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Interview: Rich Larson on “There Used to Be Olive Trees”

Tell us a bit about “There Used to Be Olive Trees.”

I wrote “There Used to Be Olive Trees” while teaching English in a small Spanish town outside Seville. It’s about otherness, duty, and coming-of-age in post-apocalyptic Andalusia, borrowing conceptually and aesthetically from The Matrix and from Philip K. Dick’s “Autofac.” There’s some of Garth Nix’s The Seventh Tower series in there, too.

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

This one was actually inspired by a strange dream about a few desperate people hanging around outside a glossy black dome that I knew, in the dream, was an automated factory refusing to cooperate. Spinning it out into a full story took a while. The setting, of course, came from exploring my surroundings. Plenty of olive fields and rundown stone buildings and once a dog’s skull and spine.

 

Was “There Used to Be Olive Trees” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

The theme of being an outsider, I suppose—but that’s something that feels personal while being more or less universal. There are definitely some little details that take me back to my time in Spain when I re-read them, like the moniker “the Town.” I picked that because the name of the village where I worked was often shortened down to “La Puebla” by its inhabitants.

 

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing off a military science fiction story for Jonathan Strahan’s Infinity Wars anthology, and starting on a high-octane cyberpunk novella. While I wait for a publisher to bite on my finished YA novel, I’ll have new stories appearing in Asimov’s, Analog, Apex, Clarkesworld, and Tor.com throughout 2017. Links to those will show up at my website, richwlarson.tumblr.com

 

“There Used to Be Olive Trees” appears in the January/February 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1609.htm

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