Interview with Annalee Newitz author of “Twilight of the Eco Terrorist”

by on May 24, 2011 in Interviews | 0 comments

Read “Twilight of the Eco Terrorist” by Annalee Newitz

The first image in “Twilight of the Eco Terrorist” is haunting.  “I bent down to kiss his lips but they weren’t there. The air was in confusion; my body sank into his as if he had become honey, and then steam.” This sets the tone for the story, creating a lifetime of loneliness and exclusion for  Long. What was your inspiration for this scene?

I grew up in a suburb much like the one Long lived in, and as a teenager I had some memorably depressing experiences having sex in the backs of cars in mall parking lots. There’s definitely something sad (or perhaps just weird) about trying to find a private place to park in a suburb – there are no “lover’s lookout” spots full of trees or views of a beautiful valley or something like that. It’s just row houses and malls and churches, so you wind up having these experiences that are perhaps very romantic but also surrounded by these grim, surreal slabs of concrete. So I was trying to conjure that feeling, as well as Long’s sense that the relationship with Lawrence is so transgressive that they might as well be destroying the world molecule by molecule.

If Long could have known the final outcome, that Lawrence would still be out of reach, do you think the character would have sacrificed so much to bring him back?  Would love have remained the driving force regardless of reciprocity?

I think the point is really that Long couldn’t ever have known that.  Long’s experience of the relationship was very different from Lawrence’s, but there was no way to know that until they met again many years later. It seems to me that perhaps Long wasn’t really in love with Lawrence after a while – Lawrence just became a kind of ideal, or a cipher. Also, obviously, Lawrence is a source of profound guilt that makes it very hard for Long to deal with people on anything other than the molecular level.

The single-mindedness with which both Lawrence and Long dispatch Maria is shocking.  Readers can see the effect it has on Long; sadness, regret, and a desire to bring her back.  Do you think Lawrence is capable of ever feeling regret or does his survival instinct overrule emotion?

Well you have to assume that Lawrence is completely freaked out by the whole situation – possibly he even thinks he’s dreaming, or has gone crazy. He finds himself teleported from a bit of surreptitious sex in high school, to this other city with a person who is six years older than the one he started making out with. He’s never met Maria, and probably from his perspective she’s an invader in his body. So that’s the literal way of understanding what’s happening. But if you look at it from a psychological perspective, you might consider the possibility that Lawrence never came back at all. Perhaps Long is trying to start a new relationship, but is so haunted by the memories of Lawrence that it’s as if Maria keeps disappearing, keeps turning into Lawrence. Pretty quickly Maria would figure out that Long is seeing Lawrence in her, or trying to find Lawrence in their relationship – and she’d get pissed off and leave. In the end, Long wouldn’t have Lawrence, and wouldn’t have Maria either.

Either way, I think you’re right that the situation is shocking because it’s an ugly and brutal thing to do in the service of desire.

You hold the position of editor in chief of IO9 and are a contributor for “Wired” and “Popular Science” just to name a few.  What first sparked your interest in science?  Do you consider your fiction to be a natural progression from science to the literary genre of science fiction?

I was interested in both science and science fiction from a really young age, especially stories about how science can mutate people’s lives. I started writing scifi a couple of years ago because there were stories I wanted to tell about science that were too weird and intimate for a nonfiction science article. All of my science fiction is “hard” in that I do research on the sciences involved, and find myself inspired by scientific papers I’ve read for my journalistic work. But there’s a little bit of magic realism in there too – sometimes, I like to push the science slightly into the realm of the fantastical in order to make a point.

IO9 is one of the top science blogs. For those who may not have had the good fortune of reading IO9 can you tell us about the site?

It’s a futurist lifestyle site, which means we cover science and culture that will fill your brain with burning visions of tomorrow. You’ll find news/commentary about everything from the latest scientific breakthroughs and experiments, to books, movies and art. I’m cautiously hopeful about the future in many ways, and I hope that comes through on io9.

For first time readers of your work, sum up what to expect in one sentence.

Science, technology, pop culture, and sex. I guess that’s more of a list than a sentence.

Thanks for being such a great guest! Where can we go to learn more about you and your works?

I’m writing every day on io9.com, and you can find my articles at io9.com/people/Annale/posts.  My personal site is techsploitation.com.  I tweet regularly at twitter.com/annaleen


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