Not every story begins with a shot to the face. Can you tell us how this story came about for you?
I like narrative hooks, and starting with action is a grabber. It’s also how the central problem comes to the protagonist. I could’ve opened with a description of how dull asteroid prospecting was, but . . . who wants to read that?
This story deals with where we, as humans, make our home. Can you tell us more about this idea?
I wrote this story in 1979, when the whole Fermi question was a hot topic and we’d come to realize that the O’Neill colony ideas of that era implied that people might well live in space indefinitely. I just put the two together.
It doesn’t seem like a big stretch to say that the narrator appears to identify more with the aliens she encounters than other humans. What is it in Rosemary that allows her to relate to the aliens so well?
She’s alienated from most human society. Loners in the Belt are far apart and take risks. Living indefinitely in space is a way of life. In this way the aliens aren’t so alien.
How do you balance off writing and your academic life? What’s a writing day look like for you?
I write for fun, always have. I fit it in around my research interests and time I spend working with the company I founded, Genescient. SF emerges from my scientific interests, so my life self-reinforces.
I try to write in the mornings, when I’m smarter (we all are, and get more stupid through the day). Sometimes I take months away from writing, which builds a narrative pressure and makes writing fluid when I do return to it. It’s a fun life.
Do you have anything upcoming that you’d like to let our readers know about?
I’ve started revisiting some of my novels and getting them back from their original publishers. In 2011, I reissued in a new edition my longest novel, about cryonics as I’ve known it, Chiller. It’s updated and available in trade paperback and e-editions.
Next year, Larry Niven and I will publish the first of two volumes of a long novel, The Bowl of Heaven. It’s about what I call a Big Smart Object—a starship the size of a solar system, with all the physics worked out. But who would build such a thing . . .
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