You wrote “Game Night at the Fox and Goose” in the late ’80s. How do you think the story’s resonance has changed, if at all? It’s been a while, but can you tell us how it came together?
As you say, it’s been awhile! I can hardly remember what I did yesterday. But I think I had a bunch of research left over from my novel Sarah Canary, research about cases of victim-blaming in rape and child molestation cases (in the 1870s, and yet that topic remains ever-green) as well as the story of Lydia Fair, the first woman sentenced to execution in the state of California.
My feminist interests have moved since the days of writing that story from the binary, the story of men and women, into something more complicated and more accurately reflective of the many gender and sexual possibilities and histories. But I do think, with the Clinton campaign fully underway, we are already seeing a return to that simple old-fashioned misogyny, that was such a popular feature of my youth and has never gone away. Ask any woman on the Internet.
Your work frequently engages with gender politics and you co-founded the James Tiptree Jr. award in the ’90s. What advice do you have for authors who want to engage with their personal and political struggles creatively?
Challenge your own assumptions. Concoct the strongest case you can against the things you believe and engage with that case—no one is interested or moved or persuaded by the flattening of straw men.
Alison’s story is pretty SF with some personal horror creeping in. When you’re digging into these sorts of themes, do you tend to read the same stuff you’re writing, or do you like to separate those rest/work headspaces?
I don’t seek out similar work, but whatever I’m reading is suddenly strangely pertinent. So I can be writing about the genetic modification of potatoes and reading about the engineering of the Parisian sewers and there will be all sorts of useful and thought-provoking material for my potato piece in the Parisian history. Unlike some writers, I cannot write if I’m not reading and reading freely as opposed to doing research. The two activities absolutely depend on each other.
What was your experience like editing Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016?
It was great. John Joseph Adams had already done the hard lifting and all that remained for me was the enormous pleasure of reading so many wonderful stories.
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