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J D Robb (Nora Roberts) Eve Dallas (In Death) series page reading order and synopsis; 160x480
See also Isaac Asimov's Foundation and Robots series page reading order and synopsis; 160x480

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Eileen Gunn

answers the Usual Questions

Writer Eileen Gunn, photograph courtesy of the author; 220x252

Eileen Gunn

American science fiction author Eileen Gunn began reading sf at 12. She has not always had time for writing having to make a living working for organisations like a little company called Microsoft.

Most of her fiction has been collected in Stable Strategies and Others (2004), which includes several new stories. She has a new collection Questionable Practices, coming out in March, 2014, which will include new work and stories published since 2004.

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work?

Interesting question. I assume that, by fans, you mean people who are fans of my particular work, rather than fandom in general. I can recall only happy interactions with people who like my stories. People who don't like them tend to ignore me, which is good, I think. I welcome questions or suggestions, as they give me an idea of how people read the stories and whether they mean the same things to them that they mean to me. (Which is not necessarily required, as long as they mean something to the readers.) I am always interested in what people think of my work, but I can't say that such discussions affect my work, other than encouraging me to write more.

Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment that stands out?

Not off-hand. A friend of mine recently complained to me, quite sincerely, that my verbal descriptions of my stories were never as good as the stories themselves. "That's how it's supposed to be," I told her. "If I could tell the story with just a description, I wouldn't need to write the story, would I?" I found it quite cheering: she's a tough critic, and if that's all she found to complain about, I'm home free.

Do you have a favourite author or book (or writer or film or series) that has influenced you or that you return to?

I would like to believe that I sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus, but my parents tell me that's not the case. My first huge influence was Sir James M. Barrie. The first real book I read in its entirety was Peter Pan, Retold for Young Folk, by May Byron, and I can still go back and read it with pleasure, although my copy has been read to tatters. The Broadway musical of Peter Pan, with Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard, came out a couple of years later, and also became a huge favorite of mine, although it's cloying enough to give Sir James insulin shock. The shtick about not growing up was never particularly important to me, but I always found Peter's artless heartlessness charming, and I join him in thinking that to die would be a very big adventure.

Who is the person you would most like to be trapped in a lift with? or a spaceship?

In a lift? Cory Doctorow, because he would probably figure a way to get us out. In a spaceship, I'd prefer being there with an engineer or a scientist, because they would know the most about the environment, and would probably continue to discover new things (and, presumably, point them out to me) until we ran out of oxygen. In general, I'm not a fan of being trapped. I know many delightful conversationalists, but I'd rather enjoy their presence on a mutually voluntary basis. That said, if anyone is planning a dinner party and is looking for someone to sit next to Oscar Wilde, I'd step right into the time machine.

Who is the person you would most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with? Or a spaceship?

I've been put on convention panels with several people who are contenders for that position, but at this juncture I'm not prepared to name names, as no real winner has emerged. Leaving out the great mass murderers of the present and the past, I suppose the person I'd least want to spend quality time with in a disabled spaceship is John Boehner, the US House Majority Leader, as he seems a man devoid of imagination and independent thought. Karl Rove may be dripping with the ichor of the Bird, but at least he's genuinely evil, and we could fight viciously as the oxygen ran out.

What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn't do without?)

I'd take Peter Pan, Finnegans Wake, and Wikipedia. Also some Warren Zevon songs on my iPod. All of Warren Zevon would be good, please.

What is the most important thing you would like to get/achieve from your work?

Well, immortality, of course. And occasional roars of laughter or agreement from people who think differently from me. It's not so hard to engage the people who look like you and come from a similar background, however weird that may be. But to say something that's funny or meaningful to someone who lives on the other side of the world or with whom you don't share the comfortable rapport of class or age or race or gender, that's more of a stretch.

What is the special satisfaction of your work?

Well, to think back to your first question, about interaction with readers, my all-time favorite reader-compliment occurred in 1988, when my next-door neighbor Michael, who was seven years old, came over to tell me that his mom gave him the issue of Asimov's with Stable Strategies for Middle Management in it, and he thought it was really funny. I was a little shocked at first, since the story opens with a discreet sex scene between two people who are turning into insects. I wondered what his mother was thinking. Then, as he talked, I realized he had no idea what was going on, but he'd had a good time reading it anyway, and he laughed and laughed at the gruesome finale.

Eileen Gunn; 220x58

submitted by Eileen Gunn

2 October 2013

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Just the facts:
Born: Dorchester, Massachusetts, USA
Resides: Seattle, Washington, USA
Bibliography/Awards: A number of my stories are available online at, Flurb, Lightspeed Magazine, and RevolutionSF.
Nebula Award, 2004.
Sense of Gender Award, Japan, 2007.
Award nominations:
Hugo Award, 1988 & 1989.
Philip K. Dick Award, 2004.
James Tiptree, Jr, Award, 2004.
World Fantasy Award, 2004.
Nebula Award, 2005.

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