The SATURN RUN Interview with John Sandford and Ctein
SATURN RUN is a thriller that takes place in space. It is a tale of courage and treachery as the American crew is tested against its formidable adversary, the Chinese. They are pitted in a race against the Chinese to see who can find the alien technology placed on Saturn. The story is action packed as the Americans face the dangers of nature, science, and their fellow humans.
Elise Cooper: How did you collaborate?
John Sandford: A friend of mine, Ctein, was able to fill in the science stuff that I did not know about. He produced the first draft, and then I wrote through it, making it more of a thriller. We both edited it a couple of times.
Ctein: I like to say I wrote 2/3 and John wrote 2/3. My hope is that readers will not know who wrote what. I think it reads like a real John Sandford novel. I think we were very compatible, not the Odd Couple.
EC: How did you meet?
C: I met John through a photography website, the Online Photographer. We became friends. He mentioned he might like to write a science fiction novel, but needed someone with some expertise. He made me a proposition, which I took as a challenge.
JS: I wanted to write a story that lacked the fantasy part. I don’t believe in worm holes or giant space battles. I think space will involve a lot of physics. So I started talking to my good friend for ideas since he had a double major in physics and English from Caltech.
EC: There was a lot of science and technology in the book. Did you want that much detail?
C: I wrote the science content, but there were times John picked my brain and rewrote it. It is very hard for me to get down to a layman’s level in explaining something without leaving something out. We strove for a middle ground. We did not want anything too simple, which had no nuts and bolts. But did not want to make it too technical that would leave a lay audience in the dark. For example in explaining the two power systems and why one had a glitch and the other did not, I wrote, ‘Two identical twins, separated at birth, identical in every imaginable way. Except they’re not behaving identically.’
JS: I wrote in the character Fiorella, an L. A. Times reporter, to explain science to the reader as she explains it to her audience on the ground. We had a real way to say what the engineer, Captain, photographer Sandy, and scientists were doing.
EC: Do you really think newspapers will exist fifty years from now, when the story takes place?
JS: Yes. I actually think newspapers are making a comeback now. People have found out there is a need for editors and reporters. I think it will be a model like Amazon. Just like there are people who prefer to read actual books there are people who like to read the print form. Because I am a former reporter I personally like reading an actual newspaper. Maybe we will mirror the English type system of a national newspaper. The New York Times will represent the liberals while the Wall Street Journal will represent the Conservatives. Then there will be regional newspapers where the LA Times will transform into the California Times.
EC: What genre does this book fit into?
JS: Our target audience is people who read authors like Michael Crichton. He wrote dinosaur books, but was really talking of a way of using DNA to recreate animals, the ability to create a whole new species. Then there is John Grisham who has nailed down the lawyer market. I hope we get readers from the fields of computer programmers, engineers, and scientists that are interested in science fiction but want realism. But we also want to appeal to thriller fans. I think the closest novel like this book is THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER by Tom Clancy. The technology of the submarine is advanced but very possible. It is about the struggle between countries and what must be done to return home.
EC: Would you want to go up into space?
JS: No. What doesn’t appeal to me is being confined in what I see as a giant cigar tube. I had an experience as a reporter when I went on this airplane that flew back and forth between Cuba and the US. They were looking for drug planes and any incursion aircraft from Cuba. We were stuffed in for eight hours and there were no windows. I realized I wanted to be able to go outside. The danger would not bother me since I landed in tight areas in Iraq on a Black Hawk helicopter.
C: Yes. I want to go up in space. I am sooo on my way to Mars if it happens. I am cultivating relationships so if an opportunity occurs I will be able to prevail myself.
EC: What is real and what is not?
C: TRUE: A little bit of antimatter is as powerful as a hydrogen bomb. What Saturn is like as well as areo-braking, a way to land on Mars. What is not real is the Rules of Space. I based it on the Maritime Law, requiring rendering aid and assistance unless you are put in danger. I extended that to space. The service capsules called the egg are also not real.
EC: What do you want the readers to get out of this book?
C: For them to understand space travel is still dangerous but really cool.
JS: I wanted this book to be realistic and blend the real science with fiction. I read science fiction but not fantasy.
EC: A heads up about your next book?
JS: It is a new Lucas Davenport out in May and set in Iowa. He is no longer a cop and is now working as an investigator on behalf of the Minnesota Governor who is running for the presidency. The plot involves an assassination threat of a candidate running for President.