BS Angel from 343 Industries did a quick interview with Forerunner trilogy author Greg Bear which hints at things to come in the new novel, Silentium.
Thanks for joining us today, Greg. Your trilogy provides incredible insight into the Forerunner race. Do you see their civilization as grand? Tragic? Admirable? Evil?
All civilizations, all extended cultural groupings, are predatory and self-involved. The Forerunners have had a very long run as the dominant race and dominant culture in our galaxy. But over that period of time, they’ve become both inner-directed and self-satisfied, something which irritates the Librarian no end. She understands the ebbs and flows of living history better than most Forerunners, and sees their larger-scale blindnesses as both unnecessary and counterproductive – and in the end, fatal.
What kinds of inspiration did you look to when you were imagining Forerunner society and their amazing technological and architectural abilities?
Looking at the Forerunner environments and designs gamers have experienced, it became obvious that Builder/contractors would be very important. And looking at the destructive power of the Halos and the history of the Flood, it was equally obvious that we are dealing with a warrior civilization near the end of its history and power. The contrast between the warrior Didact and the gentler Librarian, savior of humanity and other species, gave me the remaining clues I needed to begin filling in their social structure and relationship. Science fiction pioneers such as Edward E. "Doc" Smith and his Lensman series, Olaf Stapledon’s vast future histories, Arthur C. Clarke’s expansive City and the Stars and Childhood’s End, and the extraordinary works of Asimov and Heinlein, as well as the wonderful technologies and aliens imagined by Larry Niven and Iain Banks, helped shape my own fictional universes over the last forty years, and no doubt helped me imagine the Forerunners as well.
Can you describe your process for conceptualizing amazing worlds like Charum Hakkor or the Capital on paper?
It’s a kind of waking dream, I think, wherein I mix and match archaeology, technology, cutting-edge science, extreme architecture – and the requirements of the story. Nothing the Forerunners come up with can really surprise me anymore! But there were many moments in Halo 4 that knocked my socks off. It’s one thing to imagine and describe in words, quite another to see those visions come roaring to vibrant life.
How do you feel about the way the Didact is portrayed between book and game?
The fierceness of the original Didact is absolutely appropriate to Halo 4. Halo: Silentium documents the reasons both historical and immediate for his transformation.
Totally related, who would win in a fight: Bornstellar Didact or Ur-Didact?
Remember, Bornstellar is much younger... But the question must be, with or without armor? Bare-knuckle? Blasters at ten paces? Using ancillas as seconds? And would the Librarian step in and break them up?
Clearly I didn’t think that question all the way through. While I battle the specifics, let’s chat about Riser. Since he’s quite different than a lot of the characters we have in the Halo universe, how did the extraordinary and clever Riser come into being?
Riser was inspired by the discovery of the so-called “Hobbits” on Flores Island in Indonesia. These diminutive humans – apparently related to Homo erectus – were about three feet high, made tools and apparently hunted small elephants and other game. As well, they may have survived until comparatively recent times – eighteen thousand years ago, perhaps later. My supposition is that they are the foundation beneath reports of many small races reported on the Pacific islands and perhaps elsewhere. As well, I bring in other recent anthropological discoveries, such as the Denisovans. It’s an incredible time in modern anthropology.
What was your favourite event during the course of the trilogy (outside of Silentium, so we don’t spoil it for anyone!) and why is it your favorite?
I think the interaction of our feisty humans with Bornstellar and the Ur-Didact remains one of my personal highlights. It was painful to remove them from their homes and sweep them off to high adventure and ultimately tragic transformations... But a few at least come to a good end. And about that, no more – until Silentium is published and the easter eggs are solved!
Speaking of Bornstellar, how did you want to resolve his arc when you first started the trilogy, and did that change in the process?
Bornstellar was always a poor fit for the Didact’s imprint. That said, he does become the Didact, feels both the Didact’s history and his emotions – understands his mentor better than any other Forerunner – and yet remains his own individual. He could be considered the Didact’s imago, as the Didact himself might have been, minus the extraordinary stresses of Forerunner history.
Now that the final book of the trilogy is almost here, what can fans expect from Silentium?
A real roller-coaster ride! Revelations abound as we fill in the history of the Precursors, the preparations made for the final solution of the Halos, and the conflict and contrast between the Ur-Didact and his imprint, the Bornstellar Didact. As well, I introduce a new class of Forerunners – the chroniclers and legal investigators known collectively as Catalog. Humans, both ancient ancestors and in their Forerunner-recovered forms, also play key roles. And there’s a surprise reprise of one of our favorite characters – but that’s telling too much! Suffice it to say there’s a kind of easter egg in Silentium waiting to be discovered and opened.
And we can’t wait to do just that! Before you go, tell me one more thing: What’s it been like interacting with Halo fans and how do you feel Halo fans compare to other sci-fi fans you’ve encountered over the years?
Halo fans are terrific. The science fiction readers I’ve met over the decades are similar in many respects to Halo fans – the groups definitely intersect – but the youth, enthusiasm and attention to detail of Halo fans is amazing. It’s been a privilege to work in their shared universe!