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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Steven Gould on After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia

Steven Gould is the author of the frequently banned book Jumper, as well as, Wildside, Helm, Blind Waves, Reflex, Jumper: Griffin’s Story, 7th Sigma, and the upcoming Impulse as well as several short stories published in Analog, Asimov’s, and Amazing, and other magazines and anthologies. He is the recipient of the Hal Clement Young Adult Award for Science Fiction and has been on the Hugo ballot twice and the Nebula ballot once for his short fiction. Jumper was made into the 2008 feature film of the same name with Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson, and Hayden Christensen. Steve lives in New Mexico with his wife, writer Laura J. Mixon (M. J. Locke) and their two daughters, where he keeps chickens and falls down a great deal.

SF Signal had the opportunity to talk with several authors involved in the new anthology, After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and featuring stories asking: If the melt-down, flood, plague, the third World War, new Ice Age, Rapture, alien invasion, clamp-down, meteor, or something else entirely hit today, what would tomorrow look like? Some of the biggest names in YA and adult literature answer that very question in this short story anthology, each story exploring the lives of teen protagonists raised in catastrophe’s wake—whether set in the days after the change, or decades far in the future.

CHARLES TAN: Hi Steven! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. For you, how would you define Dyslit or what are its essential characteristics?

STEVEN GOULD: I personally think we owe Dystopian lit to Utopian lit, cause, really, Utopian Societies have to be a nightmare. What possible “perfect” society is going to be good for everybody?  Most Dystopian lit is really about a society that those in power think is a utopian or they are striving for a utopian and this is the problem. There are an awful lot of us square pegs out there who don’t fit in round holes but you hit us hard enough with a hammer or a boot, and we’ll jam in that hole. This is 1984. This is Brave New World. This is Uglies.

CT: What’s the appeal of Dyslit for you? Why is it important, especially for YA readers?

SG: I think it come down to a exaggerated feeling of our own lives. To a certain extent, we all feel like outsiders, like square pegs, like society as a whole is trying to push us in directions we don’t want to go.  In these books, we are shown that, even against great odds, there are ways to resist, ways to go our own way.  Young adult readers (and by this, I mean readers who are actually young adults–not readers of YA fiction who include this 57 year-old) are always out of place.  They have pressures from peers, parents, teachers, advertisers, the “Man”  and they haven’t yet formed their character, they have no confidence, low self-esteem, and they NEED these examples. They need to see that you can succeed, that you can resist, and you can stick it to the “Man” when you need to.

CT: In “Rust With Wings”, it felt like you were having fun exploring a world with metal-eating insects. What was the genesis of this story idea, especially for a YA antho?

SG: Rust With Wings takes place in the same world as my novel 7th Sigma. The difference is my novel starts 30 years after the origins of the bugs infestation.  I’d started this story a couple of times as part of the work leading up to what became the novel. When Ellen mentioned the anthology, I came back to the story, glad to have a chance to show how things were when the bugs first came.

CT: What were the challenges in writing “Rust With Wings”?

SG: Telling a story that wasn’t in the horror genre despite horrific things happening all around. I wanted a solvable problem but didn’t want to dwell on the thousands of people who ended up dying because they had metal fillings in their head, or artificial knees.


Charles Tan is the editor of Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology, the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler, and Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009. His fiction has appeared in publications such as The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, Philippine Speculative Fiction and the anthology The Dragon and the Stars (ed. by Derwin Mak and Eric Choi).

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