In our second interview as part of the lead up to Midnight Echo 6: The Science Fiction Horror issue, we have an interview with Alan Baxter. His contribution tackles the fears faced by space travellers far form home and very deep into the void.
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Midnight Echo: What is your favorite Sci-fi horror novel or short story and why?
Alan: This is a really tough one to answer. Some of the best sci-fi horror is in the movies as it’s sadly under-represented in written fiction, but there is a lot of good stuff out there. However, while it’s not necessarily classified as horror, I would have to say Peter Watts’s novel, Blindsight. It’s a hard SF first-contact novel, and not really a horror novel in the commonly accepted sense. But Watts does such an amazing job of creating a truly alien entity for first contact and develops such horrifying reality around what such an encounter would really be like, that I find it hard to go past. It’s an outstanding book, and perhaps the most horrifying element for me is the way the aliens move. Seriously, read it and you’ll see what I mean.
Midnight Echo: Tell us about your story and what your influences are?
Alan: My story involves a few influences. Firstly, my science fiction tends to be heavy on the fiction and light on the science. I’m not scientifically educated enough to make the scientific elements of a story really convincing, but I love the scope for exploring ideas that SF gives a writer. There’s certainly way more out there than we can comprehend, let alone prepare for, as the example of Blindsight above so ably demonstrates. On top of that, the experiences of humans in deep space would be very different to any experience available on Earth and I like to play with those ideas too. So my story explores the nature of very deep space exploration, the inexplicable things that might be out there, and the psychology of the people in those situations. I like my sci-fi to have a bit of a wild frontiers element, with the technological and human challenges that would bring. For example, the main character, Peevy, has a condition called deepfear, like a galactic agoraphobia, which was a lot of fun to play with.
Midnight Echo: Tell us something about yourself as a writer that isn’t common knowledge?
Alan: I’m such an online whore that I doubt there’s much people don’t already know. But here’s a couple of things. I wrote a sequel story to “Trawling The Void”, called “Salvage In The Void”, which picks up exactly where the first story ends, and that sequel just placed as a semi-finalist in the Writers Of The Future competition. So now I need to find somewhere to publish it. Also, I used to be a fishmonger. How’s that?
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Trawling the Void
The incoherent voices in Peevy’s mind were more insistent. The ghostly dragging at his clothes and skin stronger, though he knew nothing was there. He ground his teeth, staring at the diagnostics panel. I’m not going mad. I’m not going mad. The thought was becoming his mantra.
He reached one hand down and scratched the soft, furry head of LaVey. The SimHound looked up, gave him a doggy smile. Peevy frowned at engine efficiency readouts. “Look at this, Jack.”
The Duty Engineer, an old ship hand, rough around the edges, shrugged. “Looks all right to me.” His grizzled old face showed no signs of worry.
Peevy glanced up, surprised. “Really? Look at the energy fluctuation across the coils.”
“It’s not much.”
“Maybe not, but as we don’t know what’s causing it we have to find out.”
“You’re the boss.”
Peevy smiled at the Duty Engineer. He was getting lazy in his old age.
“This array seems fine.” Peevy twisted in the cramped space to look the other way. “What about there?” The presence surged and he stiffened, wincing as he tried to ignore it.
The tech opposite gave a thumbs up. “Yep, this one’s fine too.”
Peevy made a sound of annoyance. LaVey watched with heavy-lidded disinterest as Peevy and the tech emerged from the service bay. Jack’s eyebrows raised. “Nothing.”
The old eyebrows sank as he smiled. “There you go then.”
“No. The engines are still out of whack. You should care about this. I think we should do a full restart.”
“The Cap will not be happy about that.”
“The Cap will have to suck it up.”
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Biography – Alan Baxter
Alan Baxter is a British-Australian author living on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia. He writes dark fantasy, science fiction and horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. His contemporary dark fantasy novels, RealmShift and MageSign, are out through Gryphonwood Press, and his short fiction has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies in Australia, the US and the UK, including the Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror. Alan is also a freelance writer, penning reviews, feature articles and opinion. Read extracts from his novels, a novella and short stories at his website.