Interview with Hugh Howey
(die deutsche Übersetzung findet Ihr im PHANTAST #22 - "Wüsten")
Literatopia: Hello, Hugh! Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions. Your novel Sand is due to come out under the German title Sandtaucher in October. How did Earth turn into one vast desert? Did humankind devastate it, or was there a terrible natural disaster?
Hugh Howey: We only see a small part of Earth in my novel Sand. While this part is desert, there are other environments out there. No different than today. This story takes place in a distant future where mankind has affected the environment in many ways.
Literatopia: Life between the dunes is full of privations. What is everyday life like for the people in your vision of the future? What are they faced with?
Hugh Howey: In my novel, life is extremely difficult. There’s a constant battle to find enough food and water to survive, and these scarcities result in violence and brutal gangs. This is what we see happening in parts of the world today. But my personal vision of the future is one of progress. I think the world will be a better place in a hundred years, a thousand years, than it is today.
Literatopia: Some people ̶ so-called sand divers ̶ search for artefacts under the sand. What do they find there that helps them to survive?
Hugh Howey: All the buried debris from our current time. I currently live on a sailboat in the South Pacific, and among the islanders here the bits of debris and trash that wash up on the beach often become building materials for their homes and boats. What one culture thinks of as garbage another sees as a tool to use.
Literatopia: What do you think: why ̶ of all your books ̶ was Sand picked for publication in Germany after your successful Wool trilogy?
Hugh Howey: Sand was a bestseller in the United States, and it received the same kind of enthusiastic response as Silo. I think readers who enjoyed my previous books will really enjoy Sand.
Literatopia: Wool was your seventh published novel, and it became an international bestseller. Did its success surprise you? And, to your mind, why did many readers find it so appealing?
Hugh Howey: It surprised me very much! I was working in a bookstore at the time and writing stories for the pure joy. I had no idea how much that story would change my life. I think readers find the story appealing because you never know what’s going to happen next. Characters you care about might not live to the end of the book. How people solve problems is not obvious at first. And these characters feel real. You get to know them and their world so well that you start to believe this could happen.
Literatopia: You self-published Wool initially. Had that always been your intention, or had the novel been rejected by publishing houses? What do you think are the pros and cons of self-publishing and of having a publisher, respectively?
Hugh Howey: It was always my intention. My first novel was with a publisher, but after that experience I decided to do everything on my own. So I never took another novel out to publishers. I just put them online myself and kept writing. I let readers discover these works on their own and tell their friends and family about them. It all happened organically.
There are definitely pros and cons with every avenue to getting published. For me, self-publishing had more pros than cons. I liked being in control of my work, being able to set the price, get the cover art I wanted, work with my own editor whom I trust.
Literatopia: Here in Germany, the science fiction genre has carved out a niche existence in the bookselling market ̶ with a stalwart fan base but little appreciation from anybody else. What is the situation like in the USA?
Hugh Howey: It was similar in the USA for many years, but things are slowly changing. The popularity of the Marvel films and great science fiction and fantasy on TV is giving the genre a huge boost here. Some of our best-known writers are now science fiction and fantasy authors like Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin.
Literatopia: Why do you think are sf movies and video games so much more popular than sf books?
Hugh Howey: I think this is true in general and doesn’t have anything to do with science fiction in particular. There are just so many more people who play games than read books, and more people who watch movies and TV. Reading has always been a niche form of entertainment, which I think is a shame. There’s nothing better than discovering a great new book or author. Our imagination is better than anything on the screen.
Literatopia: What are you working on at the moment? Could you perhaps give us a short outlook on your next publications?
Hugh Howey: I’m working on a series of dystopian anthologies with John Joseph Adams. Each one has works from over a dozen of the best science fiction authors writing today. I’m contributing some new stories to the anthologies and editing the rest of the stories. It’s going to be a very exciting new work.
Literatopia: Thank you very much for this interview!
Hugh Howey: My pleasure!
Autorenfoto: © privat
This interview was done by Judith Madera. @ Literatopia 2019.