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I started out in engineering. I was a geophysical engineer. Throughout the course of my life I've done a lot of strange jobs, and the effect has been to make me think a little more skeptically about our capitalist society.
I think in our time, you know, so much of the information we get is pre-polarized. Fiction has a way of reminding us that we actually are very similar in our emotions and our neurology and our desires and our fears, so I think it's a nice way to neutralize that polarization.
If death is in the room, it's pretty interesting. But I would also say that I'm interested in getting myself to believe that it's going to happen to me. I'm interested in it, because if you're not, you're nuts. It's really de facto what we're here to find out about.
Chekhov - shall I be blunt? - is the greatest short story writer who ever lived.
You know, you can talk about race, you can talk about sex, you can talk about your biopsy. But when you get into class, people kind of clench up.
For me, the game would be to assume a very intelligent reader who can extrapolate a lot from a little. And that's become my definition of art; to get that pitch just right, where I can put a hint on page three, and the reader's ears go up a bit, as opposed to dropping it all on the first page.
Back in 1992, I had my first story accepted by 'The New Yorker.'
Whatever your supposed politics are - left, right - if you put it in a human connection, most people will rise to the occasion and feel the human pain in a way that they might not if it was presented in a more conceptual way.
Stories, as much as we like to talk about them, retrospectively, as emanations of theme or worldview or intention, occur primarily as technical objects when they're being written. Or at least they do for me. They're the result of thousands of decisions made at speed during revision.
I often think about image, and image is something that - but in truth, the real artistic process, as I've understood it, is 95 percent intuitive, like seat-of-the-pants, at-the-moment decisions that you can't even explain, you know?
I was a straight arrow, a control freak. I didn't do drugs or drink, and this was the '70s. I didn't like the loss of control. Which isn't exactly right, because I didn't know what happened when you did drugs.
If you think of a work of fiction as a kind of scale model of the world, then the positive valences - where things turn out better than you thought they would - ought to be in there somewhere, too.
There's a really nice moment in the life of a piece of writing where the writer starts to get a feeling of it outgrowing him - or he starts to see it having a life of its own that doesn't have anything to do with his ego or his desire to 'be a good writer.'
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Robert A. Heinlein
H. L. Mencken
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