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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
  1. $18.19 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
  1. $18.19 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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Powell's Q&A

Daniel H. Wilson

Describe your latest book.
Sometime last year, I stopped short and realized something that each of us must come to grips with eventually. The future is now, and it sucks. Staggered, I decided that it was my duty to write the book Where's My Jetpack?: A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future That Never Arrived, as a first step toward the future we were promised.

The future was supposed to be a fully automated, atomic-powered, germ-free Utopia, a place where a grown man could wear a velvet spandex unitard and not be laughed at. Where are the ray guns, the flying cars, and the hoverboards that we expected?

As a human being and as a man I can no longer sit idly by while children walk to school instead of riding rocket skates; while newlyweds spend their honeymoons in above-ground hotels instead of in underwater hotels where they belong; or while our grandparents are forced to eat full meals instead of choking down handfuls of food pills dispensed from a slot in an otherwise featureless wall of solid granite.

The time has come to hold the golden age of science fiction accountable for its promises. In this book, I ruthlessly expose sci-fi technology, spotlighting existing prototypes and revealing drawing-board plans. I cover which technologies are already available, who made them, and where to find them. If the technology is not publicly available, I explain how to build, buy, or steal it.

It's true there are myriad ways in which futuristic technology could cause personal injury, societal instability, or explosive decompression. Nevertheless, I solemnly pledge to completely ignore any potentially catastrophic consequences of worldwide technology adoption in these pages. If the technology is possible, even remotely so, this book lays it out for all to see. So if you know someone who is afraid of being creamed by an out-of-control jetpacker, seen naked through X-ray spectacles, or who plans to sue the first time a space hotel spirals into the sun please, tell them to stay out of our glorious future.

I wrote this book because, despite every World's Fair prediction, every futuristic ride at Disneyland, and the advertisements on the last page of every comic book ever written, we are not living in a techno-Utopia. Not yet. Now is the time to stop wishing, to start reading, and to stand up and shout: Where in the hell is my jetpack!?


Share an interesting experience you've had with your readers.
I love getting emails from readers. The other day I talked a nine-year-old boy out of asking his doctor for retinal and cochlear implants. Seriously. I've also been told that the robot on the cover of my book, How to Survive a Robot Uprising, suspiciously resembles Optimus Prime from the Transformers. And for the record I agree, Optimus would never shoot lasers from his eyes at innocent people. Other readers are really helpful. One guy let me know that my book covers are terrible and that he would make them for me from now on. By himself. For free.

How do you relax?
I bathe. In fact, I bathe so much that I have a little bit of a reputation with my friends for taking baths at odd times. It's because I'm at home all day while everyone else is at work. So when my friends call, I'm usually in the tub. It's where I get my thinking done. I'll settle into the tub with a couple beers and a voice recorder and a notebook and pens and maybe a highlighter. Also some rubber bands and notecards and a stapler and maybe a three-hole punch. Then I get all hot and lightheaded and covered in bubbles and when I wake up the beer is gone and nothing is on the page. And that's what being a writer is all about.

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
I've always loved Barry Longyear, but he kind of disappeared. Do your species a favor: read Enemy Mine and have your heart warmed while you learn to see past the surface differences of horrendous alien beings and recognize the true morality that lies within every intelligent entity. Sigh.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
I have a discrimination problem: I tend to like everything I read. Worse, afterwards I want to share all the wonderful facts and scenes I've read with literally everyone I interact with. For the record, that includes you and anyone who reads this.

Okay. Imagine a dragon the size of a house flapping its way over the English channel, crawling with musket-carrying British soldiers who fire volleys at enemy dragons that are trying to get close enough so that their French soldiers can leap over and attack with flashing sabers. Hell yes! Uh, anyway... I read His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novick.

I read the book because the last time I spoke to my film agent he was all breathless and shivery about having made a huge sale to Peter Jackson (of LoTR fame). He told me about this book with dragons fighting during the Napoleonic Wars. I told him that he was a dweeb and that nobody cares about talking dragons because they're dumb and overdone. Then he challenged me to read the book and I did. So I stand corrected. Talking dragons are not dumb. At least, these aren't.

(Note: Yes, I just sort of bragged about having a film agent. So what?)

What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
My favorite pair of shoes are not shoes; they are winter flip-flops. But don't think that these are just regular old flip-flops that I happen to wear in the winter. (Sadly, I'm not one of those bulky dudes who can sport his tribal calf-tattoos in the snow while wearing camo shorts.) No, my favorite shoes are more like Uggs or furry house slippers but in a really manly, virile way. By the way, in the summertime I switch to the real deal: dollar flip-flops.

Why do you write?
Good question. I went to graduate school for five years to become a scientist. Not a regular scientist, but a roboticist. (That's the coolest sort of scientist.) After I graduated I wrote silly books instead. So I often wonder, Why am I not somewhere wearing a lab coat, training ultra-intelligent robots to do backflips for chunks of salmon?

The answer is that I write mostly to avoid having to wake up and go to an office for a set amount of time and then come home later with a little less of my sanity. Portland is the perfect place to suck down caffeine, throw down a few words, and then wander off and get drunk at Acapulco's Gold and try to play four-square with strangers in the park. Or was that an elementary school?

Do you read blogs? What are some of your favorites?
Heck yeah, I read blogs. In the spirit of self promotion, my own blog is at www.danielhwilson.com. It's a little place where I talk about how great and neat I am and how much people like me and stuff. I'm the only contributor.

Other than that I read about technology, writing, and Hollywood: Engadget is a good tech blog; check the Artful Writer for screenwriting advice; ask my pal Rick Kleffel which sci-fi books to read at the Agony Column; and you know you got to visit Ain't It Cool News if you want the down low on Hollywood.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Here's my list of five kick-ass books that I've bought over the last few months at William Temple House Thrift Store in NW Portland for just pennies — pennies, I tell you!

Live from New York: As Told by Its Stars, Writers and Guests by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller
Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Grant Naylor
The Mind of the Dolphin: A Nonhuman Intelligence by John Lilly, M.D.
Of Men and Machines by Arthur O. Lewis
Mystic Rebel by Ryder Syvertsen spacer

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