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D A V I D   M A R U S E K : Starship Alaska
(excerpted from Locus Magazine, July 2000)

David Marusek
    Photo by Beth Gwinn

David Marusek was born in Buffalo, New York, grew up all over the US, and in 1973 hitchhiked to Alaska, where he still lives. Married at one time, he is now divorced and has a grown daughter.

Marusek has spent most of the last 20 years as a graphic designer, including 11 years teaching computer graphics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. He began to concentrate on writing in 1986, but the turning point came when he attended Clarion West in 1992. He made his first sale there (‘‘The Earth is On the Mend’’, Asimov’s 5/93), and wrote non-SF ‘‘She Was Good -- She Was Funny’’ (Playboy 2/94). Then came the first of five major works set in the same world: ‘‘We Were Out of Our Minds with Joy’’ (Asimov’s 11/95), followed by ‘‘Getting to Know You’’ (future histories 1997, with a later sale to Asimov’s (3/98), which also published the others), ‘‘Yurek Rutz, Yurek Rutz, Yurek Rutz’’ (1/99), ‘‘Cabbages and Kale’’ (2/99), and ‘‘The Wedding Album’’ (6/99), which just won this year's Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short fiction of 1999 (News). His most recent story, ‘‘VTV’’, appeared in March 2000. A novel, or novels, connected to the stories should follow.


Marusek Site Yankovich Road


Amazon links:

''The Wedding Album''

''We Were Out of Our Minds with Joy''


Index to Locus Interviews

‘‘When I left California in 1973, I was convinced the world was coming apart at the seams, and I wanted to be somewhere where you could live off the land and live a simpler lifestyle, and Alaska provided that for as long as it took to convince me that the world may be coming apart at the seams, but it will come apart everywhere. In fact, now that the government is trying to put those Star Wars missiles in Alaska, we may be the first target. They’d be going in right down the road from me.

‘‘After my divorce and after I started writing in ’86, I downgraded my lifestyle. At that time, Alaska was really suffering from the oil crash we had in the ’80s. A barrel of oil went from $30 to $10 or so, and Alaska is nothing but oil for income. So businesses were failing left and right, people were letting their mortgages go back to the bank, and under advisement, that’s what I did. I couldn’t support the house any longer, and I moved into a cabin.

‘‘Cabin living, in Fairbanks, is still proper enough. There’s enough of us who do it, we’re not considered white trash. You have the outhouse, there’s no foundation to the building. It’s completely low-maintenance. So the cost of living, for me, is down to where I can support it and still write every day. I write in the mornings, and in the afternoons I scrape together some freelance work for graphics. I do all of it from my cabin. With the Internet and with communications, it makes it really easy to be a creative person in certain areas."


‘‘I started with some mainstream short stories, but people really thumbed their noses at them. I wrote a novel for my daughter, who was just a kid then, about some dogs -- ‘Mutterola and the Nasty Bump’. It was 70,000 words, had a dozen characters, and this is where Tolkien comes in. I learned characterization with non-human characters. Humans were all on the sidelines. I was able to finish, I learned a lot -- and everywhere I sent it, no sale. I got long rejection letters from the major New York houses, saying, ‘Nice story, but your subject matter is for eight-year-olds and your level of writing is for 15-year-olds.’ So I put it aside, and went on to start writing a science fiction novel which I worked on every day for about six and a half years. ‘‘This science fiction novel just kept going and going, and I had no end in sight. I had some very nice things in it, some very sweet chapters, but no direction. And that’s when, at a writers’ conference, someone first told me about Clarion West. They said, ‘Go there. It’s a boot camp. You’ll learn.’ So I signed up, sent in a story, they accepted me, and I went in ’92. I was never really interested in short fiction before. Clarion taught me how to write short stories, how to look at them in a certain way. Nancy Kress was our first week instructor, and she opened my eyes for short story structure. She’s so good at that!

‘‘I generally start with an image. I can see somebody doing something, and I’ll jot that down. When I look at my notes, it’s still a vital image, and things accrete to it. Eventually there’s a situation. And then, if I’m lucky, a story happens. For ‘We Were Out of Our Minds with Joy’, it took two completely separate images. One was a black baby having retro-genomic procedure turning it into a white baby. (That image did not make it into the final. Gardner Dozois cut it.) The other was a man and a wife. The man is captured by the authorities in a bizarre way on a city street. The wife is horrified and, without thinking, abandons him. These two images stuck with me for a number of years, until I said, ‘Whoa, they can go together!’ That’s where the story started."


‘‘For ‘The Wedding Album’, the genesis was: a man is on a balcony like the balcony of an opera house, where you have different boxes all the way around, and different people in them. And what he sees is his younger self and his older self. Each box is 10 years, and he realizes that he is one of these things, whatever they are, and the box he’s in is his wedding day. That’s another one that took years to write. I workshopped it at Milford in England in 1996, so I was working on it that far back. It had become the wife’s story by then. I wrote a middle to that story and workshopped it to my writers’ group in Fairbanks, and it just didn’t sit well, so I cut it all out and rewrote the middle. This is a story with a lot of loose ends, and a lot of these will flow into the novel. A lot of Sims and Doxies and Daggers will parade through the novel. What happened to Cathy in her little cabin in Siberia is another loose end.

‘‘With these stories, I’ve just acquired a self-confidence in the short form. But I believe that at heart I’m a novelist. Ever since ‘We Were Out of Our Minds with Joy’, people have been saying, ‘Well, where’s the novel?’ When I finally did see it turning into a novel, it jumped 40 years with the main character, Samson Harger. I still know very little of what happened in that intervening 40 years, but now I know what happens at the end of his life. It’s got a lot of the same characters, and a whole raft of new ones."

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