John Shirley Interview to Rudy Rucker for The 2003 Readercon book. Pinole, California 3/3/2003

Q: What are the three most important events of your life apart from your marriage and children? A: Thatís kind of an unrealistic question, like why important, why three, why should I tell you, etc. But, since you're a friend, Iíll complete the exercise. How about these three. (i) Having a vision on Memorial Day weekend in 1970, hearing God tell me He would always be there and would always love me, His voice close and warm inside my head. (ii) Meeting Robert Sheckley in the 1980s and finding that my boyhood SF hero was a fellow human perfectly willing to be a friend, and learning that all along Sheckleyís science-fiction had actually been about his real life, just like the way I wanted to write. (iii) Going hiking in Yosemite in 1992 with my son in and realizing that the Universe is held together by Love. Itís all about God or Robert Sheckley... Q: What is seminal now? A: The last two years I've been writing an epic SF fantasy structured along the lines of the Monomyth stages in Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces. It's called Frek and the Elixir. The hero Frek is twelve and the book is set on a bio-collapsed Earth in 3003 --- there only about ten kinds of animals and plants left. Frek journeys to the center of our galaxy to get a kind of elixir to restore Earth's missing plants and animals. I was working with a deeper breath in Frek, that is, I used longer chapters. With long chapters and fifteen monomyth stages, the novel came out to about 170,000 words, nearly twice as long as most of my others, which is what I wanted. I'd always wanted to write a long novel. I just wrote the last page of the first draft yesterday. What I write next is totally up in the air. Lately Iíve been thinking a lot about how to move to a higher level of commercial success. It would be nice to get enough royalties to retire from teaching. I do realize that commercial concerns can become a will Ďo the wisp, a distraction. Thereís no cosmic reason why I necessarily ďdeserveĒ the big bucks. I would do well to be content with the level that Iíve achieved. But still... I'd dreamed that my historical Peter Bruegel novel As Above, So Below would be a cross-over best-seller, and that I would write a followup novel about Bosch, but in fact my bookís had very few reviews, so Iím not so optimistic on that front anymore. Frek represents my newest strategy for scoring big in novel market, itís my take on the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter route. If Frek does well, Iíd love to write a sequel. I like Frekís world. But I think Iíd want to do something else before I go jump back into it. The reviews and sales for my last yearís novel Spaceland, are pretty good. I can easily imagine knocking out another short present-day Silicon Valley novel. I have a couple of ideas. People sometimes advise me to write a non-fiction science book relating to mathematics or computers. I teach computer science as my day job, and Iím somewhat over-familiar with the material, a bit jaded and lacking in the proper gee-whiz spirit. But I could get excited if I got a huge advance. ďThis is important.Ē I enjoy writing fiction more than non-fiction. Fiction lets me be more creative; thereís a lot of discovery and surprise. And fiction lets me express deeper things than non-fiction can reach; I can put my whole self into it.