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INTERVIEW: Sci-fi Author P. W. Singer

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Peter W. Singer is a military technology strategist and futurist who has written extensively on his many areas of expertise (you can read a comprehensive bio, here). But it’s Peter’s work as the science fiction novelist of Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War, co-authored by August Cole, that first caught my eye.

Ghost Fleet “melds nonfiction style research on emerging trends and technology with a fictional exploration of what the future of war at sea, on land, in the air, space, and cyberspace will be like in the future” (source).

Peter was kind enough to share some of his experiences as a first-time sci-fi novelist with Legendarium Media.

Peter W. Singer
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Peter, you’re very well-known for your nonfiction work in military trends and technology, as well as cyber security and other technological issues. What made you decide to write a novel?

I had been doing various consulting work with Hollywood and it sparked an idea for a story that was a better fit for a novel and so my partner, August Cole, and I began to play with the possibilities. For both of us, though, it was also an opportunity to scratch an itch, to try to create the kind of novel that we had both grown up reading and loving. We both talk about going on trips to the shore in the summer, reading books in our parents’ station wagons.

Reading Ghost Fleet brought back memories of reading Michael Crichton novels as a teenager, probably because the way in which you write fiction based on real technological trends felt similar. When you write, is it more important for you to let the world and technology, or the characters, drive the narrative?

Thanks, that’s both a kind comparison and exactly what we hoped to achieve. Indeed, we even tried to push it a little further by having the actual endnotes, as you would have in a nonfiction book, to show how no matter how sci-fi it seemed, it was all drawn from the real world. But notably, those endnotes came later. You have to start with an interesting plot and characters to drop into it first. Otherwise I don’t think it would work.

It seems like everyone I’ve met who is deeply interested in science and technology is also interested in science fiction. Since you’ve written science fiction, I presume that you fit into that category. What stories (novels, movies, TV, etc.) have had the greatest impact on your life, and do they shape how you craft your own writing?

Gosh, which stories didn’t? I’m the kind of person who loves to order a little bit of each thing on the menu at a restaurant and am the same way with my Science Fiction. People who read Ghost Fleet will see the influence of everything from the early sci-fi writers like Wells and Conan Doyle to mid century like Asimov and Clarke to the technothriller stuff of our youth like Crichton or Clancy to more recent like various video games (which now are just as powerful an art form) and TV shows. Indeed, the Battlestar Gallactica reboot was a conscious influence on one storyline, following the good guys behind enemy lines as they start to do “bad guy” things. Its not sci-fi, but the multi character approach of Game of Thrones, and Martin’s willingness to put any character at risk of death, was another inspiration.

Do you plan on writing any more novels? Are you working on anything right Ghost Fleetnow?

Yes, we had a great time writing it, ending up as better friends afterwards than before and the reception to the book has been amazing. It’s built a following within the science fiction and technothriller world, but like many other sci-fi books, it has also had some impact on the real world. I’ve been invited to brief the real world lessons of the book to places that range from the “tank” conference room inside the Pentagon to the White House, Congress, and Marine bases.

Many of Legendarium Media’s readers are also content creators. Can you share any advice on how to reach the largest audience possible?

We worked hard at it. It doesn’t happen on your own. For example, we spun out 24 articles that had some kind of lesson from or connection to the book, built a social media campaign, personally reached out to key bloggers, and have given over 150 speeches.

What new media technologies should we be keeping our eyes on?

VR and mind-machine interfaces are crossing that frontier from science fiction to lab to viable product. Very exciting and cool for fields that range from how we control our vehicles to how we use in gaming. But, as we explore in one of the scarier scenes in Ghost Fleet, they’ll also be used for torture and interrogation.

You can pick up a copy of Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War pretty much anywhere, including by clicking on the preceding link.

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