Literatura Fantástica is the new imprint of Spanish publisher RBA devoted to fantasy and science fiction. They have recently published Jo Walton's wonderful Among Others (you can read my review in Spanish), translated by Francisco García Lorenzana as Entre extraños (if you read Spanish you may want to download a preview with the first chapter of the book from this page). To celebrate the occasion Miquel Codony interviewed Jo Walton (read it here in Spanish) for Literatura Fantástica and now they have kindly let me publish the original version of the interview (thanks a lot!).
Literatura Fantástica: First of all, congratulations for that Hugo (and for that Nebula!) won by Among Others, especially in a year like this, with other great nominees. Could you describe your feelings about the success of your novel?
Jo Walton: I'm surprised and delighted. I still don't quite believe it's real, that people could really like my book so much as to honour it in this way.
LF: Among Others is a somewhat atypical fantasy novel. It seems a book with a long madurative process. Could you talk about the origin of the story and what brought you to write it?
JW: I wrote a blog post about the landscape I grew up in and how it isn't what North Americans think of when they think about Wales -- the post industrial landscape of the Welsh mining valleys. Then a lot of people said I should make that into a novel, and I thought of a way of doing that.
LF: How much of Jo Walton is there in Mor?
JW: The books are real. And a lot of the other things -- I made things up and shaped them for fiction, but this really is a mythologisation of part of my own life. But having said that, it's my own life thirty years ago. She's fifteen. I'm forty-seven.
LF: Imagine that Mor would have been a teenager in 2012. Which are the books and authors that she would have told us about in her journal?
JW: Well, one of the huge changes is the way YA literature is big now in the wake of Harry Potter. So she'd have been enthusiastic about The Hunger Games for sure, but probably not Twilight. And there are more female writers, as a more integral part of the genre. She'd love Cherryh and Bujold, definitely. Of this year's Hugo nominees her favourite would be Leviathan Wakes. And there's more fantasy and less SF, so she'd probably be reading more fantasy.
LF: About the Among Others author we know that she is a great expert in the fantastic literature scene. Which contemporary authors, works or trends do you regard with greater interest?
JW: I've been blown away by the recent work of Daniel Abraham, Sarah Monette, Robert Charles Wilson, M.J. Locke, Roz Kaveney, Nina Kirikki Hoffman, Geoff Ryman, Ted Chiang, Yves Meynard. As for trends -- I don't like vampires and most of the paranormal genre leaves me cold. I want more science fiction with spaceships and aliens -- I say to my friends, come on, write me more of that!
LF: In your role as columnist, especially at Tor.com, you are one of the most active writers as a pedagogue of science fiction and fantasy. Could you explain to our readers why is it that they should read fantastic literature?
JW: Beyond that it is fun? If the purpose of literature is to illuminate human nature, the purpose of fantastic literature is to do that from a wider perspective. You can say different things about what it means to be human if you can contrast that to what it means to be a robot, or an alien, or an elf.
LF: Sometimes it looks like fantasy and science fiction readers belong to completely different species, but it could be said of Among Others that it argues against this division. Do you think that there is a trend towards compartimentalization in increasingly smaller (and isolated) subgenres -space opera, urban fantasy, new weird, etc.?
JW: I think there are always trends like that but they tend in the longer term to all feed back together, like a river dividing up into delta streams that all flow into the same sea. I think subgenres develop and are excited and exciting and define themselves as different and eventually what's really nifty about them becomes part of the things the fantastic can draw upon. A historical example would be cyberpunk -- nobody is writing cyberpunk now, but the tropes and techniques of cyberpunk are normal things to do within SF.
LF: Recently, at Tor.com, you suggested that in abandoning the idea of space exploration science fiction had lost the future. Don’t you think that there are some other frontiers that only science fiction is apt to explore from a narrative standpoint?
JW: That was a write up of a Readercon panel, and "lost the future" was their term, not mine. My argument was that this is not the future we expected -- no space colonies, but wonderful computers. Evil robots shut down the Hugo broadcast -- this is definitely the future!
On the wider question, yes, I do think there are frontiers only science fiction can explore, because it can ask wider "what if" questions than other kinds of stories.
LF: If science fiction tries to describe the future from the framework of our present, how would you describe the relation between our present and the science fiction being written today?
JW: Constantly changing. I sometimes think the problem is keeping up with the present -- technology moves so fast, if you take two years to write a book your cutting edge thing will be passe when it comes out. I know Charlie Stross has talked about having this problem.
LF: Can you tell us something about you next literary projects?
JW: I'm writing a science fiction novel about a ballet dancer on a generation starship.
I also have a collection of my Tor.com pieces coming out sometime soon, which will be called What Makes This Book So Great.
LF: Thanks a lot for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to say to the future readers of Among Others in Spain?
JW: Because Mori is a voracious reader, people sometimes ask me for a reading list from the book. There are a couple that other people have put together. But I wasn't trying to write about canon forming -- far from it. The point of loving reading is the way we start by reading indiscriminately and only later developing taste. Read a lot of different things! But you already have a head start over most people I know because you're already reading things from more than one culture.