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.