I read a good interview with Carol Emshwiller here, which reminded me of the interview I did for Fantastic Metropolis in 2002. I’m re-posting it. Since then she has published a collection I Live With You and novels Mr. Boots and The Secret City, and Luis Ortiz put together a book called Emshwiller: Infinity x Two: The Life & Art of Ed & Carol Emshwiller, published by Nonstop Press. PS will be publishing a double-sized collection (in the style of the old Ace doubles); half will be war stories and half other stories.
From Fantastic Metropolis:
Carol Emshwiller was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1921, and began publishing short fiction in 1955. Much of her early fiction appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and in Damon Knight’s Orbit anthologies. She won the World Fantasy award in 1991 for her collection, The Start of the End of it All. Other collections include collections Joy in Our Cause (1974) and Verging on the Pertinent (1989). Novels are Carmen Dog (1988), Ledoyt (1995), and Leaping Man Hill (1999). Small Beer press recently published her new novel, The Mount and a new collection, Report to the Men’s Club. Carol lives about half the year in New York City and half in Eastern California, between the Sierra and Inyo Mountains. She was married to the late Ed Emshwiller, science fiction illustrator, painter, and experimental film-maker.
RFW: The Mount is more explicitly science fiction than much of your work. It’s an alien invasion story, though you deal more with relationships than battles. Not at all like the way Hollywood portrays anything with aliens. I’m wondering how the novel took shape. For example, did you have the idea of these aliens using people as horses, and work out some of the historical details later, such as how the situation started, how the aliens got there, etc.?
CE: I had just taken a class in the psychology of prey animals vs. predators.
It was supposed to be about the psychology of horses, but it contrasted all prey with all kinds of predators—about how we are predators riding a prey. I think the first thing I wanted to do with The Mount was to reverse that—to put a prey animal riding a predator. And I thought how interesting it would be if the prey animal had all the acute senses that we don’t have. Then I started, right in the middle, with the first chapter which is in the point of view of one of the hoots. In the beginning I thought it was a short story, but I got so interested (in chapter 2) in Charley’s desire to be a good slave that it just went on. I fell in love with Little Master as much as I fell in love with Charley.
I actually wanted the reader to feel torn about what was best, being looked after or having the hardships of being “free.” I thought, just because I like camping out and hardships and getting along with less, doesn’t mean that everybody would like it or is suited to that life. I still don’t know for sure what I think about that. It’s such a cliché to say and so easy to say, “Of course freedom is best.” Maybe eating regularly and staying warm is just as good.
I never work out the plot or “historical” details except as I go along. I just jump right in. I got the story going and then figured out how the hoots got there, etc., once I was pretty far in and once the characters and scenes were pretty much set.