Derek Künsken is joining us to talk about his novel The Quantum Garden. Here’s the publisher’s description:
THE ULTIMATE CHASE
Days ago, Belisarius pulled off the most audacious con job in history. He’s rich, he’s back with the love of his life, and he has the Time Gates, the most valuable things in existence. Nothing could spoil this…
…except the utter destruction of his people and their world. To save them, he has to make a new deal with the boss he just double-crossed, travel back in time and work his quantum magic once again.
If he can avoid detection, dodge paradox and stay ahead of the eerie, relentless Scarecrow, he might just get back to his own time alive.
What’s Derek’s favorite bit?
I’m a sense of wonder junkie. I think the universe is vast and marvelous and too strange to really comprehend. Its weirdness can only be appreciated, considered from all angles, turned over like a pebble in restless fingers.
So my stories gravitate to hard, icy worlds, tragically genetically-engineered people, the metallic clouds sailing through the upper atmospheres of brown dwarfs, and the interior of wormholes. My characters often have strange perceptions and see the world off-angle, living through a kind of insightful disorientation, sometimes with Québécois swearing.
I have all this in The Quantum Garden, my second novel, a kind of space opera Back to the Future story. But if we’re getting to brass tacks about my favourite bit, I have to pick the heart of the time travel story. Time travel stories do lots of exciting things, but in my favourite ones the dislocation in time is a lens magnifying who we are and where we come from.
Each of us at some point in life asks why we are the way we are, what influences added together to make us. Sometimes we ask those questions many times. I do. That kind of questioning is at the core of the novel for Ayen Iekanjika, whom we first met in The Quantum Magician. What separates her from me is that she’s obliged to go back in time, to the events around her birth, and those around the birth of her nation and its myths. She finds things very different from her present, in ways that she both anticipated and didn’t anticipate.
Time travel literature is the ultimate lens for looking into causality. It obliges us to think about what causes are and where our personal strengths and weaknesses come from. Occasionally and unnervingly, self-knowledge tells us that some very deep, important things are fragile, and have no causes at all.
The Quantum Garden was a deep dive into this for me. I only realized afterwards that the questions in the novel are obviously bothering me in some way, even if I don’t know where they came from. So, even though there are AIs and sub-zero alien plant intellects and weird physics and biology, my favourite bit is the deeply personal story I got to explore in Ayen’s past.
After leaving molecular biology, Derek worked with street kids in Central America before finding himself in the Canadian foreign service. He now writes science fiction in Gatineau, Québec. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. His first novel, The Quantum Magician, was nominated for the Locus, Aurora and Chinese Nebula awards, and has been published in English, Mandarin and Japanese, with French and Russian translations forthcoming. He also writes a fun girl-mercenary-jetpack-Flash-Gordon adventure comic called Briarworld at Webtoons.com.