1. Excluding your writing, what would you count as your greatest accomplishment?
Integrating my personality. Not in a disassociative disorder kind of sense, but in that I'm very aware of how easy it would have been for my self-destructive tendencies to win. They were pretty mightily aided and abetted by some forces in my early life, and I could easily not have made it to 25--or not have had a life worth living once I did. The fact that I am more or less happy, sane, and accomplished is an endless miracle to me, and I never stop being grateful to the people who helped me get here.
2. What is your favorite car from the 1960s?
3. What project (writing or otherwise) are you most proud of so far? And why?
It would have to be The Stratford Man. It's a book that started as a lark and a dinner-table argument and turned into a life-changing experience.
4. Besides the obvious choice of Christopher Marlowe, what historical character would you most want to put into your fiction, and why?
It doesn't actually work that way. I don't pick out historical personages and go "Oh, I'll build a story around him." For me, the story grows out of the character, and the ideas just kind of hit me. "This Tragic Glass" was made up of leftover ideas that didn't fit in The Stratford Man, for example. So really, it's whatever catches my fancy at a given moment.
I wasn't much of a Shakespearean before I got interested in the ideas behind The Stratford Man, but in the course of the research, I learned a hell of a lot.
5. What writer, when you read her or his work, gets into your head and infects you, so that (for however short a time) what you write sounds like that writer?
6. So why don't you write about, like, unicorns and stuff?
The scent of angry, fearful men colors a bitter wind, but they are not close and there is no blood-scent. I choose not to attend them, instead hiking higher into the mountain to seek my pack.
I leave the trail and pick my way through a grove of young ash trees that have claimed a decade-old burn scar on the eastern side of the mountain, making my way toward the sea and the denning-place.
Among the ashes, I see him.
Pale as a streak of winter sun slanting between branches, he stands broadside to me, fetlock-deep in wintercrisped ferns. His head is turned to track my approach, the fluted spiral of his single fragile-seeming horn gleaming dully like carved and polished ivory. I freeze and he snorts, steam jetting from dark red nostrils in a muzzle white as the sand on the shore.
For a timeless moment we regard one another. His eyes are enormous and dark, little glitters of light in them like sparkles on a night-time sea. Slowly, hardly daring to breathe, I crouch down among the fallen leaves, making myself small. Oh, startle not, I think. His presence is like the presence of a sea.
He takes a step forward, tossing his horn. Hard muscle catches the light along the curve of his neck, under the shining scarred hide of his shoulder. The paler, healed marks among the ivory of his coat hearten me, for I see among them the traces of bites and kicks from equine teeth, cloven hooves.
An old, canny stallion, then, and there are enough of his kind in the world to give him a fight for the mares.
I've never seen one before. I thought they were a myth from across the sea, but here he lingers in the failing sunlight, shaggy with winter's approach, slowly picking his way through the sere undergrowth to examine me more closely. Not so cautious as a horse or a deer, and far more silent; before long the heat of his steaming breath fogs my face.
He breathes across me, and it smells of hay and moss and the lichens he's been gnawing from the tree bark. There are thistles and a brown maple leaf crumbled into his matted, luxuriant beard. He lowers that head over me, light glittering on the impossibly fine point of his horn as he sights along it like an archer and trains it on my eye.
"Silken-swift." I whisper the title into the scent of him, which is like that both of goat and of lion. "I am not worthy of your attention."
He tosses his head slightly, the horn returning unerringly to its killing angle. I might perhaps fence with him: Svanvítr's edge might be one of the few things in the world that could withstand the unworn spiral blade. I see more clearly the scars that decorate his hide, so thick along the crest of his neck--where another stallion might clench its teeth--that they show the pink of his skin.
"I stalk thee not," I whisper in my most soothing tone. The scars try my heart, and before I think of the risk of doing offense I am addressing him as a brother, a familiar. "Neither will I hunt thee. Go from here in safety, and under my protection."
Warm breath coils from his nostrils again, and he steps forward. I brace myself for a moment of pain and then nothingness as the horn enters my eye, but he tilts his face aside so that the tip of the horn brushes my skin, drawing a line of blood like the caress of a razor along my temple. His face presses mine, brow to brow at an angle, his tangled white-gold forelock falling into my eyes.
Blood trickles down the side of my face, staining his creamy muzzle. Unworthy? I think not, Wolfling. Pure as the will of the pack, thou art.
Thou dost speak? My shock gives way quickly to denial. Neither in body nor in soul am I pure, I argue, and I feel him laughing at me.
Pure in love, pure in intention, pure of heart. The other does not matter. Like thee and me, 'tis but a metaphor given flesh. But guard thyself, Wolfling. Thou shalt be tempted, and thou wilt be made to choose. Thy path is not clear before thee.
Choose? We're not for choosing, we einherjar. We're for doing the will of the Light.
Aye. He blows out another sweet breath. All things change, and always. Look to thy pack, Wolfling.
He dances back a step, then, and shakes out his tangled mane, wild as a bull elk again. Forever, and forever, and forever, he says, and whirling on his hind legs is gone among the ashes as if he never was.
Matthew tripped on the rubber sole of his own running shoe when he saw the unicorn. He recovered, drew up limping, favoring his stubbed toe, and regarded the mythical beast. It stood in the center of the jogging path, broadside, tail lashing like an irritated cat's and head turned to face him directly. No point in being coy with himself about it; there it was, horn like a twisted swordblade glittering steel-blue in the gloom, eyes flatly metallic as the darkening city sky.
The unicorn swung around, lining its body behind that deadly horn. Matthew felt it like a pressure on his skin, how easily the fine-honed point could pierce cloth and flesh and slide past bone. He wondered if he would feel anything at all.
The unicorn pawed the path, silver hoof grinding on concrete: an unholy sound. Matthew raised his hands reflexively, aware of the futility of his gesture even as he made it. Don't flinch. Don't show fear. Ridiculous to treat a unicorn like a wild animal, of course, but how else? Even if it was no bigger than a white-tail doe. Which wasn't big for a horselike creature, but more than big enough for something with a horn leveled at one's breast.
It snorted, slow coils of steam in the fragile crispness of autumn, and lowered its head. A mane tangled with crumbling willow leaves fell across its eyes; it was white enough to silhouette against the concrete, white enough that even in dusk it was hard to see except in outline.
"The Fae are sending assassins now?" Another jogger swept past him with a curious look and ran right through the body of the unicorn. The unicorn ignored him, rolling both steely eyes at Matthew. "A logical development." Pity I won't get a chance to warn Jane about it. Of course, my body might be enough to do the trick. He backed away slowly, one hand outstretched, the other feeling for his phone. At least Jane was on speed dial...
The unicorn tossed its mane again, lifted its horn in a gesture like a cat sheathing its claws, ears forward, hooves clattering on the walk. He held his breath and fumbled the zipper on his phone case, failed to get it unfastened before the animal was close enough to touch. The long narrow neck came up; he saw the line of its throttle clearly delineated under softly whorled white hair. Its breath smelled of apples and bruised roses, a sharper scent over the goatiness of its skin. The horn was steel, not just the color of steel, but down to the fine dark tracery of rust like dried blood inside the curve of its spiral, and Matthew dropped his hands and clenched his fingers against his rings to keep from stepping back.
The unicorn was eye to eye with him, only the length of its muzzle away. Its nose was silver, freckled in pink, its ears more deer than horse, and in addition to the snarled beard it had delicate, quivering whiskers like a mare's. Matthew held himself utterly still as it brushed them across his face, inquisitive. It's not a Fae thing, with a horn like that. A horn that didn't even brush his skin as the unicorn nudged him, gently first and then harder, its nose soft but the shove as hard as if he were straight-armed by a man twice his size. A blatant demand for attention, as unsubtle as a dog shoving its nose under its master's hand to be petted.
Matthew let his breath trickle between his teeth, realizing only then by the ache that he had been holding it in. "I suppose you would know, at that," he said quietly, and reached up to scratch behind its ear.
It didn't move away.
The flesh was warm and yielded softly over bone. The hair felt coarse and soft and a little bit gritty, as if there were sand caught in it. Warm, yes. Solid, and startlingly real to the touch where he had expected stuffed animal softness or perhaps for his hand to pass through it as had the other jogger. Instead, the unicorn whuffed like a horse, moaned a little, and leaned into his hand, white lashes closing over flat blue eyes.
I'm touching a unicorn, Matthew thought, remembering what Carel had asked him about sacrifices. Thinking perhaps a moment like this made everything worthwhile. He brought his other hand up, to stroke its neck, leaning closer to breath in its thick animal smell.
A siren cut the moment, and the unicorn startled and shuddered, jumped back, eyes wide now and black in the failing light. It stared at Matthew, snorted, shifting its weight back as if it meant to whirl and kick, or lunge forward as it had failed to do before. Footsteps behind him; another runner, he assumed, but didn't turn to check. "Don't go--"
As if his voice were the last straw, it broke, bolted off the path, and was gone. Matthew stood, blinking, wide-eyes, the smell of the unicorn on his gritty fingertips. He could have searched for it, stepped off the path and followed.
He finished his run and went home.
'Course, that's unfair of me, because neither of those are sold yet.
7. Tell me about a moment when you were perfectly happy.
Wow. Now that's a tough one. I remember once I was driving the old red 5-speed S10 on I-91 in Connecticut, in the rain, and I saw a sugar maple that was turning seventeen shades of crystalline vermilion, and there was some sort of vine wound through it--maybe poison ivy?--that had gone brilliant, blood red. And I exactly where I wanted to be exactly when I wanted to be, and I was as happy as I have ever been. That was October of 2002.
8. What was it about childhood that you liked and loathed the most?
I honestly can't remember anything I liked about childhood. Almost everything in my life is better now than it was then. I have more autonomy, more power, more choices, more knowledge.
The thing I loathed most was the teasing. I was not a popular child.
9. Hmmm. You co-founded commonwords, so I'm deeply curious to know what your true opinion is of the 'originality' and quality of media tie-ins, which (to me) are really fan fiction novels written by pro writers.
I've read a number of condescending comments recently by authors who don't think too highly of media tie-ins; they seem to view being a tie-in writer as one step above being a street whore, and with about the same level of craft and creativity required.
Personally, I believe that craft is craft, and the originality comes from what the writer is able to do with the resources she's given -- writing in a set universe doesn't preclude worldbuilding, or creating new characters, or writing a kick-ass plot. And building a novel from the ground up doesn't make that novel inherently better than a tie-in. There are Buffy and Angel novels that make me cringe, and a few Star Trek books that have rocked my world. As with anything else, quality is not dependent on the genre, but on the writing. (And to some extent, with media tie-ins -- it matters how well the writer understands the show. To me, the only distinction between tie-in novels and the fan fiction one gets for free on the net, aside from the fact the writer is paid, is that the free stuff is often ten times better. *g*)
So: media tie-ins -- should they be valued on a par with original fiction -- or not?
I think there are media tie ins that are every bit as good as most original genre fiction, and a good sight better than much of it. Diane Duane's My Enemy My Ally comes to mind, and Joan Vinge's novelization of Ladyhawke improves on a very good movie.
Is most of it that good?
But then, most original fiction isn't, either.
10. Does God dice with the Universe?
I actually think he plays Bocci ball. Or, to quote Spider Robinson, God is an iron.
11. Rhymed, blank, or free?
Yes. But sonnets uber alles.
12. If you could meet any one person, living or dead, who would it be?
Peter S. Beagle. Who, fortuitously, I got to meet last summer in San Diego. But I'd like to meet him again, when I'm not so overcome with emotion that I can't speak coherently.
13. What is one thing that happened to you when you were young that gave you or confirmed for you the kind of sense of humor you have today?
My Swedish grandfather. Who wasn't one thing, in particular, but who was the one major influence on what I think is funny. (And nobody else usually does.)
There's still 17 questions to go! Ask! Ask!