Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lou Anders and Paolo Bacigalupi Interview Each Other

Posted by Trent Walters at 6:03 PM
Lou Anders

Paolo Bacigalupi (again, no website but a new interview about "Calorie Man" over at Sci Fi Wire; also see the various links I posted earlier)

LA: Michael Swanwick “Letter to a Young SF writer”: No comforting fables. Lies about the nature of truth.

PB: Has problem with SF. Questions [the possibility of] space exploration, or even making it to another world -- misses the questions he’s interested in. Many questions we’re not talking about.

LA: Space program built on forced labor camps.

PB: PB has been accused of being depressive because of being an environmentalist. Hidden stories don’t seem to have resonance in our society. The bigger the space program, the more resources wasted.

LA: [Pyr is] not publishing difficult to read, experimental, [but] accessible, action-oriented SF that is innovative and genuine SF. I don’t think space opera is synonymous with dumb. Sean Williams, not as well known here. Mad Max meet Ursula LeGuin. He's influenced by quantum theory and multiple worlds. LA experimented [by foisting one of PYR's] fantasy novel on Orkin man who read fantasy. Loved it. [If it's] appealing on one level, [you'll have] something to take away from it.

PB: How much does it pay homage and how much of it is new?

LA: Worlds fission and swallow each other up. If we are in a multi-verse, so Sean was ahead of science.

PB: What is your sense of numbers for intelligent novels for intelligent readers?

LA: Hardcover: low thousands. Tradepaper: 10,000. Norman Spinrad in Asimov’s reviewed 5 titles. Contrasted with Moorcock. Pure SF for literate SF readers. Amazing they think they can make a living at this. Compared comparable writers on Bookscan. Stephenson’s novels (123 thousand in hard cover) -- high level mathematics, 100s of characters, complex story. Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon (40 thousand): Shows impact of tech. Poor vs. rich. [i.e. intelligent SF can sell]

PB: What’s the ceiling with this publishing experiment? Do you have time to work out kinks?

LA: Always have pressure--don’t work without. Fantastic critical success [so far]. So they’re not going to throw in towel, but obviously we need sales. We have been getting word of mouth. Our biggest is Resnick’s book. We’ve got four more [of his?] like it, so they should be off my back for a while. River of Gods barely lost Hugo. Also hard SF, and very difficult. Cheryl Morgan: 1st wave, explore space; 2nd wave, cyberpunk; 3rd wave, global SF.

PB: History writes itself regardless of what we think. We interact with cultures in ways we never have before. Other cultures can tell us much about who we are.

LA: Globalization may bypass us. Korean rap important to Chinese. New Dr. Who popular elsewhere. Scifi channel was not interested until the big DVD sales.

PB: Not necessarily bypassed but more communication. Hesitant about writing about other cultures. More than respectful exploration.

LA: Why is SF not leading charge on environmentalism?

PB: This is what inspires me: Here’s another problem. We’re reticent about being a smelly environmentalist. Something not sexy about it. Hungry for complex stories. It’s a challenge to go after story about plastic bottles and what’s in them. Refers to RS’s comment from David Hartwell (going to lose readers here). Doesn’t like downer stories himself, actually likes Honor Harrington [Yes, PB said that].

LA: How do you grow readers?

PB: Don’t write stories like mine. How many stories of that would you publish?

LA: Published Keith Brooke’s Genetopia.

This may be where I asked [either party, although PB in particular since he seemed to make contrasting statements over the weekend] something along the lines of: "[According to your present working theory of SF,] it seems to me you stand in opposition both to genre (hidden stories without resonance for our culture, also Ordover’s prescription for space opera) and non-genre (SF's estrangement), and yet you write very strange, very SF'nal stories. How do you reconcile these?"

LA: Vanguard in short fiction can work. [This is a summary, sorry. I had to pay attention to his answer since I had asked the question, which memory says was essentially uplifting. So get the DVD.]

PB: People can take a little, but maybe not a collection. GVG can take a risk once a year. Not sure if he could do prolific production. GVG can mix magazine. Half an hour can be depressive.

LA: "Calorie Man" not completely depressive. Ending was upbeat, with hope and promise.

PB: I struggled with that ending.

Reader: At what point is space opera dumb?

LA: John Meaney -- go out and buy.

PB: We need stories that bridge our consumer behavior to sustainable future. Usually, trend-lines get worse and worse.

LA: Problem may have get close to boiling before we act with technologies.

PB: Humans have not adapted well to long-term threats as opposed immediate adrenaline threats.

LA: Paul di Filippo does positive near-term futures.

GZ's question/statement to PB: Literature is the human heart at war with itself (SF = humans at war with themselves). Everything I’ve written is grim. You have to look at it clinically. Welcome to real literature.

Eric Reynolds [who has an anthology forthcoming, with phenomenal authors involved: Stephen Baxter, Terry Bisson, G. David Nordley, Mike Resnick, Rudy Rucker, and Robert Sheckley--I haven't seen the final product, so cannot comment]: Think of [PB's kind of fiction] as preventive medicine.

PB: Pop-squad in F&SF (oct?) Asimov’s (Dec?), Fast-Forward (Feb '07), also in HCN.org [follow link in earlier report] -- free trial access. Would like to be able to make some portion of living as a writer. It's an expensive habit.

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