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Interview Daniel T. de Lill

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Today we have Daniel T. de Lill here to tell us a bit about his upcoming book Lunar One






What was the most surprising thing you found out while researching/writing your latest book?

That I can’t divulge without giving a spoiler, but I had to research something that I never thought in a million years I would ever look into. I even worried about exactly what I was going to type into google to begin my research, wondering if it’d put me on some kind of FBI watch list. Being that I used to synthesize and do research on uranium-based compounds, they probably already have a file on me…

Aside from that, I’d have to say that I was most surprised by the fact that we aren’t permanently on the moon yet. The Apollo missions paved the way for extra-Earth orbit space exploration, but the best we have to date is the ISS. It’s a disgrace, in my opinion. I also had to do a lot of social/psychological research in creating the societies of Lunar One. That was a bit outside of my comfort zone, but very fascinating.

Why did you choose this setting?

I chose the moon for several reasons. First, I have always been enamored by the moon and the Apollo missions. As a child, I dreamt of becoming an astronaut, to explore space, and the moon represents the ultimate feat of human endeavor in that regard. Secondly, I feel that there is all of this attention toward colonizing Mars. In my novel, the moon was more-or-less disregarded for permanent colonies because everyone ran off to Earth orbiting stations or Mars. The moon was ignored. It was a cheap, under-exploited territory that was perfect for the founders of Lunar One. At the time I began writing Lunar One (2010), the moon as a location hadn’t been used much in recent times. However, just this past year, several novels have come out with the moon as its setting, such as Andy Weir’s Artemis or John Kessel’s The Moon and the Other, and a couple of years before they came out there was McDonald’s Luna: New Moon. I haven’t read any of them yet, but they are at the top of my reading list. I’m finishing Niven’s Ringworld right now, and then I’m diving into Kessel’s book next.

What’s unique about your world?

Lunar One is technically on the moon, but it was designed for people to live their entire lives in. Therefore, you can easily get lost in the different worlds and forget that you are even on the moon. I’ve tried to add bits and pieces throughout to remind the reader that we are indeed on the moon.

Also, Lunar One isn’t some overcrowded or under-resourced place. People are happy and well fed, with plenty of room for future generations. What Amia learns about her world is not caused by societal stressors, but rather by an antiquated system. If the system is stopped, humanity will be forced to face the nightmare that their forefathers had created. The system continues because of the fear that the human psyche would be unable to handle the truth of it all, and the last remnants of human civilization would ultimately annihilate itself. Fear rather than necessity drives the unjust actions of the colony’s leaders.

There are certainly holes that I blatantly ignored (or may not even be aware of) in the novel. In 2015, Kim Stanley Robinson came out with a novel called Aurora. I don’t remember specific details, so many years and so many novels ago, but I recall the gist of the story. What I remember most about it was the way he addressed the vulnerability of generation-based interstellar travel, particularly as it pertains to microscopic evolution and closed biomes. I thought of addressing this in Lunar One, but I decided (spoiler alert on something I haven’t even written yet!) that I’m going to save that for a future book in the series, yet another thing that the government is hiding from its citizens. So, there are certainly issues with my world that I have either ignored or that I have intentionally left out for now.

How real do you think the science is in your book?

The science ranges from the fantastic to the plausible. I didn’t realize how much science and tech I had in the novel until you asked me this question. I’ve arranged them into sections – very plausible science and tech, probable science and tech, and unlikely/unknown science and tech. I wanted to make a convincing world, a dystopia masked by an Elysian façade, so I tried not to veer too far away from believable science and tech.

The colony itself (sustainability, resource recycling, food production), advanced 3D printing, and lunar mining are all things that we can already do or probably could do in this day and age, a mere extension of today’s science and technology. The holodecor, uplink tech/VR chatrooms, and the magnetic/hover tech are all things that I think will happen one day based on our current level of science and technology, presently science fiction but based on current science fact. The artificial gravity (and the game Gravball) and pharmeobotany are things that I have no idea if they will ever happen or not; this is stuff that is completely in the realms of true science fiction based on today’s level of science.

I tried to envision an actual, self-sustaining lunar colony. I thought about food production (using hydroponic/aeroponic vertical farming techniques over traditional farming methods), air/water/waste recycling, printing/fabrication methods, and even mining for resources. The colony is largely underground for thermal regulation and radiation protection. The environmental domes that cap each pagoda serve the dual function of providing recreation and assisting with environmental regulation. Most of this made it into the novel, even if just as a brief mention, though some of it was cut entirely.

On Lunar One, artwork and other home decorations don’t exist. You have holodecor instead, where you can program an outdoor scene, eat under the oceans of Titan, or just have the Mona Lisa and Starry Night hanging in your Victorian era living room. The holodecor is not merely for aesthetic purposes, however, as you’ll find out later in the novel. Uplink tech is essentially a neural connection to your online presence. You can access social media, read emails, play a game, or hang out in a VR chatroom, all through neural activity and/or eye movements to control it. It can even be used to make recordings, enhance audio, etc. We have the basics of this kind of technology being studied today. The maglift and hover technology are common science fiction themes and are already feasible in some shape or form.

Artificial gravity is something seen everywhere in science fiction, but there is no actually scientific basis for it. We can mimic gravity, sure, but we can’t fabricate and manipulate it (yet). So, no Gravball matches in our immediate future. I did intentionally choose to use artificial gravity though. Without it, humans would change quite a bit in 200 years with the reduced gravity of the moon, and I didn’t want to create that kind of division between the characters and readers. So, I used the artificial gravity crutch. I invented pharmeobotany because I wanted to invent a science like Asimov did in his Foundation series, his psychohistory. Originally, I had plans to have pharmeobotany play an active role in the plot, but I couldn’t get it to go anywhere. However, I left the reference to it in there. My idea was that pharmeobotany would be the medicinal drug synthesis of the future. Instead of using advanced organic chemical synthesis techniques to produce pharmaceuticals, our knowledge of medicinal chemistry, botany, and genetic engineering would be combined into the field of pharmeobotany to do so. Here, scientists would genetically engineer plants to produce medicinally active drugs in high yields that could be easily isolated and purified. I may try to incorporate pharmeobotany more into subsequent novels.

In summary, I believe that most of the science and tech in my novel is very plausible based on today’s science. I’m not sure though that I would go so far as to call my novel “hard” science fiction, but I do include that as part of its description because most of the science is at least based on what we have available to us now.

What was the most mundane item that you used that really has cool tech behind it? What is the tech?

Honestly, a gun. It was a bit cliché, but I thought a “ray/zap” gun would be even more so. I fiddled around with the idea of using a kind of stun gun, but that wouldn’t deliver the pow I needed the gun for. But, a gun on a lunar colony set centuries in the future seemed like such ancient tech that it wouldn’t seem believable. To help make an ancient gun more credible in such a futuristic setting, I added 3-D printing to the novel. The gun, and many other things on Lunar One, are simply “printed”. I think 3-D printing is really nifty tech and will probably become as commonplace as the microwave oven is now. So, the gun is a very mundane item, but I added 3-D printing to its fabrication to add some futuristic, sci-fi coolness to it.

What did you include that you wish was real today?

I think the uplink tech is pretty cool, and probably where our smartphone and tablets are heading to one day. Looking straight ahead, you’re in a virtual world with the real world available in your periphery – just like people on their smartphones nowadays. But, the one tech I really wish we had would be the hover technology/maglift technology. The reason for this is because both could be achieved using superconductors, specifically room temperature superconductors. With that kind of material, the technology we could develop would be unimaginable by most people today.

What technology or science do you think will most affect the world of tomorrow?

As a scientist, I’d like to think of the science that became the biggest breakthroughs and led to amazing new tech as being those that would most influence our future society. But, on the list of science and tech that are in my novel, I’d have to say the uplink tech would be my answer. I do social media and have a smartphone, but I’m not a huge fan of either. I do it because it’s what I have to do in this day and age. But, many people, especially younger generations, are attached to their social networks every waking moment. Their lives are on their devices. It’s had an impact on today’s society that I never would have thought possible. So, I think any science or technology that focuses on expanding the human social experience will be the kind that will most greatly influence the world of tomorrow.

Anything else you would like to share>?

I’m also working on a vegan cookbook, and my team is a finalist for the cast of Season 9 of the Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network. We should find out any day now if we have been selected. If we are, be sure to look for us on the show in August 2018. I’m also finishing a novelette right now called NanoVax, and the tech in that story is pretty awesome as well.


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