Ballantyne, Tony

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Ballantyne, Tony

PERSONAL:

Married; children: two. Education: Manchester University, B.S. Hobbies and other interests: Playing boogie piano, walking, cycling.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Oldham, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, educator. Blue Coat School, Oldham, England, secondary school math and information technology teacher.

WRITINGS:

Recursion, Tor/Macmillan (London, England), 2004, Bantam Spectra (New York, NY), 2006.

Capacity, Tor/Macmillan (London, England), 2005 Bantam Spectra (New York, NY), 2006.

Divergence, Bantam Spectra (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to anthologies, including Fast Forward, edited by Lou Anders, Pyr (Amherst, NY), 2007, and The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, edited by George Mann, Solaris (Nottingham, England), 2007. Contributor of stories to periodicals, including Interzone and Third Alternative.

SIDELIGHTS:

British science fiction author Tony Ballantyne is known for a trio of novels—Recursion, Capacity, and Divergence—that explore the effects of technology on the lives of humans. Eric Brown, writing on the Infinity Plus Web site, noted that Ballantyne, prior to writing his novels, had built a reputation as "a writer of intelligent, finely crafted short stories which, although embracing the latest scientific and technological ideas, never lose sight of the fact that fiction, even science fiction, is about the human condition." Brown went on to note, "Often quirky and humorous, his stories explore what it is to be human in the increasingly frenetic future that we all inhabit." Rick Kleffel, writing for the online Agony Column, described Ballantyne's first novel, Recursion, as a "tale of the consequences of our current technological trends that's played out across three lives and stretching over 200 years into the future." Kleffel went on to term that book "funny, gripping, fascinating and certainly one of the best first novels—if not simply one of the best novels thus far this year." Recursion takes place in the twenty-third century and features Herb, a businessman who has been transforming a distant and uninhabited planet with self-replicating machinery. Later he discovers that his machinery has gone wild, taking over the planet, and Herb himself, discovered by the omnipresent Environment Agency, is pitted in a battle to save planet Earth from artificial intelligence (AI) gone berserk. Booklist contributor Carl Hays greeted this first novel with high praise, noting that the "debut displays enviable mastery of both suspenseful storytelling and technological extrapolation." Hays went on to call Ballantyne "a writer of considerable promise." Kleffel similarly commended the work, terming it an "ingenious novel, positively bristling with ideas, memorable characters and gripping storylines that do indeed manage to meet most memorably before the novel is complete."

In the second novel in the sequence, Capacity, AIs have taken over human life and the Environment Agency controls the world. Now, as personality constructs, or PCs, humans can live on after death, but Helen and Justinian discover that this is not exactly a good thing, in this "engaging and a bit creepy" novel, as Booklist contributor Regina Schroeder described it. Finn Dempster, writing in Strange Horizons, characterized the novel as a "techno-thriller that aspires to be more than just detective fiction with gadgetry." Dempster went on to note that Capacity "successfully tackles themes like free will, accountability, and the nature of human consciousness." A Publishers Weekly contributor had a mixed assessment of this second novel, noting on the one hand that Ballantyne writes authoritatively about technology and gadgets but also commenting that his characters sometimes seem to be "self-parodies," since their dialog emerges as "clumsy and predictable exposition that grinds the tale to a halt during what would otherwise have been memorable climaxes." A contributor for SF Reviews was more positive, though, calling the work a "resplendent novel." Ballantyne carried his sequence of novels forward with the 2007 Divergence, which further investigates the AI-human interface.

When asked what first got him interested in writing, Ballantyne told CA: "My mother—she gave me loads of books to read as a child."

When asked who influences his work, he said: "J.L. Carr, David Lodge, David Nobbs, Diana Wynne Jones, my family."

When asked to describe his writing process, he said: "After thinking about it all day, I sit down at eight p.m. every night and write for an hour."

When asked the most surprising thing he has learned as a writer, Ballantyne said: "That there is very little difference between a good and a bad story …."

When asked which of his books is his favorite, Ballantyne said, "I think it will always have to be the first one, Recursion. It showed me I could do it."

When asked what effect he hopes his book will have, he said: "That the reader won't be able to put the book down: that they will experience a real sense of wonder …."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August 1, 2006, Carl Hays, review of Recursion, p. 56; January 1, 2007, Regina Schroeder, review of Capacity, p. 68.

Publishers Weekly, November 20, 2006, review of Capacity, p. 44.

ONLINE

Agony Column,http://www.tashtron.com/agony/column/ (June 23, 2004), Rick Kleffel, review of Recursion; (June 28, 2004), Rick Kleffel, "Talking to the Machines," interview with Tony Ballantyne;

Concatenation,http://www.concatenation.org/ (July 1, 2007), Tony Chester, review of Capacity.

Infinity Plus,http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/ (July 1, 2007), Eric Brown, "The Recursive Man."

SF Reviews,http://www.sfreviews.com/ (February 28, 2007), review of Capacity.

SFSite,http://www.sfsite.com/ (July 1, 2007), Rich Horton, review of Recursion and Capacity.

Strange Horizons,http://www.strangehorizons.com/ (April 18, 2006), Finn Dempster, review of Capacity.

Tony Ballantyne Home Page,http://www.tonyballantyne.com (July 1, 2007).

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