Liam Hogan appreciated humor and simplicity in the classic science fiction he grew up reading, and you can see that influence in his writing, including his first story in Analog, “Galena,” in our current issue [on sale now].
Analog Editor: How did “Galena” germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?
LH: As a writer, I carry a notebook with me at all times, for fear that the muse might escape in a moment’s inattention, betwixt idea and the nearest computer. My nearest computer says I wrote the first draft of “Galena” over a period of six weeks, two years ago. For the life of me I can’t tally the two sources. . . . But other stories in embryonic notebook form at the same time include “From Two to Infinity”—which also features the Drake equation, so it was obviously on my mind.
The science in “Galena” is pretty much as things stand, as we look for the twinkle as planets pass in front of distant stars and probe Mars for what may or may not fulfill our definitions of life. The one thing I do play about with is the amount of time it would take to reach an interstellar destination, but there’s something satisfying about traveling one light-year in one experienced year, so I used it as a “theoretical” limit. Still pretty slow getting anyway, and that has its consequences.
AE: Who or what are your greatest influences and inspirations?
LH: I grew up reading 10p second hand Asimov’s and Arthur C Clarke’s and Robert Silverberg’s. The science fiction short story—the sort of thing that Analog was publishing then and is publishing still—was a major part of my adolescent reading, and the “simplicity” of Asimov’s stories in particular stuck with me. That simplicity is deceptively hard to achieve (I find), but I aspire to it, and a few of my science fiction stories are distinctly “classic” or retro style. That said, I also adore Douglas Adams (not that Asimov is shy of humor and punning), and a well-turned humorous phrase, whether written or read, is always a delight.
AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why?
LH: I’m not a fan of heroes. That is, people who possess a skill that makes their success almost inevitable, so much so that the author has to throw increasingly desperate situations their way just to achieve a conflict. (Is it then the superhero’s fault that the Earth is so threatened?) I am a fan of odd, interesting ideas that my protagonist can get wrapped up in. The two combined can make for an uncomfortable ride for my characters, but hopefully it is never dull.
AE: What inspired you to start writing?
LH: I seem to have always wanted to be a writer. My first publication was in the local newspaper, in Cousin Chris’s Kids Corner, at the age of 9. I was paid in book tokens. Heaven! Life got in the way a bit after that, and it’s only in the last ten or so years that I’ve earned the right to call myself a writer. Liars’ League helped; their monthly theme and deadline kept me honest while life was still getting in the way.
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
LH: Sure! And I’m not the only one. So my advice to writers is to pick and choose from other people’s advice, but take none of it as gospel. Use whatever it takes for you to keep writing, and, if possible, to keep enjoying it, though there’s plenty of advice that seems to suggest writing should be a form of torture. . . .
AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?
LH: The science fiction writer’s dilemma—the slide rule on a spaceship—means we can only attempt relatively modest predictions of future science or society (and we’re still blind-sided by what comes next). It’s impossible not to be influenced by what is happening now, around us. But historical novels are as much influenced by the time they’re written in as the time they’re written about, and the same is true for science fiction. It’s interesting to wonder if science fiction, perhaps more than any other genre, contains our hopes and our dreams, and of course, our fears.
AE: Many of our Analog authors are interested in science. Do you have any scientific background, and does it impact your fiction?
LH: My degree is in physics. I pretty much left that behind with my first job out of University, but I’ve always retained a keen interest in science. London is great for attending talks and discussions (as indeed is the internet, in virtual attendee form), and I always attend with my notebook in hand—because hearing about new scientific ideas almost always sparks new story ideas.
AE: What are you reading right now?
LH: I’ve just finished reading My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time by Liz Jensen, about a time-traveling prostitute. Unabashed, riotous fun.
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
LH: Iain M. Bank’s culture is definitely appealing. A rare utopia, it still finds plenty of world-threatening conflicts to solve. And the safety net of being reborn from a digital backup would come in handy.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
LH: Everything I’ve published since I took up pen again is listed at https://happyendingnotguaranteed.blogspot.com, and each new publication is usually tweeted about (along with random rants at the insanity of the world) at https://twitter.com/LiamJHogan.