Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America and Arizona State University that explores emerging technologies, public policy, and society. Beginning in 2016, Future Tense commissioned a series of stories from leading writers that imagined what life might be like in a variety of possible futures. Future Tense is a selection of those pieces.
Carl Slaughter had sent Charlie Jane Anders these interview questions a couple of weeks before he died in an automobile accident on August 11 (see Carl’s obituary here). We are very grateful to the author for helping Carl complete his final project.
SLAUGHTER: Let’s start with a recap of io9. What was the
vision? Did it achieve its goals? What was the attraction?
What was your contribution?
JANE ANDERS: io9 feels like a very long time ago
for me now. I can’t really speak to the vision behind it, because that was all
Annalee Newitz, and they were the real founder. I was incredibly grateful to be
brought on board to help bring their vision to life. I think the most exciting
thing about io9 was that we were combining science and science fiction,
and we were trying really hard to have credible science coverage alongside
geeking out about movies, books, television, comics, etc. We talked a lot about
finding ways to explore the idea that science fiction had become mainstream
culture, because we were living in a science-fictional time. For me, the most
fun part was getting paid to obsess about storytelling by interviewing
creators, writing reviews and critical essays, and doing stuff like my writing
“how to” articles. This felt like I was getting paid to go to grad
school, and I’m still intensely grateful for the opportunity.
your work these days primarily fiction or nonfiction?
CJA: I’m mostly doing fiction lately, which
is the luckiest thing ever. I can’t believe I get to make up stuff for a
living. I still do the occasional feature or piece of criticism here and there,
and of course Annalee and I are doing our podcast, Our Opinions Are Correct. But I’ve been fortunate enough
to get into a position where I’m getting to soak my brain in made-up worlds and
CS: I’m quoting Wikipedia:
“…but it was not until her science fiction novelette “Six Months, Three
Days” won her a Hugo, that she realized what readers were
after…” What are readers after?
CJA: Wow… I wish I knew. I think
what that’s referring to is maybe that “Six Months, Three Days” was a
legit creative turning point for me. It was the first time I felt like I got
really close to capturing actual emotion and the complexities of relationships
in my fiction. I had written a lot of stuff along those lines before, but
always felt like I was just kind of poking at the surface of the emotional
stuff, instead of really inhabiting it. “Six Months” was something
that very easily could have been a cerebral puzzle box, about two different
kinds of clairvoyance. I felt like I had a “whoa” moment where I
somehow coaxed myself to burrow into the emotional substrate a bit more, and I
was overjoyed when the story got such a positive response. It did feel as
though I had unlocked another level, or something. But then of course, the next
time you try to repeat that or access that level of emotion in the next story,
it’s always harder than you expect — writing is often a matter of starting
from scratch and trying to rediscover something that you previously got at.
your strategy for character development?
CJA: I think that for me, as a writer,
I need to be curious about a character. It’s not that different from being a
reader, honestly. I need to find something about a character that makes me
interested in them and want to know more about them, and I have to be invested
in what happens next for them. It’s all about connecting emotionally with the
character. I also think that a lot of writing is actually acting. You have to
“get into character” when you’re writing about someone, and you have
to try to imagine how it feels to be them, and what’s going through their head
as they go through a particular situation. I also think a lot of what I wrote
your story for Future Tense.
CJA: In “The Minnesota
Diet,” New Lincoln is a brand new smart city that is entirely green and
high-tech, with a lot of shiny virtual spaces and vertical farms and stuff. And
New Lincoln’s residents aren’t even aware of how dependent they are on external
food sources, to the point where the city begins to starve pretty quickly when
the self-driving trucks stop showing up. I came up with this idea because I was
obsessing a lot about famine, as both a present and future problem. There are
huge food crises happening in East Africa, Yemen and Sudan right now, and
unlike in the 1980s with Ethiopia, it’s really difficult to get people in the
United States to pay attention. So I thought it might be helpful to depict
famine and food-insecurity happening to middle-class professionals in an
advanced metropolis. Once I started researching the story, and especially after
from ASU’s Christopher Wharton, I started to realize this story’s scenario was even closer to
reality than I had imagined.
your approach at Our Opinions are Correct?
CJA: I’m so incredibly lucky to be
working on this podcast with Annalee, and so grateful to everyone who’s
listened to the podcast and supported us. We do a ton of prep before every
episode, assembling a whole list of books and other works that are relevant to the
episode topic, and making audio clips that we can feature in each episode. We
seldom get to talk about everything on our list, but it’s good to know what the
important works are, so we don’t inadvertently skip over something really huge.
We try to keep the episodes very conversational and unscripted, but between the
reading lists and the clips we know we’re going to include, there’s always some
built-in structure. The fun part is that we often think of stuff as we’re
talking, and the episodes are usually more spontaneous than what we’ve prepared
for, because it’s such a fun conversation.
projects are you actively involved in?
CJA: I have a bunch of stuff going on
right now, but the most important thing by far is the
untitled young-adult space opera trilogy that I sold to Tor a while back. This is one of the most complex
projects I’ve ever done, in part because there’s a whole bunch of alien races
and a whole layered backstory to keep track of, and in part because I have to
make sure all three volumes form a satisfying adventure story that goes
somewhere. The good news is, the first book of the trilogy is finished and has
already gone through a lot of editing, and I’m about halfway through writing
the second volume. It’s a lot of fun, and unlike anything I’ve ever written
projects are in the works?
CJA: I’m turning one of the
unpublished novels that I wrote and shopped around before All the Birds in
the Sky into a novella right now. That worked out quite well for Rock
Manning Goes For Broke, which was originally a novel I tried to publish in
around 2009ish, and then got cut down to around 23,000 words. I find some of
these older novels of mine suddenly seem a lot stronger when they’ve lost all
of their extraneous subplots and meandering middle sections. This time around,
my unpublished novel (an urban fantasy in the mold of Richard Kadrey or Jim
Butcher) is requiring a lot of revision to fix some structural problems that
became apparent once I stripped away some of the extra junk. But I think it’s
going to be super fun when it’s finished.
feelers from Hollywood?
CJA: Absolutely, but nothing I can
talk about right now. There’s definitely some interest in adapting some of my
stuff for the screen, but most of the time I try to stay chill about it. The
best part of having something optioned is that you get to go back and rethink
something you wrote ages ago, in conversations with some really smart,
experience writers and producers, and it’s fun to visualize how the story could
be told in a different way. If anything actually gets made, THEN I’ll freak out
CS: Are you on the convention circuit?
CJA: Sort of… I do Worldcon and
Wiscon every year, and then I seem to get invited to be guest of honor at the
occasional con as well. I seem to do Comic-Con every other year these days,
which is just about perfect for that exercise in sensory overload. I’m
discovering that smaller local conventions are often the most fun, because you
can actually hang out with people and have real conversations. I miss
Dragon*Con, and really want to get back there.
does the future hold for Charlie Jane Anders?
CJA: Hopefully? Uploading my brain
into a giant mecha and building a space elevator to a LaGrange point where we
can have outrageous spoken word events and parties all the time.
File 770’s Carl Slaughter died August 11 in a car accident. The Murray, Kentucky fan had just moved back to the U.S. in March after years spent teaching English in China.
had more than 250 reviews, interviews, features, and critiques published at Tangent,
Diabolical Plots, SF Signal, File 770, and the Critters Workshop. I’m grateful he was so generous with his talent here.
I didn’t set out to become an interviewer. Or a muse for that matter. Video compilations, never conceived it.
I just wanted some feedback about the first 10 chapters of a novel I intended to write. To qualify for that feedback, Critters, the oldest and largest online speculative fiction workshop, required that I provide feedback to other writers. Soon I started getting feedback from those writers about my critiques of their stories: You understand my story and what I’m trying to accomplish with it much more than other critiquers.
When Tangent put out a call for reviewers, I used my Critters work to get on as a reviewer. Fellow Critter Frank Dutkiewicz introduced me to Diabolical Plots, which was trying to accomplish the monumental task of reviewing all of Daily Science Fiction’s stories. So I used my Tangent work to get on with Diabolical Plots. I checked out the Diabolical Plots site and discovered that they also do interviews. Mike Resnick was my first interviewee…
When David Steffen, editor of Diabolical Plots, transferred his attention to The Submissions Grinder, which became an institution virtually overnight, he connected Carl with John DeNardo at SF Signal. When DeNardo shut down his site in 2016, I invited Carl to contribute to File 770.
Carl was a whirlwind of productivity. Even as he was transitioning between sites in 2016 he did 225 posts — interviews, features, profiles, reviews, essays, editorials, and news tips. I was energized by his creativity and constant flow of ideas, and he broadened File 770’s coverage with his many YouTube video roundups.
Professionally, for the past 15 years he traveled the globe
teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in 6 countries on 3 continents.
essay on Chinese culture was published in Beijing Review. His essay on
Korean culture was published in The Korea Times, as was his expose on
the Korean ESL industry. For several years, he was editor of ESL Book
created a Facebook page “ESL
Around the World” with many photos of his classes.
He earned his BA in Communications in Journalism
and Broadcast from Murray State University. Throughout his years of travel Carl
made many friends while maintaining strong ties to Kentucky, his family, and
church, returning periodically to the Western Kentucky area.
He is survived by his older brother Paul Eugene Slaughter of Landisburg,
Pennsylvania and younger sister Elizabeth Ann Slaughter of Round Rock, Texas.
Thanks to Elizabeth for contacting me with the news about Carl,
and for sharing a draft of the family obituary. Elizabeth says Carl’s memorial
service, when scheduled, will be at the Collier Funeral Home in Benton, Kentucky. A statement about making
donations in his name will also follow once an appropriate non-profit is
(1) GET ERIDANI TO THE PRESS. Alex Shvartsman has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund publication of “Eridani’s Crown”.
When Eridani’s parents are murdered and their kingdom is seized by a traitorous duke, she plans to run. After she suffers yet another unendurable loss, the lure of revenge pulls her back.
Eridani’s brilliance as a strategist offers her a path to vengeance and the throne, but success may mean becoming everything she hates. To survive, she must sway religious zealots, outwit ambitious politicians, and confront bloodthirsty warlords, all with few allies and fewer resources. Yet the most menacing obstacle she must overcome is the prophecy uttered by a powerful sorceress:
Everyone you know and trust will come to betray you.
In the opening hours his supporters have already given $1,009 of
the $5,000 goal. The Kickstarter continues until July 11. He invites readers to
preview the book —
As NASA prepares for a trip back to the moon in 2024, it’s asking for the public’s help building the perfect playlist of songs for its astronauts.
The agency is taking suggestions from around the world for this playlist and you can submit your picks via this this form or on Twitter using the #NASAMoonTunes hashtag.
With the trip to the moon expected to take three days each way, the astronauts could potentially need a fairly robust list. You can hear some of the early choices at thirdrockradio.net.
NASA will accept nominations through June 28, but has a couple rules. First, no songs with “explicit titles, lyrics and themes.” Also, the songs must exist on an official streaming service (meaning sites like YouTube or SoundCloud won’t cut it).
(3) THE INSIDE STORY. A book edition of Nnedi Okorafor’s LaGuardia comics is available
for pre-order from Dark Horse.
In an alternate world where aliens have integrated with society, pregnant Nigerian- American doctor Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka, has just smuggled an illegal alien plant named Letme Live through LaGuardia International and Interstellar Airport . . . and that’s not the only thing she’s hiding.
She and Letme become part of a community of human and alien immigrants; but as their crusade for equality continues and the birth of her child nears, Future–and her entire world–begins to change.
Written by Nnedi Okorafor, Hugo and Nebula award- winning author and the writer of Marvel’s Shuri.
… As confirmed Sunday in Microsoft’s keynote at the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3), Martin is currently collaborating with FromSoftware on Elden Ring, his first non-Game of Thrones video game, according to the Verge. FromSoftware has made several acclaimed video games, including Dark Souls, and as a fantasy game Elden Ring is well within Martin’s wheelhouse. But as exciting as the prospect might be for fantasy-game lovers, this will probably mean that Martin’s non-video-game-loving fans will have to wait even longer for the thing they really crave….
(Notwithstanding this Scroll item, File 770’s official position is that George R.R. Martin doesn’t need anyone’s approval to use his time and creative energy however he likes. As are we all,)
On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced the honorees for the class of 2018 at Newark Liberty Airport. The group of 19 inductees includes five women and 17 men (one band is in the mix). They will be honored at a ceremony in Asbury Park this October.
Martin, 70, grew up in Bayonne, and Stewart, 77, grew up in Nutley….
Born June 11, 1927 — Kit Pedler. In the mid-1960s, Pedler who was a scientist became the unofficial scientific adviser to the Doctor Who production team. He would help create the Cybermen. In turn, he wrote three scripts for the series: “The Tenth Planet” (with Gerry Davis), “The Moonbase” and “The Tomb of the Cybermen” (also with Gerry Davis). Pedler and Davis also created and co-wrote Doomwatch which ran for three seasons on the Beeb. (Died 1981.)
Born June 11, 1929 — Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”, “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films among them 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available. Yes, I’m pleased to say including several ones by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.)
Born June 11, 1933 — Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course, he has more genre roles than that starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film who cast included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern! I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.)
Born June 11, 1945 — Adrienne Barbeau, 74. She was in Swamp Thing, also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh, and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites.
Born June 11, 1959 — Hugh Laurie, 60. Best known as House to most folks, his most recent genre role was as Mycroft Holmes in the Holmes and Watson film. He’s has past genre roles in The Borrowers, the Stuart Little franchise, Tomorrowland, Blackadder: Back & Forth and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased).
Born June 11, 1968 — Justina Robson, 51. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series. I’ve not started her Natural History series, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has.
(10) LOL VS. LAW. [Item by ULTRAGOTHA.]So, an Attorney named T. Greg Doucette in North Carolina stumbled across the #StandWithVic hashtag and Vic Mignogna’s lawsuit (or, as he calls it, the LOLsuit) and started commenting on how badly it was written and, more generally, why it would probably fail. The resulting thread (into its sixth day!) is both hilarious and an education in defamation, actual malice (a term of art) tortious interference, and really bad lawyering. Behold! The thread starts here.
The Púca festival will take place this year in Ireland’s Ancient East from 31 October to 2 November. It will make Ireland the place to be this Halloween, and it is expected that visitors from around the world will come and celebrate the country’s ancient traditions. According to Irish folklore and more recent archaeological evidence, Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain. Samhain means ‘summer’s end’ in old Irish, and it marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of the new one.
… And having read through the packet entries, I am no closer to voting beyond “I read this person regularly” versus “I don’t read this person much”. All worthy entries but I worry that the packet process gives a distorted view of fan writing as mainly reviews with some critical essays. I don’t want that to be read as disparaging reviews as part of fan writing, they are always going to be a key part of it.
(13) MEXICANX. John Picacio has started a read-along of the #MexicanXInitiative Scrapbook, which is nominated for a Hugo Award. Most of the tweets are not threaded, but the first entry is below, and the next five are: (1), (2), (3), (4), (5).
Coincidentally, this is the 40th mention of the MexicanXInitiative
in posts at File 770.
Between them, these six stories take us on a trip through fairy tale lands with strange new inhabitants, past an alternate version of the United States’ founding, into a contemporary library staffed by witches, and finally towards a future of dangerous new technology. Some of these lands may be outwardly familiar; but this time, we are seeing them from unusual perspectives, our storytellers ranging from African-American slaves to sororal velociraptors. The overarching theme is undeniable — but the six writers represented here have given that theme a strong set of variations.
Some retailers in Canada have become creative to try and discourage consumers from using plastic bags, including by shaming them.
Shoppers at East West Market in central Vancouver who decide to pay for a plastic bag are given a bag with an embarrassing logo emblazoned on it like “Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium,” “Dr. Toews Wart Ointment Wholesale” or “The Colon Care Co-Op.”
Some of the world’s best, most surprising graphic design can be found in one of the most mundane places: your local supermarket. …When most people encounter these stickers, it’s only to peel them off and try, often unsuccessfully, to flick them into the trash. But Kelly Angood sees something else in them, and peels them carefully off before adding them to her collection of hundreds—spanning countries, decades, and a dizzying variety of fruit.
Today Misfits Market, the New York-based company that sells subscription boxes of irregularly-shaped produce, announced that it had raised a $16.5 million Series A funding round (h/t Techcrunch). Greenoaks Capital led the round.
It feels strange to talk about Black Mirror reinventing itself. Even if you leave aside the fact that this is a show in its fifth season (plus two specials), a point where habits tend to be firmly fixed, what would be the impetus for it? From its scandalous premiere in 2011, Black Mirror has always been lauded for being exactly what it is. Even the people who have criticized it—for its cynicism, for its nastiness, for its reflexive distrust of technology—have helped to cement its brand, our idea of what a Black Mirror story is like and can accomplish. And yet, when you finish watching the three episodes of the just-released fifth season, there is no other way to describe them than as a departure. It’s probably the strongest season the show has fielded since its first, but it’s also the least Black Mirror-ish.
(19) SARTORIAL SPLENDOR. Sometimes it’s hard to make the
perfect Hugo night fashion statement, then again, Scott Edelman shows that
sometimes it’s s snap:
In the Amsterdam of the future, you might step out of the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House, or one of the city’s hazy “coffee shops” and hop onto a robot boat to take you to your next destination. Outside the place you’re staying, in the early morning hours, you might hear other robot boats carrying away the trash.
That’s the vision of researchers at MIT, who teamed up several years ago with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions.
They hope that one day, “roboats” will busily ply the city’s 165 canals, carrying people, goods, trash, and from time to time forming themselves into floating stages or bridges.
In a paper presented recently at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, the researchers said they had taken another step in their ongoing project: developing the capability for the roboats to identify and connect to docking stations and other boats.
“The aim is to use roboat units to bring new capabilities to life on the water. . . . The new latching mechanism is very important for creating pop-up structures,” Daniela Rus, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, said in a statement from MIT.
A mysterious large mass of material has been discovered beneath the largest crater in our solar system—the Moon’s South Pole-Aitken basin—and may contain metal from the asteroid that crashed into the Moon and formed the crater, according to a Baylor University study.
“Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground. That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected,” said lead author Peter B. James,
(22) THOUGHTS ABOUT A COLLECTORS EDITION. [Item by Carl Slaughter.] As I was getting settled in to my new apartment, I saw a Star Trek collectors edition special magazine. I thought, “Star Trek in a small town in a farm state. Evidence that Star Trek is widespread and endures.” I was too busy buying furniture and household items to examine it. I went back to the supermarket where I thought I remembered seeing it. Then the other supermarket. Didn’t even find any magazines, so I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. Then I found it in the Dollar General store. But Dollar General is a national chain. But whether that magazine means Star Trek is in a small town or means Star Trek is national, that magazine tells us something about Star Trek. And it’s the original series characters on cover, not JJ Abrams ones or the Discovery ones. As for the magazine itself, it contains nothing new to Trekkies. And it was $15 – ouch.
(23) WINGING IT. Here’s the trailer for Carnival Row, the Cara Delevingne, Orlando Bloom fantasy series destined for Amazon.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, JJ,
Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, ULTRAGOTHA, and Martin Morse
Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing
editor of the day Niall McAuley.]
A British Doctor reaches for her sonic screwdriver, an American billionaire reaches for a gun.
“What’s wrong with you, why don’t you get a gun and start shooting things, like civilized people?” – Jack Robinson, Doctor Who, “Arachnids in the UK”, Season 11, Episode 4
Doctor Who villains
Doctor Who villains have included such memorable species and individuals as the Dalek, Cybermen, Sandaron, Slitheen, Silurian, Silence, Weeping Angels, Davros, the Master, the Rani, and Madam Kovarian. Now we have the Pting. How does this new creature compare with the Doctor’s other foes? Share your opinion.
Tonight Doctor Who ventured back to 1955 for a long, hard look at the struggles of Rosa Parks in mid-20th century Alabama. Let us know what you thought of its take on a crucial moment in history in our weekly, spoiler-tastic discussion zone.
New v. Old Who Fans
New Doctor Who fans don’t understand the rage of old Doctor Who fans and old Doctor Who fans don’t understand why the new Doctor Who fans don’t understand.
That’s evident in the latest numbers from Parrot Analytics which reveal that Daredevil ranked fourth last week in viewer demand among all digital originals in the United States across all streaming platforms.
Demand for the sightless superhero series was surpassed only by three shows (Narcos, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Stranger Things, all from Netflix) during the week ending Dec. 1, the chart shows. The chart measures “desire, engagement and viewership” with weighted values that, for example, would give heft to the total “likes” a show accumulates but not as much weight as the total number of actual viewings.