Excerpts from the interview:
“I come from Canada, your 'friendly neighbor to the north' (though something you have to know about us is, we burned your capital -- we burned Washington D.C.!). Canada spends an inordinate amount of time worrying about its national identity, which is a really boring topic. I got kind of narked because for some time they would never call me a Canadian writer, though I carry a Canadian passport and I feel Canadian. It's because I've lived out of the country. You could never have a film called A Canadian in Paris.”
“The first strand in the Mundane SF idea came about because British SF writer Julian Todd said, 'Nobody's writing about oil. Nobody's writing about ecology. And all these fantasies about flying off to the stars basically say we can burn through the planet and go somewhere else.' That's the moral argument, the moral strand. Another big strand (which explains why we go mundane-hunting among the past writers so much) is looking at science fiction and saying 'What's worked the best?' The tendency for writers like Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard was not to have so many aliens or space ships. There's a feeling that maybe what works best is more planet-centered. We're all flying off into space in our fiction, and in reality we're still not really on Mars.
“And there's the argument which gradually won me over: apart from anything else, if you're writing science fiction you want to be privileging the more likely over the least likely, especially if the least likely happens to coincide with all your hopes, dreams, and desires. If it's more likely and you're not looking at it because it seems less attractive, that's probably where you should go. That's where you'll find the new material, the difficult material.”
“The first draft of Air was finished in 1996. I stopped working on it to do 253, and then the publishers said they wanted something more like that, so I did Lust. By the time that came out, everyone was expecting a Mundane novel. I didn't know about the Mundanes when I started writing Air, and the heroine Mae is unapologetically pre-Mundane. Everybody's thrown by the stomach pregnancy, because it can't happen, but it links up with earlier events in the book. Mae actually finds a way to do magic, and that's the reason the stomach pregnancy works. I'm very pleased to have published a 'difficult literary' science fiction novel. And I never promised to write only mundane fiction. One of the reasons I'm not in there punching and kicking is that I still intend to write fantasy.”
“In 1990, if you had asked me which was the worst thing to be labeled as, gay or an SF writer, I'd have said gay: kills you stone-dead in the market. Then Was came out. None of the publicity around Was said 'award-winning writer,' because then they'd have to say which award. And no mention of any of the previous books. Nada. They had it in the gay section of bookstores and they had stuff in gay magazines, but they didn't say SF -- at which point I realized that being a science fiction writer is worse than being gay. (I think we're wonderful, but other people don't know that!) It's a bit like if you have a black father, everyone says you're black, and nobody ever seems to understand that we're all a mix. One science fiction novel, if it's placed correctly in your CV, means you are a SF writer. At work, that's how I get introduced: 'Geoff's a science fiction writer.' You put up with it.
“Making your living from a nine-to-five job rather than from writing wears thin after a while. If your job feeds your writing -- as it did when I was doing the Internet stuff -- it's great. Mostly it doesn't, and then you have maybe ten hours a week to write on Saturday and Sunday. That works as long as everything in your personal and professional life is fine too. But sooner or later, all you've done for 20 years is work. When do you have time to read? These days, any job you have, you work overtime. So I've changed it, and I'm working part time as a writing teacher.”
“My next book, King's Last Song, is a mainstream novel set in Cambodia. It doesn't have a chapter set in the Khmer Rouge era, because that's been beautifully done by people who lived through it, so why do it again? In this age of post-colonialism and appropriation, why am I writing a novel of Cambodia? Number one, you have to write about it. The alternative is just to ignore the Third World and pretend it isn't there. Number two, there's the international culture. If it hasn't happened already in Cambodia, it certainly has in India, and it's going to happen in loads of places. The educated -- they're going to join us, and they're going to write about their countries. The whole thing will become less of an issue. We're going to get some fantastic post-colonial science fiction, written in English. A book like Ian McDonald's River of Gods indicates there is a future for these other countries and subcontinents, these huge tracts of Earth. And if there's a market when we do it, there'll be a market when they do it.”