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Inside the Blogosphere: Meeting Our Favorite Authors and Picking Their Brains

Time for a new edition of “Inside the Blogosphere”. Today’s Question:

If you could meet in person any SF/F author, living or dead, who would it be? And if you could only ask one question of this author, what would it be and why?

Amanda Rutter @ Floor to Ceiling Books: The one author I would love to meet is Charles de Lint. I have been devouring his novels since I was a young girl, and think he is one of the most talented and under-rated authors out there. I feel a special affinity with anyone else who loves Charles de Lint novels! I would most like to ask him whether he truly believes in what he writes – that the fae exist, and that there are other worlds and dimensions aside our own. He writes with such belief that it seems incredible these stories are merely the product of imagination!

Elizabeth Barette @ The Wordsmith’s Forge: J.R.R. Tolkien, and my question would be: “How much time can you spare to discuss linguistics and folklore with me?” Because I could spend hours, days, weeks, poring over the languages of Middle Earth with him. I have books on the topic, but it would be so much more fun to have that conversation in person with the greatest xenolinguist of all time.

Terry Weyna @ Reading the Leaves: I’ve been fortunate enough to have met many of the writers I admire at various conventions, even though I attend relatively few. I tend to go tongue-tied in the presence of folks like Daniel Keyes, Neil Gaiman, Gregory Frost, Joe Haldeman and Laird Barron, even though they are some of the nicest folks you could ever want to meet, but they seem to be used to that — which means I’ve had some great conversations with some terrific writers. That makes my list of writers I’d love to meet but have not yet met fairly short.

And so, although I hate to be so trite about it, the one writer I haven’t met but would love to meet is Stephen King. I used to have a sort of guilty love for his writing, thinking of it as mere candy; but Algis Budrys, God rest his soul, wrote a piece in the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction many years ago pointing out that King is a great writer no matter how you look at him, and my guilt fell away. (I’m a little more secure in my opinions these days; otherwise it would be difficult to write book reviews worth reading.) I’d just like to buy him a cup of coffee and sit and talk about writing — and about life — with him. He seems like such a good person as well as being a good writer. But if you really have to limit me to only one question — how cruel! — I’d ask him how he plans his work day, his writing regimen. He seems to me to be the kind of man who can’t not write, but he must still have to plan how he’s going to fit everything in — contract review, negotiations, family time, reading time, and so on. I’d also like to ask him how he goes about writing a novel: does he outline? Do story boards? Think about a plot for three months before setting fingers to keyboard? Does he know how a book is going to end before he begins to write? Or does it just all tumble out as he types? Is he taking dictation from angels, or does he obsessively plan beforehand? Okay, fine, that’s a lot of questions, but you can’t just ask a single question without follow-ups to clarify, can you? Have a heart; in my day job, I’m a lawyer, and questions are my stock in trade.

Tia Nevitt @ Debuts & Reviews: This one is easy. Mark Twain.

Mr. Twain, you once said, “Use the right word, not its second cousin.” This advice is, of course, easier said than done. Have you ever wished–post-publication–that you used another word? If so, surely you won’t mind telling us all about it now, 100 years after your death, with your autobiography finally being published?

Now some would say that Mark Twain did not write science fiction or fantasy, but A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is clearly fantasy, and Tom Sawyer, Abroad is clearly steampunk.

David Marshall @ Thinking about books: I would be interested to meet Arthur Conan Doyle who qualifies as a science fiction, fantasy and horror author because of the novels and short stories featuring Professor Challenger, and numerous other short stories.

Conan Doyle is particularly interesting because of his obsessional search for evidence that spiritualism is real. Among other things, this led to a bitter argument with Harry Houdini. Conan Doyle publicly praised Houdini as having real supernatural powers. This was somewhat ironic because Houdini routinely exposed mediums as frauds and never claimed to be anything other than a clever illusionist. So my question to Conan Doyle would be:

Do you now accept your belief in spiritualism was self-deception or is my ability to ask this question evidence you were correct?

Lexie @ Poisoned Rationality: If I had to choose I’d have to say Louise Lawrence, a british science fiction writer. I read her when I was younger, a lot. I mean, I’d go to the library and I’d hound them until they found me a book of hers I hadn’t read yet. She was my first introduction into science fiction–hard scifi, the kind with a lot of techno-babble, far-flung futures and scientific mumbo-jumbo–but she made it accessible to me in a way that even my science teachers hadn’t managed.

Her books mainly came out in the 70s/80s in England, and are often considered to be young adult because they mainly deal with teenagers. If you’ve never read her I suggest Andra to be a good starting point as that’s her first book and is still my favorite.

If I had one question I could ask her, I’d think it would be ‘What was it like having to defend the genre you wanted to put your books into?” When the books came out they were considered young adult novels (again because of who was the main protags), but Lawrence has often spoken against that definition and firmly stated her books belong in the mainstream ‘adult’ genre. I’d love to know what that was like.

Scooper @ Scooper Speaks: I’ve never interviewed an author at Scooper Speaks and I have no plans to ever do so. But if I did, one of the first people I’d ask is Michelle Sagara; I love her Chronicles of Elantra series. In hopes of discovering new authors/books I’d ask her: “If you were going to an island with no electricity for a year and could only take three books with you, what would they be?”

Grace Bridges @ Splashdown Books: I’d like to meet Chris Walley, author of the Lamb Among the Stars trilogy, mainly because it doesn’t seem all that unlikely it might happen someday – call me a realist. He’s very approachable via email. My question to him would be this:

“Your work blows my mind with the hugeness of its scope and impact (tens of thousands of years, hundreds of light-years, and the spiritual fate of the entire universe). Was there ever a time during writing that you felt the same way – that the story was almost too big to grasp, and did it affect the writing process? I’d love to hear about that.”

Doug Knipe [SciFiGuy] @ I have been fortunate over my many years of fandom to have met many terrific SFF authors, but I never had the opportunity to meet one of the giants of my golden age reading, Robert Heinlein. I’d ask him, if given the chance to write one more book, what would it be. Generations of SFF writers have been inspired and influenced by RAH and it would give one more insight into the mind of this fascinating writer.

John DeNardo @ SF I would have loved to meet Isaac Asimov.

It was Asimov’s Foundation and Robot books that renewed my lost love of science fiction. He is an undisputed giant in the field and, from what I hear, an interesting personality. He is knowledgeable in so many areas: physics, philosophy, psychology, religion, history, literature, and more. If anyone in the science fiction field can be considered a wise man, it’s Isaac.

My question: Why the muttonchops?

Rose Fox @ Genreville: I’d resurrect Terry Carr and ask him for advice on editing brilliant anthologies. I’ve venerated him since I was a wee lass. Honestly, my one question might end up being “Would you please autograph this stack of tattered paperbacks?”.

Paul Weimer @ Blog Jvstin Style: So many choices…but for amusement, I will pick the late Isaac Asimov, and I would ask him this, given his prolific writing, both fiction and non fiction:

Is there any subject that you don’t think you could write a book on?

Rebecca Ryals Russell @ Official Website of Rebecca Ryals Russell, Author: Ray Bradbury, For an author who writes so eloquently about futurism, why are you adamantly opposed to the Internet and television?

Shaun Duke (S.M.D.) @ The World in the Satin Bag: I would love to meet Poul Anderson, who is one of my favorite authors from the late Golden Age. Choosing one question to ask is hard, though. I’d probably have to ask something useful–such as “What is your method for writing short stories and novel and what advice would you give to up-and-coming writers out there?” This is a guy who wrote a whole bunch of classic stories, from Tau Zero to “Call Me Joe.” Why wouldn’t I ask him a question about his method? The guy might blow my mind or something.

If I didn’t ask that, though, then I’d probably ask if he’d sign my copies of his books and personalize them with his rendition of a viking amoeba. It’s sort of my thing.

Ian Randal Strock, Editor of I can’t believe it’s more than 18 years since I last saw Isaac Asimov. I think he’s the author I’d like to see again. The question I’d ask is: were you right? Isaac was a confirmed humanist, and believed that death is the end, nothing more. So I’m curious; he of all people ought to know if he was right or wrong in that belief.

As for the authors I never had a chance to know, I think I’d like to meet either Robert A. Heinlein or Arthur C. Clarke (I corresponded with Clarke a bit, but never met him). Of course, with either one of them, I’d want far more than just one question.

Chelsea @ Vampire Book Club: I’ve talked with Stacia Kane online plenty. I’ve interviewed her for the blog, but really, I’d love to go out drinking with her. One, I think she’d be a blast, and, two, it would ease us into my real goal: getting her to talk in ‘downspeak.’

For her Downside Ghosts series she’s created the unique dialect, which varies from person to person. I’m pretty confident that after a handful of drinks, not only can I get the full details on how one comes up with Downspeak, but she might be willing to converse in it. And for those who haven’t read the book, I assure you, it would be hilarious.

Luke Navarro @ & If I could ask any fantasy writer a question it would be George MacDonald and I would ask: Having found the enchanted string and traveled it along its twists and turns, unraveling its tangles and knots and having arrived at its end, Where will we be and what will we find there?

John H., @ I would really love to meet Janny Wurts. My motivations are simple. I have corresponded with her via email a few times and she is the soul of courtesy. Also, I would love to meet someone who had their work basically dry up in the US, keep going in the UK and then be brought back to the US. Her talents as a painter and writer are both pretty amazing(getting all those books published), but her determination to keep her writing moving despite some pretty serious challenges is really interesting.

Greg Hersom @ Fantasy Literature: If I could meet my favorite author alive or dead, it would be Robert E. Howard.

I really wouldn’t have a question for him and I guess for my case, I’d want to travel to before his suicide instead of talking to his spirit. Just to try to let him know, how the number of fans he has only grown through the years. How his characters have been adapted for popular comics for over 30 decades, had their own movies, how so many authors credit him as a inspiration, and how his stories has had significant influence on the entire genre.

I’d also want him to know how genre fiction grew from being primarily in pulp magazines to being novels published by big companies and being a published author would come to be considered more prestigious then being the oddity it often was in his lifetime.

As much as I loved his existing tales of Conan, Kull, Soloman Kane, Bran Mak Morn, and Cormac Mac Art, it’s obvious their medium was pulp magazines. Howard had to churn them out hurriedly to make a living. I’d love do see what he could’ve done if writing a full-length books would’ve have been a real option for him.

Steve Davidson @ The Crotchety Old Fan: Well, as usual I am either unable or unwilling to stick to the rules, but I will attempt to mitigate said flaunting by explaining that each of my answers address entirely different realms, while remaining united by a common theme:

The serious, SF scholarship-based response:

Harlan Ellison (whom I have met before). The question would be a single question in three parts (therefore staying at least marginally within the lines on that part) and would be: Can I please read and take notes from A. Bertram Chandler’s story ‘True Believers’ which you are holding for an unmentioned future anthology; can I purchase an option on said manuscript from you (if so, what is the price) in order to preserve it from the fires and – do you seriously intend to instruct your estate to burn all of your papers? (If so, can I purchase an option on everything and what is the price?)

The serious, earlier in time SF scholarship-based response:

Arthur Bertram Chandler (whom I never had the chance to meet). The question would be a single question in multiple parts: Did you consciously intend to create a unified ‘future history’ with your Rim Worlds/John Grimes/Empress Irene stories and characters, or did it just kind of happen? Is the southern pacific ‘rim’ the real-world foundation for the ‘rim worlds’? Is John Grimes a member of the Wold-Newton Family? Is the story you submitted to (unmentioned future Ellison continuation of an anthology series) a ‘rim worlds’ story? Your style and Ellison’s are so dramatically different – why do you think Harlan likes your work so much? Can I purchase an option on True Believers? If so, how much? Where are the rest of your papers? Can you write faster, please?

The almost entirely unrelated response:

Robert Anson Heinlein (whom I met once). What’s up with this mother-son incest thing? Are you really a sexist? Do you really think that only veterans should have the vote? Are you a fascist pig? Can you please sign every single one of these books for me? Did you ever meet Jack Chandler? Say, by the way, how come Ellison never asked you for a story for his (unmentioned future) anthology? So, Campbell was a prick, huh? Who else was in the SF writers nudists club? Got any pictures? No, you’re not done signing – there’s about twelve more shelves to go…

Poul Anderson (never had the pleasure). Can you please write multiple, doorstop-sized sequels to the High Crusade? What did you think about Jack Chandler borrowing Flandry for his Dark Dimensions novel?

Gahan Wilson (very much pleasure in meeting him). Gahan, can you draw me a picture of a meeting between Ellison, Chandler, Heinlein and Anderson? Throw some of those creepy people you do so well in there too please. While you’re at it, could you please recreate the drawing you did for me back in 1978? I lost it somewhere and really want to have an original Wilson back in the collection….

I could go on, but in the interest of maintaining some (small) degree of rule-following, I will stop now. If references in the above are obscure, I will be happy to explain while relating everything to Chandler….

Lisa Paitz Spindler @ Lisa Paitz If I could meet any SF/F author, living or dead, I would like to meet Arthur C. Clarke. I would ask him what he thinks of the ongoing work at the Large Hadron Collider and recent potential exoplanet discoveries. I’d also have some questions for him about his novel Childhood’s End, specifically how he thinks humanity might now be evolving. I’d also want to know if he thought V and Independence Day continued to examine human evolutionary issues like Childhood’s End did or if thought the other two works were just derivative.

Redhead @ Little Red Reviewer: Easy. George R R Martin. The question is: Who are Jon Snow’s parents, and did you know from the beginning?

Although I’m sure that’s already been asked in some panel some where, and he just laughed it off.

Adam @ Sensawunda: I would love to meet Gene Wolfe. The Book of the New Sun altered my view of SF irreparably. One thing I want to know though is: how did you go about naming the various people, places, things? Some of the nouns seem like derivations of our current nouns, but others come out of the blue. Even the strange ones seem like they perfectly represent what they’re trying to represent, though. It’s boggling and I need to know how he did it.

Lynette Mejia @ The Persistence of Vision: Neil Gaiman, definitely. His writing has influenced me tremendously. I love the way he uses myth and legend in ways that are instantly recognizable, yet totally new and interesting. His prose is flowing and graceful while seeming effortless, and that’s what I aspire to – writing that is complex but accessible. As to the question – I suppose I’d ask him for a reading list. What books influenced you? Whose writing do you admire and study?

Chris @ The Ranting Dragon: My dream authorial meeting would take place with Charles De Lint. He’s been my favorite author since he enraptured me with his Moonheart novel (see my review) and I devour as many of his books as I can lay my hands on. If I could ask him a question, I would want to know which of his characters he identifies with, Kartherine Mully or Christy Riddle. Both of these characters are authors similar to DeLint, as they write about Urban Fantasy, but one works in a more fictional style while the other looks at more of the factual side of things.

Jen @ Looking Towards the Future: This is an excellent question that arrived at the perfect time, because I just finished Tobias Buckell’s Sly Mongoose – the final book in his trilogy. I’d love the chance to meet him in person so we could discuss his universe in depth – I think it would be fun and I actually have several questions about his universe and the characters in it. John’s question is “If you could only ask ONE question of this author what would it be” – so in that case I would ask – “How did you come up with the character of Pepper?” Pepper is a main character in Buckell’s trilogy and one of the few that appears in the first two books and I think the only major character who returns in the third. In addition I started reading his short story collection – Tides From the New Worlds – and the first story in the collection is one of the first Buckell wrote – and Pepper is in it as well. I have a feeling Pepper is a character the author has had with him for a while, and I’d like to know more about how the character came to be.

Justin Blazier @ Fantasy Literature: Living or dead?…hmmm. How about both? I’m talking about the immortal Ray Bradbury, the speculative fiction vampire. I cannot fathom any other explanation for his longevity. I think he plans to live long enough to see his own stories become reality. Ray Bradbury began his writing career compiling speeches for Jesus. The notoriety he gained for this, landed him a position editing for Marcus Aurelius’ monthly newsletter. After bearing witness to the death of the messiah and the fall of the Roman empire, what could possibly be left to inspire our man Bradbury? Aliens…Aliens with an inclination for annoying plot twists, that’s what. I read the Martian Chronicles when I was 14. In the Chronicles I learned that Martians die of chickenpox, and that throwing crap in a Martian canal, will get you shoved in it. The Martian Chronicles literally distorted my 14 year old brain. My English courses throughout high school were littered with Bradbury gems. Bradbury had become a very essential part in developing my love of speculative fiction. Though at the time it was simply known as “Nerd stuff”. Meeting him and thanking him for sharing his gift with me would be an amazing opportunity. To gain insight from the mind that had the vision to write Fahrenheit 451 and short stories like “There Will Come Soft Rains”. Now, to answer the original query posed for this entry. What question would I ask Mr. Bradbury? I would ask him simply if he could please stick around a good while longer?