Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ARIA: Left Luggage by Geoff Nelder: Interview


ARIA: Left Luggage by Geoff Nelder contains a shattering original premise. The concept of memory is examined as the part it plays in making us who we are. From space is brought a suitcase-size object that fundamentally affects memory with infectious amnesia. A few escape its invidious consequences and attempt to secure a future. Dangerous, yet sometimes humorous action takes us from orbit in the International Space Station to an apparent sanctuary in a remote valley in Wales. Frantic desperation in a US town rips at our sensitivities, but relief for a man when he finds his own refuge in Canada. In spite of or because of the danger, lustful romances drive the main characters as much as survival threatens their existence.

“Geoff Nelder's Left Luggage has the right stuff. He makes us ask the most important question in science fiction--the one about the true limits of personal responsibility”. - Brad Linaweaver.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood - “Geoff Nelder inhabits Science Fiction the way other people inhabit their clothes.”

“ARIA has an intriguing premise, and is written in a very accessible style.” – Mike Resnick.

 Welcome!  Thanks for stopping by and taking this time to tell us a bit about you.  Does travel play in the writing of your books?
Write what you know is the usual mantra. Mine is write where you’ve been. Not that I’ve traveled the world, but my geographical professional training obliges me to take notice, store views and aromas for stories to come. That same geographer compels me to use location accuracy where possible. It amuses me to think of a reader in Paris noting the way the wet cobbles reflect the green railings in the Place de Concorde; another in Mallorca smiles at the Santa Ponsa watch tower knowing I’d must have been there to know its strange aroma. On the other hand it is the characters that need to be more believable than the places, and as I write science fiction my observations have to give way to imagination in distant galaxies.

Tell us about your current release.

Jack caught a bug at work. He catches a bus home. By the time he disembarks, all the other passengers and the driver have fuzzy heads. Jack had caught an amnesia bug, and it’s infectious. Imagine the ramifications: The passengers arrive home infecting family; some shop en route infecting everyone they meet. The bus driver receives more passengers giving them change for last week’s prices and today’s amnesia.  Some passengers just started work at the power plant, the water treatment works, the hospital, fire station.  All to shut in weeks. Ryder realizes what’s going on but can he persuade friends to barricade themselves in a secluded valley, hiding from the amnesia bug?
There’s survival, medical drama, horror yet with humanity, despair yet with humour. Adventure and imagination.

Do you have critique partners or beta readers?

The British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) runs Orbiters, a series of critique groups for members. I lead one of the short story Orbiters, and I belong to a novel and script-writing groups.  As a rule we submit stories, or chapters once every two months to our groups of around eight writers. Our members range from academic professors, Masters in Creative and Professional writing, published novelists, publishers, and aspiring newbies. I am British but many of my characters are from many countries. I see people from those countries to go over the colloquiums I use to check local language. Many of my informal critiquers are opponents in an online games site called You can send messages with each move and I’ve been most grateful losing scrabble, chess and Battleships to residents of Winnipeg, Alice Springs, Dubai and California in exchange for juicy local gossip!
Writers’ retreats are delightful to attend whether in Cyprus, South Wales or like this summer, in Greece, where I also cycled up a volcano! I attend the annual UK Authors writers holidays and we read our writing to each other, usually in the evenings over wine and nibbles. So civilized, you can’t call it work. See me in Greece in 2012 at

What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing your books?

In my na├»ve early days I was shocked to receive reject letters when I expected glowing acceptance contracts. That made me attend writers’ conventions. My first was the Annual Writers’ Conference in Winchester, UK. It amazed and pleased me to find I could not only book face-to-face talks with literary agents, but with novelists I admired, such as Jon Courtenay Grimwood and Charles Stross. Over lunch and in the bar I found myself chatting to Fay Weldon – one of the world’s famous women novelists. I few weeks later after chatting on web forums I had a phone call from Linda Hamilton, the successor to Catherine Cookson. Last year I shook hands and talked with Christopher Priest, Ramsey Campbell and other luminaries. I’m not saying this to name drop but to indicate how surprised I still am to be able to be on back-slapping terms with the famous writers I thought were unapproachable. And to find they are human with frailties, insecurities, and issues.
Have you ever read or seen yourself as a character in a book or movie?
Although I am much younger, I immediately identified with David Janssen in The Fugitive TV series 1963-67. So much so it inspired me to write a British version, which came out as Escaping Reality by Brambling Books in 2005 but is being re-published by Adventure Books of Seattle.
I discovered I was a character in a computer game! I used to teach computer programming and one of my gifted students, Arthur Barrett, wrote a Pascal game in which I, as Geoff Nelder, was the star. Read about it on my wiki page at

What are the most important attributes for remaining sane as a writer?

Insanity could be said to be a useful attribute for creativity, so perhaps writers should not strive to be sane. This is especially so if by sane we mean ‘normal’. However, compromise usually prevails and most writers need to be grounded to the extent they avoid prison for non-payment of bills, among more interesting reasons. For me, recognizing my inherent craziness, sanity has not so much been retained as controlled by having a wife who is less mad than me. So my advice is to grab a partner, but not in public.
 What hobbies do you actively pursue?
From my facebook status photos at you’ll see I am a hiker. There’s nothing better than scrambling up a mountain and admire the views. Maybe there is something better: my legs have the urge to go in circles quite often and I cycle 70 miles a day for days at a time to visit family in remote parts of the UK crossing hills and sweeping through rural villages and valleys. Okay, maybe something better still  is listening to Wagner, Puccini, Richard Strauss’s Last Four Songs, and me (rubbish these days) playing the piano (I once sat on the piano stool still warm from Vladimar Ashkenazy at the Cheltenham Music Festival). All right, perhaps one more thing better but that’s between me and my wife.
 What’s the next Big Thing?
The next big thing will be an asteroid we haven’t noticed and it will devastate our planet. However, let’s be jolly, it could just as easily be a virus that will wipe us out instead only more slowly. Perhaps like in ARIA: Left Luggage with a virus completely different to any before. Jollier still, it won’t wipe us out. Perhaps there will be a Carrington Event eg a superflare from the sun that will be beneficial. It will knock out the most annoying TV shows and cars driven by the reckless but leave the rest of us alone. Come on, Nelder, get real. Okay, the next big thing will be a breakthrough in Quantum Mechanics allowing us to untangle entanglement allowing not only teleportation but time travel – within fifty years. Before that? All right, a team of neurosurgeons will have mapped the brain so precisely we’ll be able to download ebooks and films directly to our brain. By pass books and Kindles. Keep it quiet though. In fact it is already here but Amazon have bought the rights and sitting on it – rather like those light bulb manufacturers in the 1960s who put paid to immortal lights. In the meantime you’ll have to make do with you as you are, a cup of coffee, and a copy of ARIA – print or ebook.

Geoff Nelder lives in Chester with his long-suffering wife and has two grown-up children whose sense and high intelligence persist in being a mystery to him. These days, Geoff is busy researching and writing science fiction novels. Read an extended biography on Geoff's website.


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