Nerd Like You recently reviewed the sci-fi wonder that is The Rapture of the Nerds which you can read here and as we are a very lucky site we scored an interview with the authors, Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross as part of the Titan Books Rapture of the Nerds Mind-Bending Blog Tour.
Cory Doctorow And Charles Stross, The Interview
Hey Cory and Charles, thank you for taking the time out to chat to us at Nerd Like You. We are big fans of your book Rapture of the Nerds.
Please could you tell our readers a little about yourselves? What planet do you hail from? What are your creative influences and what kind of things do you both nerd out over?
I’m from Toronto, and presently live in London. I’ve also lived in San Francisco and LA. I grew up in a great city to be a science fiction fan in — not only does Toronto have the oldest remaining science fiction bookstore (BakkaPhoenix, which has had a number of SF writers on its staff over the years, including me!), it also has the largest sf reference library in the world, the Merril Collection, founded by Judith Merril. When I was a kid, Judy was the writer-in-residence at the Merril (then called the Spaced-Out Library — Judy wouldn’t let them name it after her, so it was called Spaced-Out until she died and could no longer object!). She’d review manuscripts by would-be writers and give us feedback, and, more importantly, put us together in peer workshops — I was a long-time member of the Cecil Street Irregulars workshop, whose members have included Karl Schroeder, David Nickle, Madeline Ashby and Peter Watts.
I’m from Leeds and currently live in Edinburgh. I also lived in Bradford and the uncharted wildernesses of outer London. I was a teenage typewriter nerd and D&D player back before AD&D existed; haven’t rolled-played in a third of a century, though. At the age of eight I decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, and as the bulk of my reading was SF, that’s the direction I set sail in when I actually began writing. Margaret Thatcher attacked when I was in my teens, at that embarrassing making-long-term-career-decisions stage, which is why I ended up trying to become a pharmacist (job security) and succeeding for just long enough to figure out that I was temperamentally unsuited to it. So I drifted into computers instead, and ended up becoming the world’s first academically qualified cyberpunk writer (degrees in pharmacy and computer science) just as cyberpunk became passé.
Rapture of the Nerds was a joint project. What was it like working with each other and how did you tackle the writing process?
I was living in SF, and Charlie was living in Edins, and though we’d not met, he and I had corresponded and read one anothers’ work and such. Charlie proposed collaborating, I agreed, and he sent me the first ~500 words of a story he’d got stuck on, called JURY SERVICE. I rewrote that, added ~500 words more, and sent it back. He did the same; and we volleyed until the story was done.
APPEALS COURT, the second novella that went into the novel, went less smoothly. Now that there was some backstory, we each seemed to possess distinctive ideas about where the story should go, and there’s a lot of literal back and fro in the first printing of that story as the protagonist runs back and forth while we tried to wrest control. Thankfully all that was edited out in the rewrite we did for the book.
This was almost certainly exacerbated by my own reluctance to talk about writing — I prefer to write out my story problems. Charlie’s much better about it.
PAROLE BOARD — the final novella, twice as long as the other two combined — went much more smoothly, likely because we had both come along quite some way in our own writing habits. We had a couple meetings — one f2f, one Skype — and sorted it all out and banged it out.
We played table tennis with a text file; back and forth, editing and then adding another 2-5 pages to it with each exchange. The editing blurred the boundaries between our distinct styles, so what we came up with was something that had its own consistent voice in the end.
Did you find that working with each other quickened the writing of the book as you had each other to bounce ideas off of, or was this more of a hindrance with the enemy of indecision occasionally rearing its pesky head?
In a collaboration, each person does 75% per cent of the work. There’s coordination costs to be borne, reversals and miscommunication. However, there’s also synthesis and transcendence — there’s stuff in RAPTURE that neither of us would have come up with on our own.
When you have two authors collaborating, they each write 75% of the final book — there’s a bit of friction as they each sandpaper the other’s writing into a shape they’re happier with. This is not a confrontational process, though: it’s the emergence of consensus. When we had actual differences of opinion over where to go, we’d stop and chew everything over in email until we agreed on a course forward. (And if anything, having two heads to brainstorm ideas made that easier than doing it solo.)