Ctein has a double-degree from Caltech in English and Physics. He has written over 500 articles, columns, books, and manuals on photographic topics, and done research in everything from solar astronomy to computer screens, and from the seventy-year-old dye transfer printmaking process to state-of-the-art electronic color displays. He has made new discoveries about ordinary B&W photographic printing and new designs for computer printers. Most recently, he became a novelist, co-authoring Saturn Run with John Sandford, and is hard at work on a new novel, a disaster thriller, with Scifi author David Gerrold (who, among many novels, wrote “The Trouble with Tribbles” script for Star Trek.)
Jonathan Lowe) How did your book collab with John Sandford come about? I heard he wrote you, and you didn’t want to do it at first, money being “the root of all evil.”
Ctein) This is, in fact, 99% true. We concatenated a couple of different conversations for the sake of narrative, and I never said money was the root of all evil. John stuck that in – he thought it amusing, but it is true to life.
Lowe) And the new book project? Not with Sandford?
Ctein) No. After Saturn Run, I had an idea for a natural disaster thriller, based upon a paper that appeared in Nature about 15 years ago – a computer model of what kind of tidal wave would occur after a major Hawaiian offshore landslide, which happens every couple of hundred thousand years. John wasn’t available to write another book with me. He and I like working together, but he’s contractually obligated to turning out two of his series novels a year, and there are only so many hours in the day. We may well work together at some point in the future. I’ve got this idea for next book. I could write it myself, but it happens I like collaborating. More fun. About the time the Saturn Run was coming out a long time good friend of mine and science fiction author David Gerrold asked me if I might be interested in having him as a collaborator at some point. So I rung him up on the phone, pitched the natural disaster novel idea to him and asked him if he’d be interested in doing something like that, and he said hell yes. The new novel is tentatively titled “Ripple Effect” and it’s about 75% done. Can’t tell you when it will come out, but I’m hoping within a year. In the meantime, a 35,000 word excerpt from it that stands on its own will be appearing in the May/June issue of Asimov’s science fiction magazine under the title “Bubble & Squeak.” To be clear, Ripple Effect isn’t science fiction. It’s a contemporary natural disaster thriller, set a few years from now for convenience, but it doesn’t make particular use of that. But it is hard science – all the actual disaster/geology stuff is as accurate as we know how to make it.
Lowe) Sounds great. Look forward to it. Do you have a mentor or someone who influenced you to write? Mine was Ray Bradbury, who answered every letter I wrote him as a teen fan.
Ctein) I met Ray Bradbury when I was in college. Several of us got to go out to dinner with him. It was not long after I had decided that my chosen career would be photographer, not physicist, and nobody was objecting but it was not the sort of thing that one got a lot of explicit support for at Caltech. After dinner, Ray asked us what we planned to do with our lives. He got to me and I very hesitantly said, “Well, I was planning on becoming a photographer.” Ray clapped his hands and boisterously exclaimed, “Good for you!” It was the first time anyone had shown enthusiasm over my choice. It made a huge difference to me. That is why my first book was dedicated to Ray Bradbury.
Lowe) As was one of mine! Incredible. It’s a small world, after all. Thanks.
Vintage scifi, with a early Ray Bradbury story. Note AE Van Vogt. His novel “Voyage of the Space Beagle” (Darwin’s ship) inspired the Alien series. His estate sued, and Ridley Scott settled out of court. The new HBO series Fahrenheit 451 was inspired by a story Ray wrote called “The Pedestrian,” which later featured David Ogden Stiers in a Bradbury TV series, and foretold driverless cars and drones. The drone helicopter, piloted by a robot, takes two men out for a walk (instead of watching sports on their “viewing screens” –flat screen TVs) to the “Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies.” The 2002 movie Equilibrium, starring Christian Bale, is another reinterpretation on Fahrenheit 451…this time featuring burning and guns. It is also interesting to note that “Voyage of the Space Beagle” inspired David Gerrold. His seeing “The Man Trap” on Star Trek caused him to submit his “The Trouble with Tribbles” script, and the “The Man Trap” was inspired by the Van Vogt novel. Gerrold also used the animal, a “Coeurl” in his book “A Season for Slaughter,” which is the creature’s name in the Van Vogt novel. Trivia, but interesting, no?