First tell us why you have chosen the story you have.
Neal: It’s the first gabbleduck story I had published in which I start to look more closely at the weirdness of them, and I like it.
Do you think that your Polity is a relatively accurate in its depiction of the relationships between men and machines, or is it just a heap-load of fun?
Neal: In the context of the Polity I try to suspend the reader’s disbelief as best I can but, frankly, if an accurate depiction of the relationship between man and machine was boring I’d drop it like scorpion sandwich. Always, with me, entertainment first. That being said I do think we will develop artificial intelligence and still be questioning what the Hell it is (hence the odd reference in my books to the X-hundreds of revisions of the Turing test); we will be attaching up our wetware to hardware and probably, in years to come, be walking about with memory extensions, increased processing and modems inside our heads. Perhaps a more likely scenario than the machines taking over is that the lines will become so blurred we’ll be almost indistinguishable from them.
It's mentioned on your website and in a number of other places that you've tried writing fantasy on a few occasions. Is this still a genre you'd like to get into?
Neal: All those years ago, when I made the decision to pursue this profession, my first aim was to write the good old fantasy trilogy, which I did, along with the first book of a second trilogy. At that point, despite having an agent for a short while, I remained unpublished but didn’t want to stop writing. I thought it pointless continuing with the second trilogy when the first had yet to be placed so turned elsewhere, first doing a contemporary novel (also sitting in my files) then to the British small presses where I got my first successes writing short SF. From that it was a natural progression to longer works, steadily growing success until taken on by Macmillan. I write SF because I enjoy it more now, and I’m known for it and it sells, but one day I will have a go at rewriting the fantasy books, mostly because they are just unfinished business.
Mason's Rats is your other most published 'universe'. What was the inspiration behind this? It's like the Rats of NIMH done in a classic BBC1 comedy style…
Neal: They’re not really my ‘other most published’ since there’s only three short stories, but they seem to be stories a lot of people have enjoyed. The inspiration? I guess living in rural
It's been said to me '
Neal: Well, I hope so – I try. I like my monsters as much as many others do and whilst trying to make them fit properly into some alien ecology I like to also venture into that mythical territory occupied by snarks and jabberwocks. Monsters are fascinating and fun when they’re in a book or film, hence the success of such human monsters as Hannibal Lector and others like the H R Giger Alien. Even in the real world they remain fascinating, hence the interest in serial murderers and surfer-gobbling white sharks. Just not so much fun, though.