mercoledì 3 giugno 2015

ALIETTE DE BODARD'S WAY an interview with Fabio F. Centamore

Scott Card's teachings projected you into the world of writing. But what did he really taught you? What secret spring he has triggered?
I learnt a lot from Scott Card's Literary Bootcamp classes; but the most important lesson was to take myself and my writing seriously. Deciding to come to Bootcamp was, essentially, deciding that I was serious about writing and publishing--that I would attend a one-week course in a foreign country and make it worth it.

In addition to your Vietnamese origin, how much of your daily life is in your stories? How much of the people you meet and the places that you really frequent every day?
I'm sure there's a lot of it; but I don't consciously set out to do that, if it makes sense? For starters, I don't want to be sued. *laughs* But more than that, I write in different universes than my everyday life--I write because I want characters who aren't me, or the people I see everyday; because I want a change; because I want universes that are, and are not quite like the one I live. I'm sure there's a lot going on subconsciously or less subconsciously--a lot of the stories I wrote in 2013, the year I gave birth, focused on motherhood ; and I know I sometimes write on themes that interest me, and generally that means they're related to something that happened to me: for instance, "Immersion" was written after I took my husband to Vietnam to visit my maternal family, and had a chance to measure the gulf between the insider and outsider perception of a culture.

What's your personal idea of science fiction?
Uh. That's a really tricky question to ask. I don't like giving definitions of science fiction; because I feel like it's very easy for them to become either reductive or, worse, exclusive. A common criticism leveled at minority writing (women, people of colour) is that they don't write "real science fiction", and I don't want to fall into that trap! I guess for me, science fiction is anything that involves the future: it can be a future technology (like time travel); or a complete future setting. Some people will say there has to be some focus on science; I prefer to say that technology has to be somewhere in the story. It doesn't need to be the focus or to be important, but it should be in the background somehow. But that's just my personal take (and it's always evolving, so I'd probably give you a different answer in a year's time, after I've read a couple of books that don't fit this definition and still blew my mind).

How difficult is for a French person, although bilingual, confront the English market? What are, or what have been, your biggest difficulties?
I was very lucky to find an online community at the time I was starting out, and a number of very supportive people who helped me while I worked out the "rules" of writing fiction: like any genre, SFF has a number of requirements for stories, style (not to mention basic craft like stringing sentences together) that you need to learn, or be aware of. It doesn't mean you can't break said rules, but it helps in the beginning, while you're still working on getting everything up to par, to have some rules to fall back on. Like traiining wheels, I guess.
I had a number of language issues, but by far the most important was lack of confidence: it took me years to understand that my English was no better or no worse than that of a native speaker, and to stop being self-conscious about writing in a second language.

Is it really important to have a scientific or technical training in order to write an excellent science fiction? What is your view?
I think it's like writing rules? It helps to know what's going on, so you can be plausible and not break every law of physics without meaning to (you can break the laws of physics while being perfectly aware of it--I've doneit, and others have to, but it's another long topic!). I think that it's easy to let rigorous science box you in, though; and some of the stuff I've read that was the most lovely didn't come from scientists (that said, I love Alastair Reynolds' books, so I'd argue it doesn't really matter as long as you do your research right. It's just easier when you're a scientist to sound like you know things and make the reader trust you :-) )

Currently we're reading in Italian your Ship's Brother. Tell us how the ideas of the Dai - Viet empire and their intelligent ships?
The mindships came from a merge of Iain M Banks' Minds, and some things that preoccupied me about family and motherhood in science fiction: I wanted to have a society where giving birth would be fraught with danger, but it wasn't plausible that, in a technologically advanced society, maternal mortality would still be high. So, instead of human birth, I made ship birth be the dangerous activity: the implantation of an organic artificial intelligence in a human womb. That was where it started, and then it evolved into more complex reflections on families and the ties of blood; and how you handled mixed families where one member was a spaceship and would live for hundreds of years...

What Aliette De Bodard brought as new in the Anglo-American science fiction? In your opinion, how is evolving this panorama?
I have no idea what I've brought to the genre, honestly! It's kind of hard to judge this.... I think the field is always changing and always having an influx of new ideas and new people: we're seeing a lot more diversity now, with the success of people like Ken Liu, John Chu, etc. It's slow, but it's happening.

Have you some advices to offer to all non-English writers who want to conquer the American market?
With the caveat that this is the advice I wished I'd had back when I was starting out, rather than some gospel truth valid for everyone... I think the first thing you have to realise is that you're not alone, and that there's quite a few people for whom English isn't a first language, or who don't live in the Anglophone West. The World SF Blog, sadly, is defunct, but there's still a series of The Apex World Book of SF (with three volumes out and a fourth volume planned): you can get an idea of who else is working in the genre and what kind of thing they're doing.
The other thing is that with the rise of the internet, there's plenty of resources online from writers' advice to critique groups: I recommend the Online Writing Workshop, which is where I got a lot of sense hammered into me... And of course you can connect to people via social networks, and authors are generally pretty approachable.

Tell us about your future projects. What are you preparing for your readers?
My novel The House of Shattered Wings, set in a devastated Paris ruled by Fallen angels, is out this August from Gollancz (UK/Commonwealth) and Roc (US). It's very much been a labour of love, a paean to the 19th Century books I read as a child, my grandmother's Vietnamese fairy tales, and the epic fantasy of my teenage years--I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope people will appreciate reading it, too!

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