Gavin Smith was born in Dundee and has also lived in Camberley, Hayling Island, Portsmouth, Hull, Leamington Spa. He is currently living in Leicester, and says anyone who has been to any of these places will understand why his fiction is like it is. He has a degree in writing for film and a Masters in medieval history.
What can you tell us about The Beauty of Destruction?
It’s the third and final book in the Age of Scorpio trilogy. It’s broadly a space opera told in three different time periods – one is in the far future with Culture-type technology but without the Culture ideology, one is set in the modern-day and one is in Iron Age Britain. They’re all interconnected, and towards the end of the second book you see this external force attempting to harm all the sentient life in the universe by dividing it – it’s almost an expression for the unpleasant things that can happen in the world, and writing is very cathartic as you give these amorphous fears in life a face. Plus, there’s loads of violence and bad language!
The Age of Scorpio is an astrological age. I don’t believe in astrology but I do like the symbolism. For instance, the scorpion is the assassin’s sign and turns up several times in the books. The original name for the trilogy was actually A Quantum Mythology, but that ended up being the title of the second book. It’s my attempt to write a mythological story in science fiction. There’s also a bit about Arthur C. Clarke’s Second Law (GS note: the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible) which is hinted at in the parts of the book set during the Iron Age. The Beauty of Destruction is a theme I returned to as it’s about our fascination with war and weapons that nobody wants to admit to or discuss, and how we justify that interest on a moral level.
Can you tell us a bit about your influences?
We’re surrounded by this media saturated society, so I’m influenced by all kinds of things I see. I suppose the big influences are writers like Iain M Banks and Peter Hamilton. One of the questions I try and ask with the trilogy is: what if we had access to really high level tech but were still all massive pricks? If we continue with the current model of capitalism and were somehow able to survive, what would our future look like? I do have a very visual brain so the other big influences are things like art especially by Chris Foss, and games like EVE online. I think games will be the next major art movement in the way film was in the 20th century. It’s a great way to look at really complex narratives – if we can bypass the more unpleasant elements like Gamergate which dragged it all backwards – we will see some extraordinary stuff. Then there are RPG board games as well – Eclipse Phase was a huge influence, and can be downloaded as books.
Are there any ongoing themes which have been inspired by anything in the real world?
It comes back to the current apathy to business especially in the western world where we put profit above all. We have this very rapacious, parasitic business model where we put the cart before the horse. It’s not sustainable as we can’t develop the market when all the wealth in the world is concentrated in a very small amount of people. The funny thing is, we look at that rich 1% but the truth is that here in this country we are only in the next step down. And nobody looks ahead beyond the next financial quarter – you can’t develop the space industry like that, for instance. And it seems madness not to, especially with what is happening on the Earth. We need to be looking outside of our planet.
What have you enjoyed most and found most challenging about writing a trilogy?
It has been challenging – like I’ve had some readers say that the books are too unconnected but others saying they could see how they all join up. It was very ambitious, and arguably maybe I should have waited for more of a readership, or until I was a more mature writer! It was challenging, especially as I ended up switching editors partway, but it was also great fun trying to connect everything – all this Celtic mythology and space opera and military with super technology…I think if you don’t enjoy what you’re writing then the readers will know. Writing Veteran was easiest, as I finished it five years before it was sold! You’ve not a care in the world when it’s your first novel. I’d just watched The Matrix and saw how the Wachowskis combined all their favourite things into one movie and thought I’d do the same thing! Veteran was actually a short story that got out of control. It’s very violent but at its core it’s all about a guy struggling not to behave like a pratt in the relationship he’s in – I think it’s really important to bring things back down to that level. George RR Martin for instance is great at using a really big canvas but keeping it all about the people.
Do you think there’s a pressure for authors to have a social media presence?
I’m aware you’re supposed to do it! I’ve got a friend who runs a blog who is absolutely hysterical, she’s even spoken about blogging at a conference, she’s always insisting that I should do more. Cons with writers are great as they’re just full of introverts trying to get noticed! Anyway, I know I should blog more often but I just don’t have the time. I’m hoping to do a couple of blogs a month and I’m on Twitter as @gavingsmith but I’m not very good at it, although I do like it.
I have a new project in the works, which my publishers are very excited about and I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into. Unfortunately I can’t say much more about it! Sorry. I’ve also got something coming up with Abaddon, which is completely different to anything I’ve done before, and I’m really excited about it. And I’m writing a fantasy novel at the moment – but again I can’t say much about it for various reasons, sorry again. When I can I’ll let you know
What are you reading right now?
Dungeons and Dragons manuals – no, really! It’s for research! Oh and the Lord of the Rings appendices, which are really interesting as they fill in a lot of the blanks and are where The Hobbit movies got a lot of extra material from. I also got this beautiful Folio Society edition of Dune for Christmas, so that’s next on the list.
The Age of Scorpio trilogy is out now from Gollancz.
GS Blogger: Michaela Gray (@bookiesnacksize)