Baxter, Stephen 1957–
BAXTER, Stephen 1957–
Born 1957, in Liverpool, England. Education: Cambridge University, degree in mathematics; University of Southampton, Highfield, degree in engineering. Hobbies and other interests: English football, especially as fan of Liverpool FC.
Has worked as a teacher of mathematics, physics, and information technology; full-time writer, 1995—.
British Science Fiction Association (vice president).
Winner of science fiction short story contest sponsored by Jennings, 1988, for "On the Side of a Hill"; Sir Monty Finniston Award for Project Management, 1994; John W. Campbell Award and British Science Fiction Association Award, both 1996, Kurd Lasswitz Award (Germany) for best foreign-language novel, Gilgamesh Award (Spain), and Philip K. Dick Award, all 1997, Hayakawa's SF Magazine citation for best translated novel, 1998, Seiun Award (Japan) for best foreign-language novel, 1999, and Prix Bob Morane (Belgium) for best novel, all for The Time Ships; Seiun Award for best foreign-language novel, 1996, for Timelike Infinity; Sidewise Award for best alternate-history short story, 1996, for "Brigantia's Angels"; SFX Readers' Award for best short story, 1996, for "Prospero One"; winner of Interzone Reader's Story Poll, 1996, for "The Spacetime Pit"; Ozone Award (France) for best foreign novel not yet translated, and Sidewise Award for best alternate-history novel, both 1996, both for Voyage; Berry Levin Collectors' Award, 1997, for most collectible author; British Science Fiction Association Award for best short story, 1998, for "War Birds," 2001, for "Omegatropic," and 2004, for Mayflower II; best short story awards, Analog Magazine, 1999, for "Moon-Calf," 2000, for "Sheena 5," and 2002, for "The Hunters of Pangaea"; Philip K. Dick Award, 1999, for Vacuum Diagrams: Stories of Xeelee Sequence; Arthur C. Clark Award nomination, 2000, for Manifold: Time; Locus Award for best novelette, 2000, for "Huddle"; Asociacion Española de Fantasia y Ciencia Ficcion Ignotus Award, 2000, for "All Aboard for the Eschaton: Science Fiction and the End of the Universe"; AnLab Award for best short story, 2000, for "Sheena 5"; Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction magazine reader's poll citation for best novelette, 2000, for "On the Orion Line"; British Science Fiction Association Award for best nonfiction, 2001, for Omegatropic; also recipient of Hugo Award nomination, Arthur C. Clarke, Seiun, and Locus awards.
Anti-Ice, HarperCollins (London, England), 1993, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1994.
The Time Ships, HarperCollins (London, England), 1995, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1996.
Irina (e-book), Penguin.co.uk, 1996.
The Web: GulliverZone (young adult), Orion Books (London, England), 1997.
Webcrash (young adult; "The Web" series), Orion Books (London, England), 1998.
Traces (short stories), HarperCollins (London, England), 1998.
Web 2027, Millennium (London, England), 1999.
(With Arthur C. Clarke) The Light of Other Days, Tor (New York, NY), 2000.
Evolution, Victor Gollancz (London, England), 2002, Del Rey/Ballantine (New York, NY), 2003.
Phase Space (short stories), HarperCollins (London, England), 2002.
(With Arthur C. Clarke) Time's Eye: Book One of a Time Odyssey (includes CD-ROM), Ballantine (New York, NY), 2004.
Mayflower II (novella), PS Publishers, 2004.
(With Arthur C. Clarke) Sunstorm: Book Two of a Time Odyssey, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2005.
Emperor (first novel in "Time's Tapestry" series), Ace (New York, NY), 2007.
"xeelee sequence"; science fiction
Raft, HarperCollins (London, England), 1991.
Timelike Infinity, HarperCollins (London, England), 1992, Penguin (New York, NY), 1993.
Flux, HarperCollins (London, England), 1993, Harper-Prism (New York, NY), 1995.
Ring, HarperCollins (London, England), 1994, Harper-Prism (New York, NY), 1996.
Vacuum Diagrams (stories), HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1997.
Coalescent, Victor Gollancz (London, England), 2003, Del Rey (New York, NY), 2004.
Exultant, Del Rey/Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Transcendent, Del Rey/Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Voyage, HarperCollins (London, England), 1996, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1997.
Titan, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1997.
Moonseed, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1998.
Silverhair (also see below), HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1999.
Longtusk (also see below), Victor Gollancz (London, England), 1999, Eos (New York, NY), 2002.
Icebones (also see below), Victor Gollancz (London, England), 2001, Eos (New York, NY), 2002.
Behemoth (contains Silverhair, Longtusk, and Icebones), Victor Gollancz (London, England), 2004.
Manifold: Time, HarperCollins (London, England), 1999, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2000.
Manifold: Space, HarperCollins (London, England), 2000, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2001.
Manifold: Origin, HarperCollins (London, England), 2001, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2002.
Angular Distribution Analysis in Acoustics, Springer-Verlag, 1986.
(With David Lisburn) Reengineering Information Technology: Success through Empowerment, Prentice-Hall (New York, NY), 1994.
The Role of the IT/IS Manager, Technical Communications, 1996.
Deep Future, Victor Gollancz (London, England), 2001.
Omegatropic, British Science Fiction Association, 2001.
Revolutions in the Earth: James Hutton and the True Age of the World, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2003, published as Ages in Chaos: James Hutton and the Discovery of Deep Time, Forge (New York, NY), 2004.
Writer for the BBC television series Invasion: Earth; author of the third episode of Sky One television series Space Island One, 1998. Work represented in science fiction anthologies, including Futures, edited by Peter Crowther. Contributor of articles, short stories, and reviews to scientific and computing journals and science fiction magazines, including New Moon, Matrix, New York Review of Science Fiction, Science Fiction Age, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction, Journal of Sound and Vibration, AIAA Journal, Computing, Vector, Foundation, Focus, Astronomy Now, Top Gear, Alien Encounters, Writing, and SFX. Baxter's works have been published in Germany, Japan, Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, the Netherlands, Spain, Croatia, Italy, France, and elsewhere.
Voyage was adapted as a film by Audio Movies for BBC Radio, 1999; Timelike Infinity and "Pilot" were optioned for development as feature films. Cilia-of-Gold was adapted as an audio recording by Audiotext, 1996; "George and the Comet" was adapted to audio as George and the Red Giant by Eric Brown for Seeing Ear Theatre, 1998; The Light of Other Days was adapted as an audio recording by Brilliance, 2000; The Web: GulliverZone was adapted as an audio recording by Chivers Childrens' Audio Books, 2000.
British science fiction author Stephen Baxter applied to be a guest astronaut with the Russian Space Agency in 1991. Although he was turned down, it was not for lack of knowledge about science and space travel. Today, Baxter uses that knowledge to write hard science fiction novels and stories, including his well-known "Mammoth" and "Manifold" trilogies.
The first book of the "Mammoth" trilogy, Silverhair, begins with the premise that a small group of mammoths have survived into modern times in an isolated corner of Siberia. Their continued survival is threatened, however, when some shipwreck victims stumble upon their territory. The second book, Longtusk, goes back in time, beginning in 16,000 B.C.E., as woolly mammoths inhabiting the land bridge connecting Asia and North America are fighting for their survival against the ascendant humans, whom the mammoths call "Fireheads." Longtusk, an impetuous young mammoth, is separated from his herd and briefly falls in with a tribe of "Dreamers" (Neanderthals) before he is captured by the humans. He escapes to lead the mammoths' fight for survival, in the process earning himself an enduring place in mammoth mythology. In the third book, Icebones, the eponymous heroine, the daughter of former matriarch Silverhair, awakens to find herself in mammoth Heaven: the Sky Steppes, otherwise known as the planet Mars. Human astronauts had begun and abandoned a terra-forming project there, leaving a herd of thoroughly domesticated mammoths to fend for themselves. It is up to Icebones to lead these mammoths away from the crumbling human project to a corner of Mars where they can live safely.
It is "impossible not to cheer for Baxter's plucky pachyderms," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor in a review of Icebones; the series, "even at its most improbable, engages the reader's heart and mind." A Publishers Weekly contributor, writing of the same book, similarly concluded that Baxter's "taut adventure and splendid settings … mak[e] it easy to suspend disbelief." Other critics, however, found the saga to be something more than just a good story. "Themes of ecological disaster, warfare and change resonate deeply with today's concerns," wrote another Publishers Weekly critic.
Survival is also a theme in the "Manifold" series, but in this case human survival is the concern. The books, taken together, present the future of humanity in hundreds of possible alternate universes. The first book, Manifold: Time, opens in 2010. Reid Malenfant, a space-travel maverick turned industrial tycoon, is trying to start his own space exploration program. One of his collaborators, the mathematician Cornelius Taine, has determined by the laws of probability that Malenfant will succeed in launching something into space soon, because if he does not the probability calculations show that the earth will be destroyed in about two hundred years. Radio messages from the future, mysterious artifacts on asteroids, and intelligent, star-roving squid all feature in this complex tale, which, in one possible universe, ends with Reid Malenfant and his love interest, his ex-wife Emma Stoney, blasting off into space just before the earth is destroyed.
Manifold: Space begins in 2020, but in an alternate universe from the one in which Manifold: Time ends. In Manifold: Space Earth has not been destroyed, although its environmental degradation has progressed to such a point that it appears irreversible. The Japanese have colonized the moon, and space-faring humans soon find themselves in contact with a race of aliens whom they term "Gaijin" (Japanese for "foreigner"). Humans also discover that planets that harbor intelligent life tend to be destroyed by suspicious supernovas—at least, the planets where the intelligent life does not die out because of its own poor environmental stewardship. Now, the challenge is for Malenfant and his fellow humans to work together with the Gaijin to find a way to colonize the galaxy without being destroyed.
In Manifold: Origin Malenfant and Stoney are flying over Africa when a new moon appears in the sky over Earth. Stoney disappears from the plane and finds herself on this new moon, in the company of multiple species of hominids, including a higher form of humans and evolutionary forerunners of modern humans such as Australopithecines and Neanderthals. There are also other higher life forms that have been manipulating human evolution, as well as some people from an alternate universe who survived a Victorian-era space expedition. Although life in many of the primitive societies involves violent struggles for survival, Stoney prefers them over the higher humans, since the higher humans "have foisted their crude fundamentalist religious beliefs on the other races," as a Publishers Weekly reviewer described it. Meanwhile, Malenfant and others on Earth are trying to figure out what happened.
Several reviewers noted that "science itself is very clearly the star player" in this "exceptionally intricate and original view of the future," as a Publishers Weekly critic phrased it in a review of Manifold: Space. Similarly, another Publishers Weekly contributor, reviewing Manifold: Time, praised Baxter's ability to describe "spectacular astronomical phenomena and truly weird science" and "to portray enormous vistas of time and space to great effect," but was not as positive about the characters and the plot. In contrast, Library Journal critic Jackie Cassada, reviewing the same book, thought that Baxter did a good job of providing "a human counterpoint to a tale of cosmic proportions."
Another series of related titles by Baxter is the "Xeelee Sequence." The basic premise here is that humanity has succeeded in expanding through the universe and existing peacefully with other planets, with the exception of the Xeelee. For twenty thousand years now, the human race has been at war with the Xeelee with no end in sight to their conflict. Both the humans and the Xeelee are capable of time travel, which is a technology they use in order to gather intelligence. However, it also has the danger of creating a number of time paradoxes. In Exultant, for instance, the human character Pirius has ventured back and forth through time, until there are now several versions of himself existing in the same time period and with different experiences to their background. Baxter throws in subplots involving ancient civilizations as Pirius works to strike at the Xeelee's central base and another character, Nilis, seeks to learn the secret of Chandra, the galaxy's central black hole. "Baxter is in top form in this combination of hard science and grand adventure," asserted Regina Schroeder in her Booklist review of Exultant. "Even in a genre characterized by unfettered imagination," observed Christine C. Menefee in School Library Journal, "Baxter's future universe is extraordinary in its depth, breadth, and richness of invention."
Set in the same universe as Exultant but with different characters, Baxter's Coalescent is another tale involving multiple time periods. George Poole goes on a quest to find his twin sister, Rosa, who has ties to the Order of Mary, Queen of Virgins, a religious order with origins dating back to ancient Rome. This connection leads into a parallel story featuring Regina, who is involved with the order's founding. " Coalescent is a fabric of many slowly developed plot threads woven into a tight tapestry," explained Regina Schroeder in Booklist. Jackie Cassada, writing in Library Journal, appreciated the "philosophical speculation" and the "action-packed storytelling" in which the author describes a new type of humanity.
After first collaborating with renowned science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke in The Light of Other Days, Baxter began a new series with Clarke that includes Time's Eye: Book One of a Time Odyssey and Sunstorm: Book Two of a Time Odyssey. Critics have complimented the collaboration as being highly creative, with one Publishers Weekly contributor calling Baxter "probably the most talented of [Clarke's] … several collaborators." The "Time Odyssey" books are set in the same universe as Clarke's well known "Space Odyssey" novels that began with 2001. In the first title in the series, aliens have apparently torn Earth apart—not physically, but chronologically—and then thrown it back together so that many different time periods now exist together. Thus, United Nations peacekeepers run into eighteenth-century British troops, as well as Genghis Khan's hordes and the armies of Alexander the Great. "Although not flawless," according to the Publishers Weekly writer, "this is probably the best book to appear with Clarke's name on it in a decade." Entertainment Weekly reviewer Marc Bernardin similarly praised Time's Eye for being an excellent story in the time-travel subgenre, adding that readers will become "thoroughly invested in the characters."
In the sequel, Sunstorm, Clarke and Baxter take readers to the year 2037, when aliens have decided to destroy the human race because their analysis of the species shows that humans will one day use up all the universe's resources. Their plan is to wipe out Earth by exposing it to a deadly surge of radiation from the sun. In desperation to save themselves, humanity works together—with the exception of the Chinese—to create a shield between Earth and the sun, as well as additional shields over the major cities. With this novel, a Kirkus Reviews critic complained that the characters are "irritatingly clueless" and that too much exposition means that, once the climax is reached, "few readers will care." On the other hand, a Publishers Weekly writer asserted that Sunstorm will "appeal to fans of hard SF," while Library Journal contributor Jackie Cassada similarly felt that Sunstorm blends "the best of disaster fiction and hard sf."
In an interview with the London Independent 's Barry Forshaw, Baxter explained his philosophy of writing: "While part of the strategy … is hypothesis building, I'd like to feel that at the end of the day the overriding imperative is entertainment. All the SF writers I like, however challenging the ideas that they tackle, never forget that primary duty: to divert."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers, 4th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1996.
Analog Science Fiction & Fact, September, 1992, Tom Easton, review of Raft, p. 164; July-August, 1998, Tom Easton, review of Titan, pp. 225-226; May, 2000, Tom Easton, review of Manifold: Time, pp. 132-137; July-August, 2000, Tom Easton, review of Silverhair, p. 230.
Booklist, September 15, 1997, Whitney Scott, review of Cilia-of-Gold, p. 250; November 1, 1999, Ray Olson, review of Manifold: Time, p. 482; February 1, 2000, Sally Estes, review of The Light of Other Days, p. 996; December 15, 2000, Roland Green, review of Manifold: Space, p. 763; November 15, 2003, Regina Schroeder, review of Coalescent, p. 588; November 15, 2004, Regina Schroeder, review of Exultant, p. 570.
Entertainment Weekly, January 16, 2004, Marc Bernardin, review of Time's Eye: Book One of a Time Odyssey, p. 74.
Independent (London, England), August 11, 2001, Barry Forshaw, "The Books Interview: Stephen Baxter, Rejected Astronaut, Took 'Hard' Science Fiction into Orbit," p. 9.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2002, review of Icebones, p. 372; January 1, 2005, review of Sunstorm: Book Two of a Time Odyssey, p. 25.
Library Journal, November 15, 1998, Jackie Cassada, review of Moonseed, p. 94; November 15, 1999, Jackie Cassada, review of Silverhair, p. 102; December, 1999, Jackie Cassada, review of Manifold: Time, p. 192; January 1, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of Manifold: Space, p. 162; January, 2002, review of Manifold: Space, p. 51; December, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of Coalescent, p. 172; March 15, 2005, Jackie Cassada, review of Sunstorm, p. 74.
New Scientist, February 12, 1994, Harry Harrison, review of Flux, pp. 40-41; September 13, 1997, Ian Stewart, review of Titan, p. 50; July 4, 1998, Elizabeth Sourbut, review of Relics, p. 48.
New York Times Book Review, January 16, 2000, Gerald Jonas, review of Manifold: Time, p. 28; January 13, 2002, Gerald Jonas, review of Futures, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, November 29, 1991, review of Raft, p. 48; December 9, 1996, review of Voyage, p. 61; September 28, 1998, review of Moonseed, p. 76; December 20, 1999, review of Manifold: Time, p. 60; January 31, 2000, review of The Light of Other Days, p. 86; January 8, 2001, review of Manifold: Space, p. 52; April 2, 2001, review of Longtusk, p. 43; January 28, 2002, review of Manifold: Origin, p. 276; April 1, 2002, review of Icebones, p. 57; November 24, 2003, review of Time's Eye, p. 46; November 15, 2004, review of Ages in Chaos: James Hutton and the Discovery of Deep Time, p. 53; January 15, 2005, review of Sunstorm, p. 39.
School Library Journal, July, 2001, Sheila Shoup, review of Manifold: Space, p. 135; March, 2005, Christine C. Menefee, review of Exultant, p. 242; December, 2005, Tim Wadham, review of The Web: GulliverZone, p. 140.
Baxterium—Stephen Baxter Home Page,http://www.baxterium.org.uk (June 24, 2006).
CNN Interactive,http://www.cnn.com/ (February 3, 2000), Jamie Allen, "Author Overcomes Nerves to Collaborate with Arthur C. Clarke."*