Sunday, October 07, 2012
Lisa Tuttle
By OFW Editor: Michael Keyton
Published: August 20, 2012

Accomplishment: Lisa Tuttle is an American-born science fiction, fantasy, and horror author. She has published over a dozen novels, five short story collections, and several non-fiction titles, including a reference book on feminism. She has also edited several anthologies and reviewed books for various publications. Lisa has been living in the United Kingdom since 1981.

“Well did you know that at conception, all mammals start as female until and unless they are masculinised in the womb?”
“You mean unless they’re improved upon, licked into shape.”
The conversation was getting sticky and I wondered why we couldn’t be discussing something simple, like a heist or an intergalactic fraud job. It made me want to get on my knees and offer a Novena to my sainted mother. She’d beaten the hell outta me, yeah, but she’d sure as hell kept her hormones in order. It was time to put Sheri straight. ‘Listen, doll, if you’re born with a dick then you should be in trousers.
“I think you’re wrong, Clay. It says here…"
I sprang out of that goddamned chair, pushing Sheri to one side. If I could I’d ‘a ripped the sky apart with bared teeth. Instead I howled in an uncontrollable rage, I howled the cry of a simple man seeing now that there was in reality no room for the simple virtues like truth, honour or decency; no room for the world I’d once been happy in, where a man was a man and a woman had a series of X X highly polished chromosomes. Jeez! I was speaking the same gobbledegook as them. Only in my world a dame was a dame and smelt nice. And now there was Lisa Tuttle to put on the rack.

Does bestseller mean good writer?

Absolutely not! Case in point: the “Shades of Grey” trilogy. Books become bestsellers for different reasons, but good writing is rarely one of them. I don’t mean to say that best-selling authors are not good writers – many are. It can be depressing to realize how little most readers care about good, or in some cases even competent writing; they like a book so long as it doesn’t cost them too much (money or effort) and pushes some personal buttons.

Would you see it as an exciting or a retrograde step if digitisation encouraged writers to choose sound and pictures to augment their words?
Incredibly exciting! Although I would hate it if it became a requirement, and all books had to be created in this augmented way. Any time something “must” be done, the form of the novel (or short story or film or...) is put into a strait-jacket, and there will be works that won’t survive the confinement (or in this case, forced expansion). Some writers will be naturally better at this, at thinking about their work in a multi-media way, and others would find it a struggle. I would find it difficult to do – I am not one of those writers who can give you a “play list” of music to accompany my novels, for example, and I’ve never even written a film-script – but if offered the chance, I hope I’d grab it. I would love to have a go at writing some sort of expanded, multi-media work, but it might take me awhile to get to grips with it, and I might only produce one book in that way, before returning to devote myself to an old-fashioned words-only novel. I don’t often read comics, manga or graphic novels because I find them very difficult to follow – something about the way I read – yet I love the way it has become much more possible for writers to incorporate photographs, artwork and graphic design into their novels, just as I enjoy writers who weave fact into their fictions – two favourite books that come to mind here are The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald and The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.

Is self-publishing the new ‘slush-pile’?
My instinctive first response to this question is YES. Although I don’t know how much time publishers/editors/agents spend actually reading self-published material on-line, we all know the stories about people who are signed up with multi-book contracts after achieving some magic number of free down-loads of their book... And for writers just starting out, while I still hesitate to advise anyone to self-publish as their first option, it does seem to be true that few publishers these days will look at a manuscript unless it has come through an agent, so rather than spend years of fruitless effort to sell it, maybe it makes more sense to get your book out there, either give it away or try to sell it: at least that way you’ll be read, and one of your readers might turn out to work for a publisher.

Which four books do you wish you had written?
Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles
A.S. Byatt’s Possession
W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn
Lev Grossman’s The Magicians

Are you ever afraid that one day you will stop enjoying writing?

I can honestly say this particular worry has never crossed my mind. Never ever. But now that you have made me think about it – curse you, sir! Something I never imagined having to worry about now preys upon my mind...Seriously, though, No. “Enjoyment” is not the be-all and end-all of the things we humans do -- I don’t enjoy every single aspect of writing, nor every hour I have spent at it. In connection with writing, my fears are more about: how can I finish this book? Is it any good? And will other people enjoy reading it?

Every writer has a weakness, what is yours?
I’m not very good at creating a world on paper -- I have to work very hard at description, and often fail. My imagination is not strongly visual; I find it more natural to get into the minds of my characters and write about how it feels to them, and can lose sight of exactly where they are in the physical world. I’m not talking about writing long passages of description, which doesn’t interest me, but of being able to evoke an atmosphere, a strong sense of place, and transmit it to the reader through a few specific, vivid, perfect details.

Which other contemporary writers of speculative fiction do you enjoy, or alternatively not enjoy?

I will stick to the first half of that question rather than risk insulting some popular writers whose charms escape me. Books that I am most anticipating reading very soon are Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, Last Days by Adam Nevill, Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch, The Twelve by Justin Cronin (and I am someone who isn’t all that keen on sequels). Books recently read which I loved: Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand, Among Others by Jo Walton, Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi, City of the Dead by Sara Gran, Osama by Lavie Tidhar. Other contemporary writers in this (loosely defined) genre I especially like include Kelly Link, Tim Powers, Robert Shearman...I could go on, but time is short and art is long.

"So, are we done here, Clay?" Sheri had her autograph book out, forgetting our guest was in no position to sign, might not be for some time to come. I came to her aid. It's what men do.
"We're done, " I said "And let me tell you, Lisa, you've been a swell guest. Have you a book out  - perhaps one you could autograph for Sheri?"
Sheri smiled and my world was complete.
And then I heard a faint croaking, emanating from the Rack. '
The Silver Bough'. Enjoy.

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