Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Interview With Benjamin Rosenbaum

Up next in our interview "series" is the Hugo and Nebula nominated spec fiction writer Benjamin Rosenbaum on things like which TV shows he doesn't watch, and why it's okay to watch operatic porn with girls.

What is the first thing you think about in the morning?

Waking up and going to sleep seem to be times that I have a lot of dread about death. During the day I'm engaged in things and distracted. On waking I am often full of mortal dread. Also profound gratitude, which usually accompanies mortal dread with me.
Also often "why is there a small boy lying on my head?", since my son Noah has a habit of coming into our room in the early ours of the morning and parking himself on us.

The first thing that I think about is how sweet giant space amoeba are but I don't know why. Have you seen that episode of Voyager where they fight the gigantic space amoeba? Yeah. I was hoping you could help me figure that one out.

Nope. I have never seen Voyager. Or Deep Space 9. Or Buffy. Or Lost. Or Six Feet Under. Or American Idol. I got rid of my TV years ago (the last show I followed with any regularity was Babylon 5). It has helped with writing productivity, but I do feel a little alienated. Mostly when trying to make small talk with non-geek, non-parents with whom I am already mildly acquainted.

What do you think of when you hear the following names: Slipstream, Bizarro, New Wave Fabulist, Mythpunk, New Weird, Magical Realism?

Slipstream is a word I hate, though I clearly love hating it, and it makes me think of John Kessel & Jim Kelly's excellent anthology "Feeling Very Strange", which I was very excited to be in. Also of the original Sterling essay, and thus of Kobo Abe and William Kotzwinkle. Bizarro makes me think, of course, of the pathos of Superman's silver-skinned alter ego. New Wave Fabulist makes me think of that Conjunctions issue I probably should have gotten my act together and submitted to. Mythpunk makes me think of the odd habit of adding the suffix -punk to any literary movement, regardless of how much or how little it shares with Siouxsie, Iggy, Sid, and their ilk. When did that happen? New Weird makes me think of Mieville, Duncan, Moorcock (or is he Old Weird?), etc., writers I like, interestingly all British; it seems like a mildly adequate term, though the swagger implied in "New" sets my teeth on edge slightly, but maybe that's the point of a literary movement? At least New Weird tends to actually be both (while Mythpunk, like the Holy Roman Empire, is none of the above). Magical Realism makes me think of watching Like Water For Chocolate in high school, and also we went to see Aria with the same group of friends, or an overlapping group, and it (Aria) was like operatic porn, very high concept, so high concept that you could go watch it with girls, and that was pretty cool, considering.

It seems sometimes that you are two different writers, do you intentionally set out to write serious or funny stories or do you let them develop as they please?


Optional question (choose one): If you could create your own reality TV show what would it be like?

You would get a disparate group of candidates for mayor of a middle-sized city, esp. people who usually couldn't afford to run, and agree to fund one of them in exchange for the right to film them 24/7 up to the general election. Then you would have American Idol-style elimination rounds based on logrolling, drumming up support, dealing with lobbyists, etc., with audience voting. The two interesting things would be 1) transparency (all the backroom deals would have to be televised) and 2) shakeup, since you'd have an unusual candidate with an exterior source of funding and name recognition coming in to shake up the game. (The show might be forced by election laws to give airtime to opposing candidates, but that's ok.)

or What is the secret of life? Please elaborate.

Why can't I answer this too? Fine. Never mind. But now you're not going to know the secret of life! No, no, too late now.