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Interview: Jay O’Connell on “Other People’s Things”

– What was the inspiration for “Other People’s Things,” or what prompted you to write it?

If you’re a genre person of a certain age you will have engaged in long–perhaps endless— conversations with close friends with dating problems.

This experience is universal, but even in an era in which everyone claims to be some kind of geek, we seem to suffer more than the average person. We’re outliers in many respects. Finding each other even now can be difficult.

If you are an alpha-geek, (a geek who dates) you end up playing this role, of therapist, of confidant, wing-man and cheerleader.

The story was pure wish fulfillment, creating this character, Peebles, who could be utterly, brutally honest, this character who could cut to the core of these issues and find solutions.

It’s another wearable computing story, oddly, written a good while ago, before wearables were a thing. Both my wearable stories are seeing print within a months of my Google Glass review in the September 2014 issue of Asimov’s. Another wearable short story will come out in the December issue of Asimov’s.

– Was “Other People’s Things” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

All my stories are personal or I wouldn’t write them; mixtures of life experience with fantasy life, interior stuff rotated through the fourth dimension of genre tropery; memoir pushed through a fun-house mirror.

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

Decades of listening to friends kvetch combined with perfectly ordinary techno-lust extrapolation.

– What are you working on now?

I’m writing novelettes and novellas for Asimov’s and F&SF (hopefully!) with an eye towards working on projects that could expand into novels or serials.

I want to try my hand at YA, like everyone else in the universe. I read out loud to my kids, a ton of YA, and I love it.

– Anything else you’d like to add?

Being published in F&SF is a dream come true; the magazine was part of my primordial landscape, along with Analog, stacks of SF paperbacks from the 50s and 60s, and of course, Playboy magazine.

We grew up with print, my generation, created by it, reflected in it; TV was a one size fits all affair, we all watched but there wasn’t enough variety to define yourself that way. There was no public internet to speak of.

My generation didn’t go to war; we went to Narnia, then Middle Earth; into Galactic Empire, Known Space, and beyond, and the SF magazines were a big part of all that.

I’m delighted to finally find myself in these pages. Though really, I’ve been here all along.

“Other People’s Things” appears in the September/October 2014 issue of F&SF.

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