This is how you know an interview is off to a fantastic start.
How do you feel about the term science fiction, as connected to your work?
Well, that’s very complicated, Wray.
I’m sorry. Are you at peace with it? Do you find it reductive?
I don’t think science fiction is a very good name for it, but it’s the name that we’ve got. It is different from other kinds of writing, I suppose, so it deserves a name of its own. But where I can get prickly and combative is if I’m just called a sci-fi writer. I’m not. I’m a novelist and poet. Don’t shove me into your damn pigeonhole, where I don’t fit, because I’m all over. My tentacles are coming out of the pigeonhole in all directions.
That’s how one can identify a sci-fi author, I guess—tentacles coming out of the pigeonhole.
If we didn’t know she was a badass, we know it now. A badass with tentacles. I also love what she has to say about people who sneer at fiction because it isn’t “real.”
It has something to do with the very nature of fiction. That age-old question, Why don’t I just write about what’s real? A lot of twentieth-century— and twenty-first-century—American readers think that that’s all they want. They want nonfiction. They’ll say, I don’t read fiction because it isn’t real. This is incredibly naive. Fiction is something that only human beings do, and only in certain circumstances. We don’t know exactly for what purposes. But one of the things it does is lead you to recognize what you did not know before.