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Feature Interview: Steven Gould

Steven Gould’s first novel, Jumper, was adapted into a big-budget movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and Hayden Christensen that bears almost no resemblance to the book. Steve is now working with James Cameron on the upcoming Avatar sequels, and is also the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. The fourth book in his Jumper series, Exo, is out now.

This interview first appeared on Wired.com’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, which is hosted by David Barr Kirtley and produced by John Joseph Adams. Visit geeksguideshow.com to listen to the entire interview and the rest of the show, in which the host and his guests discuss various geeky topics.

So your new book is called Exo, and it’s the sequel to Jumper. For people who haven’t read Jumper, what is it about?

Jumper is about a teenager who discovers that he has the ability to teleport, under the sort of circumstances where anyone would want to be someplace else. That’s also the reason the book was one of the top 100 banned books in America from 1990 to 1999.

Do you want to explain a little bit more about why it got banned?

It was a “best book for young adults” from the American Library Association, which means it goes into a lot of libraries, including middle grade libraries as well as high school libraries. The two most objectionable scenes for a parent are on page two and page nine, so they were able to pick up this book that their child has brought home from the library and turn to something that they found awful. On page two, we have a scene of impending child abuse by a parent, and then on page nine, we have a scene of impending sexual assault by a group of people on the same child. In both cases, these are the impetus for Jumping, but for some reason some parents look at something in a book and see something awful happening, and think that if their child reads that, it’s going to happen to them. To me, that just doesn’t make sense. In this case, we’re talking about a runaway kid, and I think it’s a valuable thing for people to know that maybe, if you run away as a young teen, you might be subject to predation.

When you wrote the book, was that on your mind—that these two horrifying scenes were right at the beginning and that people might have this kind of reaction to the book?

Not at all. The main point was that I needed two horrible things to happen that would, if you had this ability, be the impetus to exercise that ability. If you’re going to do something unusually difficult, or just unusual, you need motivation, and that’s why I put those right at the beginning.

Tell us about this unusual ability. You said Davy develops this ability to teleport; how did you get interested in writing about teleportation and how did you want to depict it in your story?

Teleportation has always been one of those great things; one of those “if I had one paranormal ability, what would it be?”, and teleportation has always been up there for me, if for no other reason than all that time you spend in an airport terminal waiting for canceled flights or flights that are delayed. But really, the book is about escape; teleportation is a metaphor for escape, for leaving a situation that is totally and completely un-endurable. Like Davy, I, too, was a child of an active alcoholic when I was a teenager. My father, fortunately, has been sober for over thirty years now, but at that time he was emotionally abusive, so I was working on issues of my own there.

You say that teleportation is treated as a metaphor in this book, but the book does treat the teleportation in a very scientifically rigorous way. At least, it thinks through very carefully all the practical implications. It’s not treated in a magical way.

While teleportation itself is probably not possible, I am very consistent in looking at the implications of the kind of teleportation I have, which is sort of like opening a hole between two different places, and what that requires.

For instance, one of the early things he discovers in Jumper is that he does not carry momentum with him when he teleports. He finds, when falling off a low cliff, he teleports away and has none of the velocity that he was carrying. He starts thinking about it, and realizes that he goes from higher and lower latitudes on earth all the time, which would change his rotational velocity by several hundred kilometers an hour, and if he was carrying those changes in velocity, he would appear in different places and smash through the closest wall with lethal impact. While each of the four books does things with teleportation that the previous books have not, I’m very careful to stay true to the original implications and conditions in the first book.

In terms of the first book and teleportation, how much of that was, “this is how I think teleportation ought to work,” and how much of it was, “here’s the story I want to tell, so I need to make the teleportation work in such a way that I can tell the kind of story I want to tell”?

The way teleportation works started out as having to be that way because of the needs of the story, but once I had those certain circumstances, then I was going on from there to “Well, if that’s the case, what does that imply?”, and that started driving various aspects of the story.

Could you give an example that isn’t too much of a spoiler?

Davy is forming a Davy-shaped hole between two places and then he’s going through that hole, but if he’s chained to a physical object on one end of that with handcuffs, it doesn’t do him any good; he actually starts to go through that hole and nearly dislocates his arm as a result. So there were some implications in that for the following book, Reflex, and as a result, that drove something involving opening a hole between two places and leaving it open.

This idea that if he gets handcuffed, for example, he can’t just jump away is consistent with teleportation as you’ve laid it out, but it also increases the drama because it makes it easier for you as the author to put him in danger, since he can’t just escape.

Exactly.

And he’s in a lot of dangerous situations in these books.

And in the last two books, which he’s in, but the main character is his daughter—and she is also in various dangerous positions.

When I read this book as a kid, the first book, it dealt a lot with terrorism and that really made a big impression on me, and I think you moved away from terrorism in the subsequent books. Do you want to talk about why you decided to make that transition?

The first book was written between 1990 and 1991, so we’re nine years pre-9/11. At that time, the biggest problems with terrorism were various hijackings, some that involved a lot of deaths. There was the infamous hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, and I thought that would be something that a guy who could teleport could do something about, and so that became one of the plot elements of the first book. But I had written three other books after Jumper before coming back to that, so I decided I was ready to write a story about what would happen if Davy did get captured and someone held on to him for a long time. I started that book—and 9/11 happened. Several of the scenes in the first Jumper, besides dealing with terrorism, take place at the World Trade Center, and while I was not doing specific terrorism in the second book, I actually had to put down the book for nine months while I was dealing with that aftermath and didn’t finish it until 2003.

And then evil corporations and government agencies moved to the forefront as the adversaries in the book.

This Mega Corp shadow organization is manipulating world events to increase the profit of their various corporations, and have enough power to motivate world leaders to behave in certain ways, or they have people in government. And unfortunately, while not a true thing, it became more and more apparent in the early 2000s that corporations were far more concerned with corporate profits than they were with what was good for society or the world in general. I must admit, I was motivated to a certain extent by that kind of thing when I chose them as ongoing villains.

You mention that Davy has a daughter that shows up later in the series, and I heard you say that your publisher actually thought the books were becoming too YA and wanted you to add more adult characters, or the viewpoints of adult characters, to pull the books back from being too YA.

That was a response to Impulse. When I first turned it in, it strictly had the first-person viewpoint of Cent, the daughter; I’m not sure if it was the YA aspect itself, or just that it was just so different from the previous books. So I actually went in and added viewpoint scenes from Davy and Millie, which are third-person scenes, that gave a different viewpoint and a few different things they’re dealing with in parallel to Cent’s story. In a sense, I have John Scalzi to thank, in that, looking at what he did with The Last Colony and then going back to the same story with Zoe’s Tale, I saw you could do interesting things around the same events. So I was dealing with a secondary storyline by adding those other scenes, and they were much happier with that.

I think that’s indicative, though, of how these books straddle the boundary between YA fiction and adult fiction. I don’t know if those categories even existed at the time you wrote the original Jumper, but these books clearly strike a big chord with teenagers. To what degree do you see them as books for teens and what sort of responses do you get from teens in particular to them?

They’ve always been my response to my introduction to science fiction; the stuff that thoroughly got me early on were Heinlein’s juveniles, which is what they called them back then, and were books that were targeted at teens, but those books have been published continuously now for over fifty years and have always had both a YA and an adult audience, because the books are written in such a way that either can read them. And that’s where I’ve been living with my fiction. I’ve had kids with an abusive home life email me and say, “This book saved my life,” or, “This book let me get away. It wasn’t physical, but it let me know that there are other people out there having things happen that were comparable to mine, and that they got through them and survived and had a life afterwards.”

Even if you don’t have an alcoholic parent who’s heaping tons of abuse on you, when you’re a high school kid—a kid at that age trying to work the transition between childhood and adulthood—everything is wrong and everything is messed up. Look at Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer; that worked so well because high school is hell. No matter what, high school is hell.

I understand you have two daughters, I think one or both of them are teenagers, and so you’re seeing things now from the parent side. I imagine, from your books, that this is affecting your storytelling as well.

Absolutely. I say that all of the Jumper books are very personal, in that they have to do with my own life. We already talked about the first one. Reflex is ten years after the first book, and ten years after the first book within the book’s timeline, and starts with Millie and Davy arguing about whether or not to have kids, and you have Davy being reluctant because he didn’t have the best parenting, and he’s afraid of inflicting similar trauma upon his own kids. I had that exact same argument with my wife. And then, jump another large time period, and I have teenage daughters at the time I wrote Impulse. One of my daughters was already in college at the time, but the other daughter was in the middle of high school. Plus the fact that Davy undergoes significant trauma in Reflex, so he has a little bit of PTSD that he has to struggle with, and that his daughter has to struggle with for her to be able to have a life, because he’s a little paranoid, and he’s got very good reason to be paranoid, but that doesn’t mean he should be clamping down on his teenage daughter. It’s about me dealing with that boundary of where do you draw lines on your daughter’s activities? At what point do you let them struggle with their own problems and come up with their own answers?

In this last one, there’s some of that, but we’re dealing with stuff that is more wish fulfillment than all the other three books put together. In a way, it goes back to me as a teenage boy—I think I was fourteen years old—watching on this four-inch black-and-white television in my kitchen in Honolulu as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The desire for space travel has definitely influenced the very last book. I have to say that Canadian Commander Chris Hadfield deeply influenced that book in a way.

That’s interesting. He was actually our guest on episode 100.

Obviously, any astronaut who makes it into space—and the guys who stay for months on the International Space Station—are all phenomenal people, but the way he showed the expression of some form of art in space travel, engaging the public on social media about science and the dreams and aspirations of exploration; the music bit and the famous Shatner tweets. Absolutely amazing.

Let’s talk about the latest book, Exo, which, as you say, deals with space exploration in a way. Do you want to talk about that? And why is it called Exo?

It’s called Exo because all of the books are single-word, two-syllable titles. But yeah, “Exo” means outer, like exo-planets, which are outside of our solar system. In this case, it’s getting outside of our atmosphere.

I thought maybe it had to do with Exo-suit or something, because the character Cent in the book is starting to use her teleportation power to try and get higher and higher into the sky and she gets to the point where she starts needing a high-altitude suit to keep her safe.

That’s true. Cent wants to go outside, and I guess it’s a metaphor for her childhood, too; that point where parents want you to stay in the yard and there’s a time when you want to go outside. And she does. They have issues with the corporation that is trying to get them. Besides wanting to get out into space because it’s just plain cool, I think she also had the realization that, “here’s some place they can’t follow me; they can’t mess with us.”

This book has such a quality that I associate with science fiction novels I read when I was a kid, of having an excitement about space travel and the mechanisms of space travel. I can really imagine kids reading this book and getting interested in being astronauts or space scientists; things like that.

That would please me more than anything. Going all the way back to those Heinlein juveniles, this is definitely a response as well to Have Space Suit—Will Travel. I hadn’t thought about it enormously, but it’s just so clear in retrospect. I’ve read that book so many times. Of course, in that book all the bad guys are out in space, but still. We’ve been better over the years; we’ve had far more nations, far more genders, far more ethnicities of people who have gone into space, but there’s this definite sense of “the Western civ white guys,” and I definitely wanted to open up some of that.

The character of Cent in this book has a very strong feminist outlook, with her jokes about “manned missions.”

Right. When someone talks about a manned mission, she says, “No; it’s a womaned mission.” You know I have this current gig with James Cameron, and we had a lot of conversations about space travel, among other things, and one of the things I noticed, when talking about the potential Mars stuff, was that he never said “manned-mission” once. Whenever he was talking about a mission that involved humans on board, he would call it a “piloted mission.” I found that impressive.

Do you want to say a little bit more, for people who don’t know, about what your involvement with James Cameron is?

I was hired to both be in the room while we worked on the plots for the next three Avatar films, and then I am currently working on writing corresponding books for the four movies, which includes the first movie, which has never been made into a novel.

So you’re actually having creative input on the upcoming movies?

I was in the room for five months with four wonderful screenwriters and James Cameron and a writer’s assistant and an archivist, and we were working on plots and details for all that time. I would say we all had input. Without a doubt, Cameron had this skeleton of the overarching idea for these movies that was in place ahead of it, but we all helped to fill that out.

I imagine you can’t say much about it . . . but is there literally anything you can say about the content of those movies, or what you contributed?

I can say that there are twelve people who have walked on the moon; there are only three who have been to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, and one of those was James Cameron. So it’s safe to say there will be water.

You’ve had some other dealings with Hollywood. Your novel Jumper was turned into a movie, and we had some people who wanted me to ask you about that. Jason Gurley says, “I’d love to hear some bits about the movie adaptation and what he thought of it.” Is there any inside info you can give us about the Jumper movie?

If I have any disappointment, it’s that they didn’t tell their own story as well as they could have. It was not an adaptation after fifteen minutes or so; they go off in places that were not in the book at all. They still incorporated elements from Jumper, but they wanted multiple Jumpers and these Paladins who hunt down and kill Jumpers, but I think they cut their story too short. If you watch the deleted scenes that are on the DVD, they are all character development—the sort of stuff we writers complain about all the time in movies. I think you could still make an interesting Jumper movie or series, but I think it would have to be more of a mini-series instead of a feature film.

You actually wrote a whole novel detailing the character development for the character Griffin from the movie. Tell us about that experience.

It was interesting, because I had to send those chapters out to one of the executive producers, a woman named Stacy Maes—a very nice woman—who would verify whether or not I was going in places that were explicitly contradicted by the movie. I had seen all five scripts, so I knew roughly where they were going before they started filming, but then they started making decisions as they were going along.

For instance, partway into the very first scene with Jamie Bell, who can do a perfectly fine American accent, and I’d written a third of the book at this point with an American character whose name is Griffin, Doug Liman says, “Try that scene in your own accent,” which is this Northern England accent from Leeds, near Scotland, and Doug says, “We’ll just go with that.” Fortunately, I could make Griffin’s family expatriates; I didn’t have to uproot them from where they were in San Diego. It did change the shape of the book to a certain extent.

I heard some great stories about the filming. Apparently, every time Jamie Bell was in a scene with Hayden Christensen, Hayden’s acting rose a level as the Griffin-character was getting in the Davy-character’s face, and it just brought up the stakes in the performance.

I also heard an interesting story about Hayden Christensen. I know a lot of people don’t like him, or they think his acting is too wooden, but this sort of sold me on him, at least as a person. Doug Liman told this story in an interview, talking about how he was interviewing all these “hot young actors” for the part. He asked Hayden, “Okay, so what are you working on now?” And all the other actors had been saying, “Oh, I’m working with this hot director, on this project and this project,” and Hayden Christensen just said, “Uh, I rented a Bobcat and I’m gonna landscape my parents’ yard.” Liman went, “But you’re not going to tell me about the movie projects you’re working on right now?” And he says, “Oh, no; I really want this part, honest. I’m not trying to say I don’t. But if you call? It’s hard to hear the cell phone over the Bobcat, so you might have to call twice.” I thought that was funny.

One line that Griffin had in the movie that kind of struck me was when he says that the Paladins had been hunting Jumpers since the Middle Ages, and it seems to me that it’d be very hard to hunt someone who can teleport with just a horse and a sword. Did you think about that at all? Or is that something you dealt with at all writing the Griffin story?

The point is, and I think it’s appropriate, that regardless of the ability to Jump away and go someplace else, people form associations and relationships, so you can track down people. It was not in the actual script, but there was a treatment that talked about the background of the Paladins that maintained that Napoleon had a Jumper working for him who would take orders to his various generals so that he was able to respond so much faster in all the battles, and this is one of the reasons for his domination of Europe.

Do you think you’ll ever deal with more of the history aspect of it in your mainline Jumper series?

No. Unless for some reason we bring in another Jumper or some sort of record that shows there have been Jumpers elsewhere. Right now I’m not particularly interested in that. If I’m going to do anything, I’m more curious about where the energy comes from for Jumping, for tearing holes open between various areas. And if it comes from some place, where is that? And what’s happening there? There’s one joke in Reflex where the bad guys have brought in a physicist to try and figure out what was happening with Jumping, and he’s interviewing Davy and he says something like, “So where does the energy come from?” Davy says, “Every time I jump, every cup of tea in the world drops a fraction of a degree in temperature.”

I think that sort of scientific outlook is one of the things that make these books so interesting, and in Exo I was just blown away by how much scientific detail there was in terms of the suit and other stuff that happens later in the book. How much research and/or help did you have for this book?

I certainly did a lot of research, but the suit itself is a mechanical counter-pressure suit. The first one of those was created and tested in the ’60s by this scientist who worked for NASA who, in a vacuum chamber, walked around for forty-five minutes doing these incredible bends and contortions that you cannot do in a traditional space suit. And it’s a suit that does not hold air; it’s reinforcing your skin. Your skin is perfectly capable of dealing with the vacuum if it has reinforcement, so if you can maintain physical pressure against your skin uniformly, that’s all you need, and it has some extreme advantages, in that the biggest problem with being in space, especially within the orbit of, say, the asteroid belt, is getting rid of heat—keeping yourself from cooking in your own waste heat. When you have a mechanical counter-pressure suit, you can cool yourself just like you do on Earth, by sweating. They were seriously examining this, trying to solve this particular problem, especially when they get to the point where they want to put people on Mars, because our current suits are so heavy. Even at a third of our gravity, they’re going to make doing any sort of work on the planet very difficult.

Obviously outer space plays a huge role in this book and there is certainly stuff towards the end that suggests a direction that future books might go in, in terms of even more outer space. Is that something you’re planning to pursue?

Yes. The question is, what is the story you tell there? And I have to think about that. Right now, I have these other books to do for Lightstorm.

Are these the Avatar books?

Yeah. Lightstorm is Cameron’s production company. And I want to write the sequel to 7th Sigma, my little metal robot bugs eating all the metal in the American southwest. Then I’ll probably come back to Jumper.

One other thing I wanted to mention is that, at the beginning of chapter forty-two in this book, there’s a mention of Wired Magazine and, since this podcast is on Wired.com, I was just curious if you were a Wired fan. How did you come to put that little reference in there?

It could go in many places. Wired is great. They are in that area where technology is impacting our lives in a big way. Cory Doctorow did a lovely review of this book that’s going to be in Boing Boing, but the thing I loved about it in particular was his pointing out that one of the aspects of the book is the “maker culture,” the do-it-yourself aspects of Cent and her allies as they’re trying to create their own space program without the sixteen thousand employees that NASA has.

Speaking of technology changing our lives, we did have a question from Jaycel Adkins. You’re the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and he wanted me to ask you about how SFWA is approaching self-publishing, which is becoming a more and more important part of publishing.

My personal opinion on that is that writers write; professional writers get paid for what they write. SFWA has always used the amount of income a particular work has generated as part of the qualifications for whether or not you should be a member of this professional writers’ organization. If you’re making more than our minimum advance in a reasonable period of time for a self-published work, or for a work that is small press where the combination of your advance plus the royalties you got within a reasonable period of time are rising to the level of our current requirements, then I think that those are appropriate qualifications. By the time this comes out, I will say that we will have voted to put the question to the board before November 1st, putting up what we believe should be the qualifications for those memberships, and what changes we need to make to our bylaws to allow that. Then we will have the membership vote. Currently, our responses from the membership as to whether or not they approve of self-publication or small press qualifications are “yes,” at about three to one.

Is there anything else you want to say about SFWA generally, or what’s been going on? Any announcements you want to make?

We’re doing our best to make the organization get into this century. We have some issues involving attitudes that are outdated, that we have been unduly supporting because of our inclusion of those attitudes in our official publications. We’ve done a lot to fix that.

I do like that we’re being more inclusive; the thing that I am adamant about is that I want to avoid behaviors and procedures and policies that inappropriately exclude new members because of their gender, race, sexuality—the whole range of human behaviors. What should matter is that they are writing professionally, and they should not be made unwelcome by the sort of stuff we put into the official avenues of communication.

Speaking of being more inclusive, there’s a character in Exo named Cory Matoska, and there’s kind of an interesting story about how he came to have that name. You want to talk about that?

Cory Matoska is a real person who lives in Lubbock. I offered for him to be a character in my next book as a reward for a charity auction for something called “Con or Bust,” which is a fund that works to help get more people of color into science fiction conventions. We are already seeing lots of people of color in conventions, but nowhere near in numbers that represent the rest of American society. He had the high bid, and he ended up as this engineer/scientist in the book, and I was delighted because Cory is, of course, also the first name of Cory Doctorow, who is a very good friend of mine. As I said in the acknowledgments, I think of that character as a tribute to both of them.

I also wanted to ask you about this: It says in your bio that in 2012, you traveled to Qatar to talk about writing science fiction. Can you talk about that?

Qatar has something called Education City, which is a project of the current Emir’s mother. She’s called the royal wife because she’s the mother of the heir to the throne, and she threw a lot of money at education. Education City is ten campuses of international schools, meaning schools from all over the world have put a sub-campus in this Education City in Doha that usually covers the thing they are best known for. Texas A&M, which is my alma mater, has an engineering school there, and they brought me out to talk to students.

What is the science fiction writing scene like in Qatar? Are there books being produced there?

I don’t know. What I do know is it is science fiction. Qatar is currently the richest country in the world per capita because of this massive natural gas reservoir under there, with a little bit of it under Iran. You’ve got a thing called the West Bay, which is part of Doha—which did not exist ten years ago—which has architecture that looks like it’s out of The Jetsons. It’s this incredibly futuristic architecture, and they are living in an environment where, if it wasn’t for energy, people would die. They are desalinating their water and air-conditioning massively. It is an incredibly classist society; you have only two hundred and thirty thousand Qatari, actual citizens, and over a million and a half people in the country, where the other two million plus are employees, essentially. Thirty years ago, possibly fifty, this was a nation of nomadic camel raisers and pearl divers.

Do you think that trip is going to inspire you to use that as a setting for fiction or inspire the science fiction you write?

If not the actual country, then this weird disparity of poor and rich.

Speaking of writing, I did want to put in a good word for the Viable Paradise writer’s workshop, where I first met you. Do you want to say a little bit about Viable Paradise and what’s been going on there lately?

Viable Paradise is about to start its eighteenth year, meaning the eighteenth class of students, in the second week of October. We’ll go to Martha’s Vineyard for a week of genre workshopping. I’ve been doing it since 2000; we have twenty-four students and eight instructors, and then a few more guest instructors this year than that. People that will be teaching there are myself—and Laura J. Mixon, my wife, will be there to do a lecture— Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, Sherwood Smith, Steven Brust; Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden have been there since the second one, and the instructors back from the very first one are Jim Macdonald and Debra Doyle. We’re a workshop that tries to give you a meaningful experience, with both workshopping and lectures, for people who can’t take six weeks out of their lives and go to Clarion, Clarion West, or Odyssey.

I did want to ask you about one other thing in your bio. It says that you keep chickens and study Aikido, and in an interview, I heard you say that you like Aikido because it’s a martial art where you can defend yourself without hurting your opponent, and the example you gave was if a fight breaks out at Thanksgiving dinner. I just thought that was a very interesting example of when you might want to use Aikido.

Well, I think you can use it at any point.

But just the fact that that’s what came to mind, for you, was Thanksgiving dinner.

I heard it from someone else; it’s something you can use on a drunken uncle without getting kicked out of the family. But the main thing about it is that it’s also something that I won’t hesitate to use. If my response is to kill or maim someone, I’m probably going to hesitate, but because I have a whole set of techniques to control someone, or to project them away from me without necessarily hurting them, I don’t have the hesitation that I would have in hitting someone in the throat. Which isn’t to say you can’t kill someone with these techniques; it’s just that you have the choice. There’s a technique called ikkyo, which is just an elbow control technique; you take the person down to the ground, sometimes in a spiral, and end up with them facedown while you’re pinning them. If you choose instead, on the way down, to run their head into a wall, you still have that option.

How about the “keeping chickens”? How did that come about?

It was an accidental thing. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the city limits, where there are people who keep chickens, and this feral chicken started hanging out in this big cedar bush in our front yard. And then this rooster, who actually lives with a different house, started paying conjugal visits to this chicken. It was the most pathetic rooster; it would crow, but it really sounded like someone clearing their voice. One Monday after Easter, the black chicken walked out with six chicks trailing behind it, out from under that bush, and we made a chicken place in the back and we’ve had chickens ever since. I’m not going to get into the great dog massacre of 2009. That was just too awful.

Well, I guess that’s part of the fun of living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. New Mexico has always had this magical feel to me because that’s where Roger Zelazny lived, and that’s where George R. R. Martin lives, and it just seems to have all these great science fiction authors. Are you part of that community there?

I certainly know everybody. Unfortunately, Roger was scheduled to come to a patio warming at our house the day he went into the hospital for the last time.

Had you known him prior to that?

I’d known him at conventions, and Laura had known him much longer, since she’s from New Mexico. I ended up here because of Laura. We also got to go up to George’s theater, the Cocteau, and see the premiere of season four of Game of Thrones with a new character.

Was it Pedro Pascal?

Exactly. He was actually there at the showing. It was great.

So when you say George’s theater, you mean a theater he owns, or a theater in his house? Or . . .

The Cocteau was an art house theater for years in Santa Fe, and when George first moved here, that’s where he would go to see movies. This is back long before even his first trips to Hollywood, and he had great fondness for it. It went out of business a long time ago, and there were a couple of attempts to revive it—including an attempt to turn it into a history of film museum, which didn’t last long—and then it went up for sale again around three years ago, and George said, “Someone should buy that and fix it up. Someone with money—oh! I’ll buy that!” And it’s been working as a theater and an art venue. Ty Franck’s wife designed the counter in there, and it’s a great little theater. George does special events and occasionally, when sufficiently drawing authors come through town, they do readings and signings there as well.

That sounds amazing. I’ve always meant to make a pilgrimage to Santa Fe to see where Roger Zelazny lived, so maybe when I do that I’ll swing by the Cocetau as well.

One of the things I most regret as president of SFWA is that I am not allowed to make a Grandmaster who is deceased, because Roger, without a doubt, deserved it.

Steve, thanks so much for joining us.

Thanks.

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