The Disestablishment of Paradise – An Interview with Phillip Mann, part two

disestablishment of paradiseFollowing on from yesterday’s post, here’s the next part of our interview with Phillip Mann, author of The Disestablishment of Paradise, out today! the final part will be available on our sister blog, The SF Gateway, tomorrow.

Gollancz: Would you like to live on Paradise, or in the future you’ve invented?

Phillip Mann:  Yes. I would love to have lived on Paradise in its early days, especially if I could have someone like Sasha Malik to guide me… but I have lived there in a way. The imagination can be very real and it is not unknown for writers to fall in love with their characters. It would be nice to bathe in that warm sea and hitch the occasional ride on a passing Dendron or watch a Michelangelo Reaper perform its magic – from a safe distance of course.

However, I could not survive in the world which Paradise becomes. It is a catastrophe. I would be torn apart in minutes. It is what happens to civilization (or innocence too) when things break down, when the tipping point is reached, when sanity gives way to madness.

I have no idea what is happening on Paradise right now. I can tell you that a battle is raging. It is tragic really because the roots are now polluted and harmony has become chaos

The question you pose is intriguing. It is tempting for a writer to create happy endings, or false endings to give a sense of completeness or hope. But it is a temptation to be resisted. While writers may fall in love with their heros and villains, and the imaginary worlds they create, at the same time, they must be ruthlessly objective. Ultimately, we are always writing  about the only world we really know – our own lovely Earth.

Make no mistake, to be in love and objective at the same time – that is hard but necessary. No wonder some writers are a bit dotty.

Gollancz: Dr Hera Melhuish is a complex and sometimes difficult character. Do you think you would like her if you met her in real life? If she lived in 2013, what would she be doing?

Phillip Mann: Yes I would like her very much. She has endured a great deal of sorrow, and yet  she retains a ready wit and a sharp intelligence, a bold spirit and a capacity to love unconditionally. Such women have much to teach us and I would have lots of questions to ask her.

It intrigued me when I was writing the book that it was becoming a book about and by women. They are the main characters. In fact there is only one man of substance, Mack, and he is important but he does not drive the novel. It is the women who make the hard decisions and who live with the consequences. This was not planned, but it is what happened. And I was very happy about that.

When I was writing the D of P, I read a wonderful book called Man on Earth by Jacquetta Hawkes. That book influenced me greatly and I can not recommend it too highly. Jacquetta is (was) well known as an archaeologist – she died some years ago – and in her book she speaks of the wonder of life and the achievements of our finest artists and thinkers. I did not realize it at the time of writing, but I think Jacquetta’s bigness of  mind influenced my portrayal of Hera. Both are women of great intelligence, great wisdom and great passion.

If Hera were alive now she would either be a leader in Greenpeace battling to save the whales in the Antarctic ocean or a doctor  caring for children caught up in any one of the many wars taking place round the world at present. She would also have a house with a splendid untidy garden and high walls behind which she could retire and let her hair down when exhausted. She might even be married to a novelist.

The final part of this interview will be on the SF Gateway blog from Friday 22nd February