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Three and Out with Carol Emshwiller: “After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia”

Carol Emshwiller grew up in Michigan and in France and now resides in New York. Her stories have appeared in literary and science fiction magazines for over forty years, and published in a number of critically acclaimed collections – most recently, The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller and In The Time Of War & Master Of the Road To Nowhere. Carol’s work has been honored with two Nebula Awards and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the World Fantasy Convention. She’s also been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant and two literary grants New York state.

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

CAROL EMSHWILLER: There is no particular appeal –I think stories need conflict and what better conflict than dealing with the end of the world? I write a lot of stories (mostly for adults) that take place in dystopian societies, but actually I’m just looking to put adventures in my stories. Also I thought about it more.  I never thing about what might be good for the reader to know or hear about. I only think about what is good for the story. I always think my duty is to the story. My morality involves only the needs of the story.

CT: Since religion plays a part in “All I Know of Freedom”, what do you think is religion’s role in society?

CE: I don’t think religion is necessary at all.

CT: What were the challenges in writing “All I Know of Freedom”?

CE: As to problems with the story they were just my usual ones. I always get stuck in every story in several places. I have to wait maybe a couple of days and regroup before I can go on. I can’t remember exactly where I had problems but I know there always are spots where I get stuck.


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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