The name’s Lomax—Alex Lomax. I’m the one and only private eye working the mean streets of New Klondike, the Martian frontier town that sprang up forty years ago after Simon Weingarten and Denny O’Reilly discovered fossils on the Red Planet. Back on Earth, where anything can be synthesized, the remains of alien life are the most valuable of all collectibles, so shiploads of desperate treasure hunters stampeded here in the Great Martian Fossil Rush.
I’m trying to make an honest buck in a dishonest world, tracking down killers and kidnappers among the failed prospectors, the corrupt cops, and a growing population of transfers—lucky stiffs who, after striking paleontological gold, upload their minds into immortal android bodies. But when I uncover clues to solving the decades-old murders of Weingarten and O’Reilly, along with a journal that may lead to their legendary mother lode of Martian fossils, God only knows what I’ll dig up…
“In Red Planet Blues, Sawyer has found a highly original and fun way to pay homage to the great hard-boiled detectives of the past.”—seattlepi.com
“Red Planet Blues resurrects the noir mystery, the gold-rush western, and the science-fiction adventure and the result is a unique, fun story that keeps you guessing, keeps the pages turning, and manages to put a smile on your face every few pages, in spite of the pulse-pumping action and adventure.”—Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show
Okay, okay! No need for any rough stuff. I confess! This is how my twenty–second novel, Red Planet Blues, came to be.
In February 2004, Mike Resnick approached me with an offer I couldn,t refuse: write a “science–fictional hard–boiled private–eye novella” for an original anthology he was editing for the Science Fiction Book Club called Down These Dark Spaceways.
That story, “Identity Theft,” went on to win Spain,s Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficción, which, at 6,000 euros, is the world,s largest cash prize for science–fiction writing. It was also a finalist for the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Award (“the Aurora”), as well as for the top two awards in the science–fiction field, the Hugo and the Nebula.
In a slightly modified form, “Identity Theft” makes up the first ten chapters of the novel Red Planet Blues. The remaining thirty–seven chapters are all new (of the 105,000 words in the novel, 82,000 appear in Red Planet Blues for the first time).
After almost a decade, what drew me back to the world of “Identity Theft”? In part, it was that I loved the main character, hard–boiled Alex Lomax, the one and only private detective working the mean streets of Mars. In part, it was because readers kept asking me for more Alex Lomax mysteries. And in part—let me be honest—I was looking for another project that would make a good basis for a TV show, like my 1999 novel FlashForward, which was adapted into the ABC TV series of the same name.
But there also was a practical reason related to the realities of modern book publishing.
Science fiction and fantasy have long shared shelf space in bookstores. But as fantasy has grown, fueled by the popularity of the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Game of Thrones books—not to mention the renewed interest in J.R.R. Tolkien—science fiction has been getting squeezed out.
But online bookselling has changed things, perhaps for the better. In a brick–and–mortar store, your book ends up on precisely one shelf, for instance either science fiction or mystery. But online booksellers let you be on as many virtual bookshelves as you wish, allowing you to reach varied readers in ways never before possible. I love reading mystery as well as science fiction, and I wanted to reach across to those, like me, who appreciate detective stories and intricate whodunits.
I,ve always felt that science fiction has much more in common with mystery than with fantasy, anyway. Science fiction, after all, is about things that plausibly might happen; fantasy is about things that never could happen—in that sense, they,re antithetical genres.
But science fiction and mystery both prize rational thought, and both ask the reader to carefully pick up the clues the author has salted into the text—in mystery, of course, to solve the crime, and in science fiction to puzzle out the unfamiliar backdrop against which the story is being told.
Red Planet Blues isn,t the first time I,ve combined mystery and SF. My first novel, 1990,s Golden Fleece, was a murder mystery set aboard a starship. And Ace recently reissued my Nebula Award–winning The Terminal Experiment, which is a high–tech whodunit, and my Seiun Award–winning Illegal Alien, which is a courtroom drama with an extraterrestrial defendant. But Red Planet Blues is the first novel in which I,ve made a professional detective the main character.
And having a science–fictional detective does make sense. It,s become increasingly hard to tell traditional detective stories set in the present day. Everyone knows about CSI–style forensics: it,s almost impossible for a killer not to leave behind fingerprints or DNA. And our public and private spaces are increasingly covered by surveillance cameras; there,s almost no room left—on Earth anyway—for the traditional whodunit.
But Red Planet Blues is set on a lawless frontier Mars—where the security cameras have been smashed—and it involves a technology that lets people transfer their consciousnesses into gorgeous android bodies, which don,t have fingerprints and don,t shed DNA. But who is actually inside any given body is anyone,s guess, letting me tell a good–old fashioned mystery … out on the final frontier.
Oh, and did I mention Red Planet Blues has fossils in it—of ancient Martian life? Look at Tony Mauro,s fabulous cover art carefully and you,ll see one of them in the lower right. Whether gumshoe Alex Lomax turns up a freshly killed astronaut or the fossilized remains of the pentapod Shostakia, he learns the hard way that the red planet has always been a world of life … and death.