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Loved the interview; listened to it twice (swear it has as much to do with my long commute as with my creepy, stalker like tendencies).
I wanted to be a contrarian with you for a moment about the hard science stuff.
I understand your claim that when you pull magic out of your ass, all bets are off. And as a general rule of writing, I think it's definitely good practice to hold yourself to a serious constraint.
But what I was thinking the whole time was that Nocturnal was simultaneously my favorite book of yours, and probably the weakest in the science department. The whole weird twist the doctor took on evolutionary biology struck me as precisely the ass-magic of which you speak, sir.
But you know what? It doesn't really matter. Nocturnal was like crack to me while I was going through it. I started getting into podcast novels in order to make my commute more tolerable, but I found myself listening to Nocturnal off the road and just about any time when I felt like I could just stare into space and listen. It is a fantastic story.
Sure, an author ought to avoid the ass magic as much as possible. More than holding oneself to real-world science as a constraint, though, I think every author has to fight against the temptation to invoke deus ex machina--you can be totally within the bounds of reality and still do something lame like have a character show up with improbably good timing in a way that is transparently aimed at bailing out some other character, or something along those lines.
But at the end of the day it's a matter of whether or not you've told a great story or not.
Anyway, great interview--definitely a lot of food for thought!