Excerpts from the interviews:
“People come up to me or e-mail and say they've arrived at either an interest in political philosophy or come to take a certain political position from reading my books -- and they're often quite diverse political positions! If I have any political motivation in my writing, it is to make people think. I've found that the people who are most affected politically by reading science fiction are those who don't read much of it. They are not regular readers, certainly not science fiction fans -- I don't regard science fiction fandom as a political audience! I think it's usually people who are already interested in politics (of whatever kind) and already active (in whatever way) who can be struck by a science fiction idea. People who are not regular readers of SF perhaps come to it with more enthusiasm and more understanding, and they actually see the ideas fresh. It comes as a surprise to them.”
“The whole notion of extrapolation is one of those pseudoscientific pieces of gobbledygook that science fiction writers use to justify themselves. Science fiction doesn't really extrapolate; it explores and experiments. Attempts to use science fiction to project a particular political view often end up very preachy and not very convincing as writing. There's an awful lot of rather preachy libertarian SF, and I can't be bothered with any of it. I did get nominated for the Prometheus Award and won it a couple of times, and I'm very proud of that. But I think it's much more effective to simply take some ideas seriously and imagine them working out, rather than having a character stand on a soapbox and proclaim them.
“In Learning the World, I wanted to show far-future humans. They are a bit different from us -- though perhaps not as different as they should be! The alien space bats the humans encounter are entering their own 20th century, and their similarities to humankind at that stage are deliberate. It's difficult to make believable far-future people. I was trying to show people who are different from us in many subtle ways. They have various direct brain interfaces, for example. There are no androids in that book, and hardly any robots, but a lot of distributed intelligences here and there, and little machines that do things when you ask them to, and so on. Part of the assumption is that these people haven't gone through a Vinge/Stross singularity. They have remained approximately human beings. There are singularities in that future, called the 'fast burn' or the 'full burn' -- civilizations that flare through a singularity in about five years and then disappear -- but these folks haven't been through one. Global development is uneven now, and there will be far more uneven development in the future. (Even when you do go through the singularity with far-future humans, like Charles Stross has done in Accelerando, you still have characters that you can sort of identify as human.)
“Part of the reason why the humans are not radically different from us is that I wanted to do the book with the inspiration of Victorians like Winwood Reade, who's quoted at the beginning in the epigraph. He, and other Victorian writers and thinkers like him, imagined that as history advanced, human beings would become more rational and more tolerant. I think a similar assumption underlies a lot of traditional British SF -- Wells, Stapledon, Clarke and so on -- although they all obviously recognized the possibility of darker futures.”
“The next project is a fairly near-future and fairly political book called The Execution Channel. While it has a thriller-like plot and pace, it is a science fiction novel and not a technothriller, because in a technothriller the world goes back to normal -- the evil scientists are stopped, and everything returns to the status quo. My book has that science-fictional openness at the end. There is no reset button. It's difficult mixing the two modes well, and I have to be very attentive to that. Near-future political technothrillers tend to just focus on one strand of change, whether it's global warming or the fast pace of technological development, but knotting them all together and trying to see how they interact is interesting, and something I'm keen to do. In real life the strands are intertwined, so you get chaotic and unexpected outcomes. So I'm looking into the future war and using the thriller template for a plot.”
“In terms of the near future, I think it would be terribly wrong to write something that assumed that everything was going to be fine and we'd all be bopping happily into the nanotech utopia in 10 or 15 years. That's one of the reasons why I intend to return to near-future political stuff. I want to work through some of that, and try to deal with all the complexity of what's going on. You have all these rapid technological developments, there's the fine grain of the genome beginning to be understood, and global warming, and the war that seems to have no boundaries -- a war that has no defined objective and no clear and obvious end point.
“I don't think these really are religious conflicts, at root. In the Middle Ages, people fought wars to forcibly convert one another. None of us are trying to do that. I think what we're seeing in the Middle East is a violent reaction to invasion, which takes whatever form is most convenient -- whether it's nationalist, religious, or otherwise. To define this quite brutally obvious colonial policy as conflict of religion is deeply misleading. I think it is simply an open-ended commitment, on the part of a section of the government and ruling class of the United States, to dominate the world as far as possible. And the world, in the long run, cannot be dominated, so that's a program for another century of conflict -- which is a damned unpleasant thing to find yourself in!”