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Amazon.com talks to Brian J. Ford

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Amazon.com: Where are you from? How--if at all--has your sense of place colored your writing?

B.J.F: I was born in Corsham, Wiltshire (well known as the home of Prince Charlesís lady friend, Camilla Parker-Bowles). There is no sense of specific place in my writing; I have always felt myself a citizen of the planet and traveling around the globe has given me a sense of feeling Ďat homeí in diverse cultures. Once you recognise the foibles of your own culture, you can understand the vast differences and colors that exist in them all. A recent book of mine GENES, THE FIGHT FOR LIFE (1999) looks at the basis of a sense of culture, for I construe it as having a crucial biological function.

Amazon.com: When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?

B.J.F: Well, I have never liked writing and could not consider myself a writer! Writers are devotees; enthusiasts for the craft. I write because itís the only enduring way of expressing oneís findings for other to access, but itís something I dislike. My dear friend Brian Aldiss says he has to write 1,000 words a day just to feel good. Even if it was all shredded heíd still write. That doesnít appeal to me. I write when I have to; when the deadline looms; when the check is in the bank. At school, and at play as a kid, friends used to tease me about expounding ideas and it only seemed a question of when Iíd start. Going to university meant a severe lack of cash, so I wrote to the editor of a newspaper and proposed that I write a regular column on science. He offered to commission the first five, but nobody was more surprised than me to see them appear in print. With that income, and playing R & B at a night-club twice a week, I was financially independent. The first book was GERMAN SECRET WEAPONS when I was 29, and I recently contributed to a Hollywood documentary on the subject, with Charlton Heston as narrator. The book is still in print (currently in China and Germany).

Amazon.com: Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? What books have most influenced your life?

B.J.F: I have been most influenced by great minds I meet personally. Books have had less impact. I donít read much, but consult textbooks for facts and figures as and when I want to check out something. I was first turned on to humor by the MICKEY MOUSE ANNUAL when I was seven, and laughed aloud as Will Cuppyís HOW TO ATTRACT THE WOMBAT whist at school. The most influential early book was PARKINSONíS LAW by C. Northcote Parkinson. In later years the bookís author, Cyril Parkinson, and I became friends and spent some enjoyable evenings together at Canterbury (both of us being Honorary Members of Keynes College at the University of Kent). He died a couple of years ago of a stroke, and I miss him sorely to this day.

Amazon.com: What is the most romantic book you've ever read? The scariest? The funniest?

B.J.F: No book has ever struck me as romanticónot compared to the roaring, tingling, explosive realities of real romance, that is. I could not imagine a book being scary. The funniest was the Academic Press DICTIONARY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, for its endless editorial slips and gaffes. I reviewed it for three journals, finding more funny errors each time!

Amazon.com: What music, if any, most inspires you to write? What do you like to listen to while writing?

B.J.F: Music whilst writing deters me from concentration; otherwise I like nothing better than raucous and solid rock and roll. The SEX PISTOLS, the ROLLING STONES or GUNS íNí ROSES will always sort my head out.

Amazon.com: What are you reading now? What CD is currently in your stereo?

B.J.F: I recently finished reading aloud Bill Brysonís book on the Appalachian trail, nightly, to my wife. Lots of padding; full of cop-outs, but with some good insights here and there. The CD is the first Linda M. Smith album, an indie pressing: friend of mine now plays bass in the band, and this is a reminder of good times in Chicago.

Amazon.com: What are you working on?

B.J.F: Donít ask. Recently out is SENSITIVE SOULS, which argues that all forms of life have languages of subtle complexity, and all life has its own level of intelligence. I am more concerned about anthropocentrism than anthropomorphism. Current book project is THE FUTURE OF FOOD; also the science pages for GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS; chapter for the millennium book for ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA; my current television reports; planning two American lecture tours; hoping to get to the beach next weekend; usual stuff.

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