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Interview: Paul Di Filippo on “I’ll Follow the Sun”

– Tell us a bit about “I’ll Follow the Sun.”

Out of all the sub-genres of SF, time-travel is one mode I’ve hardly touched, despite having written over 200 stories.  So I thought I might try my hand at this theme, to push myself into new territory.  As it is, I ended up hardly scratching the surface of time travel’s complexities, so it leaves me lots of room for return engagement.  I also wanted to treat time travel as a psychical matter, along the lines of Jack Finney’s famous TIME AND AGAIN.  No machinery to complicate matters.

 

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

Editor Gordon was a big impetus, kindly soliciting me to provide an entry for the special taboo-breaking issue.  You can’t turn down a challenge like that!  But I also for some time had been wanting to examine how our culture has changed over the span of my sixty years of living.  As an SF writer, I remain committed to the future, and to deeply grokking current trends and phenomena.  But as a “civilian,” I also have to evaluate the culture in terms of its pleasantness for my personal tastes and attitudes, and also try to gauge it on some kind of objective level regarding improvements, deteriorations, etc.  By contrasting the worlds of 1964 and 2014, I had the perfect narrative laboratory for showing just where our civilization seemed to have done right and gone wrong.  I think my story barely scratched the surface, and I’d like to do a whole novel on these lines.  But it would be an alternate history rather than pure time travel.  The “jonbar point” of change would be the year 1910.  Of course, the research involved would be tremendous, to do it right, since I would basically be recasting the entire 20th century and beyond.

 

– Was “I’ll Follow the Sun” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I tried in the story to convey some of my personal and private dismay toward the more glaring crudities and barbarities rampant today.  In many ways–and I really think this perception does not derive solely from my own growing fossilization, which strikes all humans as we age and which I daily strive to conquer–the world of 2014 is a much more savage, rude, and less gracious place than the world of 1964.  I can only hope the world of 2064 is not even worse!

 

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

Just boning up a bit on some convincing mathematical/physic terminology to cloak the time travel concept with.  Other than that, having lived through 1964 personally, I only had to confirm a few historical markers.  Oh, yes, I also had to nail down a few facts concerning the actual life of the great Chan Davis, whose fictional avatar we were kindly permitted to employ!

 

– What might you want someone to take away from reading “I’ll Follow the Sun?”

Fortune favors the brave.  Be compassionate.

 

– What are you working on now?

A story for the tribute volume dedicated to Samuel Delany.  My piece is called “Devils at Play.”

 

– Anything else you’d like to add?

If you put an issue of F&SF from 1964 next to one from 2014, I think you’d have to say the old girl has aged pretty darn well,   staying rather youthful in fact, and showing all signs of lasting till 2064!

“I’ll Follow the Sun” appears in the Nov./Dec. 2014 issue of F&SF.

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