The Lion & The Unicorn

By Tom Ward

A policeman sets out to investigate a murder in a near-future where bad taste is illegal.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Meet The Author: Jamie Chipperfield

Hello supporters,

The Lion and The Unicorn borrows more from the dystopian world than the sci-fi, but another Unbound book, Red Soil by Jamie Chipperfield, caught my attention nevertheless.

In Jamie’s book, humans have colonised Mars – not out of innovation or for the advancement of science, but necessity. Now, Leon Richardson, Mars’ Chief Custodian, has to contend with not only having left his home planet behind,but a multi-disappearance and that will lead to one complicated week for this new Martian lawman.

With Jamie and I both currently funding our Unbound books, Jamie and I thought it would be a great idea to interview each other about our projects. Here then, are some tough questions about inspirations, literary heroes, and life on mars…


What readers can expect to find in Red Soil?

On the surface, Red Soil is a detective story, one told by lawman Leon Richardson, a man who only wants to play his small part in keeping the world turning.  It is through his cynical, world weary point view we witness events unfold. What starts off as a seemingly routine missing persons case for Leon, will have great implications for the Mars colony he calls home.

Reading your synopsis I immediately get excited about the idea of people living on Mars. I allude to space exploration in my book, and I really enjoyed Ad Astra, which sounds like it touches on similar ideas. What influenced you to set a book on Mars?

Looking back, I believe it to be inspiration by osmosis. When I started writing Red Soil about 4 years ago, Mars seemed to be the scientific zeitgeist, especially the idea of actually colonising it. It was in the media all the time, numerous theories on why we need to be there and how we could practically achieve it. I can remember some real crackpot concepts. Combining all that with the conventions of colonial fiction I set about painting my personal vision of colonised Mars. I purposely wanted to avoid the traditional fledgling and fully settled versions of sci-fi exploration, my Mars is very much something ‘in progress.’

How do you think good sci-fi mirrors our own world, and in particular which books or films influenced you when writing Red Soil?

Much of sci-fi, if not most, is based on the here and now. Technology. Politics. Culture. It’s speculation based historical and contemporary evidence, even if it tends towards an extreme exaggeration of it.

I can’t quite point to any specific influences, but I am sure there are countless examples that have had an affect on me as a lifelong fan of the genre.

How long do you think you’d last on Mars? Would it vary if Matt Damon was also there and he wanted to hang out every day?

Oh it would be such a holiday, me and my mate Matt Damon, chilling, growing potatoes from our own poo. (I hope people have seen The Martian because that’s sounds very odd out of context.) But put it this way, if I was given the offer of space travel, I definitely would not take it. Many years of sci-fi have taught me the life expectancy of a redshirt such as myself.

Was there a lightbulb moment of inspiration for this book?

I can’t quite remember the exact lightbulb moment, the environment which caused it is probably relevant to my earlier answer, but I do remember the moment I actually started writing Red Soil.

I wrote the first chapter over two consecutive evenings, I had this idea of a man going about his everyday duties and an arrival of a mysterious individual. A protagonist and an antagonist, and everything else grew from that. Artists talk about the lightning strike of inspiration, and you could discuss all the caveats and variables that go with it, but I can honestly say that chapter one was the rare instance where it came to me fully formed.

Literary hero?

Easy. Dan Abnett. It was his books that got me into adult fiction during my teen years, and I put his work down to why I wanted to be a writer, so it’s all Dan’s fault. His Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies are the pinnacle of investigative SF.

(The only reason I ever owned an Abnett novel in the first place was a voucher from a magazine entitled me to a copy of First-and-Only for £1 in WHSmith. It was their last copy and it had to be fished out the storeroom.)

Finally (and perhaps most importantly) would you rather have guns for arms or swords for legs?

My instinct is say the latter. I need my arms for all those book signings!

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