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Interview Stephen Oliver

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For this week’s Feature Friday Futures we are interviewing Stephen Oliver about his novel Shuttlers.



How did you build this concept, what research did you do?

I’d written a book titled “Paranormal City” that found no traction with publishers or agents, so I talked it over with my writing coach and editor. She pointed out that the book was genre-busting and suggested that I write one that concentrated on a single genre. We went through stories I’d been writing for a second and third volume and selected two that could be the start of a new book. She challenged me to complete the rest of the book in eight weeks. It took a little longer than that, but I found my way into the world of the Shuttlers, beings capable of slipping sideways between realities in the Multiverse… and beyond.

One of the most interesting aspects of writing the book was researching what modern science knows or suspects about parallel and alternate realities.

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

I discovered that the first serious attempt to investigate this was proposed in 1957, the year after I was born. This became known as the Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Theory. Building on this and String Theory leads to a vision of reality requiring at least ten spatial dimensions in addition to the temporal one. Furthermore, some scientists believe that each added dimension leads to a loosening of the rules surrounding the creation and continued existence of different universes.

I used the information I gleaned from these speculations for the discussions about the nature of reality in the book, so you know it’s based on more than my own insane ramblings!

Can you describe your world or setting?

The main character of many of the stories is a teenager from what could be our reality. He’s recently discovered that there are other realities out there and there, and he can travel to them merely by thinking about it. He and his twin sister have been swept up by a criminal gang of others with the same ability.

Only after he’s been arrested by a member of the Sidewise Directorate, a kind of inter-reality police force, does he see the error of his ways. As the tale progresses, we see him travel to ever remoter and weirder realities, combating a conspiracy to take control of all realities.

What’s unique about your world?

The interplay of realities has led to the burgeoning of paranormal abilities, including telepathy, teleportation, shuttling, etc. However, each person only develops a single ability, meaning they must cooperate to be able to use all their abilities to survive and thrive. The interaction between realities, either through shuttlers or by invasion, becomes ever more fraught. By the end of the story arc, they have become responsible for policing and protecting the entire Omniverse.

How do you explain the science or magic in your world?

Science and technology are seen as tools to assist in their endeavors rather than as masters. Accordingly, they welcome new information that could make their task more manageable, although they’re cautious about transferring such knowledge between realities.

Furthermore, paranormal abilities are accepted as normal and not as something to be feared or exploited. Paranormals as accepted as citizens with the same rights and responsibilities as their ‘mundane’ relatives.

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

The communicators used between realities. At first, they’re most like using SMS back in the first days of mobile telephones. Later, they become full-blown videophones. As for the tech, I have no idea how they work. It could be something simple like neutrinos, which could slip between realities; this would explain why they’re so hard to detect. But, on the other hand, they could also be based on really exotic particles that our science doesn’t even have an inkling of.

How do you handle the food in your world?

Since most of the characters come from similar realities, food is seldom a problem, although the odd allergy might pop up.

Do you have a recipe that you could share, maybe one that our readers could try, based on the food in your world?

I’ve already given you one recipe!

What did you include that you wish was real today?

The ability to either visit other realities (shuttling) or teleportation. As natural talents, I mean, not technologically based.

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

As much of the technology the Sidewise Directorate uses is extremely advanced, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t allow any to be released in our reality…! They’ve had too much experience with worlds being destroyed by knowledge, devices, and illnesses for which they’re not ready.

Anything else you would like to share?

Although I intended this book to be a stand-alone novel, the ideas about the possibilities of shuttling have continued to fill my head. So it is that I’ve begun on a second volume detailing the history of O.R.C.A., the organization that took on the responsibility of looking out for all universes, everywhere.