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Mailing Date:
30 March 2006

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Justina Robson: The Tao of SF
Justina Robson was born in Leeds, England. She attended the University of York, and studied art at Leeds College.

Robson's first story, "Tr&eaccute;sor", appeared in The Third Alternative in 1994. Debut novel Silver Screen appeared in the UK in 1999, and was an Arthur C. Clarke Award and British Science Fiction Association Award finalist. Mappa Mundi was published in the UK in 2000, where it was also a Clarke Award finalist. Natural History, first published in 2003, won second place in the Campbell Memorial Awards in 2004, and was a BSFA Award finalist. Her latest novel, Living Next Door to the God of Love (2005), is set in the same universe as Natural History, and is currently a finalist for the BSFA Award. Keeping It Real, first in the new Quantum Gravity series, is forthcoming. Her essay "Storming the Bastille" was a 2002 BSFA nominee in the non-fiction category. US reprints of Silver Screen and Natural History were both shortlisted in 2006 for the Philip K. Dick Award.

Photo by Beth Gwinn

Authors Homepage
Robson attended the Clarion West writing workshop in 1996. She has worked as a fitness instructor and yoga teacher, but is now a full-time writer. She married Richard Fennell in 1999, and they live in Leeds with their three-year-old son, Daniel.
Excerpts from the interviews:

“My new book, Living Next Door to the God of Love, is hugely autobiographical. When I was writing it I thought, 'I'm going to be honest about what goes on inside my head, just on the off-chance it goes through a lot of other people's heads as well.' I've always had a literal turn of mind. I lived in a very serious family -- we didn't joke about very much -- and I took it as gospel when people told me things. It's a series of almighty shocks to come across something that contradicts what you were told when you were young. (The vestiges of that shock are disappearing, I suppose.)”

“Living Next Door and Natural History take place in the same universe, and I plan to do another book which joins them in a strange way -- it's about how the Forged got made. In terms of science fiction, I thought Natural History had some really traditional elements. Less so with the aliens. Maybe they do have their own drives, but every time I tried to say something definite about their motives I'd get this 'Tilt, tilt, override! Does not compute' feeling and I'd think, 'No, it's weirder than that.' There have been too many summer blockbusters where the aliens were absolutely good or bad, and I got fed up with that. Mass-media science fiction has become so commercial, so overused now, there's a science fiction language everyone thinks they know, so it's almost invisible. You couldn't startle anyone with the idea of robots that don't like people the way you once could. It's all so commonplace now, I always feel like I should push myself to something even more extreme and extraordinary.”

*

“How do we interrelate to each other, and why do we do these things to each other? My whole trip through yoga and eastern Taoist philosophy indicates that there are at least some people in the world (not many) who don't do all those things that get most of us into trouble. Most people are just reacting to their feelings, and they don't think until long after the fact. Maybe if they're good, they'll count to ten before exploding. These Buddhist types say, 'If something somebody does really bothers you, that's because you've chosen to be bothered by it,' and if you ask them if they're bothered by anything they say, 'No, not really.' One of the reasons I gave up teaching yoga was because I realized I can't really walk the walk. It's one thing to pay lip service to these ideas, and another thing to live them. 'If you don't care, it doesn't matter' -- can you take that into real life? There's a point where it just doesn't work any more. There must be a halfway house somewhere!

“Our culture has ideas about demons and the supernatural, and it's weird to find places where the ideas are so different. In Africa a demon is a semi-natural thing that might do you wrong, but might not. The ancient Greeks thought your own spirit was a demon (daemon), which doesn't necessarily have a negative connotation, but is strangely linked to the Freudian ego and other notions of psychology. A lot of genre fiction explores psychology, but not always in modern terms. They provide a different way of talking about psychological issues. Fantasy is more psychology and science fiction is more philosophy, but they're all intermixed.”

*

“I've just sold a new series, Quantum Gravity, to Gollancz (I haven't got a US deal for them yet) and I'm really excited about it. It's a departure for me. Slightly more fun, slightly more adventure, a mix of fantasy and science fiction -- much more a 'laugh riot' than my other books! It's got as many ideas as I can pack into it, and at the same time I'm trying to make it more fast-moving. For everything that frustrated me about writing an 'arty' book, I kind of vented my frustration by writing this much more romping adventure, Keeping It Real. As I was writing Living Next Door, I wrote this in parallel: one of them serious, one not so serious. If the serious one was driving me 'round the bend, I would just go and do the more lighthearted one. (I call it lighthearted, anyway.)”


 
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