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A Conversation With M. John Harrison
An interview with Gabriel Chouinard
September 2002

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M. John Harrison
M. John Harrison
M. John Harrison is a lifelong writer and author of many novels, among them: The Pastel City, A Storm of Wings, The Centauri Device, and The Course of the Heart. Under the pseudonym Gabriel King, he and Jane Johnson have written The Wild Road and The Golden Cat.

M. John Harrison Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Gabriel King
ISFDB Bibliography: M. John Harrison
SF Site Review: Light
SF Site Review: The Centauri Device
SF Site Review: Travel Arrangements
SF Site Review: The Wild Road and The Golden Cat
SF Site Review: The Wild Road

The Centauri Device
Travel Arrangements
Signs of Life
Things that Never Happen

M. John Harrison has long been a man at the fringes; a cross-genre guerrilla that has slid across the literary spectrum with the ease of an oiled supermodel, moving from genre to mainstream and back with no real niche to call home. His impact on SF/F has been enormous... and yet his novels and stories aren't generally available in the US.

I first stumbled upon Harrison's work through my dad's old stack of New Worlds magazines that he kept hidden in the back of the closet... and I'm not ashamed to admit that I've been a Harrison addict ever since. In my mind, Mike Harrison is hands down the best writer to emerge from the British New Wave of the 60s and 70s. His prose sparkles, his ideas burn incessantly, and his characters sear their wily ways into the consciousness of all who read them. Most of all, though, was the personality that shone through in his writing and reviews for New Worlds. Here was a man with something to say, and the cajones to say it out loud. My impressionable, nearly-adolescent psyche was duly impressed.

I've never lost that impressed psyche.

It was an immense pleasure to conduct this e-interview with M. John Harrison, as it has been an immense pleasure to read his work for over a dozen years.

You have a novel out now in the UK, which will hopefully be coming out in the US in the not-so-distant future, called Light. What can you tell me about the novel?
Well, it's an SF novel. Not hard SF, but woven out of quantum theory, emergence theory and a throwaway speculation of Janna Levin's, with the hope that some pretence of quantum indeterminacy is manifested by the story itself. Otherwise, it's two narrative strands of rollicking space opera grounded by a contemporary strand set mainly in London. Steve Baxter has called it a "folded down future history", which is a neat description. The way science is done now, i.e. as a commercially-driven operation, is seen to have become, four hundred years in the future, a kind of galactic beachcombing. The entradistas from Earth are out there trying to score, amid the remains of big, difficult alien technology.

Expect some fairly off-the-wall characters, doing what they call "the Kefahuchi Boogie" which is, like, surfing it. Expect plenty of sex, and some whole-body dysmorphia. Oh, also rocket ships.

How do you feel about the reception the book has gotten so far? There are some nice blurbs from nice authors on the cover, and Rick Kleffel says; "It delivers all the staples of great space opera and great science fiction and even, shockingly enough, great fiction. It's a bit of hike to Harrison's summit, but once you get there the view is impeccable." Doesn't sound very 'commercially viable' to me. Are you at all concerned with how well Light performs on the market?
I am. Light is intended to be rather more readable than, say, The Course of the Heart. At the same time, it's a very visceral, very character-based book. This, more than any actual difficulty of access, sometimes adds up to a problem for science fiction fans. To date, reception has been good, indeed very good, inside and outside the genre.

Along with Light, you have a collection coming from Night Shade Books called Things That Never Happen, which is a retrospective of your career wrapped inside a beautiful David Lloyd cover. Did you choose which stories to include? Are there any surprises for readers?
It's basically the text of my UK collections The Ice Monkey and Travel Arrangements, with the addition of a couple of stories that weren't collected in those books. I wouldn't say it was a retrospective of my career. The earliest story in it is from 1975, I think. By then, I'd already published three novels and a collection of short stories. Most US readers will be unfamiliar with these stories because they were often published in British outlets and mainstream venues (although a couple of the later ones first appeared in Gordon Van Gelder's F&SF). Perhaps the most interesting item is a "revision" of the Viriconium story "A Young Man's Journey to Viriconium", which has been changed by altering one word. I think the word occurs about eight times in the story, but it makes a vast difference. It took me seventeen years to commit myself to the change. That word was in, it was out, it was in again. Thank god for Find & Change. I have to say that the guys at Night Shade have done a magnificent job. Things That Never Happen is the nicest-quality production I've had for years. David Lloyd's cover image -- taken from his painting "Allegory", which now hangs on my study wall -- is very eerie indeed. Add an introduction by China Miéville, and what more could you ask?

Your writing has consistently defied genre conventions throughout the course of your career, as your stories dodge around at the fringes of what is considered speculative fiction. Was this a conscious decision on your part, or did it just happen that way?
It was a conscious decision, taken across 1966/67, somewhat before I joined New Worlds. I am not in favour of categorisation (or even taxonomy, though I know some very nice people who do it). My urge is less to transgress genre boundaries than insult them, in the medical sense. In the short run, that is, in terms of individual books, it's important for the reader that a novel have humanity -- a broad spread of concerns; in the long run, it's important that a synthesis of F/SF and so-called "mainstream" be achieved. Categorisation is reductive. As well as limiting the writer, it robs the reader of the full experience. I would feel irresponsible, if I didn't offer readers everything I could.

I'm right with you there. I wonder, does it bother you that categorization is increasingly becoming the publishing buzzword? It seems the focus of labels is getting more and more refined over time, so everything gets a label.
I think categorization has always been a major buzzword. Things are no less compartmentalised than they were when I began writing in the early-to-mid 60s. The frightening thing is not so much the intensification of category marketing as the disappearance of sub-categories. Look at fantasy. Corporate publishing doesn't want more than one item in the category -- so-called "epic" fantasy. Clarke Ashton Smith wouldn't make it nowadays. I'm not even sure Robert Howard or Michael Moorcock would make it. Too idiolectic, too much themselves. Those other kinds of stories have vanished, along with any kind of crossover. Writing is speech. We've allowed our language to be taken away from us. When you speak fantasy now, you can only say one thing.

You're also a stylish writer, a so-called 'literary' writer that is compared (albeit unfairly) to people like Martin (hurk!) Amis, Ian McEwan, and the like. Does that bother you at all? Does it matter where you 'belong' on the literary map?
Yes and no. Yes, it matters in that all writers should assess themselves in terms of the widest arena possible -- why be content to be a big fish in a small pool? No, it doesn't matter in the slightest, because we all, in fact, "belong on the literary map" whether we want to or not. Writing specifically for a genre isn't just reductive, it's an attempt to hide, a form of cowardice. It's special pleading, but it doesn't work. I don't think, by the way, that you should necessarily equate the stylish with the literary. Many other elements than surface go to make a good novel. This confusion reminds me of the early 60s, when F/SF editors would lump everything that wasn't plot or "SF content" into the portmanteau category "style, atmosphere & background", thus rather missing the point of most writing, let alone most "literature". By that reading, Madame Bovary, a novel of massive commercial and literary success, packed with the narrative of human interaction, would be dismissed as "all background".

You've been an outspoken critic of science fiction and fantasy for over thirty years now, since your first work at New Worlds. How do you feel about the genres these days? Have they grown up at all, or do you still feel they're aimed at people who refuse to grow up?
I still feel that most F/SF is aimed at people who refuse to grow up. This is ironical because the proportion of genre readers who refuse to grow up has actually gone down a little since I made those criticisms. (I should remind people that I was by no means the first to make them.) What locks the field into juvenility these days is not writer/reader feedback: it's the intense determination of corporate publishers to maintain an audience of extended adolescents. People who don't grow up properly buy more things, especially hacky-slashy faery Game Boy virtual world-building sorts of things.

Let's talk about some of your other works. You're best known among speculative fiction readers for your influential Viriconium cycle, which pretty much skewered what commercial fantasy tropes had become. But what many people don't notice is the tremendous growth you went through as a writer through the course of the stories that comprise the cycle. What I find most interesting upon re-reading Viriconium is the maturation of the tale -- it went from angry polemical attacks on the form to a struggle against the nature of fantasy itself. How did your perceptions come to change so drastically?
I felt very suddenly that I had wasted my time. The early Viriconium pieces were anti-fantasy, written deliberately to refuse closure to fantasy readers and to get up the noses of fantasy writers, editors and reviewers. By the end of the 70s, it was beginning to seem futile to perform myself as a literary tantrum this way, especially in such a local venue. Writing against a genre traps you in that genre as efficiently as accepting it. I was sick of being a polemicist. I tried to grow myself up technically after A Storm of Wings, the second book in the Viriconium sequence; but meanwhile I was going back to basics and trying -- in short stories like "The Ice Monkey" and "Egnaro" -- to discover what my own subject matter might be, what my heart wanted to write about. It turned out to be desire, in the broadest sense, and the relationship between desire and the elements of fantasy-life both individual and cultural. The last-written story of the sequence, "A Young Man's Journey to Viriconium" was a direct confrontation of those themes in the context of the rest of the sequence.

This question of fantasy life versus primary life continued on through The Course of the Heart, and into Signs of Life, where I think you truly found some of the answers to the questions that you'd been asking all along. Yet you keep coming back to the questions. Is this one of your obsessions? What other passions drive you in your writing? I note threads of longing, desire, lust, questions of identity. Am I getting anywhere close?
Close enough to have answered yourself, I think. Though when you say, "Yet you keep coming back to the questions," I think you miss the point a bit. There aren't any answers. You don't find solutions to life: you live it. Life isn't an exam paper, and a good book isn't a series of boxes checked. To your list of passions, I'd add the idea of self-transformation, since that's so threaded through our culture now as to have become its basic fallacy. From the dysmorphic gallantries of Pro Ana; through the sad novels of Greg Egan in which people "transcend" all that humiliating visceral stuff of being human; to women who have a lot of plastic surgery and when asked if they're pleased with the result say smugly, "Yes, I think I've achieved the look I wanted," as if they did it themselves, we're obsessed with the idea that we can "be anything we want to be". I enjoy writing about that.

I think that's a definite undercurrent in SF, playing to the fanboys and their 'Oh, I'm superior, I'm so smart/beautiful/transcendent!' attitudes. I think that, more than anything, serves to limit the readership of speculative fiction. Do you think we're hindering the growth of the field with this obsession?
We may be at cross-purposes here. When I say "we", I mean the West in general, not just F/SF writers and readers. We live in a culture which promises us a constant fantasy-reconstruction of ourselves. That's what I write about, the fantasies and wish-fulfillments, individual, social, corporate and cultural, which take place a long way prior to written fantasy. When someone says they are "making their dream come true", or "living their dream" what can they possibly mean? Signs of Life and Travel Arrangements were very much about what I call the "I'm worth it" generation, who, because they have trouble distinguishing their aspiration dream from reality, are already living in a kind of virtual world. Written fantasy occurs quite a long way downstream from acts of fantasy like that.

Travel Arrangements was a collection containing some twenty years' worth of stories, spanning almost your whole career, and is notable in that it doesn't have a weak story in the bunch. In fact, you're almost better known (and regarded) for your short fiction than for your novels. Do you feel that short stories are your preferable format, or do you prefer novels? And how do you feel about people like Moorcock saying that you're one of the best short story writers ever?
Well, it's very kind of Mike to say that. But I don't think it's true. The list of utterly, untouchably brilliant short story writers is endless. I haven't even scratched the surface. But I like the short story because it's so intense. You can -- and must -- make every word count. It's also a maximum machine for manipulating reader expectations. Writing being play, and reading being play too, in a short story you can maximise the intensity of play for all concerned. I enjoyed writing Light, though, and I don't think of myself as specifically a short story writer. To over praise me as a short story genius and then suggest I fail at the novel is really a clever way of sidelining me, taking me out of the competition, making what I do seem easier to manage. It's a not a view I hear often from people who've understood my longer fiction. There's no point in me quoting the reviews, but they're easy enough to find.

And yet, still no Booker.
Like most writers whose origin is in F/SF, I don't engage my own humanity sufficiently to earn a visible X on that "literary map" you were talking about above. It doesn't help to be very good at something when the majority of readers, reviewers and literary editors ask of it with a kind of puzzled distaste, "Yes, but why would you do this?" This is a fact we all have to learn, not just radical geek proselytisers like Egan or Charles Stross. To win a worthwhile literary award, you have to write about people: after all, that's what we are. But I wouldn't mind having a Booker nomination some day. Who wouldn't?

Do you think the 'mainstream' is becoming more flexible these days? I mean, we have people like Iain Banks, Don DeLillo, J.G. Ballard, Paul Auster, Jonathan Carroll; they're all 'literary' writers more than SF/F writers, yet they all have a speculative bent to their work. Can this be anything but healthy for the SF/F corner of the world? Or do you think hardcore fans will just shrug and say, "Whatever," and not care?
I think it's healthy for both sides of the divide. There are signs, in the UK at least, that if you're gifted enough, the divide can be breached in the direction F/SF to mainstream. There's less sign that it can be breached from the direction mainstream to F/SF. To be honest, that's what worries me. I think this is a time of opportunity for all of us, but the wall won't go down unless it's attacked from both sides. The mainstream is ready to try cohabitation. Now it's F/SF that's acting coy. Actually, protectionist.

Nostalgic alert: What's your favorite work of your own?
My favourite novels of mine are Climbers and The Course of the Heart. My favourite short stories are "Science & the Arts" from the Travel Arrangements collection, and a story called "Entertaining Angels Unawares" which appeared recently in Peter Straub's issue of Conjunctions.

Backing up in time, though we won't dwell there for long, can we talk about your ten years with New Worlds, and the so-called New Wave? How did that experience shape your writing career?
In retrospect it's a paradox. New Worlds helped make me who I am: but relatively little of New Worlds survives in who I am. I took a lot away from the New Wave -- we all did -- and I'm fantastically grateful for the experience. But very few of us survivors are dependent on that experience any more. That's the nature of life. New Worlds published some of the best generic -- and the earliest post-generic -- fiction of its day. The New Wave exploded F/SF out of the grip of a tired regime of control-freaks who were terrified of everything from foreigners to their own sexuality. I'm proud to have been a small part of that. But because I was an enthusiast and a latecomer, I rather got absorbed by the myth of it, which later came to seem stifling.

Stifling to the point that it made writing more difficult?
Yes. I'm someone who needs to be able to do exactly what he wants. The New Wave was supposed to "free" us to do that. But it became a series of proscriptions. I wanted to be free to do anything, even the things we disapproved of. I wanted to be able to choose what I looked at and how I looked at it. I'm not cut out to be cannon fodder in someone else's movement. In the end, many of us felt that, whether we expressed it or not. If you just look at the work, you'll see that Thomas M Disch didn't have much in common with Barrington J. Bayley, for instance. The New Wave was always a community with a floating population, most of which eventually floated back out to sea. I see nothing wrong with that. On hearing about Climbers, a now-forgotten New Waver described me as a "traitor to SF". I've never heard anything so fatuous. I'm against the genre of commercialised F/SF fiction. But I wouldn't want to create an anti-genre with equally frozen boundaries, policed by some old guys who were famous long ago. One way to avoid that is not to form groups -- or to make sure that those groups have fluid populations and goals. Until its recent conversion to a monoculture, fantasy was by its nature the province of psychopaths, visionaries and the aggressively idiosyncratic. That'll do me.

Do you think you and the other writers of the time accomplished what you'd attempted to do in changing the general landscape of speculative fiction? Or is it all just a myth cooked up around a bunch of meanly-talented authors?
The problem for most of us was that we were rather too talented for the genre we found ourselves in. I think we made some permanent changes in the landscape. I was very caught up in that aspect of the New Wave at the time. In the end, the giants like J.G. Ballard caused more change outside the genre than they did inside. It doesn't seem an overstatement to say that Ballard is one of those genuinely gifted authors who remake the shape of fiction for everyone. And, of course, as he revealed in his autobiographical work, he had something real and truthful to say about the world. As a boy he'd been through the mill, in a way not many Westerners -- and almost no F/SF writers -- have nowadays. One of the best things writers do is to engage the extremes of their own experience on our behalf.

I think we're seeing more of that now, thankfully. There are people like China Miéville, Tim Etchells, Kelly Link, etc. that are drawing on their own lives to create works that transcend 'normal' genre conventions. Do you think this is one of the lasting impacts made by the New Wave?
We might be at cross-purposes again here. J.G. Ballard went through a Japanese internment camp at the age of, what, eleven? Very few of us have had the privilege of an experience like that, from which we can bring back art so vast and weird and full of metaphors. Even Tolkien experienced trench warfare, which is more than most contemporary anti-Tolkienistas can say. (Although I have to admit he didn't do much with the opportunity.) But, yes, I think the New Wave encouraged a kind of shamanic fiction, its fictional grammars were those of adventure, entradista grammars. They were about going out there -- or, perhaps more properly, in there -- and bringing back the goods on behalf of the reader. Burroughs was already doing that, of course. Light draws similar conclusions -- "Go deep," the characters tell each other. "Always more. Always more after that." In climbing, boringly enough, it used to be called "the exploratory value".

Let's talk for a bit about climbing, since we're both climbers. There's a link between climbing and writing, I think, though for the life of me I can't describe it. What do you think?
I don't know. I took it up as an antidote to sitting behind a desk all day writing bullshit about people hitting one another with swords. I wanted to do something in the world, something which made it impossible to evade the feeling of being alive. The physical world wasn't getting my attention. If it didn't get my attention soon, I would never be any kind of writer, let alone any kind of human being. Once I started climbing, which is a very technical activity, I could see technical parallels. (In fact, ghost-writing the autobiography of a well-known British climber in 1987, I tried to make some of them. This resulted in rather strained definitions of the "poetics" of climbing, written in a kind of post-structuralist vocabulary; so I gave up.) Climbing is like writing in that it allows you to make an almost infinite number of different statements from a very finite technical vocabulary. Better than that, it's fucking ace fun. You get out in the fresh air with undependable people, and at any time you might fall seventy feet on to your left elbow. What more could you ask of an activity? It's such a rest from everything else. I wish I still did it, but there you go: your life moves on.

So what do you do now to fill that hole, so to speak? How do you get out into the world to engage yourself with humanity these days?
I don't. I don't fill the hole. It's not something you can replace in your life. Climbing was the one perfect escape for me. Humanity is a different thing: I engage my own humanity by engaging other people. Both climbing and writing have been avoidance strategies for me. Now I try to make myself live in the world. It's not street luge, but it has its satisfactions. I suppose. I'd like to have children. That must be quite exciting.

Climbing, of course, factors quite prominently in your sort-of-autobiographical novel Climbers, which I've never been able to read (other than excerpts), but which won a prize for mountaineering non-fiction despite the fact that it was fiction: which fairly well illustrates the strange multi-layered methods and madness in which you tend to write! And I think I just discovered gods in a mote of dust by writing that sentence.
I'm constantly trying to show fantasy and reality as co-dependent. One of the ways Climbers approached this was by suggesting that fiction and non-fiction are co-dependent, from the level of the two-sentence anecdote up to the level of memoir, autobiography or travelogue. Much of my thinking went down that road in the 80s. Like all my novels, Climbers does a lot of different stuff, and works hard on a lot of different levels at the same time, but one of the things I wanted it to be was a book that was at its most autobiographical when you thought it was least, and vice versa. Many climbers, who have as simplistic a definition of fiction as SF readers & writers, were horrified that I could "get away with it". What they meant was that you're supposed to make it up, not just record it and shuffle it about... They wrote to the papers, and sent me to Coventry, and for a year I knew exactly how Ballard, Moorcock and Aldiss had felt at the beginning of the New Wave. What fun! Again the idea was not so much to transgress the boundaries as to traumatise them.

So, are you doing anything to get Climbers and The Course of the Heart back into print? It's been a while, and I think there's a new audience for the books waiting, especially now that readers have matured somewhat.
I work night and day on it, Gabe. My agent works night and day on it. If Light does well, we may be able do something. I find it deeply ironic -- but absolutely predictable -- that my best books are out of print while the crappiest thing I ever wrote -- The Centauri Device -- tootles along under the rubric "masterwork".

Seriously, though, for a time you quit writing in order to spend your time climbing. What happened along the way to make you quit? Was it burnout in general, or that singular obsession that most climbers experience at one time or another?
At the end of the 70s, I was so sick of writing I just didn't do much of it for a while. I was so sick of publishing that when I did write something, I put it away in a drawer. I felt that I had written myself not just into a corner but into someone else's corner. It's no surprise, therefore, that climbing became my subject matter for a time. That was all part of an attempt to understand who I was and what I might write about if I was going to be me.

But of course, as you say, climbing is addictive. By 1984, I was on the crag between five and seven days a week. Because I pushed myself so hard I felt comfortable in places that would terrorise the balls off most people (and me, these days). When I closed my eye, I could smell chalk dust, gritstone: see moves, chains of moves like dance steps. The skin on my fingertips was transparent all summer, it was so abraded; it would break and bleed at a touch. I was a mass of joint and tendon injuries, each one of which had to be woken up carefully in the morning and coddled into action. As long as the pain went off when you climbed, that was OK. If it didn't, you were supposed to stop. None of us ever did. We were just out there every summer morning, with a chalk-bag, a pair of shorts and three fingers taped to support the tendon pulleys in the main joints. Or in the winter there we'd be, puffed up in monstrous down jackets, coughing morosely, staring up at some ugly piece of river valley limestone while cat-ice formed on the water behind us. Each time I went past what I could do safely, I felt as if I was floating. It was like being in the dream of absolute certainty, just before it goes bad and becomes the nightmare of total fuck-up. My life was a mess. Putting it at risk pushed the mess away for an instant or two. I was living in the shittiest of personal circumstances because that was only ordinary life, unadrenalised life, so what did it matter? What counted was rock. Ordinary life was something you would court serious injury to avoid. Climbing is so addictive because it combines psychological payback -- success -- with risk. The feelings I had when I topped out on something at the edge of my ability, I don't get those feelings any more from any part of my life. People who still expect me to be Mr. New Worlds Jr. don't realise how living like that changes you.

It's very difficult to write about mundane experiences once you've lived....
Well, I don't know. Every experience is mundane in the sense that it happens in the world. The climb is only perfect until you climb it. You reach for the fantasy at the heart of any potential action, as soon as you touch it you find it's only as real as anything else. That reverses: as a writer you can find fantasy at the heart of the mundane. I'm not against the mundane. It makes me fractious: but the only authentic escape you can find from it is to enter into the dialogue between it and the fantastic. This is the juice of it for me. This is what writing F/SF/horror is all about. Climbers and The Course of the Heart addressed this point. All the stories in Things That Never Happen address this point (most of them address other points as well).

So what are you reading these days? Are there any authors out there now that have you completely stoked? Who excites your critical engines?
Kelly Link, because she's doing something I don't understand. Joel Lane, because he's doing something I don't understand. They've forced me on to the learning curve, the way Iain Banks's Wasp Factory or Mike Smith's Only Forward did. I appreciate that. Outside the genres: Janna Levin because she dared to bring her life and her science together in How The Universe Got Its Spots; Tim Etchells, whose ability to simultaneously use and undermine language is frightening, and I don't understand what he's doing, either... There's a ton of good stuff being produced in Britain by authors like China Miéville; China crosses horror, SF and fantasy, leavens it with a dash of surrealism, and calls it "the Weird". I call it doing what you want. This is happening from the mainstream side, too, with people like David Mitchell. The future is cross-generic, although not consciously so. It's just people doing what they want and being confident enough and gifted enough to force it through, carry it off. Readers love that because they can sense you having fun.

Jeff VanderMeer said of you in a recent review, "Harrison, at an age when many writers are figurative dust, doomed to repeat themselves until they're literal dust, is a tough, clever, talented son of a bitch who hasn't had blinders on while creating his more introspective work over the last decade." So what's next on the agenda for you? A follow-up to Light?
Jeff's delight and surprise are contagious. SF readers and critics, longtime supporters of mine everywhere, are glad to see me back, and I'm glad they're glad. Some people aren't quite so glad. I've already been approached in private by one of the younger Brits, anxious to let me know that my sudden reappearance in the field puts his career plans at risk -- he's in a minority over there, I hasten to add. And I think some of my old friends from New Wave SF preferred it when they could comfortably pigeonhole me as the most underrated writer of my day, etc.; that was unthreatening to them. But generally there's a sense of elation -- here's a guy who's spent nearly twenty years mucking about doing stuff we didn't quite like or understand, and now he's come back and given us some real goods.

How Light came about was this: one night in 1999, Mic Cheetham, my agent, the best a man can get, and Iain Banks, who I'm told is a bit of a novelist when he isn't driving fast cars, took me to the Groucho Club in London and got me drunk. (This is easy to do: I'm a cheap date.) At about two in the morning, Iain fixed me with a watery but evil eye and said, "You know your trouble, Mike ? You don't have enough fun." I went away and thought about that; then I sat down at the iMac and had some fun. The list of people who have stood up to be counted as a result of that decision, especially on the non-SF side of the divide, is amazing to me. I never realised I had so many supporters, or how well they thought of me. So what I intend to do now is have even more fun, live up to my own potential, write more stuff. I'm working on the next novel: but my short stories are taking an interesting turn recently too, so I'm hoping to follow the possibilities of pieces like "Science & the Arts" and "Entertaining Angels Unawares". Like Light, both those stories filled me with an excitement almost as unhealthy as I used to get from climbing. I was adrenalised.

Finally, since these interviews tend to be read most by newer writers that are seeking just a glimpse of magic what advice can you offer these budding authors?
I can't offer them any advice, because everyone's path is -- and should be -- different. If I could offer advice that would work, writing would have become as codified, as crap and as not worth doing as any other trade. A career in writing is bad for your writing. Somehow, you have to survive that and still have a career. If you pushed me for advice, I'd say: Never listen to anyone else, especially publishers. Always work at the edge of your ability. If it isn't two words away from falling over, it's not worth doing.

Copyright © 2002 Gabriel Chouinard

Gabe Chouinard is a writer, editor, pundit and agent provocateur, currently helming the forthcoming ezine s1ngularity. Ebomb him at or read his blog at

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