exploring the spiritual condition of individuals at such crossroads and how they bend under duress.
– What are you working on now?
My second novel, a contemporary fantasy called “A Crack in Everything,” was just released and I am working on promotional stuff in support of the launch. I am nearly finished with a horror-sf mashup called “Eater,” about an entity so old it spans Big Bang iterations stumbling on Earth and finding it delicious. It takes place in a small town in Northern California and shamelessly riffs on elements from Finney’s “The Body Snatchers,” King’s “Salem’s Lot,” and a variety of other sources that a lifetime of genre consumption has burned into my DNA. When “Eater” is finished, I will begin work on a far future space opera that has been accumulating notes and fragments for awhile. I am also continuing to work on my short fiction.
– Anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about my work. I hope your readers like “Bright Moment” and I encourage them to check out the other great stories in this issue.
www.cherrylogroad.com – Daniel’s blog.
“Bright Moment” appears in the September/October 2011 issue.
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