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He's swum with dolphins, sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles--and that's only the least bit of what makes Carribbean-born author Tobias Buckell so exciting!! Born in Grenada, Tobias grew up in a boat by the sea where he got a first-hand account of marine life, marine biology, the windswept, weather beaten water, and life amidst the ocean.

So it's no surprise that Tobias made his career in writing about science fiction and the future. Perhaps that it's fiction is a little difficult to comprehend but as Tobias puts it in the interview below, "The topics I write about are grounded in the history of the area." He continues, My interest in futurism comes from growing up in a more sparse environment and reading tales of the future."

With soon-to-be science fiction classics like Crystal Rain, Raggamuffin, and Sly Mongoose under his belt, a career as a professional blogger (among other things, he writes for the Futurismic, a site for people interested in the future and the effects of science and technology on the present) and a new novel, Arctic Rising, coming soon, looks like we've come to expect great things from Tobias and will continue to do so.

Check out what he told The Reef Tank below

You were born in the Carribbean (specifically Grenada, the US Virgin Islands.) In what way did growing up there help you to write about the scientific and futuristic topics you write about today?

The topics I write about are grounded in the history of the area. On the surface I write adventure science fiction, in the 'space opera' vein, with large and epic stages, wide-ranging wars and events that change entire worlds, and dramatic settings. But all of that is informed by my reading of Caribbean history, the diaspora and the history of colonialism, as well as how the smaller nations are impacted by the side-effects of decisions made by larger nations.

My interest in futurism comes from growing up in a more sparse environment and reading tales of the future that featured such amazing landscapes and ideas. In many ways, coming to the US, it was amazing to see the railroads, highway overpasses, and large cities. They're as science fictional as any other encounter I'd read about.

It's said the science fiction is often about a 'sense of wonder' which often dies off as one passes through into a more cynical adulthood. But since my own sense of wonder was refreshed when I moved to the US, and into a different landscape and sense of scale, I've continued to love and enjoy science fiction.

Why Science fiction and fantasy as your writing topic of choice?

Science fiction gives me a very broad palette. I can write about truly anything, anyone, in any style, and also in different genre styles, within SF. And SF also allows me to speculate, intensely, about not just where we are now, but things that are coming. I find it the most versatile of literature, and I just adore it.

I've often compared literature (as I am a lit major) to humanity as a whole dreaming. We process our past, our present, and remix it as we sleep. But science fiction, I think, is the act of daydreaming, where you wonder 'what if' and 'could we maybe' or 'if this goes on' and play it out in our heads.

What are your ties to the sea, marine life, etc?

The sea is a strong element in my fiction. I recently published a short story collection, and in it at least a third of the stories have some strong maritime element.

I grew up on a boat for most of the time I was living in the Caribbean. You can't avoid the maritime there, it literally grows to the bottom of your home! I was a snorkeler, did some SCUBA diving, and considered the ocean my home. I've swum with dolphins, sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles. I spent most of my spare time in the water, sailing over it, sleeping over it, or having fun it.

Anyone who lives on a boat just knows more about the sea. Weather is important, it has a larger impact on you than anything else. But because you're on the sea, you're always interacting with it, and what is in it. Even the least eco-conscious of the people I knew living on boats growing up knew more about the ocean than the average person I met who lived on land. Whether it was how to anchor in spots that didn't drag the anchor on coral, or how to spot a reef so you wouldn't hit, or even the fact that we were all aware of how fast coral was dying because we could see it year by year receding as we went back to our favorite swimming spots, it's always in the background.

Your family's boat was destroyed by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 and yet your ties to the sea are still strong. Why is that?

I'm a third generation live-aboard yachtsman, although I now live in Ohio. My grandfather purchased a large yacht in England and took off for the open ocean with the family aboard. My uncles and aunts all lived on boats or work on boats, and growing up, I figured I would too. My sister right now is crew and chef aboard a ship on the East Coast and has sailed around the Caribbean, and various cousins of mine are involved in the sea still.

I currently live in Ohio, because my dream was to become a writer and gain an education, so I'm a long way from my comfort zone. But through my writing and occasional travel, there is still this connection. I can't really escape the sea!

Tell me about your published novels so far.


Crystal Rain is what I call a 'Caribbean Steampunk' novel. Steampunk is this genre aesthetic that features Victorian era technology and style that I enjoyed, so I created a Caribbean-settled world that has lost all ties to the rest of the universe after a great war, where they've lost advanced technology and are back to steam and brass and lighter than air flight.

Ragamuffin is another story in that same world, but set in the outside universe, dominated by colonial aliens who keep humanity economically oppressed and enslaved. It's the story of humanity reaching for freedom.

Sly Mongoose, my third novel, is about what humanity begins to do with their self determination. It's set on this Venusian sort of world where the atmospheric pressure is dense enough that you can float a city, and it's an homage to my love of submarine drama via airships, and deep sea diving adventure stories (only here the diving is into the crushing depths of a Venusian world).

I did write a fourth novel, based on the Halo series of videogames, called Halo: The Cole Protocol. I'm a fan of the games, and they asked me to write a book in the universe. It was on the New York Times list for a while, and was a lot of fun to write.

Although you grew up near the sea, you tell us that you're light in the marine science area and you're trying to change that with your next book. Tell us about it and how it may be filled with marine science topics.


My next novel is called Arctic Rising. For a while now in short fiction I've written a few stories that play around with the consequences of failed cities, ecological disaster, global warming, and so on. I've never thought of myself as well informed enough to write about these topics, but looking around I see very little fiction engaging these concepts. It comes back to that background awareness I have, I've never thought I knew as much as I actually do. Before the hurricane season of 1995, when we lost our boat, divers were talking in the boating community about how much warmer the water was deep below the surface than normal. We figured that might mean a rough storm season, and we were right. One near hurricane and two hurricanes all in a near row.

So I've started writing some stories about what happens when the polar ice cap opens up to become a regular ocean as it melts, with shipping traffic and nations jockeying for resources up there. And all that thinking about that with my fellow writers Paolo Bacigalupi and Karl Schroeder convinced me my next book should be about this sort of stuff that's thirty or so years down the road.

You are called a professional blogger and you blog on your own personal site and for Futurismic. Tell me about that blog and your work for it. How often does it mention marine science topics?

I work behind the scenes as an editor for BloggingStocks, a financial blog that is one of the more well trafficked ones online. I no longer do stuff for Futurismic, I ran out of time a year ago or so, much to my regret, as that was where I blogged about future space developments and technology that was coming around the corner.

On my own blog I cover a wide range of things, whatever I come across. I'm sort of a magpie blogger, anything shiny gets a mention. For marine science, I'm still a bit light, I've mainly been doing the reading and research side of things for the novel, and not a lot has made it out onto the blog.

Would you consider yourself a marine conservationist? Do you advocate this by telling people of your background, relating it in your stories, or do you belong to any organizations or do any projects?


I tell a lot of people about my background, particularly about the experience of living on a boat and being off-the-grid in particular. I'm certainly always trying to get it into my fiction, now more so than ever, but I have a long way to go yet, because you never want your fiction to be preachy. As a result, story always comes first, and I sometimes lose some of what I'd been hoping to fit into stories. I'm really looking forward to the next novel as a chance to fictionalize a lot of the things I've been thinking about, but for those who are curious, "Mitigation," a story I wrote with Karl Schroeder, is in an anthology called "Fast Forward 2" and features a lot of the stuff I've been trying to write toward.

What do you think the world needs to know about the sea and about marine life that maybe you can tell them since you grew up surrounded by it.


I sailed from Tortola to New York via Bermuda back in 1999. One of the crew had a fishing line off the back of the boat and we didn't catch a single fish. At the time I thought it was chance, but I recently read an article that compared how easy it was to catch fish on a trip like that in the Pacific 50 years ago to today. Our oceans are so overfished that stories like mine are pretty common, whereas back then you could literally see the ocean teeming with life. That had an impact on me personally. The global situation made personal, so to speak. We need to be more careful about the immense resources in the ocean, or we could make a disastrous mistake.

What are your future plans?

More books, more stories! And hopefully, one day, getting back to the ocean. I miss it dearly, and visiting it occasionally from the heartland just isn't quite the same.

[/TD]
 
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