BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A collection of genre-related interviews conducted by the author.
PROS: A good cross-representation of folks in the field; revealing responses from the interview subjects; conversational flow makes you feel as if you are eavesdropping on private conversations.
CONS: The worst that could be said is that interviews are slightly dated, but that would ignore their historical value.
BOTTOM LINE: An excellent collection of revealing interviews about some of the greats in the field of sf/f.
Having done a few interviews here at SF Signal, I learned something about them: they’re difficult to do well. For a start, you have to do your homework. An interview subject should be researched by the interviewer beforehand and unique questions should be asked of them. Also, real-time interviews work better than asynchronous ones. The tone of the former means that the interview reads more like conversational dialogue than an interrogation. A book, then, that contains nothing but interviews had best know these things because entertainment does not come from the interviewee alone.
The good news is that Jayme Lynn Blaschke’s collection of interviews, Voices of Vision: Creators of Science Fiction and Fantasy Speak, proves that the interviewer knows his stuff. In fact, he makes it look easy. Blaschke’s well-versed in the lives and accomplishments of his interview subjects and he prefers face-to face interviews (or, barring that, phone interviews). In the few cases where he was forced to conduct an interview by email, Blaschke tells readers in the interview introduction. I’m not sure I’m as harsh as he is on himself; even those interviews proved enjoyable to read. The worst that could be said of this collection is that it is somewhat outdated, with interviews having been conducted between 1997 and 2002. But that’s not as detrimental as it might sound; in order to know where sf is going you need to know where it’s been, and these interviews provide a historical snapshot into the minds of some of the field’s notable luminaries.
Here are just a few of the interesting topics that each interviewee talked about:
- Gardner Dozois reveals his thinking for the choices he made during his tenure as Editor at Asimov’s, a daring series of decisions made because he felt he had nothing to lose before the Corporate Boss woke up and served him a pink slip.
- Kristine Kathryn Rusch talks about editing and how leaving Fantasy & Science Fiction allowed her to write with a new perspective on the craft.
- Analog Editor Stanley Scmidt talks about his very specific requirements for sf and why it precludes the need for subgenre classifications (especially hard sf).
- Sf, and especially short fiction, was apparently dying back in 1997, too. Gordon van Gelder talks about how this fallacy, saying people are confusing the genre with the changes in the publishing industry. Something that I think still holds true today.
- Scott Edelman talks about his days running Science Fiction Age.
- Robin Hobb discusses writing under a pseudonym.
- Patricia Anthony talks about how her novel Brother Termite was optioned by Lightstorm to be made into a film by James Cameron.
- Charles De Lint offers a revealing look at the creation of his Newford stories.
- Elizabeth Moon talks about the difference between writing science fiction and writing fantasy.
- As an interesting compare/contrast exercise, both Elliot S! Maggin and legal-thriller author Brad Meltzer talk (in separate interviews) about writing Green Arrow comics.
- In a joint interview that reads like a talk with Abbot and Costello, comic artists Frank Cho (Liberty Meadows) and Scott Kurtz (PvP) talk about their creations and influences.
- Neil Gaiman talks about the similarities and differences between writing in multiple media.
- Samuel R. Delany discusses some of the trials and tribulations of a midlist author who suddenly finds his books out of print.
- Gene Wolfe talks about series writing, the proper length of a story and religious symbolism in fiction.
- Harlan Ellison (one of the strongest interviews in the collection) talks candidly about his feelings of sf fandom.
- Jack Williamson talks about the speed of technological advances and how — despite what some may think — it does not render good sf as outdated.
I often say that I don’t just like reading science fiction, I also enjoy reading about science fiction. Voices of Vision easily satisfies that hunger. It’s an excellent collection of revealing interviews about some of the greats in the field of sf/f – and definitely worth a read.