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Those Who Can...

by Karen Bennett


[James Alan Gardner was interviewed via e-mail in February, 2001. The photo was taken at the March 17, 2001 Open Meeting by John Sutherland.]

What novel are you writing, and is Festina Ramos going to show up on page 150 or so?

I'm now writing a novel with the working title of Those Who Can...a lousy title that I intend to change when I think of something better. [The final title was Trapped—Ed.] It's set in the League of Peoples universe, but it takes place on Earth so Festina won't put in an appearance. (Earth is out of bounds to the Technocracy, for reasons that I still haven't clarified.)

My 10-words-or-less summary of the story is "high school teachers save the world." I like high school teachers (my father was one) and they're nice characters to put in the role of heroes. A high school chemistry teacher, for example, knows a bit more about science than your average Joe in the street, but is not going to be the sort of super-genius we see in a lot of SF, able to whip together a mind-boggling new concoction just in time to save the day. My group of teachers are not superheroes (or even highly trained troubleshooters like Festina Ramos); they're just everyday slightly-better-than-average types who find themselves in the middle of a world-shaking mess and have to do something about it.

What colour is your kung fu sash now?

I am now a blue sash. At our school, the colours go novice (no sash), red, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, black. In April, I'll be grading for my brown sash, but I've still got a lot of hard work before I'll be ready.

In an interview in Challenging Destiny [July 1998] you said you wished that SF produced more stuff that you want to read and that you enjoy reading. Has your wish come true in the past three years?

Not a whole lot. I've read a few good books in that time, but SF is still full of books that are trying to be important rather than fun.

Has there been a difference in readers' reactions to the sperm-tail technology in Expendable, Vigilant and Hunted based on the reader's gender? My reaction was, "Why did you pick that image and not a tornado?"

No reader has ever talked to me about sperm-tails. Maybe everybody is too embarrassed. But I think the analogy to sperm is more apt than to a tornado because of the way the tails whip around at random if they aren't held down. They're also very long and thin, sometimes thousands of kilometres long but only a hand's breadth wide. They work something like tornados, but I think they look very much like sperm.

If you were to collaborate with another writer (one who's alive now), who would it be?

The only ones I can imagine are my wife, Linda Carson (a playwright who occasionally talks about writing a novel but has yet to do more than a few dozen pages on anything), and my friend John McMullen (who has absolutely great ideas and writes very well, but again who hasn't yet managed to finish anything at novel length). I can imagine working with either of them to get something finished...but neither of them has ever asked me to collaborate, and they certainly don't need my help IF THEY'D JUST SIT DOWN AND FINISH SOMETHING!


Also on this site: interview with James Alan Gardner in January, 2003.


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