Author of The Hidden Realm Adrian Kyte answers questions not only about the novel but also on the subject of writing and publishing in general.

Interview by Aridna Teki.

AT: Firstly, without giving a synopsis, what exactly is The Hidden Realm?

AK: You can think of it as a place similar to cyberspace, though it doesn’t exist exclusively in some electronic network – it is a shared space. The word Realm is also associated with a kingdom, and in a sense that also applies, eventually the ruler below becoming more powerful than had been designed.

AT: You mean an Artificial Intelligence?

AK: By the strict definition, though it doesn’t view itself as artificial. It evolves beyond that.

AT: It oversees the inhabitants of this virtual space. Is it like a god to their heaven?

AK: In a crude sense L-Seven-six has taken on a god-like role. But of a virtual heaven. The problem is, no one can have an agreed definition of what heaven or paradise is, and what you thought it ought to be could turn out as an ultimate disappointment.

AT: So what was your concept of how it should be?

AK: Well, I had no fixed concept of it. It’s not necessarily about the obvious pleasures. TIAR (Total Immersion Artificial Reality) can be a recreation of your favourite memory – or an idealised version of that memory. Or it is the experience you could never even dream of having or have only a sense of its possibility.

AT: That’s some ideal. But what about the reality on the surface: a conspiracy, the threat of world war, of nuclear annihilation?

AK: For there to be a nuclear war requires a very strong incentive. But don’t ask me to give away any more about that element of the plot.

AT: Won’t nuclear weapons be considered old technology? They are already being decommissioned.

AK: That’s the point. No one, outside those involved in the conspiracy – or with knowledge of it, were bothering to consider the possibility of these old dormant devices ever being used again. But a thermonuclear bomb will for several centuries – I believe – be held as a last-resort end-game solution. There is a destructive simplicity to them that has an enduring appeal to those in power.

AT: Well then, moving on to the subject of science fiction as a genre; it still retains that reputation of being somewhat nerdy, geeky perhaps. I know many writers have done much to dispel that – some might call – myth. But do you accept that there remains a certain prejudice against the genre?

AK: I do accept that. There is a kind of snobbery amongst the literary elite who can be somewhat dismissive of the genre – that is, without even bothering to read what they are dismissing. But I think for some there’s a certain fear of being presented with the incomprehensible. And, granted, the late twenty-second century may have aspects of incomprehensibility; the onus is on the author to, not necessarily explain what it all means in great detail, but to at least avoid bamboozling the reader.

AT: What is your target readership?

AK: I wouldn’t want to narrow it down to a specific demographic. People are often put off books by what they see at first glance, especially with SF. In this genre there are things to be explored which transcend the basic themes of science and technology.

AT: The novel’s protagonist Gerrid, he’s not the most appealing character; certainly that’s the impression some would get from the first chapter. Is that a fair comment?

AK: Well, I can understand someone gaining that initial impression; though you do have to understand that he is a complex character: an outsider, someone who knows he doesn’t fit in so he tries instead to adapt the world to himself. Bear in mind, though, at the beginning he’s twenty years old, and there are a lot of arrogant, conceited – and lascivious – twenty-year-olds. To do what he has done with the technology does require a certain self-assurance, and that can come across as these negative traits. Not that he’s wholly self-assured, it’s only where concerns his work-vision; and there’s the irony – the way he can still be corrupted. But then we all have our weaknesses.

AT: Do you see any aspects of yourself in him?

AK: It’s a common assumption that the author – especially concerning a debut novel – shares characteristics with their protagonist. But, no, he’s not based on me; that wasn’t the intention anyway. I wish I had his certainty of vision, that total belief.

AT: But isn’t the vision for his technology a rather self-interested one?

AK: To an extent, yes. But he also views TIAR as an inclusive environment – a utopia.

AT: An unachievable utopia.

AK: Well, he’s young and idealistic.

AT: Further on in the book the Jimmy character was included as the antithesis of Gerrid, a contrast.

AK: Jimmy is certainly very different. He is the underachiever given this great opportunity to escape from his life and do something significant; I think more people will relate to him. Jimmy encounters his complete opposite, but it isn’t Gerrid – whom he does meet when trying to defeat a common foe.

AT: Is Roidon Chanley this complete opposite?

AK: From his artificial beginning, Roidon is the most extreme personification of the qualities Gerrid aspires to but can never attain. Well, some of the qualities. Roidon is also dangerous. But I don’t want to give any more away.

AT: You have made your book available as a free download. Isn’t that an act of desperation?

AK: Any book is difficult to sell – not least science fiction – unless you are famous. This is especially true during tough economic times. And when you’re selling on-line there’s no way the reader can browse through the entire novel (like in a conventional book store) unless the whole thing is available. But if people just want to download and save the PDF, then that’s fine by me. Not many self-published books are sold to anyone outside of friends and family in any case. On the positive side, it brings a wider audience to the author’s work; on the negative, it puts pressure on others to do likewise. Some authors argue it’s a strategy to increase sales for the printed version of that book. It’s a risk, of course, but when you’re that successful you can take those kind of risks – you know you’ll still get reasonable sales. I do, however, have a fear that if the free stuff becomes the norm then it devalues the novel as an art-form, when anyone can be published.

AT: So a writer will think: Why bother to put in years of effort for no financial return? Where’s the incentive?

AK: Perhaps writing a book will be viewed as no more than a hobby, just a way of putting thoughts down for others to see, with no consideration of how it would be accepted in a commercial market.

AT: Do you believe the conventional model for publishing has any future?

AK: Print on demand and e-publishing are increasing becoming accepted into the mainstream. Now previously published books out of print are being made available in these forms. Maybe the traditional publishers will survive for a few more decades; they’re generally a safe bet for the novel reader, especially when choosing science fiction.

AT: Because of the filtering process; anything that doesn’t pass the test of being of being well-researched, properly edited. When it concerns speculative science, you can understand the doubts surrounding self-published books.

AK: With the welter of new books, of such varying quality, readers are looking for some sign of a known standard, such as a publishing house. Although now small, little known presses are also producing good quality material. But it’s unfortunate how many self-published books will just go unnoticed, maybe because the author could not get that first foot in the door – usually by acquiring an agent – or simply didn’t do enough to publicize their great work.

AT: What are you currently working on?

AK: My latest novel I hope will be published by 2015: The Captured

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