To mark his return to the Gollancz list after a far-too-long absence, we asked author Phillip Mann a few questions about his new novel, The Disestablishment of Paradise, which was released on Thursday 21st February. The first part of the interview is on the Gollancz blog here, the second part is here, and this is the final part, which deals more with Phillip’s remarkable backlist, all of which are now available as ebooks and can be found on the SF Gateway.
The Disestablishment of Paradise tells of the final days of human involvement on a lush and welcoming colony world. Despite the planet’s remarkable scientific possibilities, the decision has been made. The finances don’t work, there is no benefit to human civilisation, and so Paradise is to be Disestablished. All human trace will be removed. But Dr Hera Melhuish, the scientific leader of the colony, has other plans . . .
What brought you back to prose writing? Do you have any plans for the future?
I have had three careers which have sometimes existed simultaneously : as a theatre director, as a teacher of drama and as a writer. My four books Escape to the Wild Wood, Stand Alone Stan, The Dragon Wakes and The Burning Forest which are episodes in a tetralogy called A Land Fit for Heroes** had emptied me of ideas. I actually felt empty when I finished the last one. All my knowledge and feelings had somehow been poured into those books. For a while, I thought I had nothing more to say. I was also saddened that those books had not do not been widely read even though they were well reviewed. Perhaps their day will come. If readers enjoy The Disestablishment of Paradise, then I am very sure they would enjoy A Land Fit for Heroes.
Anyway . . . it took a while before I felt the urge to write again. I went back to working in the theatre. At the same time, I read widely and voraciously. Wrote some poems. Taught creative drama. Fiddled in the garden… and was on the whole, happy. But then, little by little, ideas started to come to me. I was worried about climate change and the seeming inability of out governments to deal with it effectively. I was horrified at what was happening to our wild-life especially the wanton killing of animals such as elephants for their ivory and rhinos for their horns. I thought about the death of species. I remembered the image of a lonely creature blundering into the desert, leaving only its footprints… And then one day I simply started to write again. It just happened. I probably thought it was another short story starting up – but the writing took off. I actually began at what is now Chapter 2 of the present ms. at the point where Hera is on Paradise and planting at sea.
Quickly the story became complex, and the voices of the characters became clear. The story outline developed. I decided to use a story teller as I had done in The Eye of the Queen and Wulfsyarn, A Mosaic and this seemed to make the telling easier. I also had the idea that I wanted to write special ‘documents’ to make the story more plausible.
Almost without knowing it, I was writing again and very happy to be doing so. Simple really . . . well not quite. But that is another story.
For the future: I have found that the ideas I developed in The D of P remain very strong in me. As a result, I have written a version of the story for younger readers called The Paradise Mission. The story is told by a young woman called Hetty, who is an Explorer. She has arrived on Paradise to look for a young man called Crispin. He was the first human to reach Paradise, but and has now gone missing. It is her mission to find out what has happened to him and to rescue him if possible. In fulfilling her mission, she encounters Paradise in all its wonder, danger and exuberance. What happens to them is, for the time being, a secret – but I hope the story will be published soon.
I am also at work on a new novel – a dark comedy called The Headman – but there is not much I can tell you about that except that it is quite different to anything I have written before.
Phillip Mann, Feb 2nd 2013
** Editor’s Note: A Land Fit for Heroes was originally envisaged by Phillip Mann as a trilogy, although it was originally published in four parts. For the SF gateway editions, it has been restored in accordance with the author’s instructions, and now comprises three books: Escape to the Wild Wood, Stand Alone Stan and The Burning Forest.