Conversation with “Frozen Sky” Author Jeff Carlson, Part I

Two years ago I reviewed The Frozen Sky, a novella by Jeff Carlson. Jeff’s now released the novelization, which I have read, but before I post a review I want to share an interview and discussion I had with Jeff. This is in two parts.


Q: The Frozen Sky was a breathtaking novella. What was the path from that to writing the novel? Did you always haveƂ the rest of the story in mind? Was it an independent creation or something else?

A: Thank you! Transforming the original story into a full-length adventure was always a book I wanted to write. Let’s face it. It’s a really cool idea. In fact, The Frozen Sky: The Novel was my first pitch to my editors at Ace/Penguin as a follow-up to Plague Year.
There aren’t many similarities between the two concepts except that both books are about bizarre environments, and I’m fascinated by how our worlds shape us. Plague Year deals with scattered human survivors above 10,000 feet across the Earth. The Frozen Sky features a bizarre alien race living in vertical catacombs inside Europa’s icy crust. But Plague Year is a present-day apocalyptic thriller and The Frozen Sky is straight-out sci fi, a near-future ‘aliens vs. battle suits’ adventure with artificial intelligence, genetics, cyber warfare and gun-toting mecha set against the spectacular panorama of Jupiter and its moons.


My editors and the marketing team at Penguin already had me branded as a contemporary thriller writer. And they were right. I ended up writing Plague War and Zone, a career decision that worked out well for everyone involved. Writing the rest of the Plague Year trilogy was a LOT of fun. I love blowing things up!! Aha ha ha. But in the back of my mind, I was always developing the alien worlds beneath the ice.

Q: The theme of communication is very strong in the novel The Frozen Sky. When you were writing it, did you have other works in mind? Where there any fiction or non-fiction sources that served as inspiration for how communication is treated in The Frozen Sky?

A: Well, let’s not pretend I haven’t read classics like The Mote In God’s Eye or Double Star or The Forever War twenty times each. Absolutely I had inspiration. That’s the mystique of science fiction — big new ideas, haunting scenarios, and smart people in bad situations. Even hoary old movie adaptation of stories like Enemy Mine resonated strongly with me as a boy.


Q: There are AI personalities that are (or at least seem to be) self-aware in both the original novella and the book-length version of The Frozen Sky… How did you intend for us to see those AI? As humans? Aliens? Computers? Something else?

A: I like your second suggestion best. Yes, in many ways the artificial intelligences in The Frozen Sky aren’t human, are they? Not even the human-based AIs. They can’t be.

A super-computer artificial intelligence processes information so quickly, it’s inhuman. Or in the case of AIs corrupted by suit malfunctions or electronic warfare, they’re insane and untrustworthy.

To be continued in Part II

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