Douglas Lain, author of Billy Moon and the recently released After the Saucers Landed, recently stopped by to discuss his upcoming 9/11-themed anthology In the Shadow of the Towers: Speculative Stories of a Post-9/11 World, out from Night Shade Books September 1st.
The anthology includes speculative fiction stories that focus on the events of September 11, 2001 as a key aspect of the work, including contributions from some of the hottest names in science fiction, such as Bruce Sterling, Tim Pratt, K Tempest Bradford, and Brian Aldiss.
Douglas was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the anthology!
SF Signal: Thanks for taking time out to answer a few questions for us about the upcoming anthology IN THE SHADOW OF THE TOWERS: SPECULATIVE STORIES OF A POST-9/11 WORLD. First off, tell us what this anthology is all about.
Douglas Lain: In the Shadow of the Towers is a collection of SF or speculative fiction stories that include the events of September 11, 2001 as a key aspect of the work. Genre writers of all types are tasked with creating a sense of wonder in their works, and creating a sense of wonder around the tragedy of 9/11 was especially difficult due to how the event was oversized and already included a science fictional quality. These stories then, were all attempts to take our imaginations back, to reclaim our monsters.
SFF: What made you want to assemble an anthology on the topic of a real world tragedy, and why 9/11 in particular?
DL: It seemed to me that 9/11 presented a special challenge to genre fiction writers, one that many fine writers had tried to meet and overcome.
SFF: There’s been a lot written on 9/11, both fiction and non-fiction. What does the speculative fiction genre add to the conversation?
DL: Science fiction especially is a progressive genre, one that asks readers to imagine how human ingenuity, and the expansion of human power might transform the world. Even our dystopias hold a bit of hope in them as they offer up a vision of life that is outside the ordinary and beyond the real. 9/11 used our dystopian nightmares against us, made the monsters we’d been imagining for decades seem mundane. The response of genre writers was to make 9/11 imaginary again, to bring the tragedy back within the realm of the thinkable. To try to imagine again in this context was our challenge.
SFF: I’ve noticed that the table of contents is divided into four sections: The Dead, Reaction and Repetition, The New Normal, and Civilization. Was it always the plan to address different aspects of the events of 9/11, or did the book’s organization just arise naturally in the course of choosing submissions?
DL: These subdivision arose as I considered the stories that I’d received. The subdivisions are one of the ways I imposed my own will on other people’s works and tried to make sense of them together.
SFF: When you put out the initial call for stories about 9/11 were you at all worried about what how people might react? For that matter, were you worried that you wouldn’t have enough material to fill an anthology?
DL: I was concerned about the reaction to this anthology, but I was less worried that I would have been a decade ago. I think enough time has passed for people and we’re ready to think about 9/11 historically, to start to attach a meaning to it and fit it into our larger story. We’ve survived this already, new problems are arriving every day, but this is something we’ve lived through. I think we’re ready to reimagine it.
As to whether I was concerned about filling an anthology, that is always a worry when you’re tackling a themed anthology from scratch. I haven’t read everything so I didn’t know in advance the full extent of what I’d find.
SFF: Tell us a little about your own contribution to the anthology, “The Last Apollo Mission.”
DL: Here’s a short review of my story that I wrote for my blog around the time of its publication:
“The Last Apollo Mission” weaves lunar landing hoax mythologies, the assemblages of Joseph Cornell, Nicholas Cage’s smirk, and 911 paranoia into a kind of half baked Lacanian Pop Art story that uses Science Fiction rather than realizing Science Fiction. This one just circles around its ideas endlessly, but never arrives.
SFF: Finally, I’ve noticed that Night Shade Books put out a call for contributions to the DESERTS OF FIRE anthology at the same time as IN THE SHADOW OF THE TOWERS. When can we expect that to hit shelves?
I believe that is scheduled for summer of 2016.