From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Humans Are Social Animals: Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress has “won four Nebula Awards, for ‘Out of All Them Bright Stars,’ ‘The Flowers of Aulit Prison,’ ‘Beggars in Spain,’ and ‘Fountain of Age.’ ‘Beggars in Spain’ also won a Hugo. Nancy won her second Hugo in 2009, for the novella ‘The Erdmann Nexus.’ In addition, ‘Flowers of Aulit Prison’ garnered a Sturgeon, and the novel PROBABILITY SPACE won the 2003 John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Nancy’s fiction has been translated into nearly two dozen languages (including Klingon). Nancy’s most recent book is STEAL ACROSS THE SKY (Tor, 2009).” You can read more about Nancy’s upcoming projects and appearances at www.sff.net/people/nankress/. We’d like to thank Nancy for her time and discussion about life, writing and her story, “Images of Anna,” which is running this week at Fantasy Magazine.

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I must ask, do you have a set of wings and a tail?  

No, but I wish I did.

In “Images of Anna” Ben follows Anna:

I photographed her parking her car, entering the restaurant, leaving the movie theater, buying a ticket at the museum, even standing behind the reference desk helping an after-school gaggle of noisy teenagers. Each time I developed the pictures right away. None of them were of Anna.

Is Ben the quintessential male foil of feminist, post-contemporary literature? Look, admire, stalk but don’t presume to touch?

Well, I hope not.  I am certainly a feminist, but I wouldn’t like to think that post-feminism excluded male-female touching.  Yes, Ben does stalk Anna — but the circumstances are unusual, to say the least.  

When the “others” replace Anna’s photographic images, several speculative motives come to mind, but as a woman — mother, wife, sister, daughter — I couldn’t help but laugh and think, yes, the day can fill itself easily with the thoughts of others. Anna’s final image, a perception of herself at last, is resonant. Is this the female Odyssey? To seek the final destination within?

I think that “seeking our final destination within,” obtaining an accurate image of our potential, is the human Odyssey, not solely a female one.  However, Anna finds this only through interaction with others.  I believe deeply that humans are social animals and that we can work out our best selves only through contact with others.  This goes against the American ideal of rugged independence, but I think all those ruggedly independent Gary Coopers out there actually depend on others far more than they’re willing to admit.  And at the end of the story, Ben, too, accepts that he needs others — however imperfectly his love might have behaved in the past.

What does 2009 hold for you? Upcoming projects and appearances?

I am GOH at MileHiCon in Denver this year, which I’m looking forward to quite a bit.  Currently I’m writing a YA fantasy, which is new ground for me.

If you could design your perfect day, the day that would outshine all others, would you write or would you do something else? And are you willing to share what that “something else” would be?

I would still choose to be a writer.  I think I have the best job in the world.  Not that it doesn’t have its frustrations — but what job does not?  You can, incidentally, floow those frustrations on my blog, at http://nancykress.blogspot.com/.

FM Author PicRae Bryant is a short story author, poet, columnist, assistant editor for Fantasy Magazine, on staff with Weird Tales, and a reviewer for The Fix. She is a 2008 recipient of the Whidbey Writers’ Prize and editor nominated for StorySouth’s Million Writers Award. Her works have appeared or will soon be appearing in Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, Whidbey Writers MFA Zine, Farrago’s Wainscot, Literary Traveler, and Southern Fried Weirdness, among others. With a Bachelors in Humanities/English and Literature, Rae is currently finishing an M.A. in writing at Johns Hopkins. She lives in a little valley just outside Washington D.C. Read more about Rae at RaeBryant.com.

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