In this Author Spotlight, we asked author Pat Cadigan to tell us a bit about the background of her story for Lightspeed, “After the Days of Dead-Eye ‘Dee.”
It’s refreshing to read a story when the protagonist has some good years behind them. What inspired Merridee’s character and age?
I wrote this story in 1984. What inspired Merridee’s character and age was the scarcity of same. There are very few stories about older people in our field, or any other, for that matter. Most of the time, older people show up as disapproving parents or other authority figures, or saintly grandparents, or pedophiles who have escaped justice, or just people who can no longer do much of anything. The story remained vague until it occurred to me to put an older woman in as the central character. Then the whole thing gelled.
Merridee thinks with nostalgia of her brothers, how they called her Dead-Eye ‘Dee. Why did you decide to give her this backstory? And the nickname?
This is a case of the character taking over. As soon as I put Merridee in the story, she told me her backstory, complete with nickname. I am but a servant of the story and all its elements. When a character starts telling me about herself, I listen and obey.
Several of your novels touch on the idea of the mind as a place where reality and one’s perception blur together, and it could be argued this happens to Merridee as well, considering the alien speaks to her inside her mind. Was this an intentional choice, or do you find yourself returning to this thematic idea naturally?
I wrote this story before I had written any of my novels. In fact, it’s the first story I wrote after I had quit smoking, when I was pregnant with my son. I had to learn how to write all over again so I was dealing with my own inner struggle—developing new coping mechanisms, habits, etc. At the same time, my situation was the opposite of Merridee’s—I had everything to look forward to, because I was pregnant and happy about it and my life was a great place to be. I had also written several of the stories that would eventually form most of my first novel Mindplayers; I was already writing about issues concerning the mind, the brain, and identity. I doubt I’ve written anything that doesn’t deal with those things in some way, even if very indirectly. I told someone once that most of my work is concerned with identity. Identity is my big theme and that surprised me—I’d always thought it would be sex.
Why was Merridee so receptive to the alien in the first place?
What intelligent person wouldn’t be receptive to a new experience? (To be honest, I think you answer this in your next question.)
Do you suppose, had she not been at her wit’s end with the inertia of her life, she may not have lived through this encounter?
Actually, Merridee probably would have survived no matter what—she’s obviously a survivor, even if her skills and talents have gone untried and unappreciated for decades. I’ve spent a lot of time around older women—I mean, all my life. If you want to know where the feminist movement in the U.S. really began, it was in the factories during World War II. After the war, the men came back and said, “OK, we’re back, what’s for dinner?” And a lot of women said, “I thought the Army taught you how to cook.” My Aunt Loretta met her partner, Dolores, while working in a factory. By the time the war was over, they were running a candy-making business in the basement of an apartment building they’d bought together. There was no way either of them wanted to give any of that up for a husband. (Dolores’s story is even more fascinating, allegedly involving bootlegging and smuggling during the Great Depression.) My mother and these two women raised me and I called all three of them Mom interchangeably. But I digress.
How are you with a shotgun?
Well, the thing about a shotgun is, you don’t have to be much of a shot—you aim it in the general direction of whatever you have to bring down and it makes a big mess. As a target-shooter, however, I am lethal. It’s been quite a few years since I did any shooting but it never takes me long to regain accuracy. There’s probably an alternative timeline where I’m a SWAT-team sniper.
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