Eugie Foster is a Nebula-winning, Hugo Award nominated author of speculative fiction living in metro Atlanta. In fact, if you read this interview right away, the Hugo ballots are still open for a few days until July 31, 2010. Her story “Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” is up for best novelette. It’s an amazing story and I encourage you to vote for it. If you haven’t read it, you can listen to it for free on Escape Pod with an amazing reading by Lawrence Santoro. She has also had many stories run on the other two Escape Artists casts (Pseudopod and Podcastle) so check out her other work there as well.
She also released a short story collection last year titled Returning My Sister’s Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice. Check out her website and LiveJournal page as well, get a full list of her publications on her bibliography page.
David: I’m always interested in hearing origins of a particular story. Where did the idea for “Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest…” come from?
Eugie: I had the idea for the storyâ€”a society where people change their identities and their societal roles, even their personalities, based upon masks they donâ€”rattling around in my creative subconscious for a while. But it took me a couple years to get around to writing it. I’ve always found masks so evocative. They’re universal icons, found throughout history and spanning nearly every culture. The donning of another face, or the corollary, the relinquishing of one’s own, is a transformative act, an unambiguous exchange of identity.
Fundamentally, “Sinner” is an examination and exploration of themes of identity and self: who we are against a backdrop of societal roles and expectations, the external and internal influences that affect our sense of self, and the choices we make that reflect who we truly are.
David: If you could give just one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
Eugie: Keep writing and read; read a lot. Oh, wait, that was two pieces, wasn’t it?
Okay, how about: take the time to acquaint yourself with how the publishing biz works. How it’s depicted in Hollywood and pop culture is so wrong: you rattle off a story or novel, it gets picked up by the New Yorker or one of the big publishing houses, you hit the best-seller list in a week and become a millionaire, and la, all your troubles are over. The reality is long waits, form rejections, interminable lead times, and really crappy pay.
David: When you were getting started writing, were there any times when you were sure you wouldn’t make it? How did you get through those times?
Eugie: I made it? Really? Sweet!
Honestly, I still get all excited and amazed whenever I hear that someone who isn’t a family member or close friend has read my work. As a short story writer, I don’t expect to have much name recognition, or financial success, for that matter. Someone actually asked me whether I was getting rich now that I’d won a Nebula Award. Can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.
David: What is your first memory?
Eugie: It’s something terribly boring and unexciting, eating a cookie when I was three. But here’s an interesting bit of trivia (well I think it’s interesting): our brains aren’t really developed enough to form memories until we’re around three years old. People’s first recollections have been pretty consistently documented coming in at around three years. But then, recent studies in memory indicate that it’s possible that we write anew our memories each time we experience them.
David: What do you like to do when you’re not reading or writing?
Eugie: Hmm, sleeping and eating? Also editingâ€”I’m a legal editor for the Georgia General Assembly for my day job and I’m also the director and editor of the Daily Dragon, the on-site newsletter of Dragon*Conâ€”although editing sorta counts as writing.
I also do website design on the side, pandering to my tech geek proclivities and all. That began as an occasional project to provide a bit of extra income here and there, and I’ve found it actually eats a big chunk out of my writing time. Coding is easier and provides instant gratification, which writing rarely does. Bad writer me, no cookie.
David: If you were the first human to establish first contact with an alien, what would you say?
Eugie: Please excuse the mess; we’re still…actually, why don’t you take a leisurely cruise around the solar system and come back in about a century?
David: Do you have any works in progress you’d like to talk about?
Eugie: As always, I’ve got several short works I’m working on in various states of completion, and I’ve been plugging away at a novel for a while now, although I keep getting sidetracked by various other projects.
David: Any upcoming publications?
Eugie: Lessee, The Dragon and the Stars anthology from DAW came out in May which includes my story, “Mortal Clay, Stone Heart,” and “A Patch of Jewels in the Sky” will be reprinted in the anthology Triangulation: End of the Rainbow, due out any day now. There are also Spanish, Czech, French, and Italian translations of “Sinner” forthcoming in CuĂˇsar, Pevnost, TĂ©nĂ¨bres, and Robot, respectively.
David: What was the last book you read?
Eugie: The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker. One part psychology, one part language (two of my favorite subjects) and a big ole dollop of “ooo!”
David: Your favorite book?
Eugie: *Wail!* I can’t pick just one! Um, here’s some of my favorites: Candide, The Lord of the Flies, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Silver Metal Lover, Winnie-the-Pooh, Fahrenheit 451, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, Journey to the West, and The Velveteen Rabbit.
David: Who is your favorite author?
Eugie: See above regarding *wail!* Some the ones that have influenced me the most as a writer include Ray Bradbury, Tanith Lee, and Ursula K. Le Guin. The lush prose and vivid imagery in their stories is so evocative; I can lose myself for days on end in their writing. I also adore Neil Gaiman and A.A. Milneâ€”Winnie-the-Pooh remains one of my all time favorite booksâ€”as well as Roald Dahl and George Orwell.
David: What was the last movie you saw?
Eugie: I saw Inception the week it came out and found it disappointing. For being the big SF film of the year, it was terribly predictable with uninteresting characters and lackluster FX. The main conceit which everyone is oohing and aahing over, being able to enter other people’s dreams, is an old SFnal one. It’s not even the first time that Hollywood has explored it. Inception did introduce a few clever premises, but the main one was an obvious plot device and when it became inconvenient, the filmmakers broke their own rules.
David: What is your favorite movie?
Eugie: See above regarding favorite author and favorite book. But a few of my top picks include American Beauty, Forgiving the Franklins, Fight Club, and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
David: Eugie, thanks for taking the time for the interview.
Eugie: Thanks for interviewing me!