Excerpts from the interview:
“SF has changed dramatically in the last half-century.
“If you look at the hundred-year period from 1850 to 1950, you see enormous technical progress: steam ships replacing wood and canvas; the world being linked by telegraph and then telephone and radio communications; personal transportation changing; movement from the rural areas to the cities; massive industrialization; enormous changes in military technology. That hundred-year curve seems pretty amazing, and you could understand why someone in the 1930s would think, 'You know, it won't be long before cars start flying!' But if you look at the technological advances of the last 30 years, it's cybernetics and genetics and biology. The first hundred years of technological progress tells us about the world outside us, but what biology and cybernetics tell us about is ourselves. So the field in general has become somewhat more introspective, and a lot of the simple gosh-wow technology tropes have begun to seem sort of quaint and old-fashioned.”
“So the world did turn out differently. It's all still driven by technology, however you look at it, though we can still hope for aliens to turn up and give us a new focus! You can say the point of the New Space Opera -- which, if you want an astounding claim, I invented with Aristoi -- was to take all of that information technology and biological technology and turn it outwards into the vastness of the universe. Actually, I destroyed the Earth in that one (with 'gray goo'). It was then rebuilt on the old blueprint by some extremely gifted people, but that crisis forced the human race to turn outward.
“Any technology is going to have unanticipated consequences, and it's going to be used for things it was never intended for. For example, nobody bothered to patent the laser because they couldn't think of a use for it. They weren't even thinking of using it for death rays, let alone for DVDs. One of the things science fiction is good at is demonstrating the laws of unintended consequences. We have many surprises in store for us.”
“All the great metaphors for science fiction make up the elements of space opera. I think there's something about the subgenre that's vital to the core of our field. Space exploration and contact with aliens, problems of governance, the future evolution of our species... all that can be in space opera, and it can all come crashing in with a great deal of fun attached.
“I wrote a deliberately retro space opera series, Dread Empire's Fall, starting with The Praxis. I hadn't actually approached that kind of series before and I wanted to see if it could contain all the classical elements of a space opera (including a space empire and rebellion and space battles and the threat of genocide, and so forth) and not have it be ridiculous. The writing ended up being very familiar. Even though I'd rarely written space opera, the experience was like meeting old friends, because I started my career writing sea adventure books and now I found myself again on ships with a strict class hierarchy and a lot of jargon to deal with.”
“I've finished a new book. Astoundingly, I misjudged the word length, but it's shorter than I intended, something that’s hardly ever happened. It's called Implied Spaces, and it's set in an extremely high-tech, high-digital future that is in certain aspects indistinguishable from fantasy. It starts as a genre fantasy and ends up as a state-of-the-art science fiction novel -- or so I would like to think. There are actually technological underpinnings to everything, but I take my time about exploring it. That's a New Wave thing: Lord of Light, The Einstein Intersection, a lot of stuff from the '60s used that template.”