Can you tell us how “A Love Supreme” happened for you? How did the inclusion of a major disability fit in with what you want to say in this work?
Ellen Datlow, a well-known editor in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, contacted me and asked if I was interested in writing a story related to overpopulation for Discover Magazine. I responded with three short proposals, and this is the idea that worked.
Ellie’s father chose not to have Ellie’s traumatic memories erased, and it appears Ellie appreciated this choice. What’s your position on memory erasure as a treatment for conditions like PTSD, since it is looking like procedures like this will be live options for us in a few years?
Because PTSD following combat, a violent crime, an automobile accident, or other life-shattering events can powerfully and negatively impact relationships and reactions to daily life, the ability to mitigate the intensity of certain memories will become an increasingly-used and very helpful option. I think that the key to responsible use of such medications or procedures will be individual choice.
Can you tell us more about the Coltrane connection in this story? Jazz appears to inform much of your work—can you tell us a bit more about that?
When I write, I usually proceed with a general plan and let the scenes play out in rough draft as I become involved with the process. “A Love Supreme,” one of Coltrane’s most famous pieces, surfaced in the first draft when I wrote the scene in which Ellie’s mother died, and as the story unfolded it assumed more power. In the end, it seems an apt description of how Ellie finds the grace and courage to deal with her father’s choice.
Jazz was my soundtrack since birth. In the late thirties, forties, and early fifties, my father saw most of the well-known Jazz luminaries, in person, and passed on to me his passion for Jazz. Like everyone else in the sixties, I became involved with the music of the day, but eventually my musical compass returned to Jazz. Music is become the deep ground of most of my novels. Queen City Jazz, a New York Times Notable Book, is infused with the music, the rhythms, of Scott Joplin. Mississippi Blues, which examines the bizarre history of our country (institutionalized slavery in the country that celebrates “Liberty and Justice for All”) has twelve sections to echo a 12-bar blues. Crescent City Rhapsody, a Nebula Award finalist, references Duke Ellington’s Rhapsodies in structure and in theme. In the afterword of my Campbell Award-winning In War Times I write: “I have likened the evolution of Modern Jazz, later dubbed Bebop, to the creative ferment in science which has led to our ever-growing understanding of the world, nature, and ourselves. Like the development of the atomic bomb, it remained a well-kept secret until after the war. Unlike the development of the bomb, which can now be known, we can never revisit the original luminous thoughts of Charlie Parker as he and Dizzy Gillespie birthed a new art form. In reality, the physicists, chemists, and biologists of the 19th and 20th Centuries birthed Modernity and its reflection and interpretation in literature, art, and music. Our art and our science are inextricably linked.”
What do you think allowed Ellie to see her father appropriately [during] their last meeting?
That’s a very good question. She attributes it to her infusion, but I think that although the infusion perhaps laid the groundwork for her acceptance of his choice, this acceptance could only have come about from the deepest and most vital part of her being, a part that has been clouded by fear and the memory of her trauma.
What’s next for you?
I’m finishing up “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”, a novelette or novella, depending on how long it gets, for Tor.com. “Bootstrap” will appear in Tech Review Science Fiction, MIT Technology Review’s annual science fiction issue, and “Sport” will be published in the forthcoming issue of Arc Magazine. I’m beginning work on two new novels. I am a Professor of the Practice at Georgia Institute of Technology, where I teach Creative Writing and other classes every fall, so I am happily engaged in all the things I love to do.
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