Excerpts from the interview:
“As a kid I used to read Harlan Ellison's story introductions, where he would talk about knowing all these other writers, sleeping on their couches and getting into fistfights with them and so on. Tim Powers would talk about hanging out with Blaylock and Jeter and Phil Dick. I thought it was amazing that these communities existed, but I figured I'd live in the country in North Carolina all my life and never be part of them. Then, a couple of years ago at a convention, I looked around and was astonished to realize I was in the middle of what I used to read about, hanging out in a hotel with Benjamin Rosenbaum and Greg van Eekhout and Christopher Rowe and all these other up-and-coming writers. I'm living with a writer, around the corner is an editor at Strange Horizons who buys my stuff -- these are the people I hang out with, go to parties with, and talk to about serious things. My friends are starting to appear on award ballots, and in year's best anthologies, and they're getting book deals -- I feel like I'm in the middle of something wonderful, a rising tide.
“I sometimes worry that I'll overload on SF. I work at Locus, and most of my friends are writers. We all have this common experience and knowledge base. But when I talk to my relatives, they haven't heard of Cory Doctorow, and they're not talking about Kelly Link being the cutting edge of fantasy. They could care less. So I feel I should get out of the bubble more -- but I like it in the bubble!”
“In Rangergirl I wanted to confront something that bothers me about fantasy, the anthropomorphization of natural things, like having the North Wind walk around in human form. But what does the North Wind really want? He wants to blow on things! When something like that bothers me, I often challenge myself to engage it directly, so I said, 'Let's take earthquakes and wildfires and natural disasters and make them into a villain.' So I have a sort of genius loci, a god of destruction, but it doesn't really have a mind until my protagonist starts looking at it and giving it a mind. We make the myths. We ascribe human properties to the inhuman. When we stare into the abyss and the abyss stares back, it isn't really staring back -- we're staring at ourselves, putting our own reflection on it. All of us project onto the world to make sense of things. The artist in Rangergirl makes that spirit of earthquake and wildfire into a comic book villain because she's a comic book writer. So she makes this thing that could be more nuanced into a simple villain, an evil outlaw gunslinger. That's a dangerous oversimplification of the world. But I also thought it was funny.”
“The book I'm writing now, The Light of a Better World, is about death and the quest for transcendence. It's largely about suicide, people who decide to kill themselves and foolishly think death will take them to a better place, but it's a lot more complicated than that. Working at Locus I write the obituaries, then go home and write this book. When Heather asks me if I want to watch the DVD of Six Feet Under, a great TV show set in a funeral home, I say, 'Oh god, I'm so sick of death and dying, I can't bear it!' (That never lasts.)
“William Blake said, 'To generalize is to be an idiot,' and when I used to teach poetry I would always say, 'Don't write about despair or death in the broad sense. Write about your grandmother's funeral, what it smelled like and what the room looked like. Be specific.' The idea of saving the world is also too general for me, and Rangergirl responds to that. I can care about maybe 150 people, and I can care about the place where I live and the place where I grew up. So if I'm going to write about saving the world, what I'm really going to write about is saving a town, a place, a few people that you love. That's what it means to me. It also seems more likely, as something an individual human could do, than saving the whole world.”
“For a long time I was into extreme activities: extreme sex, extreme drugs, extreme whatever. Back when I was polyamorous, dating lots of people at once was great fodder for drama, wonderful for creating interpersonal conflict, though it didn't always feel so wonderful at the time. I fell in love constantly, which is a great way to have an interesting life. I did that for five or six years and then got really tired. I couldn't just shake off a hangover and go on with my day anymore, couldn't go to a rave all night and then go to work the next day. So I've mellowed considerably, and become a real homebody. When you do awful things and realize a character in a story who did the same things would be a villain, it teaches you things about yourself (though I'm always half in love with my villains). That's another way fiction has changed how I perceive my life: thinking of myself as a character and asking myself if that's really the kind of person I want to be. If I wrote someone who behaved that way, would they be a hero, or a villain?”