Me in a nutshell

The author with some industrial archaeology. South Wales, 2017.

















I’m the author of rather a lot of science fiction novels, as well as more than sixty pieces of shorter fiction, ranging in length from vignettes of a few hundred words to works that are almost short novels in their own right. I have published three collection of shorter work, as well as a few chapbooks containing one or two novella-length stories. A huge career-retrospective “best of” appeared in 2016, marking more than a quarter of a century of publication since my first sale. My work is widely translated and republished. Professionally, I was a scientist before I became a full-time writer, although the two professions overlapped for a good few years. My research area was astronomy and astrophysics, and I spent a long period of time working in and around the European Space Agency’s main research establishment in the Netherlands. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my fiction is strongly informed by my time as a scientist – I try to make my invented universes and futures make some sort of sense with regards to physics and biology – but I hope I am not too slavish about it. More than anything, what attracted me to SF – and continues to do so – is the scope offered for almost infinite creative possibility. SF is a toolkit with a billion applications.

I left science in 2004, feeling that I could not do justice to both careers – I was struggling to find the time and energy to finish the books in my spare time, and this in turn was beginning to harm my day job. It was also the right time to leave since the project with which I was involved was running into some technical delays which meant it was going to be some while before we got new data. I was sad to leave science, but since my departure, I’ve been blessed by some amazing chances to again move through scientific circles, only this time from the perspective of a writer. I have returned to ESA to talk about the interplay between science and science fiction, and have spoken on similar topics at many academic departments. I have discussed the ethics of longevity at the Oxford debating society; I have also attended a bioscience symposium in Heidelberg, got to meet astronauts and cosmonauts, been taken part in the PR program for the Rosetta comet mission, worked with exoplanet scientists, and seen the launch of two space shuttles – all because of doors opened to me by dint of my writing science fiction having once been a scientist. I enjoy giving public talks in and around the UK and have been known to pop up on radio and television now and then.

I am 50 and living with my wife back in Wales, not too far from my place of birth. I continue to write about a book a year and usually hope to find time to fit in some shorter fiction, as well as other projects. In 2009 I made the literary headlines, in a modest way, when my publisher Orion signed me up for a contract for ten novels over ten years. There have been one or two hurdles along the way but I am still working through the ten book contract and hope to maintain my output for many years to come.

In 2014 I completed the third and final novel in my Poseidon’s Children trilogy, which – over many generations – explores a spacefaring future in which Africa is a technological and economic powerhouse. Poseidon’s Wake appeared in early 2015. In parallel with that, I also wrote the long novella “Slow Bullets”, which appeared as a chapbook from Tachyon Press in the Spring of 2015, and which went on to win the Locus award and to be a Hugo award finalist.

Later in 2014 Stephen Baxter and I started working together to write a collaborative novel, an authorized sequel to Arthur C Clarke’s seminal story “A Meeting with Medusa”. We finished the book in the first half of 2015 and it appeared in May 2016. I have since written my next novel, Revenger, which came out soon after, and am now at work on a follow-up to The Prefect.

2016 also saw publication of a career-retrospective Best of – see for more information.