How did “The Plastic People” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
It grew inside of me for a very long time, built up by images of children picking through garbage dumps in developing world countries to try and eke out some kind of survival. At the same time, as a fan of space and travel, I kept looking at the private space launch activity with optimism and excitement. Somewhere deep inside, that tension between carrying both feelings inside broke and this image of space travelers coming back to a dump began to form in my head.
What is your writing process like? Did this story fit the pattern?
I tend to be a bit more methodical in creating the story. I have places to aim at, or a structure. Here I had an image and a feeling. Some seed of anger. I could feel a story just in the air around me, I just had to start writing it and see where these feelings would take me. Every once in a while, the muse strikes, and you become a vessel for a story, and this was one of those. I wrote it, and then had to figure out what to do next.
What is your writing space like? What do you like to have around for optimal creativity?
I’ve had an office in my basement for a while, it’s not very inspiring, but it gives me a six foot long desk and space for all my books. I write there, at the coffee shop in town, on the comfortable armchair in my family room, in the car while waiting for kids to finish a music lesson, on my iPad on the couch, and I also thumb-type on my iPhone. I use an app called Ulysses so that my writing is synched on all the devices, so the writing shows up wherever I happen to be.
The most important thing? Bose noise-cancelling headphones. I’m currently on the QC-35 IIs and, other than my laptop, they’re the one piece of kit I have that I instantly replace if they break, regardless of cost. No matter where I am, if I pull these on, the world falls away to a muffled distance and I can find the space I need to write.
Did you get stuck at any point while writing this? How did you get past that?
This was a lucky story that fell out of me. I do get stuck, like anyone else. I’ve read recently that procrastination should be considered your brain balking against hurt, and that it’s a compassionate mental response. I’ve always looked at getting stuck as an obstacle to power over, around, or through. Now, I ask myself “what hurt is my brain trying to protect me from?” There is no one answer that’s the same each time. I’ve discovered sometimes it’s fear of what people may think about the story, or a suspicion that the writing is wrong, sometimes it’s that I’m actually tired and writing more is going to hurt because my brain is exhausted. Finding out why my brain is balking, and not pushing through, has been really a big change for me and helped me grapple with stuck moments.
What are you reading lately? What writers inspire you?
I’m catching up on more TJ Klune since discovering two of his books while judging for the World Fantasy Award. Such amazing stuff. I’m listening to Alastair Reynold’s Inhibitor Phase because I love his science fiction. After that, I have the latest Martha Wells queued up, because who can resist the amazing Murderbot? I can’t. Becky Chambers has also been a go-to author during the pandemic. There’s a warmth to her characters and her books that I needed. I came of age during the dark anti-heroes of the 90s, and I love me noir and grit, but the last couple years have been . . . a lot.
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
I have five or six short stories coming out this year, so checking in at TobiasBuckell.com is never a bad idea, I point out where things are from there. The big project right now is a fantasy novel I’m revising called In Empire’s Shadow, where gods have fallen from the sky and people are chopping them up and mining them to extract magic from their corpses. Complications ensue. I’ve been writing, revising, or noodling around on this one for years, so I can’t wait to wrap it up sometime this year so we can take it out and show editors. After all this time working on it, I still am deeply in love with it, so I hope it finds an enthusiastic home.
My short story collection, Shoggoths in Traffic and Other Stories, just came out from Fairwood Press. It contains a massive chunk of my fantasy short stories. And sometime this year Apex will be doing a collection of just science fiction stories called Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance and Other Stories.
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