On February 25 this year, Canadian science fiction writer Karl Schroeder visited a lecture for the Science Fiction class at the University of Toronto. Schroeder began by giving a reading from one of his short stories, “Laika’s Ghost”, which was well received by the class. A question and answer period regarding primarily his novel Sun of Suns, which the class had studied, followed. Below, paraphrased, are some memorable moments.
This piece has been edited for clarity.
Why was it important for you to write Sun of Suns?
I had just finished writing Lady of Mazes, which was meticulously crafted and took a long time to write, so I wanted a break. I wanted to write something entertaining but that still had meditations on politics. I feel that the best way to introduce complicated ideas is through the familiar.
What did you find most satisfying to write?
The ideas. People and situations. For instance, the character of Venera Fanning was especially satisfying to write because she is so preposterous. She enabled me to cut loose and write adventure. I also enjoyed getting the physics right while creating a world with rotating towns.
What was the greatest challenge in creating Virga as a viable world?
As an artist, most of my work is not done on a conscious level; the design emerges on its own. Once you have the initial idea the rest falls out from there. A friend of mine looked at the math behind Virga with me and we found that Virga can work. I didn’t create Virga—I discovered it.
Were there any pleasant surprises that later played a crucial role in the story?
Well, I wanted to create a world in the future where I could still write about sword fights, gunfights, and pirates, and have my protagonist fly. Candesce (the sun of suns) was the story device that allowed me to do that, but it ended it up becoming an interesting part of the story on its own.
Schroeder also spoke about Hieroglyph, an anthology of stories featuring his story “Degrees of Freedom”. One topic of discussion was the shortage of science fiction stories that depict new forms of governance, despite the prevalence of stories that portray governments much like ours as problematic. Schroeder led a stimulating conversation with unexpected comedic moments. The visit concluded with some questions from the floor and a book signing.
Read more about Karl Schroeder at his website: http://www.kschroeder.com/
-contributed by Amanda Harvey-Sanchez