Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Edward M. Lerner interview

by Rob - May 20th, 2021.
Filed under: Interviews.

What if First Contact becomes … Last Contact?

I had the recent pleasure, however virtually and metaphorically (distance, not the pandemic, being the immediate constraint), to sit down with Edward M. Lerner and discuss his latest novel. Déjà Doomed is standalone, near-future, hard SF. Here’s a little of what Ed and I discussed.

RJS: So this is how you spent the pandemic?

EML: A big chunk of it, yeah. It beats doomscrolling. See what I did there?

RJS: Sadly, yes. (Laughs.) Without spoilers, how do you describe the new book?

EML: It’s First Contact, but on the Moon and of the archeological persuasion. In the hard vacuum of the Moon — especially well underground, sheltered from solar radiation, and where temperatures are a steady minus 20 or so degrees Celsius — things can last for a long time. Including things best left undisturbed …

RJS: The artifact on the book’s cover being Exhibit One?

EML: (Laughs.) Indeed. Though it’s best I not disclose anything about that or any other alien artifact.

RJS: I think it’s safe to say events don’t unfold happily from the initial discovery.

EML: Of course not! Characters have to pay rent for taking up residence in my head. Which isn’t to preclude a satisfactory — no clue here whether or not it’s happy — resolution.

RJS: The new book strikes me as a departure from your previous few novels. Do you agree?

EML: Yes and no. (Laughs.) How’s that for definitive? Anyway, I agree there are big differences among my recent novels. An astronomical cataclysm drove Dark Secret. A seemingly conventional act of terrorism, albeit with noir aspects, kicked off The Company Man. As I’ve already mentioned, an archeological find starts everything off in Déjà Doomed. Absolutely, these are significant differences, with significant consequences. On the other hand, in all these recent novels — if in quite separate ways — the stakes for humanity turn out to be existential.

RJS: Right in your book’s back-cover teaser, so I’m not giving anything away, there’s mention of a desiccated corpse found on the Moon. I very fondly remember a James P. Hogan novel from years ago whose front cover featured a spacesuited corpse on the Moon: Inherit the Stars. Any connection?

EML: I remember enjoying Inherit the Stars, way back when. Quite possibly memories of it were in the back of my mind as I began work on Déjà Doomed. That said, from the inexplicable discovery of an unexpected corpse in each novel’s opening pages, our stories immediately diverge. Not the least difference is that the ancient corpse in Hogan’s book is human and in mine … isn’t.

RJS: Is there a trace of a Frankenstein theme to the book? As in, “There are things with which Man is not meant to meddle.”

EML: Admittedly, by turning over rocks — or in this case, alien corpses — a person can encounter unpleasant surprises. For all the challenges I throw at my characters, I prefer to think the overarching message isn’t “Don’t look.” The universe will throw us curveballs from time to time, the COVID pandemic being a recent example. You never know when curiosity indulged along the way might deliver critical, even mega-life-saving, knowledge. As, in real life, has been the case with genetic engineering and newer and faster ways to develop a vaccine.

RJS: Which isn’t to say Déjà Doomed revolves around biology.

EML: Right. More physics and computer engineering, those being my first-career background.

RJS: Fair enough. And Déjà Doomed comes out when?

EML: The official release is May 25th, but it’s already available in many places for preorder.

For more about Déjà Doomed, visit Ed’s website, Edward M. Lerner: Perpetrator of Science Fiction and Technothrillers, and his blog, SF and Nonsense.

Robert J. Sawyer, Edward M. Lerner

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