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Interview: Sarah Pinsker on “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide”

– What was the inspiration for “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide,” or what prompted you to write it?

I’d been reading articles about new prosthetics that interface with the brains of amputees. I took mine a few extra steps. The first line popped into my head fully formed, and the first paragraph, and then the road. I’ve driven through Colorado many times, and I love the way the plains and the farms and ranchland give way to mountain, so I ran with that. The cool thing was that I picked Lori’s name arbitrarily, and didn’t realize what I could do with the tattoo until later.  My process is sort of like driving, too: I set out with a destination in mind, but the place I wind up isn’t always exactly the place I thought I was going.


– Was this story personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

When I was fifteen I was part of an exchange that took me to Saskatchewan. I went to a bonfire with my host, where the guys all drank beer and the girls mixed their beer with clamato, which is about the most disgusting mixer I can think of. I’ve been holding onto that detail for a long time waiting to use it in a story. Beyond that? I’ve never thought I was a road, but I’ve spent a lot of time on them. And I definitely know what it’s like to feel split between two places.


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

I did some research on prosthetics and occupational therapy, and on modern farm equipment and crops of Saskatchewan. Oh! And now I know how to make a homemade tattoo gun. I know horses and I know roads, and I’m pretty good at capturing the spirit of places that I’ve traveled, so those parts were easier.


– Could you speak at all to the juxtaposition in your story of high-tech sci-fi (bionic prosthetics) with a noticeably mundane setting (small-town farming community)?

First off, big farms like Andy’s parents’ are already very high tech. The equipment, the monitoring. I made Andy a more traditional farmer in order to widen the gap between the high-tech and the character. I think a lot of farmers are dealing with it on a non-metaphorical level. Small farmers struggle to make ends meet. Large farmers have to give up the practices that we think of as farming. Animals on commercial farms have it pretty rough, and people who want to farm food crops instead of commodity crops have it pretty rough. Even old-school Andy is farming canola. I guess all that is to say I don’t think it’s such a stretch to put bionic prosthetics onto a near-future farm.


– What are you working on now?

I’ve always got a couple of stories going, and I’m working on a novel that also deals with the consequences of small medical strides in the near future.


– Anything else you’d like to add?

I’ve been reading F&SF since I could first read. It’s a pleasure to have a story in the magazine.

“A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide” appears in the March/April 2014 issue of F&SF.


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