Science Fiction & Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Grady Hendrix

In this Author Spotlight, we asked author Grady Hendrix to tell us a bit about the background of his story for Lightspeed, “Transcript of Interaction Between Astronaut Mike Scudderman and the OnStar Hands-Free AI Crash Advisor.”

Grady HendrixThere are many Easter eggs in this story, and a lot of humor based on the notion that technology meant to be useful often isn’t. Can you tell us a bit more about how this story came together?

Let’s face it: Crash landings are no one’s preferred method of parking. Mostly because you will die screaming if you crash land, whether it’s in a helicopter, a hang glider or a space ship. I had actually been pitching you guys to let me write some non-fiction for a while and you gave me a shot at writing this piece to go along with that Stephen King story about some guys who crash land on an alien planet covered with angry sand. I wrote the article and John decided he would use it as fiction, leaving you in the lurch for the Stephen King story. John’s so inconsiderate sometimes.

Why did you tell this story in transcript form, and not from the astronaut’s point of view?

Mostly to make it Not Boring. There are too many Boring articles out there. I’ve written lots of them myself. So this time I decided to challenge myself: I would write something in the Not Boring genre. I’m not sure it worked.

Much of this story has to do with humanity’s evolving relationship with technology.  Do you think this story, despite being tongue-in-cheek, is somewhat prophetic?

There’s a weird graph you could draw charting the rise of science fiction in direct proportion to the decline of general knowledge about science. It’s like: The less capable we become of actually going into space, the more we like to read about going into space. So science fiction often feels very magical. But you want to know the truth? We aren’t leaving the solar system, we’re not going to invent jump drives, we’ll never have FTL drives, we won’t survive a crash landing, we don’t get jetpacks and there are no ray guns. Not in our lifetimes. I mean, we can’t even build a 9/11 memorial. Do we really think we can build a spaceship to the stars?

Most of the science that people know these days, myself included, is computer science. The idea of Heinlein’s renaissance space cadet who knew engine repair, camping, chemistry, astrophysics and basic strategy is as dead as disco. Most of us work for giant corporations and we’ve evolved the skills and mental tools we need to survive those environments, but we’re not a whole lot good at much else: We hunt promotions, we stalk pay raises, we harvest internet porn. I guess I feel like one part of my sacred mission, assigned to me by the god who speaks to me through my neighbor’s dog, is to bring a little bit of the boring goo of 2011 workplace life in America to what I write. Most books are way too exciting these days. People are always exploding and punching and making love. What about going to work, paying bills and upgrading your iPhone software? That’s what takes up most of my time.

What would you like the reader to take from this story?

I would like them to be so very, very depressed that they find a computer and punch it in its stupid, smug face.

What are you currently working on?

Me and the rest of the world have a 99 cent ebook for sale on Amazon. Mine is called Satan Loves You, which is a more corporate vision of the afterlife, featuring a Satan struggling with a sudden lack of workplace satisfaction. I’m also the co-author with Katie Crouch of a YA series called The Magnolia League, which is Gossip Girl + hoodoo + Southern debutantes. Katie and I grew up together and we both were forced to attend cotillion, deb parties, and all that Southern society jazz, so we know of what we speak. Except for the hoodoo part, but we can make that up. Book One is out now from Little, Brown’s imprint, Poppy.

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Robyn Lupo

Robyn Lupo lives in Southwestern Ontario with her not-that-kind-of-doctor partner and three cats. She enjoys tiny things, and has wrangled flash for Women Destroy Science Fiction! as well as selected poetry for Queers Destroy Horror! She aspires to one day write many things.