Our next Science Fiction Trading Card Spotlight features Edward M. Lerner, who is displayed on card number 360 in the Science Fiction Collection. As an engineer in high tech and aerospace, Edward wrote science fiction in his spare time. In 2004, after selling his second novel, he decided to become a full-time writer in the genre. His books cover the gamut of science-fictional themes, including space exploration, AI, and time travel, as well as near-future technothrillers. Edward's novel InterstellarNet: Enigma won the inaugural Canopus Award for "excellence in interstellar writing," while other of his work has been nominated for Locus, Prometheus, and Hugo Awards. Other recent novels include The Sherlock Chronicles, Dark Secret, The Company Man, and his latest (in 2021), Deja Doomed. You can visit his website by clicking here.
How early in your life did you know you would be a writer?
The discovery came late, in my mid-thirties. I’d been complaining to my wife about some book eminently forgettable (and so forgotten) that I was reading, and she said something along the lines of, “So I suppose you can do better.” Of course, then I had to try. It turned out I enjoyed writing. It remained just a hobby till years later, after I sold a second novel (Moonstruck)—suggesting the first (Probe) hadn’t been a fluke.
How has writing today changed from when you were younger? What do you like or dislike about the changes?
Readers (and so, publishers) have become much more partial over the years to series. I understand there’s comfort in revisiting beloved characters and settings—but as an author, such revisits can be too familiar. Most novels—for me, anyway—are more or less a year-long undertaking. By the end of working on a novel, I’m often ready to move on.
And yet, what began for me as standalone novels twice turned into series. (Thank you, readers, for your enthusiasm!) To keep things fresh in later episodes, I separated events in time and/or space, and added new characters and circumstances, such that the follow-on projects weren’t same old, same old. And so, both my InterstellarNet series (three books) and the Fleet of Worlds series (five books) span hundreds of years, light-years of space, and add characters as the storylines continue. I’ll hasten to add that (a) even my books in a series are standalone, each coming to its own resolution, and (b) I’ve written as many novels that are not part of a series. Last year’s Déjà Doomed is my most recent standalone.
If you did not become a writer, what would you be doing?
By training, I’m a physicist and computer engineer. I also picked up an MBA along the way. If I hadn’t eventually made the switch to fulltime writing, I expect I’d still be immersed in high tech.
What are your favorite types of books and why?
My reading tastes are eclectic. Being a science-fiction author, it should surprise no one that I read a fair amount in the genre plus a lot of science. But close to half my reading falls within neither of those categories. History and historical fiction. Mysteries. Spy and adventure fiction. Classic lit.
What do you think about electronic books that you can download versus the actual physical hard copy?
As my bookshelves fill to overflowing, there’s much to be said for eBooks. Ditto, as my eyes get old (only my eyes, of course, and not the rest of me).
Less flippantly, I read both print and eBook formats. The real plus of an eBook? The reading device is a computer! It’s online (well, as long as it’s not in airplane mode)! So: I can look up the definition of an obscure word, or consult Wikipedia about an unfamiliar concept, or translate the foreign phrases embedded in a story—all without getting out of bed in the evening, where/when I do much of my reading. And yes, I can enlarge or change the font, which old eyes often appreciate.
On the other hand, there’s nothing like a paper copy for reference books. Maps, tables, family trees, and figures are so much more readable in print than glimpsed on an e-reader. I favor physical books for reference material.
What authors do you admire today and who did you look up to as a child?
As a boy, I was quite partial to the Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton juvenile SF.
Over the years, I’ve met a lot of contemporary authors. Many are friends and colleagues. I hesitate to single out any here, because I’d surely omit some. That said, one name does need to be mentioned. I was a fan of Larry Niven’s writing back to my high-school years. Early in my writing career, I approached Larry about what became a very successful collaboration: our five-novel, epic, Fleet of Worlds series.
What are your favorite books past and present?
For the same reasons I hesitate to name contemporary authors, I’ll hold back on naming contemporary books. Among older titles, I’m a huge fan of Catch-22 (Joseph Heller), The Sot-Weed Factor (John Barth), and any number of histories about the Crusades. Did I mention having eclectic taste in reading?
Did you play video games growing up and what were some of your favorites?
I was already out of grad school and working at Bell Labs when Atari first came out with Pong. So: I’m not of a generation to have grown up playing video games. That’s not to say I didn’t eventually get a gaming console or PC games. It’s unclear what this says about me, but I retain a fondness for Frogger.
Did you ever think when you were younger you would be on a trading card?
Never once. If I had imagined such an outcome, it wouldn’t have involved an SF trading card.
Have you ever received any media coverage for your appearance on the trading card? If so, where?
Apart from a bit on social media, no. Perhaps if there’d been an award ceremony, as in the Before Times … stupid pandemic.
Are you still involved with writing today, and what role do you play?
Indeed, I am still writing. This year (2022) saw publication of a career-spanning highlights collection: The Best of Edward M. Lerner. Its contents are standalone shorter works, and not excerpts from novels. Meanwhile, my seventeenth novel is in the production process; I expect On the Shoals of Space-Time will be released late this year or early next. The novel after that is about 90% of the way to a first draft.
What do you see yourself doing in the next 10 years?
Why, writing. Of course.