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Interview: David Gerrold on “Monsieur”

– Tell us a bit about “Monsieur.”

I started thinking about vampirism as a disease instead of a supernatural condition. And the more I thought about vampires in that context, the more I realized that the way vampires have been portrayed in a lot of movies and books and TV shows doesn’t deal much with the daily minutiae of a vampire’s life, what’s really necessary for survival.

I wrote that first section, the part in italics — realized I was heading in the wrong direction, and took a giant step back — the meta thing — and began to look at vampire fiction the way a vampire might. The rest of the piece just flowed from there.


– “Monsieur” reads like the beginning of a novel. Is there more to Jacob’s story?

After I finished “Monsieur,” I knew I wanted to know more. There was a lot more to tell. So I kept writing. “Jacob in Boston,” “Jacob in Seattle,” “Jacob in San Francisco,” and finally “Jacob in New Orleans.” When I was done, I had 75,000 words. So, yes, that first story is the first chapter in a novel — and we printed up a special collector’s edition in time for the World Science Fiction Convention. I think there will be copies available on Amazon by the end of this month as well.


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

I have to point to a story in the July/August 2014 issue of F&SF. A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i. by Alaya Dawn Johnson. (Which went on to win the Nebula award.) It struck me as a brilliant piece in so many ways, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I wanted to know more about the world suggested beyond that story — so much so that I almost wanted to write it myself.

But what happened was something else. As I said above, I started thinking about how a vampire would have to survive in our world. I’m not through with that thinking. I might have more to say in the future.


– Do you think any aspects of your writing have changed as you’ve gotten older?

I’ve always been interested in the conflict of ideas — and the moral and emotional dilemmas those conflicts create in human beings. It’s what James Blish always said, “Who does it hurt? That’s who your story is about.”

But more and more, I think I’m writing a lot deeper than I used to. I’m doing more of what I call “transfusion stories.”

There’s that thing that writers say. “Writing is easy. Sit down at the keyboard and open a vein.” If I finish a story and I need a transfusion, I know I’ve gone someplace important. I can tell by the depth of emotion I’ve invested in the story.

I can point to “The Martian Child” and “thirteen o’clock” and “Entanglements” (May/June 2015 issue of F&SF) as transfusion stories. That’s my goal, to write more stories that come from that vein…

“Monsieur” appears in the September/October 2015 issue of F&SF, which can be purchased here:

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