Hi Marta, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. First off, how did your story, “Lázaro y Antonio” come to be?
A number of impulses came together at the same time. I wanted to play with voice and place. After the first five or six pages, I had a mental image of the last scene, and I wrote toward that.
Right off the bat, this story breaks out of many of the conventions that space opera has typically used. You’ve built a rich, multicultural world—how did your background influence this?
I can’t lay claim to a strong multi-cultural background myself. I was born in Mexico City and we would return periodically to visit relatives, but from the age of four, our household was English-language only (my teachers thought that being multi-lingual would somehow retard my progress. As a result I lost my first language, but boy, did my mother become a pro with English!). More to the point, I grew up in Berkeley but spent much of my adult life in Oakland, perhaps the most culturally diverse city in the country. That diversity created a rich, ever-evolving stew of color, taste, accent, intention, and I wanted to think about a future where all of those things still live.
Memory and cognitive functions are an important element to this story, and I got a real sense of déjà vu for the story “Flowers for Algernon.” Is there any connection?
There’s probably a subconscious connection to the Keyes story, but the more immediate connection was to my father. He died of Alzheimer’s after a long, ugly, demeaning slide that eventually robbed him even of his voice. Could anything be worse than that? Well, possibly, yes. It’s no consolation, but there it is.
Antonio and Lázaro have an uphill battle: They seem to be firmly kept in the lower rungs. Do you think that such stratification will exist if humanity moves off-world?
Oh, yes, unless somehow the Flying Spaghetti Monster returns to Earth and purges us all of greed, intolerance, fear, xenophobia, envy, the whole ugly works. Power tends to corrupt, said Lord Acton. There are always people who will get ahead by stomping their way up the ladder of life, and the devil take the hindmost. I suppose we could think about colonizing a planet and refusing to let any of the Bad Guys in, but even so, who’s going to do the choosing? Absolute power, Acton went on, tends to corrupt absolutely.
Lastly, what’s next for you?
I don’t have anything in the works at the moment. I’m anticipating retirement next spring, so a lot of my time is spent planning for that. I teach online through Gotham Writers Workshop and that’s going to continue. Mark Twain, a personal hero, said that prophecy is very difficult, especially with respect to the future, so I think I’ll nod in his direction and just take things as they come.