Interview with Jo Graham, Melissa Scott, and Martha Wells

TWC Editor

[0.1] Keywords—Fan fiction; Original fiction; Tie-in novels

TWC Editor. 2010. Interview with Jo Graham, Melissa Scott, and Martha Wells. Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 5. doi:10.3983/twc.2010.0239.

1. Introduction

[1.1] Jo Graham, Melissa Scott, and Martha Wells are professional authors of original fiction as well as media tie-in novels, but they have also written fan fiction.

[1.2] Jo Graham ( describes her novels as historical fantasies—revisiting mythological narratives and imagining the surrounding stories in detail. Her first novel, Black Ships (Orbit, 2008), which was a Locus Award finalist, creates characters and narratives against the backdrop of the Aeneid; her second novel Hand of Isis (Orbit, 2009) uses ancient Egypt as its narrative setting. Her most recent, Stealing Fire (Orbit, 2010), takes place during Alexander the Great's campaigns, featuring a male protagonist for the first time. Graham also has two Stargate: Atlantis (SGA) tie-in novels forthcoming: Death Game (Fandemonium, 2010) and Homecoming (Fandemonium, 2010), the latter cowritten with Melissa Scott.

[1.3] Melissa Scott's ( work spans nearly three decades and over 20 novels. Her tie-in novels include the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel Proud Helios (Pocket Books, 1995), the Star Trek: Voyager novel The Garden (Pocket Books, 1997), and the SGA novel Homecoming (Fandemonium, 2010), cowritten with Jo Graham. Her original fiction career began in 1984, and she won the science fiction and fantasy John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1986. Her work always includes issues of gender and sexuality, and she has won the Lambda Literary Award for several of her works, including Shadow Man (Tor, 1995), Trouble and Her Friends (Tor, 1993), and Point of Dreams (Tor, 2001). The Armor of Light (Baen, 1988), Point of Hopes (Tor, 1995), and Point of Dreams were cowritten with Lisa A. Barnett.

[1.4] Martha Wells ( is the author of two SGA tie-in novels, Reliquary (Fandemonium, 2006) and Entanglement (Fandemonium, 2007). She has published short stories, nonfiction, and seven fantasy novels, including The Element of Fire (Tor, 1993). It introduces the world of Ile-Rien, which she revisits in the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer (Eos, 1998) and the Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy (Eos, 2003–5). Her novels have been translated into eight languages.

[1.5] Going into the interview, we were most interested in the way these forms of writing differed from one another; what the specific creative, imaginative, and personal advantages and disadvantages were of each of these three genres; and how writing would affect the relationship to readers and fandom at large. During the course of the conversations, when it became clear that the questions held certain biases, the questions turned more toward professional writing and publishing in general.

[1.6] The initial interview questions were written by Kristina Busse with the help of Karen Hellekson, Alexis Lothian, and Louisa Stein. Much of the interview comprised e-mail exchanges among Kristina Busse and the three writers to be interviewed, and the questions changed in response to their conversations. The following is an edited version that collects discussions spanning several e-mail threads.

2. Writing and publication

[2.1] Q: What do you find most rewarding about writing? How does the fan fic production experience differ creatively from the professional production experience (revising, editing, releasing into print)? Do publishers and market demands influence your pro and tie-in writing?

[2.2] MW: I enjoyed writing fan fic, but I find original SF/F more rewarding because I feel less creative constraint. I love creating my own worlds and my own characters, and not being bound by any prior assumptions on the part of the reader. In contrast, the enjoyment I get out of fan fic is from writing TV or movie characters and worlds that I have fallen in love with, and trying to duplicate in prose what I see on the screen as closely as possible, then using that framework to build new stories around.

[2.3] I find fan fic much faster to write than original fiction, since so much of the world building is already done, and I already know so much about the characters and their backstory. I tend to write original fiction more slowly. But I like the revising and editing process in original fiction because I like the feedback and feel it pushes me to produce better work.

[2.4] I feel I have a lot more creative freedom in original fiction, but it is much harder to get the original fiction to your audience. In fan fic, romantic stories that lead to true love/permanent relationships are very popular, and while I like reading those, I don't feel much inclined to write them. I'd rather write adventure or mystery stories, with or without casual sex. I also tend to be drawn to characters that I can interpret as bisexual, and I seem to end up with stories that don't really fit the fan fic labels, which is frustrating for me. The fact that my pro novels aren't labeled as anything but the very general "fantasy" or "young adult" makes me feel less constricted.

[2.5] JG: When you write original fiction, you can write anything. There are absolutely no artistic parameters or thematic and stylistic guidelines. You can say anything about anything. There are no boundaries at all. The publisher is not even a consideration. You write. Whatever you want. And then, possibly, you find a publisher who is a good fit. But what a particular publisher may want, what a particular editor's stylistic preferences are, is completely irrelevant. You have no idea where this will sell or if it will sell. You are completely and absolutely free.

[2.6] A tie-in is different in that you are under contract from an early point. It's more like writing a fan fic story for a ficathon. You have the constraint of the prompt, or of the request of the person you're writing for. If they ask for a Ronon/John sweet love story, you're not going to give them a John/Rodney angst fest. A tie-in is constrained like a ficathon story, but original fiction has no constraints whatsoever outside your imagination.

[2.7] Most fiction works are shopped around to 5, 10, even 20 or 30 different houses before they are sold. Each house, and sometimes each editor within a house, has different expectations in terms of style, content, length, and so on. Additionally, each house and each editor has different preferences in terms of tone and theme. It would be absolutely impossible to come up with a style guide or a formula that would in any way be standard or universal. What one does is write what one wants to—and then one's agent shops it around to find a good fit, to find the editor who is seeking the thing you've written.

[2.8] Now, if you're writing something already under contract to a specific editor at a specific house, then you already know what they want. You are filling an order—or to put it better, writing something already agreed upon—which is the case with a tie-in. With Homecoming, Melissa and I knew that it had to be 90,000 to 110,000 words, it had to feature certain characters, and it had to revolve around a particular event. We were under contract for it before it was written.

[2.9] MS: Regarding books written under contract: my experience at Tor was that they liked what I was doing well enough to ask for an option on the next project, and they were also willing to offer multibook deals. So the first book that I would be writing would have a fairly detailed proposal, and the next two would have somewhat less detailed summaries. There was no particular constraint on what I proposed to them—in fact, most of the time, the three books in a deal were wildly different. For example, Trouble and Her Friends and Shadow Man were part of the same three-book deal. Trouble was pretty much as I proposed it; by the time I got around to writing Shadow Man, a year later, the story in my head had changed dramatically. I told my editor this, and he liked the new idea even better, so the contract stayed in effect. He could quite easily have said no, and I would have had either to write the book as proposed, or offer a third project in place of it. On the other hand, three years later, he rejected a sequel to Shadow Man, and I gave him The Jazz (Tor, 2001) instead. So at some publishers, there's quite a lot of freedom even after the contract is signed. I've also heard stories from people back in the 1980s who had books refused at delivery for minor deviations from the original outline. Of course, another reason that this worked for me was that this is what Tor expected of me: one-off novels, set in unrelated worlds.

[2.10] Another thing that's worth pointing out is that publishers—and editors—vary enormously. Even publishers of tie-in novels work very differently from each other—a difference set partly by the publisher and partly by the studio that owns the material. I was recruited to do the Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (DS9) novel because at that point in Pocket's management of the Trek tie-ins, sales had dropped (as had perceived quality), and the Pocket editors decided that what they needed was established SF writers to bring the SF back to the franchise. Paramount (if I remember correctly) thought this was a great idea, but emphatically didn't want anyone involved who was "tainted" with fan fic. I fit the bill, I liked DS9 (though I wasn't passionate about it, which was—I think rightly—seen as an advantage for what they wanted), and I sold the editor (a fanboy himself) something he'd sworn he'd never buy: a pirate story. I wrote the Star Trek: Voyager tie-in novel before the show had aired, on the basis of three scripts, and would never, ever do that again. The scripts were only so-so, and I hated the actors' interpretations. [The UK-based publisher] Fandemonium, on the other hand, has gone out of its way to recruit fan writers. I got this gig because Jo and Amy got me hooked on the series and had already invited me to play in a fannish version of a sixth season when Jo got the idea of proposing Legacy to Fandemonium.

[2.11] The restrictions on the two series are very different. In both the DS9 and Voyager tie-ins, nothing substantial could change, which meant that there was very little room for exploring the show's characters. This is what I meant when I said it was an advantage not to be passionate about the show: I wasn't particularly frustrated at being held to strict canon, to being expected to reproduce exactly the kinds of interactions you saw on screen. The two things that I was passionately interested in—the Cardassians and the mirror universe—were things Paramount wanted to keep for the show itself. (I had actually gotten a mirror universe novel accepted by Pocket, but Paramount rejected it because the show was doing more episodes there.)

[2.12] With Stargate: Atlantis, I am passionate about the show. I'd be intensely frustrated trying to write a Paramount-style tie-in. Fortunately, what Fandemonium wants is something more open-ended, something that explores some of the things that the show didn't have time for. Among other things, they're letting us fill in the blanks around the Wraith, who fascinate me, and they are letting us move the characters forward. This is a virtual sixth season, and we don't have to reset to zero at the end of each book. There are restrictions: no hot sex, queer or straight; no more violence than you could see on the original show—Jo's spoken about the need to keep this at a PG rating. But we are being allowed to go a little deeper into the characters.

[2.13] JG: I began Fortune's Wheel, my current novel out for sale, in 1992. I've worked on it intermittently for 18 years, working to no one's specifications except my own. My agent believes it's at a point where it could be sold. So she is seeking a fit for it: a specific editor and house that will fall in love with an already completed book that has been in the works for 18 years.

[2.14] MS: There is a kind of double vision involved, I think, in creative writing. One does conceive a story, and I, at least, write large chunks of the draft long before I'm seriously thinking about market or editor. I do think about genre—is this really SF? mainstream?—but that's as much about choosing one's tools as choosing one's market. It's only at a later stage, when the story is solidly formed, that I start thinking about where it might sell. Part of the job of writing is not to edit oneself too early, not to try to outthink the market and the editors.

[2.15] Beyond that, however, I think most professional writers work from the conviction that a book that is good enough will sell, and I think most of us start with the assumption that the latest project—the latest darling, shiny and new and brilliant—is going to be good enough.

[2.16] I think that maybe my own preference for reworking a text rather than accepting it as given is just the way I think about writing in general. I mean, the earliest thing I know I wrote was when I was 6, and was about the lions from Born Free, only I'd changed the names and gotten my uncle to tell me about his time in Kenya and so the lions had to deal with green mambas.

[2.17] MW: I've always written what I wanted to write. I don't think the publishers have much influence at all over the kind of books I write, except for their ability to choose not to publish them. I've never discussed with an editor the kind of book I was going to do next, for example. If I paid more attention to market demands, I would probably have sold more books by now.

[2.18] Some writers (at a much higher level than me) will talk to their editors or agents about what sort of book to write next, like switching from epic fantasy to urban fantasy, or whether to start a new series, or do more in a current series, but that's about it. An editor who wants to micromanage a writer and change the story, characters, and so on is a very bad editor and would have a terrible reputation.

3. Transformation and constraint

[3.1] Q: How do you see your tie-in and fan works as related to the source text? Are you filling in gaps? Are you interested in characters or backstory? In what ways do you transform the source text? What are the different liberties and constraints when it comes to tie-ins and fan fiction? Can you talk about the artistic parameters and thematic and stylistic guidelines by publishers and, in the case of tie-ins, by the producers? How much autonomy do you have over plot, world building, and characters?

[3.2] MW: I felt like the tie-ins needed to stay as close to canon as possible, that I had to get all the details as right as possible. I wanted to do stories that could fit seamlessly in with the show, be a continuation of it, because that's what I think tie-in readers are usually looking for. When I was writing fan fic, I also generally liked to stick with canon, but I also felt free to do alternate universe (AU) stories and change things around. When I did fan fic, I did everything, from short character vignettes to long action-adventure stories to AUs.

[3.3] I had fairly complete autonomy with the tie-ins, or I wouldn't have written them. A friend (a writer who also writes fan fic and professional SF/F/horror novels) had already written a tie-in set in this world and told me that her experience was extremely positive and she wasn't given any constraints or restrictions, which was one of the reasons I decided to do it. Also, the temptation to do something that was a lot of fun (writing about TV characters I loved) and get paid for it was too good to pass up.

[3.4] I wasn't given any kind of guidelines at all—artistic, thematic, or stylistic. The only constraint I was given was to not kill off any canon characters, or at least not to kill them off permanently. I didn't receive any extra information from the producers at all, and I based my books on the episodes as they aired on TV.

[3.5] I first started writing fan fic in the 1980s, and I felt free to do pretty much anything I wanted. The other writers in the fanzines I read were all over the map and did all kinds of different stories, from plots and characterization that stuck very close to canon to stories that took the universe off into wild, strange tangents. In the last few years I was writing fan fic, I felt far more constrained, especially when it came to the way I wanted to write the characters as bisexual, and the way fan fic is now labeled and organized by pairing. I didn't feel these constraints with my original fiction, and felt a lot more free creatively.

[3.6] JG: I go in saying, "Here is a story I want to tell." But I've heard people say, "I want to sell a book, and I've heard that my best chance of selling a book is to write a genre mystery of 60,000 to 80,000 words aimed at a young adult audience and containing a supernatural element." But those are self-imposed constraints. And it may very well be that by the time the book is complete the book written for the market may no longer be hot! Vampires are in this year. Next year they'll be over, and it will be something else.

[3.7] This is why my agent and many much more experienced authors I've talked to caution against writing for the market. My agent, who handles a lot of romances, says that one year it's all French Revolution and the next year it's all pirates and the year after that it's all Scotland. There is no point in chasing the market.

[3.8] My interest is in interacting with the canon. When I write fan fic, it's because I love the show or movie or book. I want more. I want to look around the corners. I want to see what happened off screen. I want to see what happens next. I want to play with this wonderful thing I've discovered. For many years I wrote fan fic that I only showed to a few close friends, and my pleasure in that was no less than when I started posting on LiveJournal. After five years on LJ, I discovered that my pleasure in it was much decreased. I was writing with one eye on the wank-o-meter, worrying about who would dog pile my story or if someone would be offended by something. I was no longer playing freely or enjoying interacting with the text because I was so disturbed by the Internet bullies of fandom. And so I cut back. I only post finished and polished pieces on my unlocked main journal, pieces I consider ready for publication as short stories, pieces that do nothing controversial or difficult—in short, stories that are exactly what I would sell to a genre magazine. There is no difference at all between some recent pieces of gen Stargate: Atlantis fan fic on my main journal and the gen SGA story I had published in Stargate magazine—except that I was paid for the latter. The process and the editing are exactly the same.

[3.9] Is writing fan fiction different from writing a tie-in? Yes and no. The risks I can take are. In a tie-in, I am much more constrained in terms of writing sex. But I am much less constrained in terms of writing politics. I can say things to the broader society about the issues of the day, about war and peace, about race and sex, that I could never say in fandom without starting firestorms of wank. It's no longer possible to discuss those things in fandom without tons of abusive comments, whatever one's position, because the issues are too controversial and the Internet bullies on all sides are too abusive. We are going places on those issues in the tie-ins that I certainly would not dare go in fan fics!

[3.10] MS: I feel I'm very invested in canon when I write fan fic or tie-ins. And I think it's because unless I'm really attached to a particular source, I'm going to take the parts that are interesting, file off the serial numbers, and turn them into original fiction. I wonder how much that has to do with having been published first, before I got involved in fan fic? I'd rather do my own worlds 90 percent of the time. It's a rare show that has both an original enough premise and distinctive characters that I love that I don't want to change something anyway.

[3.11] In a way, though, too strong an investment in the series can be a drawback. Paramount—well, the Star Trek franchise in particular—has always been very concerned about keeping control of their property. They're terrified that a writer who's not completely under their control might do something with their series. So what they want is competent, professional engagement—writers who are interested in the one-off story, often with a central gimmick. Not passion.

[3.12] MW: I didn't write my tie-ins any differently than I wrote my fan fic; they were the same characters and my emotional engagement toward them was the same. If I didn't have a strong emotional attachment to the characters, I wouldn't have wanted to write the tie-ins or the fan fics.

[3.13] My emotional engagement with my original worlds and characters is absolute. But since I own them, I'm not worried at all about what other people do with them or change the characterization when they write them in fan fic. Actually, seeing people write fan fic for my original novels is one of the neatest things that's ever happened in my career.

4. Audience, fandom, and feedback

[4.1] Q: How much influence does your readership and their desires have on your pro and fan writing? Do you like engaging with your audiences? Do you think that your relationship with readers of your fan fic differs from your relationship with readers of your pro fic? Does writing tie-ins change your engagement with other fans in that fandom?

[4.2] MW: I do like engaging with my audiences, especially in person. I have a lot of fun talking to people at SF/F conventions, and I like doing readings and answering questions about my books. It helps to know there are people out there who do enjoy my novels, and it's just fun to talk about books and TV shows, and to feel that shared enthusiasm. I also really enjoy getting e-mails from readers.

[4.3] I also loved getting feedback about my fan fic. I did have instances of being contacted by people in my fan fic audience who got frustrated and angry when I didn't write what they wanted me to write, the way they wanted me to write it. I've never had this happen with my pro novel audience.

[4.4] My readership, in general, doesn't really affect my writing. I feel a close tie with my friends who read my fan fic and wanted to talk about it and come up with ideas for stories, but I also feel a close tie with my friends who read my fantasy novels and want to talk about them, speculate on what could happen next, and so on. Those groups of friends aren't mutually exclusive, either.

[4.5] In the last few years I was active in media fandom, I had a few bad experiences that have made me extremely reluctant to continue to admit to fan fic fans that I also write original fantasy novels and tie-ins. In the 1990s, after I sold my first professional novel, many of the people I knew in various fandoms I was involved in—fanzine editors, people on the mailing lists I was on or who I met at MediaWest*Con, the other fan fic writers I worked with on archive Web sites—knew about my pro career. I never really had any problems because of it, so I was unprepared when it did finally happen. I'm not sure if it was writing the tie-ins that changed my engagement, but it has changed substantially.

[4.6] My pro audience is my audience because they like my prose style and the characters and worlds I create—things that are more unique to me, so I feel like there's a higher level of engagement there. There were people I heard from in my fan fic audience who liked my characterization or things about my writing in particular, or who read my stories in fandoms they weren't familiar with just because I'd written them.

[4.7] I'd say the one physical constraint is length. Fan fic can be any length (especially now when it's going online and you don't have to worry about page count), but short story markets have length limits—7,000 words, 10,000 words, and so on. Book publishers are a lot more strict now on length limits than they used to be. Talking about constraints in professional publishing is a sore spot because pro writers in media fandom often face the assumption that our editors are practically puppet masters completely controlling us, and people often don't believe us when we explain how it really works. If I've heard "I would never be a pro writer because I won't be told what to write!" once, I've heard it a fricking thousand times.

[4.8] JG: This is directly related to reader distance. The vast majority of readers of a novel would never dream of getting all their friends to write rude letters to an author whose book they disliked! And yet this happens in fandom all the time. People feel that they have the right somehow to attack anything they don't like, rather than just simply turn the page. No one goes through the bookstore picking out every book they dislike and writing a letter of protest to the publisher. In the bookstore, if they don't like horror or don't like whatever, they just pass it by.

[4.9] Certainly reader feedback can be a positive thing, and the vast majority of feedback I've gotten is positive, but my ability to try new things, to experiment, to take risks, is definitely stifled in fan fic that is posted openly.

[4.10] The good thing about the tie-in is the much broader audience. Internet fandom, and especially LiveJournal/Dreamwidth fandom, for all that it likes to think it's diverse, isn't so much. It tends to be highly educated women, and disproportionately American women from the Northeast and California. Its culture is very specific and out of touch with the majority of fans of the show, especially for something like Stargate: Atlantis. How many people in LJ SGA fandom are men who are active-duty military? How many are over 50? How many consider themselves Christian, or are from rural areas? If I want to talk to a broad audience, to talk to a truly mixed audience in terms of gender, race, age, and region, a tie-in will reach a far more diverse group of people than fan fic will. Fan fic skews to female, liberal, and young.

[4.11] A published novel, original or tie-in, has a far longer shelf life as well. A fic may be read for a few years. A novel remains in libraries for generations. It continues to have impact decades later. This is not to say that I think fic is bad, or that I don't continue to write fic. But it is very, very limited compared to original novels, or even compared to tie-ins. A fic may reach a few thousand people for a few months. A novel will reach hundreds of thousands of people over several generations. There is absolutely no comparison in terms of return for your time put into it.

[4.12] What you can do in a tie-in depends. In Star Wars: New Jedi Order, they did kill major characters. SGA Legacy is like New Jedi Order in that it's a postquel, with no reset to zero. So canon relationships will break up and new relationships will be established. Characters will change. Injuries are real and not resolved between now and next week. Our parameters are not as open as New Jedi Order but not as tight as Melissa's Star Trek ones. No major character death. No major character slash on screen. Sex and violence must stay within the PG rating of the show, within the parameters of what you could show on a family show—which is not necessarily the content, but the explicit scenes.

[4.13] For example, so far we are getting by with references to the war in Afghanistan that imply a level of violence that you couldn't show at a PG rating, but as they did on the show, I wrote a "reaction shot" rather than descriptions of gore. There is a scene that strongly implies sub/dom sex, but it's all implication. As Sally said on her edit, "It's the hottest thing I've ever read at a PG rating." That's about skill. And that's something I'm learning from the tie-ins. In fan fic or my original fiction, I'd go straight to the NC-17 rating. But learning how to do it without actually showing it is a challenge. It's really stretching me.

[4.14] In terms of what one can assume—you can assume a basic familiarity with the canon, but not that the reader will remember every specific incident. In other words, they all know who Rodney McKay is. They all may not remember that he was unable to fix the DHD in "Phantoms" because he didn't have any spare control crystals with him. And so John says, "Hey Rodney, this is like that time when…"

[4.15] Some readers will remember everything (and others will look it up), so you have to be completely familiar with the show. And you don't have to do a lot of physical description of the basic characters and sets, or do much more than refer to the show's basic premises.

[4.16] Here's where I see a lot of fan fic writers having problems when they make the transition to original work. (I teach a couple of creative writing workshops in my copious free time.) They don't know how to create the engagement that already exists when you're working from someone else's universe. They spend far too much time inside the characters' heads without giving me a reason to be interested in them first. It's all interior life—often very well done—but no story. No reason to care.

5. Canon, fanon, and communal conversations

[5.1] Q: One thing I've found most interesting in interviewing the three of you is how much you skew on the canon side of what I might want to call a canon/community spectrum, where on the one extreme are missing scenes and on the other AUs and crack fic that are often more about participating within a specific community than writing back to the source text. Could you say a bit more about that, and do you think that this is connected to your desire and ability for tie-in writing?

[5.2] JG: To me, fan fic is absolutely not part of a communal conversation. I'm not in fandom for community. I'm not particularly interested in taking part in community activities, and I frankly read very little fan fic. It's like a musical coffeehouse. I don't come to the coffeehouse to hang out with my friends. I come to the coffeehouse to perform. I play the musical instrument because I love to play, and I love to play for an audience. I would play if the house were empty.

[5.3] I write because I love the canon. I want to interact with the text. If other people enjoy hearing me interact with the text, they're welcome to listen, but they're not the reason for me being here, and their critiques frankly don't have much impact. I don't generally post widely or to large communities or notice boards because I don't care. My pleasure is in interacting with the source material.

[5.4] As you suggest, close ties do create expectations and demands. You start writing as part of the communal conversation. All fics start collapsing toward fanon. It stops being original. It stops being real. Things turn into endless self-referential inside jokes.

[5.5] I realize a lot of people are in fandom for the community. But not all. I often find the community in a fandom a real turnoff. I don't want Internet wank with strangers! I don't want silly crack fic about penguins! I want to write something that's captured my imagination. The close ties and cliques are a big drawback, not a plus.

6. Literary criticism and creative writing

[6.1] Q: Can you say a bit more about how you actually think about writing? What might be some of the differences between literary analysis and creative writing that come to bear on this conversation?

[6.2] MS: It also occurred to me, reading the various e-mails [that make up this conversation], that it's hard to talk about the creative process using the language of criticism—it's almost literally a linguistic issue, I think. I mean, I can point to the tropes I used in any particular novel, and I can talk to you about how they function and why I chose them, but that doesn't really tell you anything about the process of creating the story. And I'm a pretty conscious and technical writer. I can, for example, talk at length about the ways in which Trouble and Her Friends is a response to Bruce Sterling and the cyberpunks, and the ways that I deliberately subverted a number of cyberpunk tropes about bodies and minorities; I can also talk about Trouble as a parallel to the revisionist Western.

[6.3] All those things are true, and I knew I was doing them when I wrote them. But that language misses the—I think equally important—artistic play that went into making the book: the Westerns that I love and the ones that I hate; the trips to the West, to the frontier, that played into my images of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's virtual frontier; developing the sensuality of description to characterize what it's like seeing the Net through the brain worm's mediation. It leaves out the guy from ACT UP who slept on our porch one night, the way Butch van Liesveldt does in the novel. It leaves out that part of the inspiration was a challenge from my partner to write a buddy story with women. It's that messy process that critical language doesn't handle well.

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