Interview with Paul Di Filippo (THE SUMMER THIEVES)
Paul Di Filippo is an exciting and unique voice in modern speculative fiction. His short story ‘Stone Lives’ was included in the Mirrorshades anthology, making him one of the original cyberpunks. But Di Filippo has refused to stay still, moving onto steampunk with The Steampunk Trilogy (1995), pioneering biopunk with the linked short story collection Ribofunk (1996), and moving to the forefront of the New Weird with his classic A Year In The Linear City (2002). His other titles include Lost Pages (1998), which imagines Di Filippo’s favourite authors in a variety of alternate history contexts, and Fuzzy Dice (2003) which plays Rudy Rucker-esque games with mathematics and higher dimensions. His latest novel, The Summer Thieves, came out in July from Night Shade Books, and is a space opera that plays with golden age tropes with Di Filippo’s standard humour, inventiveness and charm.
Paul Di Filippo was kind enough to speak to The Fantasy Hive via Zoom.
Your latest novel, The Summer Thieves, is out this month with Night Shade books. Would you be able to tell us a little bit about it?
I’d love to talk about it, because it’s kind of the fruition of a long-term ambition. I’m one of those authors who tries to draw a lot of inspiration from my past mentors and people I’ve admired. And although I feel I’ve got my own style and my own set of themes and approaches to things, I do find a lot of times when I’m starting a fiction project, I asked myself, what would Heinlein do or what would Sturgeon do?
In this case, my new book, which is pretty much pure space opera, my model was Jack Vance. I’ve been reading him since I was a kid and I just rank him in the top ten of my literary science fictional heroes. And so I’ve written a couple of stories that were quasi-Vancian in their telling, but this is pretty much full blown. This is my homage to Jack Vance. I think of it as a very good Jack Vance novel that Jack Vance never wrote, with some aspects of 21st century life that Mr. Vance did not live to see. For instance, in the book, there’s a punishment conferred on people labelled de-platforming, but it’s different from what we know of as de-platforming. So titbits like that that bring the book I think fully into the 21st century. But it does have a little bit of a retro air about it. Just because Vance’s science fiction did derive from that earlier era.
I was really thrilled to get the two blurbs that are featured on the book, one from Michael Moorcock, who is another one of my heroes that I grew up reading, he found the book very satisfactory. And my contemporary Rudy Rucker, one of my fellow cyberpunks, enjoyed the book. So I think that kind of shows the span that the book might embrace – going all the way from old school Michael Moorcock, who was obviously very avant-garde and revolutionary, and a forerunner of the cyberpunks, going all the way from Moorcock to Rucker. I think it should attract a pretty wide audience, I hope. But as far as the plot, I won’t reveal too much. It involves this key feature which is also a hint as to somebody else I was influenced by and that was Cordwainer Smith. And it starts out with a family which owns an entire planet, which is an obvious homage to Smith’s story The Boy Who Bought Old Earth. But a little bit of Cordwainer Smith, and some other flavors, all resulting in a unique Di Filippo blend, I hope!
Yeah, I wondered if there was some Cordwainer Smith in there with the Splices.
Right. So you’re referring to my Ribofunk series of stories, which I shamelessly stole the notion of the underpeople from Cordwainer Smith. And I never use the term underpeople I call it various things like splices or chimeras or transgenics, but that was such a fruitful idea. And of course, it wasn’t original with Smith, it goes way back to The Island of Doctor Moreau. We all owe so much to Wells, he practically mapped out the whole territory that we’re still exploring to this day. So yes, but more immediately, Cordwainer Smith was a definite influence on that. I wish I could have written something as touching and tragic as ‘The Ballad of lost C’Mell’. That was just a major influence. But hopefully I did justice to the concept a little bit.
And your work reminds me of Cordwainer Smith sometimes in that you use quite an unusual vocabulary like he did, and Gene Wolfe did this as well. You get the extra layer of estrangement from it. Is that a conscious attempt to use words that you might not necessarily find in a space opera book?
Well, thank you, Jonathan. The linguistic prose aspect of it has always intrigued me. And, you know, I have to tone down the tendency to be too Baroque, because a few of my stories have met complaints from readers saying, you know, this is a little too ornate, a little to bejewelled. And you do have to tone down that impulse if you’re attempting to achieve some stylistic uniqueness. But I think you’ll see that in The Summer Thieves, too. The vocabulary is a little bit different than you get in your typical space opera. I wrote a novella that just came out from a UK press, NewCon Press, Worldshifter. I wrote that before The Summer Thieves, but not too long before and I think that has a little proto-feeling of what is in the novel.
Actually, Worldshifter, the novella, has an interesting story in itself. I wrote the first part 18 years ago, and Ellen Datlow bought it for Science Fiction which was her online venue at the time. And so it appeared there and it appeared in one of my collections. But as soon as I wrote the last word, and ended on a cliff-hanger, and I said, Gee, I gotta sequelize this, follow up the story. Well, 18 years went by in the blink of an eye. And I said, You know what, maybe I better do this before the planet dies, or I die! I should probably tackle the sequel. And if a person doesn’t know the publishing history of it, I think I did a pretty good job of getting back in that headspace and extending the narrative. So I’d be curious to see what people think if they read this interview, and then they approach the novella. But so far, I’ve gotten a little feedback on it, but nobody’s really noticed that aspect of it.
Speaking of sequels, The Summer Thieves says that it’s the first in the Quinary series. Are we going to see more in this world?
That’s aspirational. Nothing is yet written. I’ve tossed out some very scanty one paragraph concepts to the publisher, and I’m waiting for them. I think they’re waiting to see how well the first book does. But we have high hopes that it’ll do well. And I invested a certain amount of speculative labor into building this future Empire, which is named the Quinary. I think it comes closest to Ian Banks’s Culture. It’s a future Empire run by… they’re not corporations, they’re not NGOs, they’re certainly not government, with politicians, as far as we know it, and they’re not royalty. They’re five different realms of the human enterprise that kind of govern what goes on in a very loose, almost quasi-libertarian manner. So I invested some thought into this future Empire, if it could be deemed such, and so now having done that, and having created some decent protagonists to follow, it seems a waste not to work a little bit more in this universe, but nothing contractually signed yet. And the titles would follow a seasonal pattern. The next book would be the autumn something or other and then winter and then spring.
I did that once before with some very early short stories. The titles didn’t reflect this, but I’ve got four stories set in this imaginary community called Blackwood Beach. The first story in that series was actually one of the very first stories I sold. With a little footnote, I sold my first two stories almost simultaneously. In fact, even to this date, I’m kind of confused about which one sold first! That was 1985, I think. And I had been trying to break into the market for three years and not making too much progress. And then finally, I sell like two stories at once! I got an acceptance letter from the editor, T. E. D. Klein at Twilight Zone magazine. T. E. D. Klein is a well known fiction writer himself, although lamentably, he doesn’t do much fiction anymore. But T. E. D. Klein accepted this story called ‘Rescuing Andy’. And then almost at the same time, Ed Ferman at Fantasy & Science Fiction accepted my story ‘Stone Lives’. And so those two stories appeared in print almost equally. But in any case, those two sales gave me hope, and kept me propelled to stick with this crazy thing. From 1985, we’re approaching like my 40th anniversary here! So it’s a strange trip, as we say. But ‘Rescuing Andy’, the story takes place in the summer. And then I sold a second story in that Blackwood Beach series, called ‘Yellowing Bowers’. And that takes place in the autumn, obviously. And then I wrote two more stories, and I could never sell them. But I had my revenge, I printed them in some of my collections as original to that collection. And there was one set in the winter, the next one was in the spring. So I kind of like that, even if it’s a subtext, having that seasonal quartet feel to the stories.
Yeah, and with those sort of Vancian picaresque stories, you have a set of characters in this wider universe, and you follow them on these different adventures in different locales. It always leaves it so that there’s so much more that you could explore in those worlds if you wanted to.
Right. Excellent point, Jonathan. Well, looking back at Vance, he had that late period series called The Alastor Cluster, and so he could jump from world to world and some of the characters might reappear, and sometimes they were totally different. But yeah, if you build a good universe, hopefully you can explore it in length, even without the same characters. And of course, I put in some typical space opera stuff about a mysterious forerunner race that’s no longer around, or are they around? So that’s always a good thing to explore.
But the space opera tropes are so extensive and rich. Obviously, space opera goes all the way back to Doc Smith. And that’s like 80 years now. Actually, there’s a Victorian space opera, and it basically had all the tropes that we associate with space opera. It was called The Struggle for Empire by Robert Cole. And it was printed in 1900, long before the term space opera was even invented. But yet there were the fundamentals of the of the sub-genre, 120 years ago. So I think space opera, even though it can be easily cliched if you don’t devote a little extra thought to it, still remains a pretty rich subject area.
Given that it survived for 120 years now, there’s got to be something to it, right!
And then of course, you have Charles Stross, a wonderful author, magnificent innovator, and really genius-level guy. I know he totally doesn’t believe in space opera as anything that is even halfway possible because he’s one of those folks who believe the speed of light is just the ultimate limiting barrier, and there’s really no way around it. So, I respect that kind of attitude. And yet he can do kind of a quasi Solar System space opera, where he has a lot of similar feel of it, in the Saturn’s Children series. It’s his kind of far-advanced out in the solar system series. But I think that represents a kind of secret yearning on his part, I’d like to write a space opera, but I can’t morally or logically justify it so I’ll do similar things within the solar system.
And there are people working in that regard. Kim Stanley Robinson is another one who won’t buy into the space opera motif. And yet he features a few novels where the ambience within the solar system is very space opera-ish. James Cambias, one of my generational peers, who’s had about four books. And he’s had a bunch of short fiction, but his latest book is set totally within the solar system. But there’s about a trillion people living within the solar system and all kinds of weird habitats and moons and planets and stuff, and it has a very space opera feel to it. It’s called The Godel Operation, as in the famous physicist, famous mathematician, Godel. A very good example of Intro Solar System space opera. Jim’s a fellow New Englander. I used to see him quite regularly at all the local conventions, but of course, that’s been out the window for us recently.
The Godel Operation was a good book, and I review three books a month for Locus, and that is way down from my previous reviewing duties there. At the height of my reviewing career, I used to review about 120 books a year. It was over two a week. I had a weekly column with Scott Edelman at SF Weekly, he ran it for the Sci Fi Chanel. So they were 52 books right off the bat. And then I had my Asimov’s column. And then I would do occasional pieces for The Washington Post. So it added up to an insane amount of reviewing. And I think I’m kind of happy with this right now, but even so, the reviews tend to blur!
Yeah, I do reviews, and if I manage three or four a month, then that’s a good month.
No, it’s insane. I was crazy! But here’s my benchmark. There was a mainstream literary critic named Diana Trilling. She and her husband Lionel Trilling were among the elite in the 50s and 60s, among mainstream literary critics. Diana Trilling did one review a day for like, 40 years. So I figure as long as I don’t fall into the Diana Trilling trap, I’m doing okay. In any case, some people are born reviewers. So you know the grind. And reviewing I feel is a way of paying forward. I like to highlight the books, by strangers, by my peers, by my elders. And it just feels like if I can communicate some enthusiasm and get somebody else to investigate and enjoy a good book, I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile!
It’s all about sharing that enthusiasm.
Yeah, good. But it does get, you know, on the nth review, where you have to come up with something unique to say about a new space opera, say that you haven’t said a hundred times before. But hopefully I haven’t reached that burn out point of not being able to say something fresh. I’ve got my three books for August already lined up for Locus. Brian Aldiss, I always remember, he did a fair share of reviewing and he said, even when you quit reviewing, you can still pontificate and rest on your laurels. So I’m waiting for that stage to happen.
Excellent. Across your career you’ve worked within a number of genres. ‘Stone Lives’ was in the original Mirrorshades anthology, so you’ve been a cyberpunk. You have The Steampunk Trilogy, so you’ve been steampunk. You’ve been the New Weird with A Year In The Linear City. You’ve got biopunk with Ribofunk. How do you keep surfing all these different trends and being at the forefront of all these different genres?
Well, part of the main engine of that is a quest to amuse myself! I’ve barely ever done a sequel to anything. Recently, I did three crime novels. They came out over the past couple of years, and they were direct sequels with the same set of characters in each. And by the time the third one rolled around, I was a little tired of the venue and the characters and stuff. And that represents just my own inherent nature, that I hate to repeat myself.
I like to explore new territory and move around. I think the SF field kind of divides into two camps like that. I always remember Richard Lupoff, a major name, he felt that he had seldom repeated himself and liked to move around, and he thought it was detrimental to a career because readers who, if they like something, they want more, they couldn’t go to you for that because they never knew what the hell you’re gonna do next! So Lupoff felt it was detrimental to career, but it’s the only thing I can do. That’s half of the science fiction field, and then the other half is those who really feel that their pleasure and consistency derives from establishing a franchise and moving on with it. So we have endless series which delight many people. And I’ve delighted at many series. I’m glad, for instance, that there is more than one Dune book. I was just thinking about Dune because I happened to watch the brand new trailer for the movie a few minutes ago. But I’m glad to know that Dune is this large saga. I’ve even enjoyed the Kevin Anderson Brian Herbert sequels. They weren’t as ground-breaking or as masterful as Frank Herbert’s, but I was glad when they came out and extended that story a bit.
So people who find a certain niche and stick to it, I’m happy that they exist too, but I just can’t seem to be one of them. And it’s funny, even with the Quinary book, when I proposed it to my agent, Richard Curtis, long-time fellow in the field, I said I’m gonna have a different cast of characters in each of the Quinary books. He said, no, you can’t do that, these characters are great, you gotta repeat them! We loved it! I said, Okay, I guess I’ll stick with the main protagonist for subsequent books, but hopefully I can bring enough variety otherwise to maintain my own amusement!
But you were very kind to say that and hopefully I can still be on the cutting edge. It’s just you really can’t give up. As much as I love the past you can’t wallow in nostalgia and try to just replicate the past. I really try to stay abreast obviously of the science because that’s the engine of science fiction. And not only science but literary trends. I try to read the coming new generation of writers and see what kind of things they’re doing. Obviously when China Mieville came along, he’s a bit younger than me, he was a newcomer on the scene. So he’s almost 20 years younger than me. He is totally- he’s a different generation. He’s not a spring chicken anymore himself, but a younger voice, you know, formed by different circumstances. And I was blown away, like all of us were, by Perdido Street Station. So when he came along, I said, hats off to him. He’s synthesized a lot of older tropes and trends and come up with something that’s really fresh and new. And maybe I can have something to say in that same kind of mode. So it’s an ongoing process.
I think we’re kind of in a fallow period, now. There’s a few things, there’s climate punk or cli-fi. But that’s just a different topic for science fiction, it doesn’t necessarily involve any new stylistic things or even a particular new trope that we haven’t seen since like, John Christopher’s The Death Of Grass or something that, maybe that’s early climate punk. We’re overdue for a revolution because if you chart the history of science fiction, you see that at regular intervals every, I don’t know, 7, 10 or 15 years, there’s some kind of big burst of innovation. And if New Weird was the last such to really have a major impact, Perdido Street Station came out in 2000.
So over 20 years ago this year!
Yeah. 20 years, that’s kind of a big gap in the science fiction history timeline, we should be kind of overdue for a revolution by now. And there’ve been a few attempts. For a while there was mundane SF and then diesel punk, although even that’s a bit aged now. And all of these still have a lot of potential but I don’t think any movement has quite captured the zeitgeist of 2021 in the same way that, like, cyberpunk captured the zeitgeist of 1984 or 1980, whatever. So I don’t know what the difficulty is. Maybe we need some kind of Einstein figure who’s just not born yet, or not mature yet in writing, to show us the way. But we’re all working at it. Kim Stanley Robinson is obviously tapped in to what’s happening. A book like New York 2140 is very timely, but it’s not quite a new thing. It’s a mature expression of a mode that’s already been around for a while. And then we’ve got Afrofuturism, which is contributing a lot of new writers and themes to the genre, I don’t know if it can capture the whole ambience of this point in the 21st century, but it has some interesting things to say.
In terms of genres and approaches with the stuff you write, you clearly have a good understanding of the history of the genre, as well as the desire to move into the future. How conscious is it when you start writing something that you go, okay, I want to play with these, but in a slightly different context? How have you approached that?
Yeah, good point. You know, you can’t be mired down by tradition, but I do feel that I’m at the current front of this wave that has been building since Edgar Allan Poe or Mary Shelley. It’s been a constant, forward moving thing. And so you want to feel that you’re doing something new. I think a lot of younger writers emerge from a less deep/more shallow version of knowledge of what has come before now. In many ways, that’s good because you’re liberated, you don’t have to abide by any old concepts or traditions. But the downside of it is that you reinvent the wheel. You write this story about Earthmen subjugating this alien race and doing horrible things and the ethical dilemmas and stuff and you don’t realize that Le Guin’s The Word For World Is Forest covered much of the same terrain and is still out there for people to read. And so you’re kind of reinventing the wheel and it’s okay, but I don’t think you’re advancing the field.
Here’s an example. My current work in progress is what I think of as my Sturgeon novel. Theodore Sturgeon is someone I’ve always admired, but he’s got a kind of a tonality and aspect and range that I’ve never really attempted. And I said, you know, gee, I’d love his stuff he really showed a certain direction that science fiction can move in. More Than Human is Sturgeon’s great novel, but not so much my model. What if I try a novel that resembled his lesser novel The Dreaming Jewels, which had an alternate title The Synthetic Man. But it’s a great Sturgeon novel, and it inspired me. It’s kind of a matter of like, you know, the bracelet that says, WWJD – What Would Jesus Do? – that evangelicals wear? Well, every time I write something new, I want to have a bracelet, WWSD – What Would Sturgeon Do? And then when you’re at a point in the novel where you’re at a loss, you look at the bracelet and say, Oh, yeah, I just put myself in that Sturgeon headspace and kind of do what he would do. So there’s a lot of that in the back of my mind when I’m writing.
Then some of it, of course, relates to that famous Hemingway statement. I’ll have to paraphrase it, but it’s pretty close. Hemingway said, “There’s two ways to succeed as a writer, you can do something brand new, or you can beat dead men at their own game.” Obviously, there’s a lot of macho Hemmingway man’s-man stuff – I don’t have the sense that Sturgeon and I are in a boxing match here. But on the other hand, I like to say, okay, Sturgeon did this. And now if I even take his concept of instant, one millimetre forward, then maybe I advanced the field and have shown something that Sturgeon didn’t show. So anyhow, all of that is in the subconscious as you write, and hopefully you’re true to yourself, and you’re writing something that only you could write, not imitation Sturgeon. But I know that there are plenty of writers who don’t follow this approach. They just work from kind of an ahistorical perspective I think.
And speaking of historical perspectives, you use alternate history as a form quite a lot. This sometimes involves playing with real life characters. So you have the clone of Queen Victoria in The Steampunk Trilogy, or in Lost Pages, where you take different famous authors and go, what if they were in this context, instead of the one that they were in our universe? So how do you find writing those?
I love alternate history. I haven’t written one in a while. I felt for a while there was such a boom in alternate history that it started to feel a little overdone or cloistered, or it just felt a little too trendy. There were so many alternate histories, and maybe I contributed some of that overkill. But it is fascinating, because if you take the academic discipline of history to be a science, like all others, then if you write these alternate histories, you are doing pure science fiction in the same sense that alternate physics or alternate chemistry or alternate psychology is science fiction. So I feel that regarding history as the discipline, like what are the historical forces? What are the turning points of history? And then when you ally it with the psychology of these famous historical characters in so far as we can recreate it or know it – and obviously, the further back you go, the less you know, the more tenuous our understanding of these people just for lack of records or sheer strangeness of culture. But if you can ally this understanding of historical forces with a good psychological portrait of these people, I think it’s not just mere fanfiction, it’s a serious kind of science fiction. So I enjoyed writing alternate histories.
Outside of Lost Pages, I think very few of my characters are writers, because I think that’s a little bit self-indulgent, a writer, as a protagonist! But if you’re going to do it, in a sub-set of stories like I did in Lost Pages, you might as well plunge wholeheartedly into it, and take some of your favorite writers and subject them to these strange destinies. So I enjoyed doing that. As I say, I’m trying to think when the last alternate history I wrote was and it’s been a while now. So maybe my batteries are refreshed and I should go back to it.
I always think of alternative history as something that irredeemably alters the course of consensus history. But then there are other things, I think of them as interstitial adventures, that are kind of lost in the pages of consensus history, like they were just never recorded. And they didn’t really affect the timeline as we know it. So I’ve wanted to write one of those latter kind for a long time. The protagonist would indeed be a writer, but not a fiction writer. He would be Bishop Berkeley, the philosopher. I live in the state of Rhode Island, Lovecraft’s home State. And so did Bishop Berkeley in the colonial era. He came to Newport, Rhode Island, which was the center and capital of the state at the time, and his house is still standing. It’s open to tourists. You can visit the Bishop Berkeley house in Newport. His philosophy was very weird and cosmic and super metaphysical. I was introduced to him in college and read several of his books. I would need to read his whole canon before I could tackle him. But the local connection got me excited. So I thought this would be a colonial punk story, set in 1700s Newport involving Bishop Berkeley. So that sounds pretty enticing to me. It might not interest anybody else! They’ll say, what, you’re writing about this strange Irish philosopher in colonial New England? And then, of course, it’d be all sorts of fantastical, speculative elements to make the book pure science fiction.
I love the history of my home state and any excuse to kind of investigate it further and recreate it. NewCon Press, the same people who did the Worldshift novella, they’re doing a Lovecraftian novella of mine and I think it’s due out in the Fall. It’s set in Providence and I had a lovely time doing research and recreating the Providence of that period. Hopefully folks will enjoy that. That’s another area that I’ve done some work in, the Cthulhu mythos venue. And of course, if my pitching arm was better, I could almost throw a rock from my house to the marker which indicates Lovecraft’s birth-place. It’s just about a block away, maybe a block and a half away. He was born just around the corner from my current residence. And so it’s kind of hard to avoid his influence.
So that’s two novellas and a novel that you’ve got coming out this year. Plus you write short stories, plus you do reviews. How are you this prolific?
Well, actually I berate myself, I feel I don’t work hard enough! My goal is to do a thousand words of good copy every day, which is like the famous Ray Bradbury dictum. Ray Bradbury said, write one thousand words a day and then in six or seven days, you’ve got a new story. Bradbury was another huge influence on me from my youth. I’ve never really tried to emulate him, except when I was first starting out, I came across Bradbury’s book, Zen in the Art of Writing, just a little chapbook. And it was so inspirational. He talks about how he started and says, do a thousand words a day and don’t give up and all that good stuff. And so that was an early guidepost for my writing. And I did write almost a story a week in those early years, and I never sold one of them. They’re all in a box in the basement. I haven’t gone back to them in like 40 years. But they’re still down in the basement, all those manuscripts. And one of them was my Bradbury homage. It was like so pure Bradbury, it was very embarrassing. I think it was Ellen Datlow, who rejected it. And she obviously recognized that this is too much fake Ray Bradbury. So that kind of taught me a lesson. But by going by Bradbury’s dictum, write a thousand words a day. And lately I think I’m slowing down. I try not to kick myself if I do 500 or 750 or 1200, you know, that’s fine, whatever it is, it is. But when you do that, that’s 350,000 words a year. And you know, people wonder how Stephen King can turn out two 100,000 word novels a year. And that’s the way you do it. And 1,000 words is four manuscript pages with the traditional spacing and font size. And so if you push yourself and try to make it a daily habit, then it’s surprising how fast things add up.
Obviously, there were people who were much more productive. If you go back to the old pulp writers of the Depression, to earn a living they used to try to produce 10,000 words per day. In our time folks have done this. Robert Silverberg and Barry Malzberg have both hit those speeds, not for any great length of time. And there’s the fellow named James Reasoner. He writes mostly Westerns, he’s done a little bit of Science Fiction, I think. But he produces an inordinate amount of words per day. I don’t know if he aims to 10,000 or whatever. But those old pulpsters, they would produce like a million words a year of pulp fiction. And at a penny a word, you can you can do the math, that added up to a decent income, especially in the middle of the Depression, when people were out of work or making $10 a week or whatever. The human capacity for the production of some fairly coherent fiction, not just sheer garbage, is amazing when you look at it.
So one of my benchmarks in this regard is H Rider Haggard, who famously wrote King Solomon’s Mines and She. I read his autobiography. And he was a practicing barrister. He had to manage a fairly sizable mansion and family and servants and stuff. And in one year, he produced four novels, and this is with a quill pen. On paper. That is superhuman. And so I really don’t look at myself as very extraordinary in the light of these people. But yeah, so 1000 words a day, or even 500 words a day, then you’ve got your 150,000 word novel done in a year’s time. My friend, John Kessel, expert writer, he says that he’s happy with 500 words a day lately. He feels that he’s slowed down as he’s gotten older, and if he does 500 words a day, that’s fine. He feels he’s accomplishing quite a bit. So, you know, I think the stick-to-it-iveness is the key there. You’ve got to try to do it every day. And the science fiction writer Frederick Pohl was very much of that school too. He was on record as saying, I don’t care if I’m in a plane traveling for eight hours, I’m going to do my 1000 on the plane, just to make my daily quota.
One last famous story: the Victorian author, Anthony Trollope, there’s an anecdote about him. He was another believer, I’ve got to do X number of pages per day. So there came a day where he was right at the end of the last chapter. And he wrote three pages, and he wrote ‘The End’. And then he thought, Wait a sec, I gotta do four pages a day. So he got a fresh sheet off the ream, and he started the beginning of the next novel! I like to give myself at least a day off.
Okay, and just to bring this to a close, you’ve got the Lovecraft novella coming out later this year.
I should come up with the title of that for you, because it’s a very recondite title, and I tend to forget it. And which is probably not good, because if I forget it, then the reader is not going to remember it. They’ll come to recommend it, and they’ll say What the hell was the title of that? The title is a quote that I found in a primary source from the period era that I was writing about. The Visionary Pageant Arrayed Before Her. As I say it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. It’s not like Blade Runner, you know, everybody can remember Blade Runner. That’s a very concise and dramatic title. But I think, if I’m writing about the Victorian period, I can be kind of quasi Victorian! And my editor, Ian Whates, who is the mastermind behind NewCon press, he was kind enough to accept the title. He didn’t try to talk me out of it!
Thank you Paul Di Filippo for talking with us!