SCIFI.COM Chat Transcripts: Collaboration in Science Fiction, March 28, 2000 Michael Swanwick, Eileen Gunn, Andy Duncan and Pat Murphy

Gardner: Okay, Mod. Commercial time. AndyDuncan: At the moment the cat is rubbing against my Earthly Dross, so I'm very nicely grounded, thank you. EileenGunn: Maybe I need to try the failry dust? EileenGunn: The magic spelling wand? Gardner: I think you've had enough! MSwanwick: Failry dust is fairy dust that doesn't work? AndyDuncan: "Fairly dust," Eileen? I think that's what I was dusted with at birth! Gardner: Hey! THAT'S not the magic spelling wand! MSwanwick: Perhaps the moderator could insert a question here. EileenGunn: And THAT's not fairy dust, either. MSwanwick: Get the ball rolling. MSwanwick: (Shut up, Gardner) MSwanwick: So to speak. Gardner: So, for starters, tell us how this particular collaboration team was put together. Moderator: Ouch! Moderator: Sorry Moderator: The intro failed to post! EileenGunn: Micahel did it. To Ellen. Moderator: Lemme try again :( Gardner: And needed help? MSwanwick: I told Eileen about my pet crank theory. Moderator: Hi everyone, thanks for joining us here tonight. Science Fiction has a long, noble history of collaboration -- from Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Tonight we speak to four authors who collaborated together on an Asimov's Science Fiction cover story -- Eileen Gunn, Michael Swanwick, Andy Duncan and Pat Murphy. How do authors manage to produce great scifi through this process? Moderator: Is it like dance? Or is it like a wrestling tag team event? This evening's chat is brought to you by SciFi and by Asimov's Science Fiction ( The best science fiction magazine is the world! Our host this evening is Asimov's editor Gardner Dozois. A reminder, this is a moderated chat. If you have a question for our panel, please send it to me "Moderator" as a private message. Moderator: Can you see that? Gardner: See what? MSwanwick: I can see all. Gardner: (yes) AndyDuncan: I guess one question is whether we DID produce great scifi this way. Moderator: Hmmm... Gardner...Care to wing an intro? Gardner: Michael sees all, but won't tell anybody about it. Gardner: Someone tell about Superstrings. AndyDuncan: I see the into, yes, rolling through the skies like the Star Wars prologue. It's impressive. MSwanwick: Ellen Datlow hit the four of us up for a "round robin" story for her e-zine EVENT HORIZONS. MSwanwick: The round robin was called a "Superstring." Gardner: Any idea why she picked YOU four in particular? MSwanwick: What appealed to me was the thought of collaborating with Eileen. MSwanwick: Who is one of the most original writers in the field. MSwanwick: I wanted to watch her write a story. AndyDuncan: I had told Ellen some weeks before that I'd like to play in a superstring with anybody, should one come available. EileenGunn: Um. I told her I could help her get Micahel and Gardner to write a story. Pat: Ellen very cleverly told each of us the others were participating, and lured us in. AndyDuncan: I was thrilled to wind up with three of my favorite writers/people. MSwanwick: Oh yeah, Ellen wanted Gardner to be in on this. MSwanwick: She thought he was easy. EileenGunn: But he wouldn't do it. MSwanwick: Those of us who know him know better. EileenGunn: =I= thought he was easy. Gardner: Fortunately for you, I dropped out. MSwanwick: Me, I'm easy if you dangle the right bait. EileenGunn: So Michael had this superb idea. MSwanwick: So Eileen & I talked over ideas. She didn't like any of mine. MSwanwick: Except one I didn't realize was an idea. EileenGunn: hey! MSwanwick: I thought it was a nifty notion. Pat: A brilliant idea. MSwanwick: She saw that it was a story. MSwanwick: When she outlined what we Gardner: Tell us a bit about the mechanics. How did you actually go about writing the story? Pat: So tell us the basic idea. MSwanwick: 'd do I was surprised. Gardner: So you outlined the story first? Probably a good idea. MSwanwick: The basic idea: Isaac Asimov, Robt. Heinlein & L. Sprague de Camp had a think tank going while they were at the Phila. Navy Yard in WWII. Gardner: (True, by the way.) MSwanwick: The paranoid twist: They were involved in the Philadelphia Experiment. Which was... MSwanwick: teleporting battleships. Moderator: Andy's having a slight tech problem... Fear not, he's still here Pat: Lots of good stuff on the Philadelphia experiment on the web. Gardner: A classic of paranoid paranormal stuff. MSwanwick: We roughed out how the story would go: Basic Premise, some complications that we'd make up along the way, and they all get home safe. MSwanwick: The early SF guys used a lot of this paranoid paranormal stuff. MSwanwick: They thought it was both neat and funny. Gardner: How did you decide who would write what? AndyDuncan: OK, I'm back! EileenGunn: We each took a charaacter. But Michael reserved the role of trickster. MSwanwick: We tried to utilize it in the same spirit. Gardner: Explain that, Eileen. Or micheal. AndyDuncan: I was comfortable with the rather daunting task of channeling Heinlein, since I was just done channeling Patton for my novella "Fortitude." MSwanwick: THEY all had to do characterization. When it came my turn, I was free to write about topless cannibal lady pirates. Pat: Assigning each person a character is really what made the collaboration work. EileenGunn: I wrote Asimov's Point of View. Andy did Heinlein's, Pat did Grace Hopper. MSwanwick: Yes, there was no way we could write in a single consistent style. AndyDuncan: Yeah, having a "role" to play freed up our powers of invention considerably. Moderator: That dovetails nicely with this audience question... MSwanwick: We're all stylists. Reduced to a flat LCD prose, we're all ordinatry. Moderator: Derek> to : Who wrote what parts of "Green Fire"? Excellent story, by the way. MSwanwick: Um, that's ordinary. Moderator: Derek> to : Who wrote what parts of "Green Fire"? Excellent story, by the way. Moderator: Derek> to : Who wrote what parts of "Green Fire"? Excellent story, by the way. AndyDuncan: Thanks, Derek. EileenGunn: And it helped give the characters unique voices. MSwanwick: Eileen wrote Isaac. Pat: It also allowed us to play off each other's characters. MSwanwick: Andy wrote Robert. MSwanwick: Pat wrote Grace. Moderator: Who wrote what parts...everyone seems to want to know... AndyDuncan: Plus the story evolved as a sort of conversation, with each of us writers holding up a different persona mask and speaking through it, as it were. MSwanwick: I did the special effedts. EileenGunn: And Michael played God. MSwanwick: That's effects. Pat: Which was great fun, becasue we got to play off the effects too. Gardner: I think that plotting it out beforehand is one of the reasons why this round-robin worked, when most of them DON'T. Pat: The plotting was rather vague. MSwanwick: Yeah, it was a lot of fun having the other three do all the hard work, and being able to sit down at the machine and say "Plesiosaurs! Let's throw in plesiosaurs!" AndyDuncan: It's good, too, that we decided in advance how many "rounds" it would take us to wrap the thing up. Otherwise, we might still be working on it! A possibly endless story. EileenGunn: It was like having a thorough-bass laid down, and then we each played a melody over it. Gardner: Also, you resisted the usual round-robin urge to blindside each other and leave the character in some ridiculous cliff-hanger when it's their turn. MSwanwick: But it could be vague, because we knew where (ultimately) it was going. Pat: Just a general idea of setup in the first round, complications in the second round, and resolution in the 3rd roung. Pat: i mean round MSwanwick: The ASIMOV'S version removed a lot of the inevitable reduncancies. MSwanwick: Interestingly enough... AndyDuncan: And since Michael was having too much fun throwing in random wackiness, I decided to throw in the ghost of Tesla ... since Eileen HAD mentioned him in the first paragraph! MSwanwick: Andy's bringing in the ghost of Tesla... EileenGunn: The Web was actually a big help, and we shared URLs of reference sites with one another. Pat: You can always use a good ghost in an SF story. MSwanwick: Came along at exactly the right moment to wrap everything up. MSwanwick: And, as Andy says, Tesla WAS mentioned in the first paragraph. Gardner: (Channeling Patton AND Heinlein in one year, Andy--have you noticed a shift in your voting preferences lately?) MSwanwick: In retrospect, he HAD to be brought in. AndyDuncan: Thanks, Michael. I'm glad Eileen invoked the technology we used, because I can't imagine doing a four-way collaboration like this without e-mail. Pat: The email was essential. EileenGunn: If there's a Tesla on the wall at the beginning of the story he must be fired before the end. MSwanwick: No, that whole idea of confounding your collaborators just doesn't work. Gardner: Back in Prehistoric Days, collaborators managed by phone--and by talking to each other in person... AndyDuncan: Actually, Gardner, I get only more liberal as I get older! But I now have a lot of sympathy/empathy for Patton & Heinlein both, I admit. Moderator: Let me toss in an audience question here MSwanwick: It would've been live having four subconsciouses and trying to deal with them all. Pat: I think one of the things that worked well was having a lot of stuff to play with--tesla, paranoia, paranormal penomena Pat: oops phenomena. Moderator: to : What were your sources for the various characters? AndyDuncan: Confounding the collaborator is what we used to do in the round-robin stories we passed around in eighth-grade study hall. MSwanwick: Yeah, definitely. All the old sci-fi tropes brought up out of the toy chest. Gardner: It's what kills most such stories. EileenGunn: I read all of Asimov's autobiographies. EileenGunn: Whether I needed to or not. Pat: I read a number of web sites and articles on Grace Hopper. MSwanwick: I sat back and had fantasies about topless women pirates. EileenGunn: You swine! Gardner: AND got paid for it! Pat: Hey, you got the easy job! MSwanwick: Oops. AndyDuncan: I read all the period stuff in Heinlein's _Grumbles from the Grave_, and Asimov's take on Heinlein during WWII in Asimov's memoirs. Pat: But those pirates were sauteing men. Gardner: What a way to go! MSwanwick: That's what made them so much fun. Gardner: (I'd be good in a white wine sauce, myself) MSwanwick: I've never much admired wimpy women. EileenGunn: Michael was th eonly logical person to have introduced topless lady pirates. It was an hommage to Pat. AndyDuncan: Nor I, Michael. Gardner: A well-known topless woman pirate? EileenGunn: In my book, Gardner. Pat: Hmmm. Yes, I think I did mention pirates at some point. Pat: Thank you, Eileen. Topless as in peerless, I'm sure. Moderator: Graine OMalley went topless didn't she? MSwanwick: Actually, the pirate captain (whose name literally means "healthy vagina") is exactly the sort of person Heinlein wanted to be but wasn't. I thought that was kind of neat. AndyDuncan: Topless women pirates is one of the subjects I don't know much about, alas. MSwanwick: Ask me after the chat, son. EileenGunn: In what language, Michael? Pat: Or me. AndyDuncan: Maybe that's why Heinlein later wrote _I Will Fear No Evil_, Michael. MSwanwick: Panskrit. Gardner: Let's broaden things out for a moment. How many of you have done OTHER collaborations? MSwanwick: Me! Me! EileenGunn: Me too. Gardner: Michael is, in fact, an avid collaborator. Pat: I collaborate regularly with Paul Doherty (a rock climbing physicist) on a science column for F&SF. AndyDuncan: The closest I've come is contributing one prose piece to a collaborative hypertext that had a dozen or more makers. But that was a very different proposition from a genuine collaboration. Gardner: Christ, he's even collaborated with ME! (No taste.) MSwanwick: I've collaborated with Gardner Dozois, Jack Dann, Tim Sullivan, Bill Gibson... I forget how many. EileenGunn: I've done two other collaborations, and this was the easiest. MSwanwick: Andy would be a natural for collaborations. Gardner: Just love 'em and toss 'em aside, eh, Michael? MSwanwick: He's got a lot of stuff, but he's not willing to write about space ships and planets. AndyDuncan: So I guess "Green Fire" was really my FIRST collaboration. And in the middle I thought, "Damn, maybe I should have started with something less complicated!" MSwanwick: If he had somebody to take the story to Venus, though, he'd do a good job on the politics in the bar. EileenGunn: I think the reason it worked as well as it did (if it did) is that it was complicated. AndyDuncan: I'd be thrilled to collaborate with any of you folks any day. Gardner: So, given that many of you have collaborated before, I guess the question becomes, Why? Moderator: A reminder to our audience...We're chatting with Pat Murphy, Andy Duncan, Eileen Gunn, and Michael Swanwick. If you have a question, please send it to Moderator as a private message MSwanwick: To learn. MSwanwick: To have fun. Gardner: Isn't it difficult enough to write a story without having other people involved in the process? AndyDuncan: Actually, Michael and Eileen, I do have a novella awaiting publication at Avon that's all about the Russian space program. MSwanwick: To trick oneself into making a worthwhile story... Pat: To shake things up and keep it interesting. EileenGunn: To swipe other people's ideas legally! MSwanwick: ...despite the fact that it pays roughly one third minimum wage. AndyDuncan: One reason I wanted to do this was to see whether the collaboration would produce a story that I would not have written, could not have written, on my own. And that's exactly what happened, to my delight. Pat: To share each other's ideas legallly. Gardner: Seems to me that one reason Why is to produce work that NEITHER of the collaborators would have produced on their own. MSwanwick: Yeah! Exactly! L Pat: That's a good part of it. MSwanwick: I wanted to see their chops. MSwanwick: Jazz musicians felt the same. AndyDuncan: Didn't someone once claim that a collaboration is twice the work for half the money? EileenGunn: Plus I learned how to plot a silly story. Pat: Only twice? Pat: But it's at least twice as interesting. AndyDuncan: True, Pat. Moderator: Let's open this up to some more audience questions Gardner: In my own collaborations, I know that there was stuff I was unlikely to write about, or to handle well, that the OTHER person could end up doing. Pat: I really enjoyed playing with the stuff that the rest of you left lying around for me. Gardner: And vice versa. Moderator: to : Andy, you had Heinlein as a Gilbert and Sullivan fan. Seemed to fit: was it true? MSwanwick: I like the story a lot. There's a ferocious amount of enjoyment in it. More than you usually get as a writer. More like the pleasure you get as a reader. EileenGunn: Actually, it was Asimov, the G&S fan. And he was. AndyDuncan: Bob, I think that was Asimov who was the Gilbert & Sullivan fan. And yes, that's very true. MSwanwick: Isaac wrote an annotated G&S. AndyDuncan: Asimov would have loved Mike Leigh's movie "Topsy-Turvy," I think. Gardner: I can vouch that Isaac was a Gilbert & Sullivan fan. Pat: I think we all tried to be true to our characters. EileenGunn: I was sorry that I couldn't figure out how to work G&S into the plot. But I couldn't. Gardner: He used to sing songs from them around the office all the time. Moderator: Ouch! Moderator: 'Nother one from the audience Moderator: to : how doe you keep from getting off the plot when you set out a silly story EileenGunn: Even the part about Heinlein trying to get Isaac to work on Yom Kippur was true. Pat: We set out a general direction for the plot... AndyDuncan: Yes, that's right, Eileen. And Isaac was still resenting it decades later. MSwanwick: That's the round robin thing. You write two thousand words. The next person ignores those which don't move the story in the direction she wants. Pat: and that kept us on track. We knew where we were going. Gardner: Still complaining about being fined by Heinlein about his "Can there be such a thing as tough fish?" remark, too. EileenGunn: We used a manually-operated plot corrector. Pat: I had a computerized one. Pat: Linked to my GPS. AndyDuncan: The vital thing in writing a comic or silly or absurd story is to remember that to the characters, it's not comic/silly/absurd at all. The characters have to take it quite seriously, and you have to be true to their seriousness Gardner: I think if you hadn't roughed out a plot in advance, it would have dissolved into chaos. Pat: There were a few chaotic moments there. AndyDuncan: Yes, sketching out our "There and Back Again" framework ahead of time was vital. MSwanwick: When we re-wrote the story for ASIMOV'S, we went back and edited out the redundancies and false leads. Cut a third of the wordage that way. MSwanwick: But there were constant surprises.... AndyDuncan: Right, the Event Horizon version is novella length. EileenGunn: I'm still not sure it makes sense. Gardner: One thing I've found to be true in collaborations, although I'm not sure it applies here, is that it's vital that ONE person do the final cut or the final draft. MSwanwick: Andy's Tesla. Pat's snowflakes. MSwanwick: It makes sense, Eileen. I went over it and made sure. AndyDuncan: I loved the snowflakes. Gardner: Otherwise, it's almost impossible to have consistent style MSwanwick: Sleep well tonight. Pat: Those were someone else's snowflakes. I just used them. EileenGunn: I htink we had two people do the final draft. MSwanwick: No, somebody else had snowflakes falling. YOU made them sentient creatures, Pat! Moderator: Another audience member wants to know... Moderator: to : To Michael: Was that a bit of "Farnham's Freehold" vibe with the cannibal pirates? I liked the parts of the story that foreshadowed the protagonists' own work. MSwanwick: James Joyce had snowflakes falling. AndyDuncan: Come to think of it, Pat, you're right ... I had mentioned the snowflakes as an off-the-cuff, fairly random one-liner. But you took them and made something moving and compelling out of them. So I think of them as yours. Pat: Sure, but they were someone else's snowflakes.... Pat: Your snowflakes. YOu just didnt' know they were sentient. Gardner: Well, Michael, Jack Dann, and I used to do three-way collaborations, which boggled minds as it was. Imagine a FOUR-way! Pat: I figured that part out. EileenGunn: LOL, Pat. AndyDuncan: All I knew was that the snowflakes were singing! MSwanwick: We all tried to work in references to the writers' work. Pat: Of course they were. And it was all about math. Pat: That's what snowflakes sing about. MSwanwick: I wasn't thinking of FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD so much as I was thinking of the wild edge of pulp SF moving into real SF. AndyDuncan: I enjoyed working in the bits about "And He Built a Crooked House." Gardner: What do they dance too, though? MSwanwick: Writers were constantly using wild stuff from the pulp days & then making something... special... from them. AndyDuncan: Though, there again, I think one of the others mentioned that story first ... Maybe in our pre-writing discussions. Pat: The discussions were great. Pat: Interesting to see how the rest of you think about writing MSwanwick: Yeah, THAT was our pay. The discussions. EileenGunn: Another way of writing the story would have been to foreshadow the writers' work, but I think we consciously kept that to a minimum. MSwanwick: Wild ideas from wild people. AndyDuncan: Yeah, someone should publish the correspondence of us batting ideas around. Maybe The New York Review of SF. Gardner: And you weren't even all drunk, which was how Michael, Jack, and I did it! MSwanwick: If you want to do the work of editing it, Andy... Pat: How many publications can we get from one collaboration. AndyDuncan: I know I saved it all, and I trust the rest of you did, too. EileenGunn: I dunno, Andy. They'd never respect us again. Gardner: Actually, that would be an interesting and informative article. Pat: Do they respect us now? AndyDuncan: Y'know, given y'all's permission, I'd be happy to do just that. I'll take that as a mandate. MSwanwick: I think it'd be a good idea. But edited, Oscar, edited. Pat: Go for it. EileenGunn: I'll write the movie version -- we'll have to add some action scenes to the sitting at the computer part. Gardner: Yeah, edit out all the nasty comments about editors... Pat: Yeah, the topless pirate scenes. Moderator: A reminder. We're talking with Andy Duncan, Pat Murphy, Michael Swanwick, and Eileen Gunn. Tonight's chat is co-sponsored by Asimov's Science If you have a question for our panel please send it to me "Moderator" as a private message AndyDuncan: And I'll write the novelization of the movie. Gardner: Alright, who gets to play Isaac in the movie? Brad Pitt? Moderator: Let me slip in another audience question... MSwanwick: And I'll write hte movie of the novelization. Moderator: to : The first time I read the story I realized that the Heinlein profile came from Asimov's memoirs. Don't you think that that would not be a fair source? MSwanwick: You CAN'T be fair in a story like this... EileenGunn: Are we still here? MSwanwick: ...because you need people to act like foolishly to make it a good story. Moderator: Gardner can you type? Gardner: So, who plays Isaac in the movie? Brad Pitt? MSwanwick: If we'd treated these guys with absolute respect, they wouldn'dt've been very interesting. AndyDuncan: Carlos, you seem to imply that our Bob is an unlikeable, negative Bob. I don't think that's the case. We drew some from Isaac's memoirs, sure, but some from Bob's as well. Pat: Besides, they're fellow writers. Theyd'' understand. MSwanwick: That said, I hope that Bob wasn't as strack as we made him seem, or Isaac as cowardly. MSwanwick: We tried to set them up as fallible human beings who overcame their weaknesses and pulled through together at the end. AndyDuncan: Bob was a very aggressive, controlling personality, and that's how we portrayed him. I also spent a lot of time pondering WHY he was like that, so he'd be well-rounded and sympathetic. Gardner: In real life, Heinlein was a bundle of contradictions. A very complicated guy. MSwanwick: YEAH. Pat's right. They would definitely understand. Pat: And they'd have done the same to us! Moderator: Here's an interesting question -- Moderator: to : Now that you all have collaborated writing about Heinlein, Asimov and de Camp, ever think of writing with de Camp? as it would be a great chance to learn Gardner: Isaac was one of the least violent and least physically oriented people I ever met. A more unlikely action herois hard to imagine. MSwanwick: Well, I did write write about de Camp AndyDuncan: Bob's real-life chief motivation throughout WWII was to get back to active duty, somehow, someway. He was terribly disappointed to be sidelined. That's what I tried to work into his characterization, as much as possible. MSwanwick: And I was very happy how he came out. Competent. In control. MSwanwick: But in the story, as we were writing it, we held de Camp in reserve.\ Gardner: I think the question is, to write WITH De Camp. Gardner: As in, collaborate with him. MSwanwick: If we needed a deus ex machina, he was there. MSwanwick: God, I'd love to write with de Camp. AndyDuncan: If de Camp has any unfinished manuscripts that he'd like to send us, I'm sure we'd jump at the chance. MSwanwick: The man had a wonderfully varied and flexible imagination. MSwanwick: Has. Pat: That would be a VERY interesting collaboration. Gardner: Interesting that De Camp himself was part of a famous collaborative team. AndyDuncan: Right, de Camp and Fletcher Pratt. Gardner: While Heinlein and Asimov, as far as I know, never collaborated at all. MSwanwick: They weren't on a first name basis. Pat: I can't imagine them collaborating. Gardner: So De Camp should be used to the idea of collaborating. MSwanwick: They respected each other. But that was it. Gardner: Not only didn't they collaborate with each other, they never collaborated with anyone ELSE, either. AndyDuncan: I can't imagine what a Heinlein-Asimov collaboration would have been like. Asimov did collaborate with Frederik Pohl, though, and with others on rare occasion. Moderator: Gardner...Here's one for you Gardner: Only on non-fiction, though, Andy, I think. Moderator: to : Gardner knew these authors..was he used as a source for the characterizations? AndyDuncan: There was one Weird Tales story, Gardner, that Asimov and (I believe) Pohl wrote under a pseudonym. It was a rarity, though. MSwanwick: Nope. Gardner: I didn't know any of them well, really, not on a personal level. Gardner: I worked with Isaac for a few years, but we weren't close personal friends. MSwanwick: We wouldn't've wanted to have our fiction muddled with mere facts. AndyDuncan: The only question we asked Gardner was, "Will you buy this thing?" Gardner: I only met Heinlein a few times. MSwanwick: I didn't even ask him that. I knew he'd buy it. Pat: Michael knows all. MSwanwick: "Isaac Asimov Saves the Universe!" He was going to TURN IT DOWN? I laugh. Moderator: Facts can be such downers! Gardner: See, THIS is the kind of professional confidence that allows you to write about topless pirates! Pat: The rest of us were startled. Pat: I'm sure the topless pirates helped the sale. MSwanwick: I know what's commercial. AndyDuncan: A fact is like a grain of sand, the irritant around which a story develops. But an irritant only. Gardner: And we didn't even use them on the cover! MSwanwick: You should have! Pat: Where is your marketing sense? AndyDuncan: The dinosaurs are nicely commercial, too. MSwanwick: Jeeze, Gargar, do we have to explain EVERYTHING? Gardner: We COULD have changed the title to "Topless Pirates of the Void!," too. Pat: Everyone loves a dinosaur. Gardner: A topless dinosaur! Even better! MSwanwick: It's those long necks. Moderator: Several audience members would like to know more about Grace Hopper... Gardner: It's not immediately obvious, but every one of those dinosaurs was TOTALLY NUDE below the waterline... MSwanwick: God wrote Grace to be a human role model. Pat: I've always admired Grace Hopper.... Gardner: Pat was the Grace Hopper channeler, I believe. Pat: I saw her on David Letterman, and she managed to hold her own with Dave... MSwanwick: What else do you need to know? Pat & Eileen especially know a lot about her. Pat: at age 80.... EileenGunn: We needed a person who know how to command a ship. AndyDuncan: We already heard from one schoolteacher who was teaching her class about Grace Hopper just as the story came out. She was pleased. MSwanwick: Grace was the kind of person that Heinlein wanted to be. Gardner: Good thing I didn't let the artist put her on the cover in a string bikini! Pat: She didn't put up with nonsense. She was smart, pretty, and damn good at what she did. AndyDuncan: Well said, Michael. MSwanwick: I bet he would've traded his life for hers, given the chance. AndyDuncan: Which is Heinlein's real tragedy, of course, Michael. Gardner: I doubt it, actually. Gardner: He was a born sophist. EileenGunn: We had a heck of a time getting her on that damn ship, though. MSwanwick: Yeah, those damn facts! Pat: It was a stretch... Pat: But a stretch worth making. Gardner: Those pesky facts... AndyDuncan: That's true, Eileen. Bending naval regulations is harder than breaking spacetime. Pat: I loved having her order Isaac and Bob around. MSwanwick: But anything is possible if you have the Writer On Your Side. Pat: Yes--the Writer is the Hand of God. Gardner: "Then the tornado passed. They had survived afterall!" AndyDuncan: The funniest scene, I think, is when she walks in on them gassing away about the Pleistocene or whatever instead of getting their work done. I've been there! MSwanwick: Bob at least had the grace to (eventually) that Grace had the right o order them around. EileenGunn: I think Gardner was more of a sickler about the naval regs than he was about the spacetime. Pat: I enjoyed writing that. Moderator: So what happens 50 years from now when everybody is long gone except for Gardner and he buys a story from another group of writers about you guys? Anybody scared? Gardner: I've been in the military. I know some things are much more unlikely than spacewarps. Pat: I'd love to read it. AndyDuncan: Good point, Michael -- another factor that makes our Bob a sympathetic character, I think. EileenGunn: I want command of the ship! Pat: Actually, I've already used Pat Murphy as a character in my latest novel.... Gardner: I'd have to buy it from beyond the grave, I fear... AndyDuncan: I'd love to think that people will still know our names 50 years from now, much less be moved to make up stories about us. MSwanwick: I hope that my character is portrayed as being prodigeously sexual and absolutely infatuated with his wife. EileenGunn: Ans he can spell! Gardner: HAVE any of you showed up as fictional charaters yet? AndyDuncan: Be sure and mail me a copy 50 years from now, OK? MSwanwick: But if anybody cares to write about us fifty years from now, it'll mean that we've all succeded. Gardner: It's not all that uncommon, these days. Paul Di Filippo does it all the time. AndyDuncan: To my knowledge, Gardner, I have not showed up as a fictional character anyplace ... except in the story I'm currently writing, in which I make a cameo at the end. MSwanwick: Um... does Pat Cadigan having an obnoxious couple called "the Swanwicks" in an early story count? EileenGunn: I'm afraid to think which of the charactersin Leslie What's stories are based on me. MSwanwick: She wore it was a coincidence. Gardner: Paul did a story last year featuring James Tiptree, Alfred Bester, Theodore Sturgeon, and Samuel Delany. Pat: Maybe we should all write stories with each other as characters.... Pat: that would make some trouble. MSwanwick: Log Rolling in Our Time! AndyDuncan: "Recursive sf" -- sf about sf writers, fans, publishers, etc. -- is actually a huge category within sf. Gardner: For that matter, Michael, you put YOURSELF in one of your recent stories! Moderator: Great idea Pat! Gardner: Actually, recursive SF is a long tradition. MSwanwick: Let's start by writing about GARDNER! AndyDuncan: NESFA's bibiography of recursive sf, compiled by Anthony Lewis, included hundreds of titles, and that was years ago. Pat: But he's already a character. MSwanwick: "Leaving a trail of slime behind him, wherever he went..." Gardner: NAH--the idea is to write about something INTERESTING. Pat: What could we say? Moderator: An anthology of stories about Gardner EileenGunn: A friend of mine suggested today that pat, Michael & Andy and I do a story every year for the April issue of Asimov's and set each story a decade later than the previous one. AndyDuncan: I don't think readers would buy Gardner as a believable character. AndyDuncan: With the same characters, Eileen? Surely not! Gardner: You--or some of you, anyway--could all have affairs with me and write about THAT! MSwanwick: Eileen, talk to me later about that. EileenGunn: There's a market for that, gardner? AndyDuncan: Talk to me later about that, too, Eileen! Gardner: Sure! I'D buy them to keep them out of print! Pat: Me too! Pat: That was me too to Andy. MSwanwick: Actually, back in the seventies, there was a writer who had an affair with an editor and wrote a storyabout what a bad lay she was. MSwanwick: Sold it too. AndyDuncan: No doubt some SFWA colleague is even now writing pseudonymous porn novels with us as thinly disguised principals, though we don't know it. Moderator: The Dozois name comes up on now and then MSwanwick: Not to her. EileenGunn: I like the idea of Pat buying stories about gardner to keep them out of print. Maybe we coudl auction them off to the person who most wants to keep them out of print. MSwanwick: Are there no questions from the lurkers? MSwanwick: Tom Purdom, who has written one of the great fin de siecle stories in "Fossil Games" must surely have a question. Gardner: Actually, from time to time, I get a slush pile story which features me as the main character, usually involved in reading the slush-pile when something supernatural happens. I guess they think this will give them an Edge. Moderator: Well. avtually we've reached the hour mark when we open the floor Michael Pat: They are very quiet lurkers. EileenGunn: They're spellbound by out extrapolative marketing excersies. MSwanwick: They're very easily cowed. Pat: I think snoop and scribe sleep in here. I saw them here earlier. Moderator: But first we usually ask everybody to mention what they're working on, or what we should be buying at the bookstore :) Gardner: To sum up, it seems to me that collaborating works best when it combines the strengths of the different collaborators. MSwanwick: Very true. Gardner: Sometimes, alas, it combines their WEAKNESSES instead! EileenGunn: It works best when the collaborators =have= different strengths, I think. Gardner: The trick is to recognize which is true with you, I guess. MSwanwick: It's why I was particularly interested in Eileen. She's a wild card. I wasn't expecting any of what she wrote. AndyDuncan: All you folks were wild cards as far as I was concerned, being new at collaborations in general. EileenGunn: What were you expecting, Michael? Gardner: Okay, guys, hype new projects. WHAT can the readers rush out in a buying frenzy and actually BUY? MSwanwick: I have four collections out this year. MSwanwick: Two serious, two not. Pat: My latest novel, THERE AND BACK AGAIN, is available in the bookstores.... EileenGunn: Jeez, Michael. AndyDuncan: I have only one collection out this year, but as it's my first book, I'm still excited. _Beluthahatchie and Other Stories_ will be published in October by the World Fantasy Award-winning Golden Gryphon Press. Pat: Very cool, Andy Gardner: I DO think titling one of them I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY BOUGHT THIS CRAP! was going a bit far, though, Michael... EileenGunn: Now I'm going home and shoot myself. AndyDuncan: I unwittingly plugged Pat's novel earlier, without even realizing it! Good going, Pat. Pat: What are the titles, Michael? AndyDuncan: And thanks, too, Pat. MSwanwick: The not-serious works are first a chapbook called PUCK ALESHIRE'S ABECEDARY of the 26 short-short I wrote for NYSF, and than a collection of most of my other short-shorts, from Tachyon Publications called CIGAR-BOX FAUST. MSwanwick: NESFA Press did a collection called MOON DOGS. Gardner: Go home and shoot someone ELSE, Eileen. Then you can get on Jerry Springer. EileenGunn: I'm very pleased to hear you've got a collection coming out, Andy! AndyDuncan: I think perhaps you don't give PUCK ALESHIRE'S ABECEDARY enough credit, Michael. I think in the aggregate it's rather serious. MSwanwick: And forthcoming from North Atlantic (the guys who did the Sturgeon collections) is TALES OF OLD EARTH. Pat: Wow! I'm impressed. AndyDuncan: Thanks, Eileen! I'm thrilled about it, myself. MSwanwick: Yeah, I'm in negotiations with his publisher to trade one of my books for BELUTHAHATCHIE. Pat: So what is everyone working on? Gardner: Pat, what's the next book in your curious series? MSwanwick: Eileen is working on a magisterial biography of Avram Davidson. Pat: The next book is WILD ANGEL, coming out in August. The reason the series is curious... Gardner: (Hey, Moderator, don't forget the ASIMOV'S commercial!) Pat: is that the three books are linked by the pseudonyms who are writing them. AndyDuncan: I'm working on a novel, several stories, and a screenplay adaptation of my own "Liza and the Crazy Water Man." EileenGunn: Magisterial means "slow." MSwanwick: And also a short story with the (I forgot to mention this to you, Eileen) not wonderful title of "Marginalia." MSwanwick: Parts of it need (easily done) work. Other parts are pure magic. EileenGunn: I did just finish a story, more or less. You don't like the title, Michael? MSwanwick: I said all that because I knew Eileen would be too modest to bring it up herself. Gardner: So, are you all going to collaborate again? Pat: Marginalia sounds like an interesting title to me. Moderator: Since our hour has rushed by so quickly...Let me just thank everybody in the audience for all your questions. Sorry we couldn't get to every one of them. Tonight's wonderful caht came to us by way of ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION. If you aren't a reader of Asimov's...YOU SHOULD BE...Visit them at MSwanwick: The title is okay, Eileen. It's not worthy of the story, though. Gardner: Or is it "been there, done that, got the t-shirt? MSwanwick: Hey, I'LL write the t-shirt! AndyDuncan: As I said, I'd be happy to collaborate again with these folks, together or separately. Pat: That would be fun. AndyDuncan: I'll try to be a better citizen next time, and not miss deadlines and such! MSwanwick: How about: A DAY WITHOUT SEMIOTICS IS LIKE A HORSE'S HEAD ADRIFT IN VACUUM. EileenGunn: I'd do it again. It was great fun, and good medicine for writer's block. Pat: We just need another brilliant idea to get us started. Michael? Eileen? Moderator: Lemme know when to open the floor, boss :) Gardner: NEXT time, you can write about Heinlein meeting Patton... Pat: Andy? EileenGunn: Love it, Michael. MSwanwick: or: I FORGED THE UNCREATED CONSCIENCE OF MY RACE IN THE SMITHY OF MY SOUL AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSEY T-SHIRT. Gardner: If you throw in Janis Joplin, you've already got all the research covered. Gardner: Anytime you'd like, Mod. MSwanwick: Brilliant idea. Um... MSwanwick: The angel smoking a cigarette has already been rejected. MSwanwick: Maybe something on another planet? Mars has been done. EileenGunn: By whom? I'm working on it. Gardner: "Um..." is probably JUST what Patton would have said on meeting Janis Joplin! Moderator: A reminder to everyone. Tonight's chat is but one of several hosted by SciFi and brought to us by Asimov's every other week. So do come back in two short weeks.... Moderator: And now we'll open the floor MSwanwick: Planet X! Let's set a story on planet X! Gardner: It's Terry Prachett next time, isn't it? LadyLaurelRose: no no no Gmmas: Eileen, Pat, Andy and Michael: we are not so quiet, but its moderated, so we have to wait for Moderator to pose our questions when fitting ari: yaya!! Pat: I've always wanted to visit planet X. * LadyLaurelRose thanks you all for a wonderful hour * MSwanwick: Cool! Let's swap emails. AndyDuncan: When I was a kid I drew a lot of cartoons about Planet X. My idea was that it had one -- ONLY one -- representative of every sentient race in the universe. RainbowWarrior: Where the shaving molecule atom is. Pat: Thank you for being here, LadyLR EileenGunn: Thank you, Laurel. LadyLaurelRose: k my email is... Moderator: Gardner, do recall who our guest is next time? AndyDuncan: Thank YOU, Laurel Rose. ari: This was wonderful! AndyDuncan: Thanks, Ari. Dan2: The real story of the Man From Planet X. ari: i enjoyed it thoughroly Pat: You guys were a great audience. Gmmas: Thanks for keeping up a good stream of converstation though! appreciate it MSwanwick: I think there's a story there. AndyDuncan: Thank YOU, Gmmas! Gardner: I believe that the guest next time is Terry Prachett, the bestselling author in Britian, and one of the bestselling fantasy authors of all time. ari: Now all I have to do is find someone to work with... bobdevney: Great minds at play! Thanks all.