Paul Di Filippo is one of those authors that I would call a cult classic. His works are offbeat and mind bending, which leads to some interesting novels. For example, have a look at Joe’s Liver and Ciphers.
His short stories, of which there are hundreds, have featured in all the important magazines as well as in some of the best anthologies around. They have been nominated for almost every writing award you could think of.
Paul spent a little time with me to answer some questions. All I can say is that he has an interesting take on the world. Heeeeeerrrreeeee’s PAULLLLLLLLL.
What genre would you like to write a book in (that you haven’t yet)?
Well, I’ve done mainstream fiction and crime fiction, as well as SF and Fantasy. I’ve done a couple of comics projects too. But that still leaves lots of territory. Never any full-length Horror. No Westerns. No pre-technological-era historical fiction. No Nurse Novels! I should just mash them all up and do a book about a Colonial-era nurse encountering ghosts in the New World!
Where do your ideas come from? Do you have a standard formula for plots or do stories come to you as a whole construct?
Like most authors, I get inspired by different things at different times. I might start with a character, a protagonist whose unique nature and environment and passions drive the story. A headline about some new technology such as “e-paper” could prompt a story. I might let a certain theme inspire me: nostalgia for lost childhood. Or, with the story I’m currently working on, a trip to someplace exotic might provide the impetus. My work-in-progress is set in Medellin, Colombia, which I visited in February. It’s titled “Adventures in Cognitive Homogamy.”
When you start a new story, do you have a title for it? Does that trigger the story?
I do generally want a title first above all. Except in a few cases where I start with a vague working title that refines itself as more of the story is revealed to me. One pet peeve with me is boring or bland titles. Writing fiction is such hard work that I can’t see disgracing the story with a boring or overused title. One-word titles have probably been used many times before, and are vague. “Endurance.” “Violation.” Also common phrases: “Point of Honor.” “Better Than Nothing.” Of course, you can go too wild with a title. It takes an Ellison to pull off “The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World.”
Do you see the future of fantasy and science fiction as bright? If so, which authors are driving it?
My pal Damien Broderick and I recently put together a survey of the past 25 years of SF, Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010, and this retrospective look led me to realize that we are in a new Golden Age of SF. Right now, our speculative toolkit is so sharp and we have so many good writers working, that there is more great SF available than any one person can read. Out only potential pitfalls are a tendency to “preach to the converted” and to be too grim. If we escape those traps, the future of our literature does look bright.
What themes are being overused?
In line with my previous response, I’d have to say “dystopias.” As for fantasy, if all paranormal romance disappeared tomorrow, we’d be none the poorer, in my estimation anyhow.
Are movies of books ruining the book?
I’d have to abide by that famous witticism made by a writer whose novel had been butchered by Hollywood. “They ruined your book,” a fan said. “No, they didn’t,” the writer replied. “There it still is on my shelf.”
Do you see ebooks threatening traditional publishing?
At first, I felt e-books would totally drive print books extinct. But more recent sales trends and reader reactions allow me to hold out some hope that both can co-exist. I myself don’t own an e-reader and have no inclination to get one. But I’m happy if my stuff is electronically available for those who prefer that medium. Richard Curtis is uploading eleven titles of mine to his E-Reads site.
Do you prefer to read established authors or debut authors? How do you choose which ones to read?
As a professional reviewer, I make myself always sample and discuss a fair number of new writers, so that I can stay current with new talent. I could review nothing but old faves all the time, but I think I’d soon get bored. Running across someone like Ernest Cline with his great debut READY PLAYER ONE is very thrilling.
What is it about fantasy that appeals to you?
When you read a book like the great new anthology THE WEIRD by the Vandermeers, you realize that our default outlook on life is so limited, and that in fantasy fiction we can deal with literally anything that is conceivable, not just the probable stuff we look at in SF. That sense of freedom and expansiveness is very valuable.
Can I get an autographed book? (lol)
Sure! Send me your snailmail!
Do you have a group of people that you show a new story to? How much impact can they have on the whole story?
Can you picture William Faulkner test-marketing his fiction and changing it according to feedback? Me neither. So I don’t. I’m no Nobel genius like Faulkner, but I can aspire.
Do you set yourself a word limit for each book?
I do have rough figures in mind for every project–and I always overshoot them! I never come in under the wire!
Do you have a target each day?
I used to demand 1000 words per day of myself, but have gotten slower and/or lazier and now am satisfied with 500 or so. But I still do 1000-word days quite often too.
Do you write constantly or have breaks between books?
I try to write something every day of the year, minus three or four big holidays and some chore-driven days. Let’s call it 300 writing days per year. Vacation? What’s that?
After so many books, how do you keep them unique?
It’s a desperate attempt to keep myself amused (I hate repetition) and to leave behind a legacy that I can be proud of, and which might do some small honor to the field I love.
What is your biggest (self-imposed) time waster?
The PEOPLE OF WALMART website.
Do you remember the first time you saw your book in a shop?
Of course! Because when my first book THE STEAMPUNK TRILOGY came out, I was working at Brown University Bookstore and they were kind enough to stock it!
Do you read other people’s writing?
Alas, no, simply due to lack of time.
Paul can be found lurking:
Two blogs: http://www.weirduniverse.net/