Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Author Spotlight: Hugh Howey

The issues that arise in “Deep Blood Kettle” remind me of Stephen Hawking saying in 2010 that humans should fear aliens, “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.” Can you tell us more about what got you writing this story? Are the aliens in the story how you see our first contact working out?

I find myself in agreement with Stephen Hawking, which I suppose is a sign that I got lucky in my thinking. In the story, the war between an alien race and humans is likened to the war worms might put up against a farmer. Farmers don’t even see the life in the dirt, it’s so far beneath them. They just plow it under. But what I really had in mind while writing the story was the fiscal cliff in the news at the time. I created a scenario of perfect doom, and told the story of bickering politicians unable to reach the compromise that might save us all.

The father in the story is quite well-defined; believing in what he can see, learning things a hard way first, and so on. If it were up to him, what do you think Pa would choose with regard to the invaders?

He and his son’s teacher are the two polar opposites in the story, with the main character torn between the two. The father wouldn’t give an inch to the aliens, I don’t think. Let the rock land; we’ll make do. Come try to take my farm; I’m cleaning my gun. There is staunch obstinance on the one side and naiveté on the other. I think another of his traits is that he believes what he wants to believe, rather than what he can see.

Can you tell us why you chose this boy to be the focal character? How do you think his realization about the invaders will change him later on? (Assuming, of course, he survives.)

I wanted the point of view to come from someone young enough not to have made up their mind about the world. The boy is the decision, bouncing back and forth between two positions. Also, there are observations young people make—ways of seeing events from an unusual angle—that allow them to have insights others might not. There’s also the fact that I grew up the son of a farmer. :)

What’s next for you?

I’m just wrapping up the launch of Wool here in the States, and the sequel, Shift, should be hitting bookstores in the UK. I’m currently pouring my energies into Dust, which will wrap up the trilogy. After that, I have to choose between one of a half dozen stories begging to get out!

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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.