PR: You’ve worked on a lot of ‘franchise’ novels, as well as producing books set in your own original worlds. Do you have a preference?
KJA: “I am a writer, but I’m also a fan. I get a great deal of pleasure from working in, and creating more pieces of, some of the universes that I enjoy as a fan. On the other hand, I enjoy the freedom of creating my own worlds and stories, unhindered by past episodes/movies and approval committees. I’m very proud of my ‘Saga of Seven Suns’ epic, which brings together all I love about the genre.”
PR: What attracted you to the Dune sequence?
KJA: “Dune is very special to me. Writing the prequel novels – and now the sequels that Frank Herbert intended to write – is a dream come true. I am captivated by the planets, the people, the politics, the epic canvas of the stories.
“Every decade or so, Dune seems to be freshly relevant all over again. It can be read as a metaphor for oil shortages and the politics of petroleum. It can be read as a warning of ecological catastrophe and how forced changed to the environment can lead to great climatic consequences. It can be read as a story about religious fanatics following a charismatic leader. Or it can be read as a great adventure story.”
PR: How much detail did you find in Frank Herbert’s notes, and how much did you have to construct yourselves?
KJA: “We found the keys to an old safe deposit box Frank had rented, and it contained old floppy diskettes and dot-matrix printouts of his outline and notes for ‘Dune 7.’ That was really like discovering hidden treasure. Brian then went through all of his father’s boxes of manuscripts and papers stored in his attic, and he found more than a thousand pages of additional notes about Dune history and characters.
“Frank’s outline gave us the direction and a roadmap for where the story was going, many of the twists and turns and major plot revelations. Having a map in hand is quite different from taking a full-fledged trip, however. Even though we knew where the story had to go, Brian and I still have a great deal of work to do.”
PR: There is much talk of a decline in sf readership. What do you think is driving this?
KJA: “I think that a lot of the major sf novels currently being released are incomprehensible to the average reader. They are dense, full of jargon, intimately self-referential to the genre. Don’t get me wrong, these are some of the best works in current sf. Alastair Reynolds, Peter Hamilton, John Meaney – all are fabulous and imaginative writers, but the average man on the street can’t get through the first chapter without drowning in unfamiliar words and concepts. Epic fantasy, on the other hand, is immediately accessible.
“But in other media outlets, sf is doing just fine. Look at all the TV shows, for instance; sf far outnumbers fantasy.”