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Interview: Amy Sterling Casil on “In the Time of Love”

– Tell us a bit about “In the Time of Love.”

The story is dedicated to Christopher Hull, who is a visionary genius and maker. Among many other important projects he has done, Chris was the original development team leader for the Amazon Kindle. He is part of our publishing venture, Chameleon (mentioned below). In being around Chris and other “makers,” I came to see their different way of perceiving the world. I had been thinking about and researching basic physics questions like “What is time?” and “What is space?” I learned of the amplituhedron – a developing tool used by physicists to explore the as-yet misunderstood nature of space and time on a quantum level.

 

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

A few years ago when I was living in Playa del Rey, I had a charming neighbor who often grilled at the same time I did. One day we were grilling and I mentioned I was a sci-fi writer. “I’m global personnel director for Northrop,” he said. He averred he loved sci-fi and talked about some of the Northrop-Grumman projects that were in development. “You know ‘beam me up Scotty?'” he said. “We’re working on that.” Yes – an actual “transporter.” I said, “I bet if people actually started using that, they’d use it to make it easier to steal things and get away, and to cheat on their partners.” He laughed and agreed with me.

If you really think about it, such a transporter would be like texting on steroids. “Where are you?”

“Oh, just at the store, honey — be back in a minute.”

Then, I got to know Chris and became close friends with him. I started thinking about the difference between theory and application. When I learned of the amplituhedron (“ampy”) in the story, I pictured Chris making it. If someone actually made something that could alter the progress of time (in the story, it’s portrayed as “stopping time”), chances are – they’d first use it exactly as Brian did in the story. Later, they might feel differently. They would change their perception of how such a thing could be used. If – they were similar to Chris – and the other makers I know.

 

– Was “In the Time of Love” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

See above. Brian in the story is a “maker.” His emotional intelligence is a poor match for his inventive intelligence and skill. I was interested in writing not just on the topics, but the difference between people like me, and people like Brian.

 

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

It was an outgrowth of my ongoing interest in theoretical physics, and also my journey in understanding the work process of visionary makers. I guess you could call that “research.” I made friends with Annika O’Brien the roboticist a couple of years ago. One of the first things she said when I got to know her was “I can smelt aluminum and make a swarm of hovercopters!” Well, most mornings I’m lucky to be able to make pancakes. That joy of creation and discovery is part of the story. It runs across every person with these extraordinary abilities that I know.

 

– What are you working on now?

My partner Bruce White and I are finishing a story for an anthology called Forbidden Thoughts. It’s about an ordinary guy whose life collides with a society of 40,000 year old Amazon women who’ve discovered their impending mortality, and need to reproduce before they die. Most of my time is spent on Chameleon Publishing and our slate of authors and publications. I am also writing an extensive article for Analog about Kalev Leetaru, the visionary creator of the GDELT project (Global Database of Events, Language and Tone). GDELT is the real-world realization of what Asimov called “psychohistory”. It covers every global news event in the majority of world languages and media from 1979 to the present. It’s extraordinary, as is Kalev, whose ambition is to change the world by showing it what it really is, not what it thinks it is. I am halfway through the second book in my series of fantasy novels (Like Fire, Like Light, Like Life). The first book will be published next year by Chameleon Publishing, with illustrations (already complete) by award-winning illustrator Kirbi Fagan.

 

– You have your own press, Chameleon Publishers – could you tell us about that?

Chameleon is “making books like oreos and treating writers like Henry Ford.” Only two of our founding team have extensive experience in the publishing industry. The rest are comprised of Fortune 100 executives like Bruce White, top tech recruiters like Laurie DeGange, and creators of the devices upon which e-books are read, like Chris Hull. We are incorporating the legacy imprint of Alan Rodgers Books (4,000 titles in the Ingram catalog) and are not using a traditional publishing model. We are focusing on long-term author partnerships and the business model is based on emerging, successful companies in North America I have worked with as part of my business development practice over the past four years. We are still in proof of concept phase, but have released our first major new book: Is SHE Available? by Igor Goldkind. Igor is one of our partners and a founder. For two decades, he was the top graphic novel publicist in the UK and Europe, and is himself, a visionary creator. I can put Is SHE? into a concise context now thanks to Mal Earl, who is one of the 26 internationally-known artists whose work is featured in the book, which is far more than a single book, but rather an ongoing transmedia project. “There really is nothing quite like it out there. A synthesis of sequential storytelling, beat poetry and visual design… Words are not enough. You have to see it to believe it!”

20 percent of North American adults regularly buy and read books, yet we have nearly 100 percent literacy. It is our belief that the reason more people do not buy and read books regularly is that they are not presented work that interests them, in market channels to which they’d respond. In no other industry in which I, or any other Chameleon partner has worked, is the basic product and worker so-little valued and the work process so unexamined or taken for granted.

The system of publishing, whether traditional publishing, or self-publishing, is broken as far as meeting the needs of a population with near-100 percent literacy, in a world where more women than men have achieved college education for more than a decade (by 2020, more women than men will graduate from college in all but a handful of nations worldwide).

At this point, I believe that our next revolution isn’t the tech or maker revolution, it’s the creativity revolution. Books are the only product yet-known by which complex ideas and feelings may be communicated across time and space. Don Quixote was the first novel, and the first bestseller, in 1605. And it remains a best-seller today. We are working with authors, artists, and designers with this in mind.

“In the Time of Love” appears in the May/June 2015 issue of F&SF.

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