Kilian Melloy, Assistant Arts Editor for EDGE, poses some difficult questions for me in this Alien Contact interview, originally posted on EDGE:Boston.
When Kilian asked:
As a follow-up to last year's Is Anybody Out There? (which you co-edited with Nick Gevers for Daw Books), Alien Contact is a logical theme. Both books pose big philosophical questions. Is Anybody Out There? examined the paradox of why, if there is alien intelligence in the galaxy (as, mathematically, there ought to be) no extraterrestrial race has yet, to our knowledge, paid Earth a visit. Do you have a personal opinion on the best explanation for this conundrum?
There are others who are far more qualified to respond to this question than I am... I would have to agree with Paul Davies1, whose book The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) was published nearly simultaneously with Is Anybody Out There? Davies states that focusing on radio signals for 50 years of the SETI project has been to no avail; we need to start thinking out of the box. One suggestion Davies makes is that ET might use biological organisms as a means of sending information, so we should dispatch retroviruses that would insert DNA into any found DNA-based organism. Coincidentally, the British edition of The Eerie Silence from Allen Lane Publishers is subtitled Are We Alone in the Universe?
You can read the full interview, including my response to this, the last question:
The collection includes a story by a well-known anti-gay writer, as well as one whose remarks on a blog got her disinvited as Guest of Honor from a convention a couple of years ago because some people saw her remarks as bigoted. When it comes to publishing a story by a writer who has generated such controversy, do you simply ignore his politics and rely on the quality of his work? Or do you have to weigh the political against the artistic when making your choices?
1. My previous blog post, just prior to the publication of Is Anybody Out There? on Paul Davies and his book The Eerie Silence.