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Interview: Robert Reed on “Katabasis”

– Tell us a bit about “Katabasis.”

When I bought my NOOK, one of my early purchases was an Adobe copy of ANABASIS–the
absolutely astonishing tale of Greek hoplites going into the heart of Persia to
aid one would-be king, and then their difficult retreat when their benefactor
gets himself dead. I liked that word, and then I stumbled on its sister,
“Katabasis”. That probably happened at Wikipedia, which is where many
of the world’s great ideas are waiting for bored writers.

-What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

“Katabasis” was my protagonist’s name, which wasn’t her given name. She took it for herself
from human history. She probably grabbed it from a future version of Wikipedia,
I suppose.

I knew very little about her. She was strong and poor, and I had some sense of
the high-gravity habitat, and I hoped that she had an interesting back story.
But my characters were well underway before I got a sense of her lost home and
her various tragedies.

Why write it? I thought it would earn me money.

– What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?

I would like to say that I have software that allows me to model worlds to a high
degree of scientific plausibility. I’d also like to be six foot two and fifteen
years into my reign as Emperor of Europa. The simple truth is that past the
character’s name and a long history of making my own body cover distances, I
did very little in the way of targeted research.

– What might you want a reader to take away from “Katabasis?”

Sometimes the writer accomplishes that minimum set of goals. But there are other times
when he or she gets to watch some aspect of the story take over. When
Katabasis’ lover is dying in stages…when she and he and their doomed people
are in the last throes of their very foolish march…I felt that my girl became
her own girl. She is one of those rare characters that seems to cast a shadow.
Or at least I hope that’s what a reader might take away from the story.
– Could you tell us some more about the setting of the story, the Great Ship:
details, your inspiration for it, etc?

The Great Ship was built as a stage to serve a tale about Quee Lee and her
charming, mildly roguish husband Perri. This was nearly twenty years ago in
F&SF, and since that story was published, I have learned quite a lot more
about the Ship and its crew and its destination and its critical importance to
the universe and to my own non-epic life.

– What are you working on now?

And that leads us to here: I am working on a trilogy of Great Ship novels for Prime
Books. They were originally intended to be published separately, in short
intervals. But publishing in its endless wisdom has decided a single volume
with all three tales is more likely to succeed. And so I’m working on the third
portion of a novel or the third book in a grand volume. Either way, the working
title is THE MEMORY OF SKY, and the last I heard, a quarter million words will
arrive in the spring of 2014.
“Katabasis” appears in the Nov./Dec. 2012 issue of F&SF.

Interview: Steven Popkes on “Breathe”

– Tell us a bit about “Breathe.”

“Breathe” is the story of a vampire that views himself as a parasite. I took some liberties with the idea of a vampire for purposes of the story. Vampires are those creatures that can absorb qualities from other people.


– What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

Some stories are comments on other things. This is one. I found myself irritated with the romanticization of vampires. I find nothing attractive or sexy about an individual who’s only source of strength is stealing from other people. I had been annoyed for a while but the pedophilic characteristics in some recent work is probably what pushed me over the edge.


– What kind of research, if any, did you do for “Breathe?”

A little. I’m well acquainted with biotech and biological research—my wife is a biochemist and I used to be a physiologist. Mass General Hospital is right down the road. I worked in hospitals for most of my time in college and in the Boston area. Most of the material was just outside the window.


– Most authors say their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was your story personal?

The choices of asthma and emphysema were personal. I used to suffer from what had been misdiagnosed as asthma and I had several smoking relatives that died of emphysema.


– What are you working on now?

I just finished a novel version of my novella Jackie’s Boy. Now I’m working on a novel that takes place in a fictional Missouri location called Nuthatch County.


– Anything else you’d like to add?

I have no good judgment on how stories are going to be received. It’s nice to see this one get some traction.

“Breathe” appears in the Nov./Dec. 2012 issue of F&SF.

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