Science Fiction & Fantasy

GENOME by Sergei Lukyanenko

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Matthew Kressel

Can you tell us how this story arose for you?

The story formed from two different seeds. My girlfriend and I stayed at a bed and breakfast in New Paltz, New York, the day after hurricane Irene blew through the area. New Paltz got hit pretty bad, and entire farms and bridges had been washed away. That night we sat on the porch, drinking wine, watching the stars slowly turn. The place had a frog pond, just as in the story, and also as in the story, the moon wasn’t up, and due to the storm, all the dust had been washed from the air. The stars shone brighter than I have ever seen, and I swear you could read by the light of Jupiter rising above the trees. I was overcome with the sense of just how beautiful everything was, and how fragile our environment is.

The other seed has a somewhat more mundane explanation. I had watched a documentary of thedismantling of the old Yankee stadium and the construction of the new. And I thought, how could they tear down this place full of so much history, the literal House that Ruth Built? It was such a sin. To me, the new stadium was (and is) an antiseptic and plastic version of the original. The documentary captured my feelings not just about Yankee stadium but the way we take so many things for granted, and how some are happy with cheap plastic substitutes. I felt I had to write about this.

The bridging of the generations in the story seems both unexpected and appropriate. How did you hit this balance? Can you tell us more about how you see this relationship?

I struggle with a similar bridge in my own life, coming from a conservative Jewish background and being mostly secular in my adult life, yet feeling a strong connection to this immense history and culture. It’s impossible to be raised as a Jew and not have a sense of connection to the past, even if you are a non-believer. To me, Rachael in the story, though she is far removed from her grandfather’s life, remembers the natural beauty of Earth her grandfather showed her in her youth and she brings that into the present, but adds her own color and experience to it. It’s what I try to do with my own culture and history.

Do you think you’d be one of the holdouts? Do you see the holdouts as being a particular type of person?

I think part of me would like to fly around in Rachael’s lobber, touring all the orbitals and the new forests of New Earth. On the other hand, by that time in history, that type of space travel might be as old hat as driving a car today. I don’t know if I’d go to the extremes that Abner does, but I would be hesitant to leave humanity’s cradle to rot.

The holdouts are, to me, those people who see value not in superficial appearances, but in substance. Their Earth is old and dying. It’s not shiny and new like New Earth. But the holdouts have an emotional connection to their land, and to the Earth. Do we abandon an aged parent or grandparent because they are no longer healthy? The holdouts see Earth as their aged grandparent and therefore it’s unthinkable to leave her.

You’ve been a storyteller for some time now. Do you have any advice for the newbs? What’s an average day of writing like for you?

I used to read a lot of books on writing, searching for some profound secret that all successful writers shared. And while perusing a bookstore, one book said, “Why are you reading this book? Why aren’t you writing?” That hit me pretty hard. I immediately put the book down and went home to write. There is no magic pill you can take, no shortcuts or tricks. There is nothing that will make you a better writer other than hard work. All else is commentary.

As far as my own writing goes, I have no “average” day at the keyboard. Some days I’m pulling teeth to get three paragraphs. Other days I look up from the screen and hours have passed. But I try to spend several hours every morning writing. I think it’s important to stick to a schedule.

Robyn Lupo

Assistant Editor

Robyn LupoRobyn Lupo has been known to frequent southwestern Ontario with her graduate student husband and elderly dog. She writes, reads, and plays video games. She is personal assistant to three cats.