by Andy Dudak
Find out how, spy novels, the nature of propaganda, and a Peter Gabriel song inspired Andy Dudak’s latest Asimov’s story, “Games Without Frontiers” in our [May/June issue, on sale now!]
Asimov’s Editor: What is the story behind this piece?
Andy Dudak: I had the notion of a KGB assassin lining up a snipe that’s meant to look like a missed kill, resulting in paralysis, so that a Russian mole can gain trust in the State Dept. I came up with this after digesting various spy novels, including The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John le Carré. Then this sniper story lined up with an older sci-fi idea I’ve tried to use before: an entertainment future where the superstars are improv actors/gamers interacting with complex game worlds and AIs.
AE: How did the title for this piece come to you?
AD: The title is a Peter Gabriel song. I was a kid during this era and I later got into shows like The Americans and Deutschland 83 which juxtapose the music and the geopolitics of the time—the Cold War set to ‘80s pop.
AE: What are you reading right now?
AD: I’m currently translating “Hyper Distance” by An Hao for Clarkesworld, which certainly involves reading. I have books lined up for when I have time/bandwidth: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas de Quincey, Invasion of the Spirit People by Juan Pablo Villalobos, Frog by Mo Yan, Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt, and Fifth Sun by Camilla Townsend.
AE: What is your history with Asimov’s?
AD: “Games Without Frontiers” will be my first original in Asimov’s. My translation of Chen Qiufan’s “Forger Mr. Z” was in the Nov/Dec 2020 issue. I think I was submitting during the before-times of paper submissions, but I know I got serious again around 2012.
AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing?
AD: I often come back to the nature of propaganda, secret police, paranoia, fear, PTSD, and re-education. That’s partly down to some strange life experiences, but also great books like The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, and The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa.
AE: What inspired you to start writing?
AD: Dungeons & Dragons, without a doubt.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
AD: I just finished novelizing my short story “Salvage” (Interzone Jan/Feb 2020, The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 6 edited by Neil Clarke, and The Year’s Top Hard Science Fiction Stories #5 edited by Allan Kaster). Now begins the great querying challenge.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing? (IE: Social media handles, website URL…)