Within “Elementals” is a wonderful connection to belief in something we might never see. The chthons exist visibly, but only in darkness; draks live in white-hot lava. How much did faith play in the story and the elementals themselves?
Actually, it’s not just the chthons and draks; none of the elementals in “Elementals” can ordinarily be seen. But vision isn’t our only access to reality, is it? We can know something we can’t see exists—no need to invoke faith. If I fall over the cat in the dark, I don’t believe that it’s the cat, I know it’s the cat. So does the cat.
Of course I’m not asking you to believe in the existence of the elementals, except while you’re reading the story. I have faith in my readers. I believe they know that I made up the whole damn thing. That’s the covenant of fiction. The bond of trust between writer and reader is the story itself.
What was more exciting in creating something like the airlings or draks—the absolute unknown, or expanding upon the theoretical? Where was your focal point in their creation?
It’s always exciting to discover a new species.
I’ve always thought the nicest honor you could be given would be a newly discovered species named for you. Testudo ursulae . . . Pestifer leguini . . .
I don’t think any theories were involved, except possibly when I discovered the existence of booklets. Typographical errors are the kind of random anomaly that the tidy human mind likes to explain away with a theory, a hypothesis. The more we type, the more typos there are. How can this be? The (hypothetical) existence of booklets explains it all.
What prompted the encyclopedic format? How do you think the story would have changed if you’d written about the elementals as characters interacting with other characters or plots?
The various elemental species revealed themselves to me one by one, at fairly long intervals. They didn’t come as stories. They came pretty much as they are in “Elementals.” Maybe at another period of my life I’d have used one or another of them in a conventional plotted story, but at this point, that seemed unnecessary. Pointing out their existence and characteristics was enough.
If “you can photograph anything you believe in” holds firm—what subject of current mistrust and doubt would you like to photograph, and why?
We seem to be up against the question of faith again. The sentence “You can photograph anything you believe in” comes right after the sentence “There are photographs of Nessie in Loch Ness.” Arthur Conan Doyle took photographs of fairies at the bottom of his garden. And now we have Photoshopping . . . A photograph of Barack Obama burning the American flag while pissing on the Constitution wouldn’t prove a damn thing except to the people who wanted it to.
What can we expect to see from you in the near future?
I’m working on a sort of cowboy story at present.
I never have any idea what’s coming next. I just hope it keeps coming.
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