the Little Red Reviewer

Interview with Gareth L. Powell

Posted on: November 3, 2013

nov is scif month

This interview is part of SciFi Month, hosted by Rinn Reads.  Many of you have a smile on your face right now, because it’s always Sci Fi Month here at Little Red Reviewer (and fantasy month, and new weird month, and all-sorts-of-speculative-fiction month).

Today I’m thrilled to interview Gareth L. Powell, who is best known for his Ack Ack Macaque books. I’ve seen these books at the local bookstore, and every time I do a double take. is that really a gun toting monkey? why yes, yes it is.  Mr. Powell was kind enough to answer my questions, so let’s get to the interview!

ack ack maquace

Q. Please introduce yourself, and tell us a little about your Ack-Ack Macaque series. A fighter pilot who is a cynical monkey? This I gotta know more about!

A. I am the author of four novels – Hive Monkey, Ack-Ack Macaque, The Recollection and Silversands – and the short fiction collection, The Last Reef and Other Stories. I am currently writing my fifth novel, Macaque Attack, which should be out in January 2015.


Ack-Ack Macaque and Hive Monkey are the first two thirds of my ‘Macaque’ trilogy, dealing with the exploits of Ack-Ack Macaque, a technologically upgraded monkey who drinks, smokes and swears, and thinks he’s a World War II flying ace. The books are a mixture of murder mystery, thriller, and alternate history cyberpunk.

Q. Where did the idea for the series come from?

A. The Ack-Ack Macaque series grew from a short story that appeared in Interzone magazine in 2007. The story won the readers’ poll for favourite story of the year, and the character seemed to strike such a chord that it was almost inevitable I’d have more to say about him.

gareth powell

Q. How many books are planned for this series?

A. At the moment, the plan is to write three; but there may be more in the future, depending on how well these three do.

Q. What’s your ideal writing environment?

A. Somewhere quiet, with few distractions. A cottage on an island, maybe; or perhaps a lighthouse on a rock somewhere far from land.

Q. You have a plethora of excellent writing advice articles on your website, everything from time management and communication tips  to gaining confidence and getting past crappy first drafts. So I’m not going to ask you the classic “what advice do you have for aspiring writers” question. What I am going to ask you is who gave you the best piece of advice, and what was it?

A. The best piece of advice I ever received is one that you’ll hear floating around on just about every writing advice website, and in every book on the subject: write first, edit later. Stop fussing around with the first line or first chapter, and plough on. Don’t try to make every word perfect – that’s what second drafts are for! – because it’s a lot easier to go back and edit a book once it’s complete. The hard part is writing it. Get that done, and then you can go back and polish it up to professional standard.

Q. You are a science fiction writer, so is that your favorite genre to read?

A. I’ve read science fiction for as long as I can remember. My local library had a good selection of SF books, and I worked my way through most of them.

Q. I read on your blog that you are a fan of Iain M. Banks, and had the opportunity meet him a few times. I discovered his Culture series fairly recently, yet was still deeply affected by his death. What is it about Banks’s Culture novels, or perhaps space opera in general, that you think speaks so deeply to people?

A. The Culture books spoke to me because they are so well written, with such memorable characters. They are the sort of books within which it is easy to become immersed. I love the ships, and the way they argue and scheme and bicker; and I love the idea of writing about a utopia. In science fiction, most writers seem to find it easier to write about dystopias. Banks’s genius was in taking his idea of a perfect society, and wringing drama from it. He created a post-scarcity civilisation, in which every man, woman and child enjoys a long and comfortable life, and showed that within that framework, there are still human stories to be told. If I had to select a fictional future in which to live the rest of my life, I’d certainly put The Culture very close to the top of my list.

Q. This interview is part of Science Fiction Month over at Rinn’s Reads.  What science fiction books would you recommend to someone who is new to the genre?

A. I’d recommend they stay away from the ‘classics’. Don’t let well-meaning friends load you down with books from the 1950s or 1960s. In a lot of cases, those books have dated very badly, and could easily put you off SF for good (I’ve seen it happen). Instead, seek out something new and relevant. We just mentioned Iain M. Banks. You could do a lot worse than dig out The Hydrogen Sonata or The Player of Games. In addition, M John Harrison’s recent trilogy – Light, Nova Swing, and Empty Space – are three of the most remarkable works of SF I’ve ever read, and I heartily recommend them as well.

Q. And now a silly question! I’m enjoying Ack Ack Macaque’s twitter feed! If he had a dating site profile, what would it say?

A. Monkey pilot seeks mate for smoking, drinking and wild monkey sex. Must have gsoh and be able to handle assault weaponry. No time wasters.

hive monkey

You can learn more about, and connect with Gareth L. Powell on his website or twitter.  You can connect with the monkey himself on twitter as well!

9 Responses to "Interview with Gareth L. Powell"

I saw Gareth briefly at BristolCon last weekend, but never got round to introducing myself!

The premise of the books sounds brilliant, and highly original. I’m loving the cover =)

I think Gareth is right in that many people are put off by the ‘classics’ of sci-fi. Although that’s not to say people shouldn’t try them, but they should also remember that are some fantastic new works.


Some old, ‘classic’ SF books are outdated by today’s science and can actually read as naive and baseless, but some are timeless jewels.


personally, I’m a huge fan of the classics. it’s true, that most of them haven’t dated well at all, but i like knowing where it all came from, it helps me understand how we got to where we are today. My favorite authors were influenced by someone, and they were influenced by someone, and they were influenced by someone. I really dig that.


I can relate, and yes, we have a baggage that can show in what we write and it has roots somewhere; haven’t we all? 🙂


What a fun-looking series. Thanks for the interview, and like Rinn, I appreciate his advice. I’m not very knowledgeable on the classics of sci-fi, but I think a good way to get new people into the fold is introduce them to works that are universally approachable and amusing… and then sic the classics on them.


I was a bit surprised about the suggestion not to read the classics!? Even if the tech and science inside those stories has become altered from today’s standards, I do not accept the theory of invalidity to read them? Afterall, tech and science change at such a quick pace — on the level of this exclusion most books would ‘expire’ each time new books in the genre would become published?! Or, am I missing your point!? I’ve been exploring the genre from past to present rather happily and I haven’t come across any issues such as the ones you’ve mentioned here to a person attempting to jump into the genre?

To me classical sci-fi (& fantasy) provide the framework for all that came next and I enjoy seeing the history of where they went first which led to where writers are taking their stories today.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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