Author Matt Ruff joins us in this episode, where he talks about how books like Bertrand R. Brinley's The Mad Scientists' Club made him fall in love with scientific thinking and science fictional ideas. He also tells us how being given a box of Robert A. Heinlein's adult books at the age of 9 got him thinking critically about stories, and how they could be written better. And he discusses other influences over the years, such as Stephen King, John Crowley's Little, Big, Neal Stephenson, and William Gibson.
Matt shares his thoughts on writing, including how to know when something is written well, crafting stories that are in conversation with the works of other authors, and why he doesn't like to go back over the same ground. We also talk about a trope he frequently explores in his stories: the challenges of dealing with power — getting on in a world where power imbalances exist.
This leads us into a discussion about Matt's latest work: his mosaic novel Lovecraft Country, about an African-American family in the 1950s dealing with the supernatural machinations of a Lovecraftian cult, as well as the day-to-day horrors of racism in the U.S. Matt talks about confronting the racism and sexism in Lovecraft's work. He also shares this thoughts about the importance of doing a good job on the writing, and of finding common ground, as a white author writing about African-Americans. And we talk about last week's announcement that Jordan Peele, Misha Green, and J.J. Abrams will be producing a Lovecraft Country series for HBO, and how he's okay with adaptations and letting TV writers play with his ideas.
Our interview took place in May 2017 at Matt's home in Seattle.
Find out more about Matt Ruff on his website:
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In this episode, we're joined by author Robert Charles Wilson, who tells us about how he fell in love with speculative fiction — including stories such as Louis Slobodkin's The Space Ship Under the Apple Tree, the Mushroom Planet books by Eleanor Cameron, and Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time — as soon as he learned to read. We'll learn how sf's juxtaposition of the ordinary with the extraordinary fascinated him, and how exploring the genre and its ideas was a reaction to growing up in an incurious family.
Bob also talks about how he became a writer, and overcoming his anxiety about his work — an anxiety that gave him nightmares. We'll discuss some of the tropes frequently addressed in his stories, including unfathomable cosmic forces and how humanity deals with them, and how he'll sometimes examine them from different perspectives across several unrelated novels. We'll also talk about the presence of characters in his books who are on the autism spectrum.
And we'll hear about some of the stories he's developing (including his novel Last Year, which was released in December 2016, a couple of months after our interview).
Our interview took place in September 2016 near Bob's home in the Greater Toronto Area.
Find out more about Robert Charles Wilson and his books on his website: