Exclusive Interview with THE CURVE OF THE EARTH Hero Samuil Petrovitch (Part 2)
To celebrate publication of THE CURVE OF THE EARTH ( UK|US|ANZ), Orbit was lucky enough to be treated to a rare interview with one of the post-apocalyptic world’s most brilliant minds: Doctor Samuil Petrovitch.
In part two of this interview, we try to get to the heart of Petrovitch’s relationship with Reconstructionist America, ask him a few more personal questions about the type of music he likes,and find out what projects he’s got on the burner right now.
(NB: the below does contain some foreign swearing, as is typical of Petrovitch’s blend of old-school Russian and English. For translations, please see our Russian swearing glossary. You can also read part one of our interview with Samuil Petrovitch here.)
I want to ask you about your attitude towards Reconstruction.
SP: What did you want to ask that isn’t already a matter of public record?
What is the relationship like between the Freezone and the USA?
SP: Is there one?
I’m asking if there is.
SP: We’re two mutually exclusive ideologies. Reconstruction America is actively seeking to destroy the Freezone, however they can, and I have to assume that at some point it’s going to come down to whether they think they can get away with annihilating us, including Michael. For the Freezone’s part, and I’m not the Freezone’s spokesman on this or anything else, we have absolutely no intention of getting into a shooting match with the Yanks. All our projections show that Reconstruction will collapse within a hundred years, so we’re happy to play the long game. All their base will belong to us. Eventually.
What are you working on at the moment?
SP: Lots of things. Both me and Michael are reasonably certain we can build a working reactionless space drive. It’s technically difficult, though, not least because getting access to space is, at the moment, a matter of brute force. We’re trying to fix that, too. We’ve a prototype reusable space plane sitting in the desert in Morocco.
SP: Lots of sun for energy, and lots of empty space for when we crash the yebani thing. The Moroccans seem happy with the arrangement.
Do you have an astronaut programme?
SP: Do we have a what? Chyort vos’mi, we’re fighting off volunteers with an actual stick. And the idea is not to make space flight special; it’s to make it ordinary. So we’ve designed something that pretty much anyone with enough smarts can fly.
SP: I’ll check… Pfft. Not with those grades. In those subjects. How the chyort were you allowed to stop studying science at 14? No, sorry. You’re virtually illiterate and innumerate.
Okay. So how do you pick someone to be first?
SP: Michael chooses an ad-hoc committee of the best qualified people to decide, and then they decide. I don’t know if I’ll be on the ad-hoc. But no one gets to question the make-up of an ad-hoc.
Not even you?
SP: Especially not me. Michael has strict instructions about that. No exceptions.
Do you want to be first?
SP: Hell yes.
Even though this experimental space plane might crash and kill you?
SP: You make it sound like we can’t find our arses with both hands. It’ll work: straight out of the box, too. We’re good with tech, and we know the physics.
I’ve got some questions submitted by our subscribers…
SP: Are they stupid questions?
No. Not especially.
SP: Try and not ask me the stupid questions. Please.
Who’s your favourite strategist?
SP: Oh, okay. That’s not a stupid question. When they say favourite, I take it they mean whose advice I tend to follow most often. Sun Tzu is always going to be my fall-back position, because his approach was very adaptive to the situation. Rigid planning always falls apart, which is where some of the post-Rennaisance strategists come unstuck. But sometimes, you get dealt a crappy hand and have to go with it anyway: that’s when I go with Ellen Ripley.
I’m not familiar with her.
SP: That’s because you haven’t been paying attention. Ripley gave pretty much two near-universally applicable tactics. Firstly, take off and nuke the site from orbit, because it’s the only way to be sure; and secondly, get away from her, you bitch. That covers a lot of the situations I find myself in.
Next question: favourite author?
SP: Fiction or non-fiction?
I don’t know. Both?
SP: Okay. Feynmann for non-fiction. Because I shouldn’t have to care what other people think. Fiction. I’ve read so much of it – there were an awful lot of long, dark nights curled up with the Russian classics, though I spent the entire time reading Anna Karenina wanting to shout at her for being a muppet. Pretty much how I feel about yebani Madame Bovary, too. So yeah, Tolstoy and Solzhenitsyn, Dostoyevsky, Lem in translation, and a ton of English stuff too, from Beowulf onwards. Difficult to single out anyone. Chandler?
SP: Yeah. Everyone thinks they know Chandler through the films, but the books are different kaiju entirely. And they’re full of tough broads. Go figure.
I’m hesitating with this one.
SP: Oh go on. I’m not even cross at the moment.
Music. What music do you like to listen to, and do you play it – in your head, I suppose – when you fight?
SP: You mean like ‘Eye of the Tiger’, or the ‘Ride of the Valkyries’? No. I mean, hell no. When I fight, people die. I know that a lot of virtual warriors need to get pumped up on loud rock music just to get their war face on, but chyort, it’s a serious and solemn business. No music then. That’s just wrong.
SP: I’m probably going to get all sorts of grief about this. American folk. There. I’ve said it.
You mean, like…
SP: Woody Guthrie. Dylan. Leadbelly. Pete Seeger. Sort of segs into Blues and Gospel, and early Motown. Partial to a bit of Johnny Cash, too. You’re looking at me funny, now.
I’m just surprised, that’s all. It seems a, well, an odd choice, considering.
SP: Considering I hate America and everything American? Yeah, well. I think the word you’re looking for is nuance. I don’t hate Americans. I hate what their country’s become. I hate what it tries to do to me and to the rest of the world. I want it to change. And, I don’t know, that kind of music speaks of a different future to the one we ended up with. I wanted that one so badly, but we got this one instead.
To wrap up, I’d like to ask you how would you like to be remembered?
SP: How would I like to be remembered? That kind of implies I’m going to die at some point.
SP: Hah. Just shows how much you know. And I’ve died already. Lots of times. Yet here I am, sitting opposite you in some rented-by-the-hour office space in Southwark, with nothing but a cup of coffee that tastes like machine oil and a fancy thousand euro video camera between us. If immortality means anything, having my name on a set of fundamental laws of nature should probably just about cover it. Of course, what I really want is to have some unitary force called a Petrovitch. “Five milliPetrovitchs until contact, captain!” or “Increase the power to ten Petrovitchs!” “Are you mad, captain, that’ll destroy us all!” That’s how I’m going to be remembered – by those who don’t know me, at least.
And by those who do?
SP: I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them what they think of me now. A good husband, a good father, a good friend? We’ll see. I’m pretty certain I screw up at those things on a daily basis, but I haven’t been disowned yet. Some might see that as nothing short of a miracle.