HarperCollins now owns Neal Stephenson’s soul—or rather the rights his next two novels in most every major territory: in the US and Canada under the auspices of William Morrow, and in Australia, New Zealand and the UK by way of The Borough Press.
The first of the two new books, Seveneves—being “a grand story of annihilation and survival spanning five thousand years”—has a long history rooted in real world research.
I first started thinking about it when I was working at Blue Origin, probably circa 2004. The kernel around which the story nucleated was the space debris problem. […] Some researchers had begun to express concern over the possibility that a collision between two pieces of debris might spawn a large number of fragments, thereby increasing the probability of further collisions and further fragments, producing a chain reaction that might put so much debris into low earth orbit as to create a barrier to future space exploration. Having been raised on the idea of “Space, the Final Frontier,” I was both appalled and fascinated by the possibility that it might instead become an impenetrable ceiling only a hundred or so miles above our heads.
Though “the basic elements of the world were fixed a long time ago,” it wasn’t as easy as Stephenson believed to sell Seveneves:
For at least eight years, I have been roving around pitching it to various people in various media: television, movies, games, and various “transmedia” combinations. In the autumn of 2013, however, I decided to just sit down and write it as a novel: the one thing I know I can get done.
And get it done he did! So fast, in fact, that Seveneves will be released in the UK—in addition to the other aforementioned territories—this May.
Katie Espiner, publisher at The Borough Press, is appropriately pleased:
It is such a privilege to be publishing Neal Stephenson alongside our colleagues at William Morrow. Neal is a true original—a singular talent whose work has captivated millions of readers. Seveneves is the ingenious work of a master writer at the top of his game and we’re thrilled to be publishing it at The Borough Press.
Now how about a blurb?
A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.
But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain…
Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown… to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.
You can find out still more about Seveneves on Stephenson’s site.
We don’t know nearly as much about the second of the two books featured in Friday’s deal. Only that it, whatever it is, “will be written in conjunction with Nicola Galland,” one of Stephenson’s collaborators on The Mongoliad, and released sometime in 2017.
Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.