Hi Jeffrey—thanks for taking a couple of minutes to speak with us about your story “Daltharee”! What can you tell us about its origins?
I think what it was that helped me come up with this story was the idea that there is so much going on around us that we miss—not so much the size difference, as it is here—the ant we unknowingly crush, etc., although that’s part of it, but just the other cultures and signs and matrices of knowledge that, because we are unaware, they remain invisible to us. We live in a world of worlds, but we rarely see beyond where our own begins and ends. I think it was something like that, but also, once I had that idea, somewhere along the line Kandor the bottle city insinuated itself into my thinking and that was it. I was writing my way into another world.
While reading this story, I was reminded of another story, “Microcosmic God” by Theodore Sturgeon. Is there any connection between the two?
There very well could be a connection between the stories for you and probably some other readers—those who know both stories—but, alas, I’m not one of them. I’ve read Sturgeon before and admire his stories, but unfortunately I don’t know that one.
Paige is the only person to travel between the larger world and the smaller one. He’s persecuted in one, and the savior of another: Is there a religious element embedded in the creation of such worlds?
Again, I don’t mean to be coy, but I’m not sure. “There could be” is really my best answer. If you’re of a religious mindset or if on an analytical lark you decide to read the story from a religious mindset, perhaps. Maybe it’s Science as the new Religion, but I never had that in mind when writing. Seriously, the last person to trust with an answer to that question is the author. It would be a lot more fruitful and interesting to find out what other readers think along those lines. Maybe some of your readers will weigh in on that question. I’d love to see their answers and ideas about it.
Paige’s original efforts spell out disaster for his tiny world: How and where should people meddle with the natural world, if our understanding is less than perfect?
This is a really good question and one that’s pertinent in the real world. I’m totally pro-science, but I’m also aware of the human hubris that can sometimes get in the way—sometimes out of ego, sometimes in an attempt to try to do “the right thing.” And let’s not forget to try to make a profit. So I see now plans by reputable scientists to try to reverse global warming by doing things like seeding the earth’s oceans with huge amounts of iron. Maybe it would work, but think about the possibility on that grand a scale for problems to arise. How about Genetically Modified Crops, which are now found to be giving rise to super weeds and super insects, which are modifying themselves to compete with the new crops. That whole thing could lead to a rather big “Oops!” moment. I read about plans to implant tech devises in humans. Questions? How about all the weird side effects caused by a lot of these drugs big pharma pushes on people? Of course many of these medicines are miraculous and life-saving, but a lot of them are also useless and dangerous. Science is truly wonderful, but you have to remember that it’s a tool used by humans, who are sometimes blinded by their own bullshit. Interesting irony, which is always good for fiction.
What do you have coming up next that we should keep our eyes out for?
My latest book, in which “Daltharee” appears, is a collection of twenty short stories—Crackpot Palace. It has a new, unpublished novelette in it and author’s notes on each of the stories. In addition to that book, I have had recent stories in the anthology After, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (Tor); the July/August 2012 issue of F&SF; and Ghosts: Recent Hauntings, edited by Paula Guran (Prime Books). There are also short stories forthcoming in the anthologies Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (Tor); Hauntings, edited by Ellen Datlow (Tachyon); The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, edited by John Joseph Adams (Tor); Oz Reimagined, edited by John Joseph Adams and Doug Cohen; and The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade).