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Articles / Book Reviews

Building Harlequin’s Moon

Written by: Brenda Cooper and Larry Niven

Science Fiction


Hio everyone. This is Ben Lovatt, owner of EducatedEarth. I managed to get a hold of Brenda Cooper via her blog: and she was willing to do an interview for EE.



Building Harlequin's Moon is an epic tale of humanity's quest for the stars. Spanning a period of 60,000 years, this work of science fiction brings to life the social and physical challenges forced upon an interstellar colony ship when they find themselves stranded light-years from their desired destination Ymir. With a depleted antimatter supply and no hope of rescue, the colonists have no choice but to terraform a nearby star system and forge a civilization to refuel their vessel.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys science fiction, especially psychological SF. The characters are very well developed and often struggle with realistic moral dilemmas.

How did you first get into writing? 

"Well, I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  When I was just a small girl, I wrote poetry and short stories.  Although I never stopped writing, at some point in my thirties, I decided that I’d better stop procrastinating about writing commercially accessible work if I wanted to be published.  This realization partly came out of a series of workshops by Steven Barnes, another Niven collaborator.  So I went back to school at our local community college and started attending writing workshops and classes given by published writers with real track records.  After that, it only took a couple of years to start publishing.  And of course, knowing Mr. Niven and writing with him helped.  Steven also helped me out with good advice.  Science fiction writers are generally a really supportive community, and we have a tradition of helping newcomers."

Do you relate to any character in your literature?

"I relate to all of my characters, even the ones who are not very much like me at all.  I think it would be really hard to write about a character I didn’t have at least some sympathy for.  In Building Harlequin’s Moon, I like to think I would be as brave and resourceful as Rachel, and as smart as Gabriel. "

What's it like to work with Larry Niven?

"Larry is one of the smartest and kindest men I know, and it was really a pleasure to work with him.  That doesn’t mean it was always easy…when I made mistakes, he pointed them out bluntly.  But that was really what I needed at that point in my career.  I guess the thing he taught me the most was how to think about plot and story.  It was also a little tough because we rarely actually saw each other, and most of our work has always been via email, which can be a hard medium for meaningful communication.  It’s not exactly a spontaneous discussion medium.  Larry has collaborated with a lot of people, and in almost all cases he’s helped us get started.  I’m appreciative, and I think all of his other collaborators are, too. "

In addition to being a sci-fi author you are also a Futurist. You’re a regular contributor to and a public speaker. Is the dim vision of humanity painted in Building Harlequin’s Moon complete fiction, or do you think our technological advancements (in this case nanobots and AI) will eventually corrode our society?

"Excellent question.  I don’t actually take a dim vision of the future:  we’ve always improved our lot and done better.  Very few people actually want to return the past, which was generally at least as bloody and less open and less interesting than the present.  We have wonderful transparency now, and the ability to communicate cheaply and well throughout the world.  We have advances in medical care and education and longevity. But we also still have big problems like hunger and poverty and war and even genocide that we just don’t quite seem to be able to grow out of as a world.  Some of the new technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and robotics pose real threats, particularly if used effectively by either terrorists or authoritarian governments – in other words, by Al Qaeda or the current US or Chinese administrations.  So I think we need to stay both watchful and hopeful.   We also need to be careful of the cumulative effects of “progress” like global warming.  So it feels to me like we’re walking near the edge of a cliff, but we don’t need to fall off.   With luck and care, our children’s children can inherit a better world than ours."

Click here for more reviews/info and to buy the book!

Source: Ben Lovatt
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