Golden Goes Green with New Sci-Fi Novel
by Carolyn Crow
In light of today’s headlines about global warming, environmental consciousness, and “going green,” Bruce Golden’s newest science fiction novel, Evergreen, couldn’t be more relevant. Fresh from the rousing success of his sci-fi novel Better Than Chocolate, he’s done it again. Evergreen is a vivid, action-packed, entertaining experience based on mankind encroaching on an alien environment.
After deciding at age 18 that he wanted to be a writer, Golden has been writing all of his adult life, working in magazines, radio, and television. His real love has always been speculative fiction. When asked who, or what, influenced his choice to specialize in that particular genre, he responds that first and foremost, he has always loved reading science fiction. “It’s always seemed like a good way to look at the foibles and follies of humankind. You can examine humans through the eyes of an alien or an android, or you can create an entirely new society of civilization, a different future, and see how humans react within it.”
Golden learned to love science fiction and fantasy as a teenager, reading any book he could get his hands on by Robert Heinlein or Robert Howard. He was also strongly influenced as a youngster by Edgar Allan Poe, Rod Serling, and Mark Twain. When asked to classify his style of science fiction, Golden explains he tends to write what is known as “sociological sci-fi,” which places more emphasis on characters and the societies in which they live than on the scientific details concentrated on in “hard sci-fi.”
However, he still has to do quite a bit of scientific research. For his new book, Evergreen, he spent hours in the library and online studying the timber industry, the history of Lake Tahoe, and the culture of the Washoe, a Native American tribe in the region. He also ran parts of the book by experts ranging from physicists and biologists to archaeologists and geologists.
Evergreen is replete with human drama and conflict: obsession, guilt, revenge, redemption, and decisions of life and death. An expedition formed by a heretic priest has boarded a ship to the distant planet Evergreen. That priest is convinced an ancient artifact discovered on the planet can prove his theory about the existence of an extraterrestrial City of God. The expedition includes a renowned archaeology professor, his wife, and her ex-lover, the professor’s son. Also on the ship is a young man wracked by the need for vengeance. He believes that the man responsible for his mother’s death can be found on Evergreen, which is heavily populated by debtors and convicts. Already on Evergreen is an exobiologist studying what may be the first intelligent species discovered outside of Earth.
The novel’s complexly drawn characters not only experience conflict with each other, but with the environment of Evergreen, where a “vegetal consciousness” rules. This collective consciousness, alien to man’s way of thinking, is an intelligence that observes the infestation of humans and contemplates what to do about the incursion. The expedition makes a foreshadowing discovery in a primitive cave painting. Tens of thousands of years old, the painting inexplicably depicts a battle between an ancient primate-like species and the forest itself.
I asked Golden where his inspiration comes from. How does he come up with his ideas, and how do these ideas progress into a book such as Evergreen?
“You can get an idea for a short story and write up a first draft in a day or a week. But books are an accumulation of ideas gathered over months or years. Often they’re put together from unrelated scraps of paper put into my idea files.” He says he likes to think his books are very detailed, whether he’s having fun with some underlying satire as in Better Than Chocolate, or being much more dramatic as in Evergreen.
The idea for Evergreen first began to germinate when he stayed with some friends who live in Lake Tahoe. They told him about some of the area’s history and that inspired him to do more research. “That led to reading theoretical papers on the possibility of intelligent plant life and the physics of creating my own planet, which I’d never done before.” He even incorporated bits related to a group he was part of in the Army. He said that writing a book is the art of putting together a lot of different pieces. For him, the hard part is organizing all those pieces and knowing where he’s going with them.
Golden has a talent for writing extremely realistic and natural-sounding dialogue. I asked him where he learned to write dialogue and how he perfected his skills.
“Though it may be heresy to say so, I think my skill for dialogue comes from being a film fan and growing up with television. Of course, all the books I’ve read play into it too, but movies and TV are dialogue-based, and I tend to think in terms of cinematic scenes when I write. When I create a character, I just seem to have an ear for how he or she should speak. To me, dialogue is all about ebb and flow. Like music, there’s a rhythm to it. The trick is to impart the information readers need to further plot and characterization, while making it all sound like natural conversation.”
What is his advice for aspiring writers?
“Don’t do it. It’ll break your heart and your bank account. Stay away. Be a doctor or lawyer or plumber. No, seriously, you have to love to write you have to be somewhat of a natural storyteller. Then you have to write, write, and write some more. I’ve been working at being a writer for almost 40 years and I’m still learning.”
Golden has had great success with his novels Mortals All and Better Than Chocolate, so I asked what kinds of reactions he’s received from readers. Golden says 99 percent of the feedback he’s gotten on his books has been positive. He’s received several requests from readers to write a sequel to Better Than Chocolate using his character Noah Dane, but he doesn’t have any immediate plans for that. When asked how Evergreen compares to his previous novels, Golden says, “Well, there are no andrones or celebudroids, and there’s very little sex. I would describe Evergreen as a character-based sci-fi adventure. The only negative feedback I got on my first book, Mortals All, was that I used some very familiar sci-fi themes that I didn’t break any new ground. With Evergreen, I believe I’ve done a few things rarely, if ever, touched on in the genre. I’m hoping readers will find it as unique as it is entertaining.”
I couldn’t resist asking him what’s on the agenda for any novels he has in the works.
“I have two books in-progress. In one, an advanced alien intelligence culls two different societies from Earth and transplants them on another world. A thousand years-plus later, we find out how the Viking and Native American cultures have progressed. The other book is an apocalyptic tale I’ve been wanting to write for more than 30 years.”