quinta-feira, 1 de maio de 2008

Facing taboo: Interview with Norman Spinrad

His stories are always surprising.

In the 60’s, his alternate history piece, THE IRON DREAM, built a world within a world, where Adolf Hitler was just a science fiction writer who spread his ideology through a Conan-like novel. So Spinrad writes two stories: his and... Hitler’s.

If nothing seems more provocative than that, he always struck one or other sensibilities writing sexy, hot SF pieces, one of the best Star Trek episode of all times and embracing the future, trying the internet as a way of share his writings.

Now starting in the so called mainstream literary market with two historical novels, Norman Spinrad seems to have a lot to write yet.


IVO HEINZ & OCTAVIO ARAGÃO – When you wrote THE IRON DREAM, back in the 60's, the Alternate History subgenre were nearly nonexistent. How do you see the suddenly explosion of this kind of narrative, that even seduced mainstream authors such as Philip Roth (THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA)?

NORMAN SPINRAD – It was Harry Turtledove with a long series of alternate history novels that made the "subgenre," but even Winston Churchill wrote such a story, and there were others. There's a long history of such stuff in the US, much of it about the South winning the Civil War, but one shouldn't forget the best such novel ever written, Philip K. Dick's THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.

CARLOS ORSI MARTINHO & IVO HEINZ – In THE IRON DREAM, the posface gives the book its real meaning – denouncing Hitler´s fantasy as something monstruous (and the sf fandom, too). Did you have problems with people who didn't get the posface? Or with sf fans who got it to well? If so, how did you defended yourself?

NS – In the US, THE IRON DREAM was short-listed for the (mainstream) National Book Award, in France it won the Prix Apollo, and it has been published in over a dozen countries, including Brazil, and also including all the Axis powers, Argentina, the Czech Republic, etc. Very, very few readers anywhere mistook the meaning of the afterward or the whole novel. Even in Germany, where it was banned for seven years, the attitude of the censors was "we understand this novel, but people stupider that we are might not." But I saw nothing even there from such "stupid" people.

The American Nazi Party didn't like the afterward because they felt it detracted from the "happy ending" of Hitler's novel LORD OF THE SWASTIKA.

ANA CRISTINA RODRIGUES – Your recent novels, MEXICA and DRUID KING, are historical novels in a "traditional" way (yes, since some people may consider THE IRON DREAM as a Sword & Sorcery Fantasy). Why this turnover? Any relation with the popularization of this kind of theme, with lots of celtic related
novels and upcoming movies about the holocaust of Native Americans?

NS – Both DRUID KING and MEXICA are "first contact" novels, the same sort of story as with SF first contact novels, except in those cases it really happened. So since I've never cared about "genre" definitions, I find
these novels literarily close to much sf.

In the case of MEXICA, it started a long time ago, right after I finished THE IRON DREAM. I asked myself, was there another instance of such a mass national psychosis, just out of curiosity, and what I found was the Aztecs. I thought of writing a stage play but never did. Decades later, I was in Mexico being interviewed and asked the usual question about what I would write next. And off the top of my head, I said "Maybe a novel about the conquest of Mexico by Cortes." The next day it was in many newspapers and I began to take it seriously.

CARLOS ORSI MARTINHO – If you would write nowadays AGENT OF CHAOS – a political SF novel where freedom, religion and democracy doesn’t exactly fit in the same sentence –, what would be different in the social setting?

NS – Not much. Not much at all.

OCTAVIO ARAGÃO – Alongside Philip José Farmer, Robert Heinlein and Robert Silverberg, you was one of the first SF authors who had no fear to write sexually hot stories inside a SF scenario. Did contemporary SF finally crossed the barriers of adolescence and entered the adult world?

NS – After BUG JACK BARRON, all those taboos went away. It's just recently been reissued, and I would imagine that someone reading it for the first time now would wonder what the controversy, at least over the sex and
language, was really all about.

ANA CRISTINA RODRIGUES & IVO HEINZ – You wrote one of my favorite "Star Trek" episodes, "The Doomsday Machine". What are your thoughts on the ST franchise? Do you watch science fiction on television? What do you think of the uses of the genre by that medium (and vice versa)?

NS – When Gene Roddenberry was in creative charge, ST was serious science fiction and working with him directly on "Doomsday Machine" was a positive experience. When he lost or surrendered creative control, it pretty much went downhill until maybe BABYLON 5 where Joe Strazinsky wrote whole seasons.

I watch sf on tv, can't help myself, but most of it is commercial crap. Same with most of the films, with some good exceptions--BLADE RUNNER, maybe MINORITY REPORT, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, some others.

ANA CRISTINA RODRIGUES & OCTAVIO ARAGÃO – In your website there is a shareware version of "He walked among us". Since some say the SF market is struggling year after year in the USA, could this be the future of Science Fiction in literary form?

NS – Yes and no. I don't have a complete count, but I would say there are thousands of copies of HE WALKED AMONG US proliferating on the Web and by email, but very few people are paying voluntarily.

When there is a really good ebook reader that is not tied to any one format or website, that will replace the mass market paperback book. The technology exists, but at present, the different ebooks devices are tied to proprietary formats, and none of them is the "universal" ebook reader. A matter of corporate greed. When and if the universal ebook arrives, that will change everything.

OA – Thank you very much, Mr Spinrad!

2 comentários:

Ana Cristina Rodrigues disse...

Não sei, mas toda a vez que leio essa entrevista tenha a sensação de que ela podia ser muito melhor.

Octavio disse...

Engraçado, eu tenho essa sensação toda vez que leio a maioria das entrevistas na internet.


Mas espero que - como primeira e até agora - única entrevista do homem para nós, valha de alguma coisa.