Welcome back, Charlie Jane! Your intriguing story “Power Couple” presents a science fictional solution to a problem that many of our readers can relate to, a problem your characters face as “careers designed for single-achiever families.” In more general, perhaps lower-pressure terms, it could be considered a problem of work/life balance. Until we can get the restoration part of the cryonics solution worked out, what strategies do you use to balance your creative work with the rest of your life?
God, I wish I had some secret for balancing work and life. Just making time for writing and everything else is a nightmare—it was hard when I was juggling io9 and creative writing, and weirdly it’s still just as hard now that I’m writing full time. Life just has a way of getting crazy. I often fantasize about having the power to stop time—not so I could rob a bank, or sneak into places, or do any of the things that people do in “time stop” stories, just so I could have a few days of uninterrupted writing time. Actually, if you could stop time you could live in a nice apartment for months without paying rent, and that would be a huge plus. You would just have to stockpile a lot of food in the refrigerator before bringing time to a halt in the outside world.
Cryonics as a trope is a personal favorite of mine—I first learned of it when I was a kid, from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light, and my fascination with the subject was renewed with the movie Demolition Man. Do you have any favorite treatments of the trope?
I love cryonics as well, and I did a ton of research before writing this story. My favorite cryonics stories are the ones that involve space travel. Actually, my favorite is probably the Doctor Who story “Invasion of the Dinosaurs,” where people go into suspended animation and think they’re traveling to a new planet—but they’re actually in a vault under London, waiting to go back in time to prehistoric times. That’s such a neat concept. Also, I love Captain America.
Things have come a long way since Robert CW Ettinger first worked to popularize the idea of cryonic suspension as far back as the 1940s. There’s the long-standing Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, among others–and now Timeship in Comfort, Texas, has broken ground on a facility intended to hold up to 50,000 cryonically preserved people. Would you consider cryonic suspension yourself? What would you have to know or be confident in before you’d consider it?
I don’t think I would consider cryonic suspension unless I was dying of an illness that I hoped they could cure in the future—I imagine there would be a huge likelihood of something going wrong and a ton of people dying before they ever woke up. I guess there would have to be pretty impressive proof that the process was safe, before I would consider doing it.
Your characters each go into suspension for seven years. Considering the rate at which technology and society are changing, if you went into suspension yourself for seven years, what do you think you could expect when you came out?
My honest, considered opinion is that after seven years in suspension, I would emerge into a world that would be totally unrecognizable to me. Probably controlled by vicious chainsaw-headed robots, with most of the human race reduced to cyborg vassals, being wheeled along on tank treads, forced to work in a factory where we all make novelty gag gifts, purely because the robots find it amusing to see how many whoopie cushions the humans can produce before we finally die out. When we all die, our remains will be turned into more whoopie cushions. That seems like the most likely vision of the world of 2023, if you were to wake up from a cryogenic sleep then.
Many congratulations from all of us on your novel All the Birds in the Sky, which came out from Tor Books in January. What’s next for you?
Thanks! I have been totally blown away by the response to All the Birds in the Sky. I am now feverishly at work on my second book from Tor, which is going to be much, much weirder and darker. It’s shaping up to be sort of an homage to those early ’70s Ursula K. Le Guin science fiction books like The Dispossessed and Left Hand of Darkness—only not nearly as good as those, of course. It’s a vaguely political book, but my hope is that when it comes out, nobody will look at it and think “Oh this was being revised during the election of 2016.” That’s my hope, anyway—I often think the best political fiction contains little or no specific political commentary. So you won’t read it and think, “Oh, that character is supposed to be Reince Priebus” or anything. It’s more thinking about the ways we organize our societies, and the views of human nature these systems reflect. But it’s early days—I am going to be tearing this novel apart and putting it back together again over and over, for months if not years, until I get it right.
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