Q&A with Harry Turtledove

Harry Turtledove is rounding out his fourth decade publishing with Asimov’s with a personally inspired short story, “Speaker to Emos” in our current issue [on sale now]. Here, he offers advice for anyone seeking a similarly lengthy writing career and tells us a little about his inspirations.

Photo credit: Joan Allen

Asimov’s Editor: What is the story behind this piece?

HT: It’s set in a world where people on the Asperger’s spectrum are the vast majority of the population, while those who are normal by actual standards are a tiny minority who have trouble fitting in to their environment. The main character is a counselor who tries to teach them how.


AE: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?

HT: I’m on the Asperger’s spectrum—close to the neurotypical end, but I am. So is my friend Jeff Deutsch, who’s been a counselor teaching Asperger’s folk how to get along in the neurotypical world. We kept batting the idea back and forth—“You write it!” “No, you write it!”—for several years before I finally did.


AE: Is this story part of a larger universe, or is it stand-alone?

HT: It stands alone.


AE: What is your history with Asimov’s?

HT: I’ve been publishing with Asimov’s since 1981.


AE: Who or what are your greatest influences and inspirations?

HT: L. Sprague de Camp and Poul Anderson.


AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?

HT: More than I wish they did, lately. My pinned tweet on Twitter (@HNTurtledove) is “I didn’t mean to be topical,” repeated a good many times.


AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why?

HT: I’m an escaped Byzantine historian (Sprague de Camp’s fault—I read Lest Darkness Fall at an impressionable age), so I tend to write a lot of alternate history.


AE: What is your process?

HT: I do the first draft in longhand, then clean it up on the Mac.


AE: How did you break into writing?

HT: I wrote. I sent things out. I kept sending them out. Eventually, as I learned how, they started sticking.


AE: What are you reading right now?

HT: I just reread James Blish’s Black Easter and The Day After Judgment.


AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?

HT: Write. Keep writing. Send out what you write. Writing for yourself is masturbation. Writing for others is . . . well, better.


AE: What is something we should know about you that we haven’t thought to ask?

HT: Three cats in the house—a Russian Blue-ish named Boris, a fluffy red tabby named Hotspur, and a Siamese called Ford. They’re all rescues. Ford has his name because he was rescued from the Ford Ranger where he was abandoned by his mother, which happened to belong to a cat fosterer. His brother, who lives with someone else and looks like an Aby, is named Ranger.


AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?

HT: As I said above, on Twitter I’m @HNTurtledove. A website about me is https://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/turtledove.html.


Harry Turtledove’s contemporary supernatural thriller, Alpha and Omegais available now from Del Rey. His latest short story takes an alternate look at received wisdom on cognitive behavior. The author wishes to thank Jeffrey Deutsch—a long-time Asperger’s counselor—for his help with the tale.

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