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Nancy Kress: The ‘Alien Contact’ Interview

This month, SF Signal is featuring guest posts and interviews with the authors of Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern. Today, we’re pleased to bring you an interview with contributing author Nancy Kress! (Also, check out Nancy’s Guest Post.)

SF SIGNAL: What’s the appeal of alien contact stories for you?

Nancy Kress: Aliens in SF are always “other” — living beings different from us. This means they represent not only extraterrestrials but, on some level, all the parts of ourselves and of other humans that we don’t understand. How do you cope with creatures who don’t behave as you do? How do you figure them out? Why do they act that way? These, the basic questions in any alien contact story, are also basic questions in human relationship. You may not be a four-armed, green BEM, but you are “not me” and, therefore, alien.

SFS: What was the first “alien contact” story you read that made a lasting impression?

NK: The first science fiction I ever came across, when I was 14, was Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. Immediately I was enraptured. Here was a canvas larger than I had imagined: all of human evolution, all of humanity’s future, the entire galaxy. It was a great way to begin a life-long love affair with SF.

SFS: What part of this story came to you first: situation, character, setting, concept?

NK: The situation. I was thinking about aliens arriving on Earth — what might we have to offer them? Much of SF seems to me to offer ridiculous answers to this question: slaves, gold, food. Crossing interstellar space is a lot of trouble to obtain such things. What do we have that’s unique? It came to me that perhaps the human-dog relationship is. Almost immediately, the story’s situation and character occurred to me, and I began writing. Aiding this process was the fact that I am the owner of a very difficult dog. Talk about alien!

SFS: What made you decide to focus on Jill’s perspective in “Laws of Survival?”

NK: Well, there isn’t much choice, is there? The only characters in the story are Jill, a somewhat limited robot, and several dozen dogs. If I wanted internal thoughts, Jill is it.

SFS: What projects are you currently working on?

NK: My most recent books are a YA fantasy trilogy, Crossing Over, Dark Mist Rising, and (forthcoming) A Bright And Terrible Sword. I immensely enjoyed writing these dark fantasies. Forthcoming from Tachyon Press in April, 2012 is a stand-alone long novella, Before The Fall, After The Fall, During The Fall. That one’s SF: my take on Genesis. Sort of.

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