Interview between Kij Johnson and Pamela SargentPosted by Trent Walters at 6:27 PM
The full length interview was taped and should be available on DVD in the future.
PS: Fox Woman -- beautiful book, which led PS to buy a KJ story for Conqueror Fantastic. How get into?
KJ: Nonfiction slut. Loved these diaries from Japan. Wrote “Fox Magic” at Clarion -- increased interest.
PS: Had to imagine inner lives of Mongolians [for Ruler of the Sky].
KJ: Fantasy: Take existing facts and interpolating. Filling in what we don’t know. Make up what goes between. More research needed to do this kind of work.
PS: Fills gaps that historian can’t do. You capture more of what is real by filling in because 21st historians may use the lens of their own time. For instance, a writer can infuse magic which is thought to be real in its time.
KJ: Why Mongolia?
PS: Did research, and though she should use it professionally. Wrote YA. Describes. Maybe inner city kids would be able to relate to a Ghengis Khan, but then was unsure if Khan would be good role model. What are you doing now that’s not writing?
KJ: Had always been an anti-jock. Has been rock-climbing. Taught how not to fall. Thought about why she’s climbing. We tend to live in our brains as grow. We hardly move into our bodies. A whole world where you don’t necessarily think or feel. Just do. We don’t know what action really is.
PS: Also anti-jock in family of jocks. Always the score-keeper. Camp forced physicality of life--a utopian existence. All female-camp environment may have been an influence.
KJ: How have you been spending your time?
PS: Elephant in room. Point of writing. 9/11 is the starting point (although 2000 election may also be). Ask self: Why am I doing this? Thinks there’s a deep cultural crisis. This is on top of publishing crisis GZ has been talking about. Promoted grass-roots candidate that she happened to see in action. Background: increased drive-bys, etc. What can be done before spousal abuse starts? But instead of being about this, reporters pester about campaign finance. This is instructive because what you see, when you’re supposedly being, that there’s more going on. If a lot of thing going wrong, grass roots may be active. Media not focusing on this. PS stands outside in rain during polling to show how this candidate is like John Kerry.
KJ: [You've edited the] three essential feminist [SF] anthologies.
PS: Ovular. Crime usually the result of breakdown of families.
KJ: Does this relate to what you want to write?
PS: May pass out campaign literature. Has to have a feel she’s doing something. Sometimes writing is like going out into blackhole. So many crises facing culture, which makes you feel more irrelevant. Maybe we should go back to clay tablets and papyrus.
KJ: Also has crises of faith in writing. Fantasy is the inner life. Greatest praise: You changed life.
PS: Contact writers. Readers think, "Why would they want to hear from me?" Every communication is a treasure.
KJ: Attempt to change people’s perceptions. Treating women as people was enough to be concerned feminist.
PS: Sometimes you have to do something else. You walk away from writing and now you know what to do with work. George will do electrical work. Sam e function. Using brain in different way.
KJ: A practice to keep out of writing. Writing about climbing explores different kind of psyche. Do something that will radically affect. Physical prose and physcial style. A good way not to write. Documenting the process, mentally and physically.
PB: Writing about other cultures, do you have a sense that...
KJ: Cultural appropriation?
PB: Using for own artistic ends.
KJ: All artists are outside culture. At least for my writing, I spent years learning how dogs thought. How does a dog perceive? Have to come up with a new vocabulary. It’s an alien intelligence. So are cultures. Trying to get into alien way of thinking--do with respect and research. Japanese people and scholars say you got it right--2nd best compliment a writer can get. Writer has to explore alien thinking, carefully. Appropriation is disrespectful or approaches with preconceptions. But you can’t avoid. Sin boldly. Most women probably did not think as women do today.
PS: Wanted to write about women warriors.
KJ: Huge spread of women in our political culture.
PB: Or different vocabulary of what feminism is.
KJ: Fun to ask what women would think several centuries ago. Describes man coming in for sex three nights in a row.
PS: Write about connections between women relationships in women warrior culture--the support troops. Everybody had a role in this culture at this time.
Reader: What questions should feminism be addressing?
KJ: In my stuff, I’m interested in self and other--where blurs or clearly is delineated. Now, looking for common ground. Where do self and other become the same? So much conflict is tribalism.
PS: Are we gonna make it? Bothers me more and more. As a culture in decline, that’s also playing a role in fiction.