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Man of Many Minds
(excerpted from Locus Magazine, March 1997)
Photo by Charles N. Brown
other interview excerpts
Michael Kandel initially gained fame for translating Stanislaw Lem--books including The Futurological Congress, The Cyberiad, and The Star Dairies--for which he was twice nominated for a National Book Award. More recently he has written his own novels: Strange Invasion (1989), In Between Dragons (1990), Captain Jack Zodiac (1991), and Panda Ray (1996), a darkly comic take on both young-adult adventure and the mathematics of other dimensions. He is also an editor for Harcourt Brace.
"I don't believe in that division between commercial fiction and art. ...There's a payoff from a good book--maybe some wisdom and some fun, both, a good story. In the long run, all the books that last have succeeded commercially as well..."
"...Frederik Pohl gave up editing because he thought it was interfering with his writing. I don't feel that way at all... When I'm writing, the editor is backstage, and makes suggestions, but the writer makes the decisions. I've written a lot of novels, and I had ambitions that I was going to be a great writer, but I also am a very good reader and a good critic, and I was able to see that when I wrote a novel, it was dead on the page--that was my early stuff, three or four novels. For me, when I stopped taking myself so seriously, and said, 'Forget about writing great art -- it's just gonna be science fiction or fantasy, or whatever' -- it worked. What came out had life, it was readable...."
"...In Panda Ray, I wanted to write a science fiction book where the science, the nuts and bolts, was mathematics. ...So this had Penrose Tiles and the Golden Number and Fibonacci Numbers, things like that. There are all these transcendental mysteries at the simplest level of mathematics. So there's this sense of wonder you can put in a science fiction book from the simplest math, whereas you have to know a little more about physics, or at least give the impression of it..."
"...I'm working now on a fantasy novel, inspired by a C. M. Kornbluth story. The premise is that someone has written this book about functional epistemology -- essentially, you can control the world, and all it takes is these seven simple steps. ...Scholar is the working title."
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