Fractal Noise Questions? Christopher Answers.

Fractal Noise Q&A 2023

Now that Fractal Noise has been available to read for a little over a month, you might find yourself with some burning questions that need answering! Christopher Paolini offers answers to the latest batch of questions, from what inspired Fractal Noise to if we’ll ever see Alex Crichton again. Be warned, there be spoilers ahead! A full transcription of Christopher’s answers along with a timeline follows the video below. You can also view the video directly on Youtube.

00:00 Intro
00:13 What was the inspiration for the turtles in Fractal Noise?

I wanted an alien that felt alien. That it wasn’t immediately obvious, whether they were alive or some sort of machine. Whether they were sentient, non-sentient. And so basically having an alien that looks like a big bump of rock seemed like a good idea. And they have a lot of interesting functions and behaviors that aren’t immediately apparent, so that was the original inspiration for the turtles in Fractal Noise.

00:43 Why did you choose to rewrite Fractal Noise instead of moving on to a new project?

I did move on to a new project. That new project was To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. I wrote the first draft of Fractal Noise back in 2013. And I wasn’t particularly happy with it. Also it’s a fairly intense story, and I felt that To Sleep in a Sea of Stars would be a better introduction to the Fractalverse. So I put Fractal Noise away for the time being—worked on To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, which took way longer than I expected. And once that was out of my hair, I returned to Fractal Noise. And reread it, saw what needed to be done and a new path forward, and started in on that rewrite. And it wasn’t a page one rewrite, but I substantially changed what was there. The original draft was more along the lines of a novella, and by the time I was done we had a three hundred-some page book. So it was a major, major revision.

01:46 Who do you most take inspiration from for your science fiction writing?

A lot of the science I’ve read and learned about over the years. Lots of authors like Frank Herbert with Dune, Asimov, Heinlein, Clark, Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, Alastair Reynolds. Especially Ian M Banks; I really have enjoyed his Culture series. Also the Mass Effect video game series, which is no surprise given that I managed to convince Jennifer Hale to do the audiobooks for To Sleep in a Sea of Stars and Fractal Noise. And Jennifer Hale was the voice of the female version of Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect series. So that’s a cool little connection. But I love science fiction, and inspiration can come from many different places.

02:39 What inspired Fractal Noise?

It was actually a dream. I had a dream when I was part way through writing Inheritance, the last book of the Inheritance Cycle. I don’t know. It was just a night of weird dreams. And a number of the things that I dreamt of ended up in the Inheritance Cycle. Some of those things would be the shadow birds, the burrow grubs, a couple other things. And then I also dreamt of this planet out in space with a giant hole on the surface of the planet, and this small group of people who are on an expedition to go investigate it. It was it was a really vivid image, and as with so many dreams, there was a strong emotional component to it. So when I woke up I thought, “That’s interesting. There’s something there.” So I wrote the image down, and I kept thinking about it, and before long I had sort of a framework for why those people were there, what they were trying to accomplish, and how it was all going to end. And that was the first inspiration. So, you know, I’ve never written a book based off a dream before. I may never, ever do it again. But in this case, it happened.

03:55 Will we ever see Alex Crichton again?

Quite possibly. But it would probably be further down the timeline. Perhaps following the events of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. His main story—the one I wanted to tell—really is encompassed within the events of Fractal Noise.

04:13 Did Babylon 5 provide any inspiration for the planetary hole?

No, but I should have mentioned Babylon 5 as one of my big science fiction influences. Yeah, a big, big fan of that series. But, no, I can’t say I was thinking of Babylon 5 when I wrote Fractal Noise. Was there a big hole in Babylon 5? {Assistant off camera: Yeah, there is!} Yeah, I don’t even remember it. Yeah, it probably was an inspiration, and I don’t even remember it.

04:37 What was your favorite scene to write in Fractal Noise?

Probably when the main character, Alex, gets to his destination at the end of the book. I found the location fascinating, and it’s a very intense sequence of events. So that was a very juicy material as an author.

04:58 Why gallium?

Because gallium’s a good conductor. And I have a friend of mine who is a very knowledgeable electrical engineer, and I was talking to him about the idea that the hole is this—essentially a giant emitter—and various ways in which that signal could be enhanced, and focused, and other things could be done. And so we came up with this crazy idea of a giant, um, network of liquid gallium that’s used as a conductor, and for various other functions around the hole. And it can even help focus the beam, and control the, the burst of energy that’s  coming out of the hole. But it’s non-functional at the time of the actual events of the story because things have broken down, you know. The technology—this artifact, uh, was built long, long ago and hasn’t really been maintained.

And that’s it for this batch of questions! More to come in the future.

Fractal Noise Q&A 2023

Immanuela Meijer

Immanuela is the Paolinis' webmaster, archivist, and all around "make-things-go" Renaissance woman.