I don’t really have guilty pleasures. I like what I like, and I don’t worry too much about whether it’s supposed to be cool or sophisticated or show that I have good or bad taste or whatever.
When I was a kid, I had no perception whatever that science fiction was supposed to be a boys’ club.
I’m not going to pretend that I never fantasized about winning the Hugo. Or the Nebula, for that matter. I just never thought it was an actual real possibility.
I’d say my biggest influences are writers like Andre Norton and, particularly when it comes to the Radch, C.J. Cherryh.
I think a lot of times our culture has an attitude toward art and the production of art that separates artists from the rest of us, like making art or music or painting or whatever is some magical thing that you have to be inspired to do, and special people do it.
Working for several years as a waitress, you learn really quickly a couple of default scripts, so you know exactly what the interaction is going to be when the person sits down at the table.
I’ve been surprised at the number of people who were really angry that I tried to convey gender neutrality by using a gendered pronoun.
It’s a common part of the narrative of the history of Christianity that it was ‘real’ religion that involved real spirituality and real faith, and that’s why it’s completely superseded the more pagan polytheistic practices.
‘Ancillary Sword’ picked up the Locus and the BSFA, which surprised the heck out of me.
I’m one of those people who always wanted to be a writer, so I have a fair amount of juvenilia, though fortunately, I was too old for my juvenilia to be on the Internet.
Fortunately or unfortunately, NaNoWriMo requires you to write at a breakneck pace, so I got used to just pushing on through.
I love science fiction, and one of the things I love about it is that it’s so very different. You can read stuff that’s just fast-paced adventure, and the characters are cardboard, but who cares, because they’re heroes, and we love it. And you can read stuff that’s really deep character, and everything in between.
I think I made my first short fiction sale in 2005. I had been writing unsuccessfully before that.
I don’t think anybody submits their first story and sells right away.
Writing was something I always as a kid thought would be fabulous and glamorous to be a writer.
Kids are fabulous, but when you’re home all day with an infant that can’t talk, your brain starts to kind of melt, and I thought, ‘I have to do something, or my brain is just going to liquefy.’
I’ve always enjoyed making up stories, especially when I was bored and just sitting around. It got really serious after the children came along.
Does getting an award make you happy? When you imagine yourself at the ceremony, you’re always so eloquent and gracious. In reality, it’s kind of awkward.
One day, I discovered that a couple of people had written ‘fanfic’ – stories of their own based on my characters. Just the thought of people thinking that hard and deeply about something I’ve written is incredible.
When I need to get away from my desk, I tend to take walks or go places. I also like to bead – working with beads to make jewellery.
Occasionally, I hear grumbles about everything being a series or a trilogy, but apart from the question of them maybe selling more books, I think that there’s a real problem in trying to introduce a new world or a new concept while also getting your reader to pay close attention to your characters and themes.
One of the nice things about a second book is that your readers already have so much of the introductions on board, they don’t have to put all their attention into figuring out the world and can more easily let that play out as a background to the other things you want to do.
Science fiction in particular is often assumed to be about the future, or about some abstract technological or philosophical idea, or just about ‘adventure,’ but writers can’t build worlds out of nothing. We use bits and pieces of the real world to assemble our fictional ones.
One of the awesome things about being a writer is that I can research nearly anything – tea? Bubblegum? Ants? Neurology? Chocolate? Textile production? It doesn’t matter. It’s all productive work.
My taste in both is pretty eclectic. I do encourage people to try new and different kinds of tea if they can – there are so many different sorts, and so many, flavored or not, and there’s bound to be something you like. The same with choral music, really.
Singing together is something human beings just do, and there are hundreds of years worth of just European vocal music available to read and hear.
I suspect that we get used to particular sorts of stories being presented in particular sorts of ways, and we’re so used to interpreting them and understanding what it is they’re doing that we think of those forms and styles as faithful, complete depictions of reality.
The ‘indistinguishable from magic’ thing is highly dependent on where a viewer is looking from and not something intrinsic to any particular sort of tech.
The Internet really lets people connect that wouldn’t have in the past, and lets conversations happen and connections happen.
The ’70s was a decade that was crammed with prominent women science fiction writers, and a lot of women made their debut in that decade or really came to prominence.
‘Fountain of youth’ is actually kind of ambiguous – does it mean a way to make everyone healthy and let them live indefinitely? Or are we talking about something that would reset you physically to the way you were in your youth, which for various reasons not all of us would be enthused about?
I read way, way more Andre Norton than could possibly have been healthy. It was a short hop from her to the rest of the library’s science fictional and fantastic holdings.
I do realize the impulse to classify people by the food and art they consume is strong – sometimes I have to remind myself not to do that.
You write alone, but you write hoping that there will be readers who will connect with what you write, and it’s so wonderful and amazing – I can’t even tell you – when that actually happens.
I didn’t ever imagine, except in the most idle, obviously wish-fulfillment, ego-gratification fantasies, that anything I wrote would ever win awards, let alone so many.
After about fourth grade, I do remember borrowing my mother’s old portable Olivetti and typing stories out on the back of photocopies of journal articles.
The lessons of slushing and editing build up over time, and you’re not necessarily thinking about them while you’re working, but they’re in the back of your mind, probably influencing your choices.
‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’ by Susanna Clarke is a big, thick book. About a thousand pages in paperback. I’ve heard several people say the size alone intimidated them.
Now, I personally enjoy a really good footnote.
I’ve been a fan of Jack Vance since before I was in high school.
‘Star Trek’ still – I’m kind of intrigued by the way that the standard foods of various non-humans are sometimes portrayed as downright disgusting.
Junk food’s not going anywhere. The specifics of what’s being snacked on, and what’s considered ‘junk’ and what’s ‘healthy’ will change, of course, depending on what’s available.
I can’t see potato chips being popular where there’s not land to grow potatoes in or where frying in lots of oil isn’t easy or convenient.
Food is an excellent way to do very elegant worldbuilding – the kind that can make a fictional world seem real, like it extends way past the edges of the frame.
Any attempt to list the ten best science fiction novels is doomed to failure.
The ‘science’ in ‘science fiction’ isn’t just physics and engineering. It can also be linguistics, anthropology, and psychology.
In non-fiction, I found John Gardner’s two writing books to be tremendously helpful.
Writing books can be very individual – one might strike you as helpful that someone else found useless, or that you might not have appreciated at some other time in your life.
In so much SF, either gender roles are the ones we’re used to in the here and now, only transported to the future, or else they’re supposedly different, but characters still are slotting into various stereotypes.
I tend to edit some as I go – partly because one of the reasons I don’t outline much is that I don’t know what the next scene will be until I’ve actually written the previous scene.
If you can’t access it, all the resources in the universe won’t do you any good.
The ability to live for five hundred years would be an incredible gift. But I greatly fear it would be a gift only for the wealthy – one that might greatly widen the gap between those with access and those without.
What would it be like to live 500 years? Healthy years, of course; no one wants to live 500 years in a coma on a respirator. But reasonably healthy all that time? That would be awesome!
When I first started writing, I did mostly short fiction, and I’d work on a short story and get near to being done and have no idea what I’d work on next, and then I’d panic.
Science fiction is huge and varied, and there’s almost any sort of book or story you might imagine.
When I’m writing, I don’t really have much other guide than, ‘As a reader, how would I respond to this?’
I do think that narrative is very important – I think that we use narrative to organize the world around us, and so it does matter a lot what kinds of narratives we have in our inventories and which ones are reinforced so often and so strongly that we habitually reach for them without thinking.
I’ve seen music and songs used in stories, and while sometimes it works really well, often it doesn’t.