Eileen: Of course, I also want you to talk about your tiptop Tiptree-tipping short-story collection from Aqueduct Press. How did that come about?
Nisi: Timmi Duchamp, who is the editor at Aqueduct, approached me about doing a collection of my short stories. It was her idea. I mean — of course I had wanted to put a book together for a long time. I had a whole list I wrote down of titles for this imaginary collection. But the book wouldn’t exist without her impetus.
She asked me to send her all my stories, and I took her at her word. I sent the first story I’d ever sold, “I Was a Teen Age Genetic Engineer,” and several others simply not suitable for publication. She picked fourteen of the twenty-eight I offered her. When people ask me if there’s an underlying theme to Filter House, I want to tell them: “Stuff Timmi liked.” Of course there’s more to it than that. When I told her about the Tiptree she said, “I knew the stories needed to be in a book for people to see what you were doing with them. And I was right.”
You know how when a cat leaps down from a table top or window ledge and lands not quite as gracefully as one might expect, they give you this look as if to say, “I meant to do that!” I have felt much like that cat for some time now. I have been criticized, for instance, for calling my genetically engineered human workers “maggies” in the story of the same title, because the double gee made their name a cognate for the “n word.” Well, duh!
Eileen: You didn’t mean to do that?
Nisi: Oh, yes I did! I mean to do a lot of what I do. Most of it. Trust me.
Eileen: Well, whether you did or not, I think you should be allowed to take full credit for your subconscious. Every writer should. Sometimes it’s best not to examine too closely where your backbrain is taking you, at least until after you’ve gotten there. A writer has to exert control at some point, of course. When I get to the end of the line, I usually leap out and see if I’ve arrived anywhere I want to be. Sometimes I haven’t, but I can see where I want to get to better than I could before I set out.