Elizabeth Moon is an author of several very well received Fantasy and Science Fiction series, and as such was a prime candidate for an interveiw. When Mike found out that she was both a Marine and a Paramedic, his determination to get an interview became... well, ok, obsessive.
Ms Moon has proven herself a wonderful sport, and no suit was filed against the zine. Mike would like to say thanks, but all charges were dropped on the stipulation that he maintains an "appropriate distance".
QM: Elizabeth, which of your works is your favorite? Don't give us that silly answer that they are like your children and you can't pick one over the other.
EM: I don't have one favorite because (as you yourselves point out later) I write different kinds of things. Favorite book-length fantasy; the Paks story. Favorite SF novel: Remnant Population. Favorite short piece: well, I teeter between The Generic Rejuvenation of Milo Ardry (which shocked my mother, and she never thought would see publication) and If Nudity Offends You (which nobody else seems to like as much as I do...)
QM: You've been a Science Fiction writer for quite a few years now. Does your family still hope you'll grow up and get a real job?
EM: Actually, the older generation aren't there to worry about it anymore, and my husband and son think it's neat to have a writing spouse/mom. There are people, though, who ask "Are you still writing?" in that tone of voice...the one that means "...or have you finally joined the real world?" I try to stay away from them.
QM: What are you working on now?
EM: I'm just finishing a book called Speed of Dark (it'll be out from Del Rey next summer), which is a standalone near-future SF novel whose main viewpoint character is autistic...and who insisted that the book be written in first person present tense. (You remember--that combination everyone tells you is bad, wrong, fatal, and impossible. Now I know why everyone says that.) It's a book about the nature of identity and the challenge of change...or, it's a book about a really interesting guy named Lou. I prefer Lou to the thematic analysis.
QM: Some S/F writers also work in mainstream literature. Are you contemplating such a move yourself as a way of making real money?
EM: Good grief, is there real money in mainstream literature? Why didn't anyone TELL me?? Is it too late?
QM: Do you have a favorite place to write?
EM: Wherever I am. Basically, if not distracted or interrupted, I can write almost anywhere. I've written in an ambulance (on the way back from a night run), on airplanes, trains (hard--it's very wobbly), hotel rooms, etc. Granted, I usually write in this very room I'm in now, where the "big" (size, not speed or capacity) computer is, because it's embedded in papers and books and I can't move it.
QM: Where do you see the S/F world heading? Should we worry?
EM: I have no idea where it's heading. It's tough enough to keep track of where I'm heading.
QM: Your female characters are tough and strong. We think that's cool. I guess that's not a question, but we still think it's cool. Do you ever receive negative comments from people who do not like strong female characters? Do you need a spot to dump the bodies or an alibi?
EM: Bodies? What bodies? Alibi? Moi? Why would I need an alibi? Remember, I live in Texas.
Actually I did have some negative comments, some years back, from a fellow who called me a feminist (he meant it as a dirty word) and pointed out that men need books to read, too. I pointed out that a lot of men had written books with male protagonists, and why didn't he read them, and we parted without actual violence.
QM: A lot of your characters discover inner strengths when the going gets tough. Is that what happened to you personally?
EM: I keep hoping. It's much easier to write it than live it.
QM: How did your experiences as a Marine influence your writing?
EM: Well...when the mouse that just ran across the floor (no kidding) did so, I didn't drop the keyboard. More seriously, it had two main effects. The more obvious is my use of military backgrounds and personnel in most of the books. The less obvious is buried in the process of writing: I get it done. The Marines removed the phrase "I can't..." from my vocabulary.
QM: Military themes run strongly through your stories. Do you personally favor any particular weapon for your characters? High tech or low? We favor broken beer bottles ourselves.
EM: The smart character avoids combat whenever possible, but is skilled enough to make use of whatever comes to hand when push comes to shove comes to blaster fire in the passage. Low tech is more fun to write (high-tech combat tends to be over too fast) but if I have to face the Horrible Whoozit, I'll take the highest tech I can get, thank you, and preferably some well-trained personnel to operate it.
For fun, and not in earnest, I prefer Renaissance style fencing.
QM: Who or what influenced your writing?
EM: The cliche, but also the truth, is "everything." Even a short list would sound like (and be as boring as) those long thank-yous at the Oscars, where people thank everyone who ever touched their lives...
Books, music, wilderness, climate, food, animals, people...see what I mean? Eclectic influences, that's about all I can say.
QM: Is there any truth to the rumors of wild sexual experimentation? Any Pointers?
EM: Surely you jest.
QM: You've written both S/F and Fantasy. Do you have different approaches to the different genres?
EM: Yes. But it's hard to explain. What it feels like is that the SF comes out of the top and front of my brain, and the fantasy comes from someplace below my head, crawling up the spinal column to get to the language center and find words. The exception is funny fantasy (such as the Chicks in Chainmail stories) which dances all over the outer convolutions, tickling until I get it down on paper.
QM: You have written long series, such as The Deed of Paksenarrion and short stories, notably your collection Lunar Activity and selections in Alternative Generals and Chicks in Chainmail. Do you prefer one style to the other? How do you approach each?
EM: It's nature vs. nurture. Nature made me a novelist, not a short-story writer. Long, complicated stories come easily to me; short, focussed ones are tough. When I'm supposed to do a short piece, I spend most of the time pruning it back and begging it to get to the POINT, dammit. Novels are a journey; there's time to enjoy the ride while it's going on.
How do I "approach" these things? With extreme caution. Preferably armed with a contract that has a firm deadline ("See--you can't bully me into letting you run rampant for the next eight months--it says here you have to be less than 7500 words and finished by next Tuesday.") Novels approach *me*--usually by the main character knocking on the inside of my skull and insisting "Tell MY story now! No, I can't wait until you finish the current book...it's my turn, right now, MINE!" (Oh, quit looking startled...Like you thought writers were sane, sure you did.)
QM: You collaborated with Anne McCaffrey on the Sassinak story. How did you find the experience compared to working alone? Don't worry, we won't tell her what you say.
EM: At that stage of my career, it was great to work with Anne (who is, in any case, a delight: go ahead, tell her. It's the truth.) The two projects I did with her stretched my talents and taught me new skills. I do prefer to work in my own universe, though, just because I can kick the walls of my own universes down if I want to.
QM: If you had 20 millions dollars, would you spend it on a trip to the space station, or would you just waste it?
EM: Space station. No question.
QM: Did you ever have a real job? What's it like?
EM: Er. Um. I guess the Corps doesn't count with you, huh? I mean, I showed up every day in appropriate attire and did computer stuff. That ought to count...no?
Aside from that, nothing but freelance this and that.
QM: Do you go to high school reunions just to flaunt the fact that your are a S/F writer and way cooler than your classmates?
EM: I've never been to one of my high school reunions. I keep telling myself I should go, it won't be that bad...but if you offered me that ticket to the space station on condition that I relive those high school years...I'd probably stay home. A reunion couldn't be as bad (I tell myself) because it only lasts a day or two...but so far inertia (or fear) has won out.
QM: What's your best advice to beginning writers? Other than start running now and don't look back.
EM: Write what you love.
QM: Does most of the S/F world take itself too seriously or not seriously enough?
EM: I have no idea what the right amount of seriousness is. Neither does anyone else.
QM: How would your describe your agreeing to be interviewed by Quantum Muse: (a) A kindness to a struggling on-line publication.
(b) The low point of a night of binge drinking.
(c) Quantum Muse who? I thought this was Stars and Stripes.
(d) Other, please specify:
EM: (d) Other, please specify: Kind of fun, actually.
QM: Would you mind buying the next round?
EM: I certainly would. You people have expensive tastes...<WEG> NOVELS: