Stephen Baxter: The offical web site.
About the Author
White Tetrahedron
Stephen Baxter: Galaxias (Book)

21 October 2021

Stephen Baxter: World Engines: Creator (Book)
World Engines: Creator

20 August 2020

Stephen Baxter: World Engines: Destroyer (Book)
World Engines: Destroyer

19 September 2019

Stephen Baxter: Xeelee: Redemption (Book)
Xeelee: Redemption

23 August 2018

Stephen Baxter: Raft: SF Masterworks Edition (Book)
Raft: SF Masterworks Edition

12 July 2018

Stephen Baxter: The Spacetime Pit Plus Two (Book)
The Spacetime Pit Plus Two

Infinity Plus
5 January 2018

Stephen Baxter: Xeelee: Vengence (Book)
Xeelee: Vengence

15 June 2017

Stephen Baxter: The Massacre of Mankind (Book)
The Massacre of Mankind

19 January 2017

Stephen Baxter: Obelisk (Book)

18 August 2016

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter: The Long Cosmos (Book)
The Long Cosmos

30 June 2016

Stephen Baxter & Alastair Reynolds: The Medusa Chronicles (Book)
The Medusa Chronicles

19 May 2016

Stephen Baxter: Xeelee: Endurance
Xeelee: Endurance

Orion Fiction
17 September 2015

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter: The Long Utopia
The Long Utopia

19 June 2015

Stephen Baxter: Ultima

27 November 2014

Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter: The Long Mars
The Long Mars

19 June 2014

Stephen Baxter: proxima

19 September 2013

Stephen Baxter: Universes

PS Publishing
29 March 2013

Stephen Baxter: The Long War
The Long War

20 June 2013

Stephen Baxter: The Long Earth
The Long Earth

21st June 2012

Stephen Baxter: Doctor Who : The Wheel of Ice
Doctor Who : The Wheel of Ice

BBC Books
16th August 2012

Stephen Baxter: The Science of Avatar
The Science of Avatar

19th April 2012

Stephen Baxter: Last and First Contact
Last and First Contacts

Newcon Press
26th April 2012

Stephen Baxter: Resplendent
Destiny's Children Book 4


Stephen Baxter: Transendent
Destiny's Children Book 3

September 2005

Stephen Baxter: Exultant
Destiny's Children Book 2

September 2004

Stephen Baxter: Coalescent
Destiny's Children Book 1

October 2003

Stephen Baxter: Weaver
Time's Tapestry Book 4

February 2008

Stephen Baxter: Navigator
Time's Tapestry Book 3

July 2007

Stephen Baxter: Conqueror
Time's Tapestry Book 2

February 2007

Stephen Baxter: Emperor
Time's Tapestry Book 1

July 2006

Stephen Baxter: Flood


Stephen Baxter: Ark


Stephen Baxter: Stone Spring
Stone Spring

June 2010

Stephen Baxter: Bronze Summer
Bronze Summer

September 2011

Stephen Baxter: Iron Winter
Iron Winter

16th August 2012

Stephen Baxter: Firstborn
A Time Odyssey Book 3

(with Arthur C Clarke)

Del Rey (US)
March 2008

Stephen Baxter: Sunstorm
A Time Odyssey Book 2

(with Arthur C Clarke)

Del Rey (US)
March 2005

Stephen Baxter: Time's Eye
Times Eye
A Time Odyssey Book 1

(with Arthur C Clarke)

Del Rey (US)
Feb 2004

Stephen Baxter: Phase Space
Phase Space
Manifold Book 4

HarperCollins (UK)
August 2002

Stephen Baxter: Origin
Manifold Book 3

HarperCollins (UK)
August 2001

Stephen Baxter: Space
Manifold Book 2

HarperCollins (UK)
August 2000

Stephen Baxter: Time
Manifold Book 1

HarperCollins (UK)
August 1999

Stephen Baxter: Behemoth
Mammoth - Omnibus

November 2004

Stephen Baxter: Icebones
Mammoth Book 3

March 2001

Stephen Baxter: Longtusk
Mammoth Book 2

January 2000

Stephen Baxter: Silverhair
Mammoth Book 1

January 1999

Stephen Baxter: Moonseed

NASA Trilogy Book 3

August 1998 (UK).

Stephen Baxter: Titan

NASA Trilogy Book 2

August 1997 (UK).

Stephen Baxter: Voyage

NASA Trilogy Book 1

November 1996 (UK).

Stephen Baxter: A Xeelee Omnibus
A Xeelee Omnibus
A Xeelee Sequence Book

January 2010

Stephen Baxter: Vacuum Diagrams
Vacuum Diagrams
The Xeelee Sequence Book 5

April 1997

Stephen Baxter: Ring
The Xeelee Sequence Book 4

July 1994

Stephen Baxter: Flux
The Xeelee Sequence Book 3

December 1993

Stephen Baxter: Timelike Infinity
Timelike Infinity
The Xeelee Sequence Book 2

December 1992

Stephen Baxter: Raft
The Xeelee Sequence Book 1

July 1991

Stephen Baxter: Webcrash
The Web Book 2

Orion Books
October 1998

Stephen Baxter: Gulliver
Gulliver Zone
The Web Book 1

Orion Books
October 1997

Stephen Baxter: The H Bomb Girl
The H Bomb Girl

Faber & Faber

Stephen Baxter: The Hunters of Pangaea
The Hunters of Pangaea

NESFA Press (US)
February 2004

Stephen Baxter: Evolution

November 2002

Stephen Baxter: The Light of Other Days
The Light of Other Days

(with Arthur C Clarke)

HarperCollins (UK)

Stephen Baxter: Traces

HarperCollins (UK)
April 1998

Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships
The Time Ships

HarperCollins (UK)
May 1995

Stephen Baxter: Anti-Ice

January 1993

Stephen Baxter: Revolutions in the Earth
Revolutions in the Earth
James Hutton and the True Age of the World

Weidenfield and Nicolson
June 2003

Stephen Baxter: Omegatropic

British Science Fiction Association
June 2001

Stephen Baxter: Deep Future
Deep Future

January 2001

In May 1999, Stephen Baxter was Guest of Honour at Seccon, a small convention held in Stevenage. During Seccon he was interviewed by sf reviewer and Clarke Award judge Tanya Brown. After the convention, Tanya and Steve repeated the interview by email, using broadly the same questions.

What's your favourite colour?

Red. This comes from an adolescence coloured by Liverpool FC, and a childhood of Captain Scarlet, which taught us all about the significance of colour. Red is the leaders' colour as I recall. The fact that most of my HarperCollins book covers have been orange is another issue. Have you ever been tempted by the novelisation and tie-in market?

Not really. Now I make enough from my own novels to pay the bills, and when I started and that wasn't possible I held onto my day job. I'd hate to use up all my creativity on somebody else's ideas. Of course there are exceptions... I did some stuff for Games Workshop, and I was asked to pitch ideas for an X-Files novel. I thought that would be interesting, not to mention good exposure. I came up with the Nixon’s-Secret-War-With-The-Martians idea that I eventually wrote up in my Interzone story 'Marginalia', where I turned it into a kind of alternate-history pendant to my novel Voyage, which was itself alternate history... and so on. The X-Files people never responded, to my idea or a host of others; very picky.

Why mammoths?

I got the basic idea from a Horizon programme some years ago on the hypothesis that mammoths may have survived, as dwarfed island populations, into historical times. My first notion was a story about modern adults finding the mammoths on some remote Siberian island. Malcolm Edwards, then at HarperCollins, suggested maybe this would be a good young-adult piece, so I slanted it that way, with teenagers as the viewpoint. I was keen to get hold of that market; lock'em up for life. But nobody got very excited. Some years later I came up with the notion of writing from the mammoths' point of view, a la Watership Down, Garry Kilworth, and that struck a chord. It eventually sold to Orion as a series of three books. I’ve tried to follow the Heinlein approach that 'juvenile' fiction should be the same quality as the 'adult' stuff, but just with younger characters – in this case mammoths. Of course there are compromises in the technique; a mammoth that could talk as we do wouldn't be a true mammoth. Nevertheless it's been an interesting experiment to try to get into the heads of basically alien creatures. I based my mammoths on the science of them, and their close relatives the modern elephants. They don't have magic powers or wear clothes or any of that; they communicate as the elephants do with rumbles and stamps and so on. They are/were a very old species, and I've given them an awareness of that, and so there are plenty of authentic Baxter themes in there I think, the destiny of life, huge geological changes, etc. I had a lot of fun in the second book (out in Jan 2000) set back in the Ice Age; what a landscape that was. Overall it's sold well, and has had good reviews, but is mostly to be found in the sf section; Orion say they are considering a 'children's' paperback edition to target that market. I suspect some fans of my harder stuff won't like the mammoths. But I've always diversified, done different stuff; with all respect to the masters of the long series like Terry Pratchett, the thought of doing the same stuff over and over forever drives me crazy.

Do you think you’ll do further stories in the Xeelee sequence?

Maybe in the future. By the time I came to put together my collection Vacuum Diagrams I'd completed four novels against that background and a book full of shorts, and I felt I'd painted myself into a corner. I suspect my experience of a future history is typical of a lot of writers. The Xeelee series started out with the first story I sold, 'The Xeelee Flower', to Interzone in 1986. the Xeelee then were just convenient off-stage aliens to prop up an action plot. The next story I wrote was about humans in the far future being defeated by superior aliens... And I realised that if I made them the Xeelee too I had the beginning and the end of a cosmic saga. For the next few years it really helped me to have this common background to support (some of) my stories, as I was learning my way: common vocabulary, settings, characters; the background seemed to help fertilise and shape ideas. But after four novels it all began to close up, and it got claustrophobic and restrictive. Enough was enough. I did try to set up a new universe with my 'Saddle Point' stories, mostly in SF Age. But I'd moved on; the stories emerged like chapters of a novel (which is what they’ve become; they will be incorporated in my second Manifold novel Space, due in Aug 2000). But the Xeelee stuff is my most popular among many readers – the Japanese love it all, more than anything else I've done. So maybe I'll go back to it in the future, but it would be some locale a long way removed from the main thread of the existing material.

Your novels have moved from far-future SF towards more contemporary settings. Is this a conscious change of emphasis?

Yes. The publishers are keen for obvious commercial reasons to have sf which is as accessible as possible to as wide a range of readers as possible. It's possible to be snobbish about 'dumbing down' the genre, but I've come to believe it's a worthy goal to write a novel which is authentic sf, dealing with the classic themes, and yet accessible to somebody for whom this is their very first sf novel. And a good way to do that is to start from the familiar, the near-future, the here-and-now, and move on from there. It's actually more of a challenge to write a book like Time which deals with the destiny of humanity and the fate of the universe and all that stuff within such a framework – accessible to the general audience, but still authentic sf. Maybe one day I'll get it right!

You've written numerous stories in the narrow niche of 'alternate histories about the space programme' - what so attracts you to this?

Lots of things. In a way it's my life story. I was 11 when Apollo 11 landed, and naturally I swallowed all the techie optimism of the time that this was just the beginning, that we'd have bases on Mars by 1980, just as NASA was seriously proposing at the time. The downturn of the space programme coincided with my own adolescence, as if everybody was growing out of childish things at the same time as me, and, as we waited long years for the Shuttle to fly, I got disillusioned with the whole thing. What got me going again was a chance find of an article somewhere about NASA's lost plans for those wonderful 1980s Mars missions – which, of course, inspired Voyage. There is a lot of resonance in such material for people of about my age, I think – in America particularly where they all seem to know all the details of NASA funding cuts since 1966. But as I worked through Voyage I found there was a lot of opportunity to spin further stories out of the same material. Alternate histories often spin out of easily identifiable key events, like battles, where small changes could clearly have large outcomes; the space shots were so fragile that there are a lot of ways they could have turned out. And I also got caught up again in the wonder of it all. The Moon really was a wonderful place to visit, but they played down the awe factor in order to reduce the perceived risk. Big mistake. I got to meet Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke in London this year, and I interviewed him for New Scientist. After 30 years I don’t think I managed to ask a single original question, but he was very clear and articulate about his great adventure.

Your writing seems to have adopted a more pessimistic tone in recent books. Is this just because it is easier to be optimistic about the far future and pessimistic about what is just around the corner, or are there deeper reasons?

I'm not sure I've changed. The Xeelee stuff was pretty pessimistic; humanity never figures out what's going on, and gets cosmically defeated. I like to say that optimism and pessimism are a question of timescale. If I say mankind will be extinct in five years, that’s surely pessimistic. If I say we'll last for five million years, you might call me an optimist – until you remember that the universe will last trillions of times longer than that, perhaps even forever. I would say there are reasons for hope in the world around us – I grew up believing I'd never grow old, that the nuclear war was bound to consume us all one day, and that threat (at least globally) seems to be receding. But there are reasons to worry also; all the trends – population, food production, water usage – seem to me to be pointing in the wrong direction, and we're getting no smarter about dealing with it. The next century is probably the bottleneck. If we can get through that – and start reaching out off-world – there's no limit, I don’t think. But personal factors also change. I went through a huge stab of pessimism when I turned forty; all the morbid jokes and advice about old-folks' health regimes (and my first prostate exam) really got to me, and I think I got a clear sense of my own mortality for the first time. On the other hand I think I’ve come through that; there are after all more important things than an individual. So in Time the human race is once again doomed – but we sacrifice ourselves to remake the universe, making it a better home for races to come, our metaphorical children.

You provided a sound bite for Radio One on the occasion of (I think) stage 1 of the ISS - indicating that unmanned space exploration made more sense. What about the spirit of manned space flight? Is it overrated?

I think the ISS is a total waste of time. It's an orbiting white elephant. In fact flying a white elephant would make more sense; at least then they could study the effect of microgravity on albino pachyderms. ISS will consume billions and decades of effort in space, and for what? – for nothing they couldn’t already have learned from the much cheaper and more effective Mir programme. But NASA has been campaigning for decades for a station – even though they got to the Moon without one – and now they’ve got it. In the recently threatened cuts to NASA's budget, tragically, it was good unmanned science stuff that got hit, not the Station. I think humans in space should go somewhere; the astronauts say that after about three weeks on the Mir you want to go someplace, rather than 'looking at stars, pissing in jars', as they put it. There are the asteroids, and Mars, but I'd advocate going back to the Moon. We know we can get there (relatively cheaply now), it's only three days away, doesn't wander around the sky relative to Earth, and while it's not perfect as a destination it is a place we could go learn to live off the land – especially if it has water, and there are a number of ways it could actually prove to have a lot. The ideal is to send humans, I think, for the sense of wonder, and not to mention much better science. But they need to send poets, and artists, and even sf writers. So I would scrap ISS and spend the money on a manned Moon base, and a whole slew of unmanned probes to more remote destinations, pending the day we can get humans there effectively. Personally I would sign up for a week in Earth orbit, or a longer stay on the Moon; the only way I'd suffer months in microgravity enduring Nazi-doctor types watching my bones leach away would be if there was some genuine purpose - how about a flyby of Mars?

Are you a fan?

I’ve been an sf reader since the age of 10 or so, counting the grown-up stuff, and I followed younger stuff before that, as long as I can remember, back to Fireball XL5. But I only began coming to cons after I'd sold a few stories. I was introduced by a genuine fan from my workplace at the time, and it turned out to be a good way to meet everybody. Now each year I'm usually at the Eastercon and the Worldcon at least, generally other cons too, and I’ve been to cons as a guest and a paying participant around the world: Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Japan... I don’t suppose I'd call myself a 'fan' in the sense that my interest has always been primarily the literature rather than the subculture, and now I meet people at cons as a writer meeting readers. But fandom, and the cons, and the wider genre audience, is an extremely informed and valued support base for pros like me.

Who's your favourite critic?

Probably Gary Wolfe who reviews for Locus. He brings to his pieces a deep understanding of the material, including my own, and while he doesn't always give me rave reviews you always get a sense that somebody smart and perceptive and basically caring has read the stuff.

How did you find the experience of being involved in TV SF?

Very difficult. I worked on the scenario for BBC's Invasion Earth, and I wrote an episode of Space Island One for Sky. I think sf is very badly treated by the telly people in this country. Nobody involved seems to have read or even watched a lot of modern stuff, they simply don't understand the point of sf in the first place, and they are so terrified of frightening away the audience they dumb it all down horrifically, which brings in bad reviews and ratings, and... But I remain in there fighting. If people like me don't, who will? The radio adaptation of Voyage was wonderful, sympathetic, very well done. Now I’m pitching a telly adaptation of Time to the BBC – set in a small English village! I kind of hope that the backlash against Star Wars, and smarter movies like Matrix, will push TV and movie sf ahead a little way; as Fred Pohl says most of it is excellent sf for about 1926.

Would you like to have been a career scientist?

I was one for a while; I completed a PhD in aeronautical engineering. But it wasn't for me; the detail tended to drive me crazy, I like research, but the bigger picture and wider aspects appeals more, not to mention communicating what I find. So after that I tried teaching – only to find no money or respect and maximum stress – and then about ten years in industry, working my way (not always consciously) towards a writing career, which if you'd asked me at age about 15 was always my goal, but which I thought was probably unreachable until it started happening.

Who do you think you have to sleep with to get the Arthur C Clarke Award?

Kim Newman can forget it.


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