Simone Caroti is Course Director for Science Fiction and Fantasy at Full Sail University and a senior research scientist at the Astrosociology Research Institute (ARI), a non-profit organization devoted to bringing the humanities and the social sciences into the debate on human colonization of outer space. He is the author of The Generation Starship in Science Fiction, a critical history of multi-generational interstellar travel in science fiction. His second book on the Culture series by the science fiction author Iain M. Banks is currently under contract from McFarland.
In this interview with Paper Tape editor Kristy Harding, Simone talks about Iain M. Banks, his forthcoming book on Banks’ Culture novels, and his work at the ARI.
PT: Thanks for agreeing to talk with me, Simone. Tell us about your new book?
SC: The book originates from a proposal I sent to my publisher, McFarland, in December of 2012. I’d been wanting to write about the Culture series for fifteen years by that point, so I was actually relieved when I decided to take the plunge. McFarland declared itself interested, and I started researching. I continued until April 3rd, 2013. Banks’ announcement of his terminal illness hit me hard, and I immediately stopped working on the book – I didn’t know how to go on.
PT: His death hit me quite hard, as well. I was reading A Song of Stone when it was announced.
SC: I own A Song of Stone, and I very much want to read it, but right now I just can’t. If I may ask, did the atmosphere of the book seep into your reaction to Banks’ announcement?
PT: That’s a good question. I think the atmosphere of the book did seep into my reaction to Banks’ announcement but in an unexpected way. The thing that impressed me the most about A Song of Stone was how Banks wrote about the worst of human behavior with such beautiful language. It was as if he took these characters wallowing in a trash heap, and he gave them dignity. So, when the announcement came out I was struck by the contrast between the beauty of his personal dignity and all the love he received from the community and the horror and tragedy of the cancer that took him away from us. I think sitting with that terrible beauty while reading A Song of Stone helped me to sit with the best and worst of the human experience when the announcement came out, the love and the pain surrounding his death, which is beautiful in itself, in a way: Iain Banks’ work helped me grieve his death. It’s the greatest gift I think I’ve ever received from an author as a reader.
SC: I love that. I think you capture the mood of most people who love his work – you certainly do so for me, and I’m thankful for that.
PT: Thank you. I know we’d all rather have him here still, writing books. Obviously, you did go on eventually. What happened? Continue reading