Photo of Carol Emshwiller by Susan Emshwiller

I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My dad was a professor, at first in the English Department, and then he founded the linguistic department. My mother was a housewife. She was the life of the family with a terrific sense of humor. Where she was, there was the action and the fun. I have three brothers. We adore each other. People keep calling me a feminist. Well sort of, I suppose, but I'm nuts about men!

I grew up mostly in Ann Arbor, but also in France. For a while it was back and forth every other year. I was eight years old in France, nine and ten here, then eleven in France, twelve back here... etc.

Part of the time in France I lived in a smallish chateau in a small town. The chateau had an indoor outhouse — a two holer, and a huge living room full of statues. They couldn't heat it, so they only used it in summer. While I lived there they closed off all but the kitchen, the small dining room, and a tiny play room for my brother and me.

In school I was hopelessly confused. I can't, even still, spell much of anything. I remember the exact word where I decided I couldn't learn and so gave up: address/adresse. Another was: syrup/sirop. (I had to look those up. I'm still not sure.) It was as if a curtain came down and I didn't bother anymore. I did managed to squeak through with Cs and a few Ds until my last year in college when I finally started to come out of my fog. I failed freshman English and had to take it over and almost failed again. At that time I hated anything to do with writing until I met science fiction people though my husband, Ed Emsh. (Freshman English had scared me off.) The science fiction writers talked about writing as if it could be learned. Through Ed I got to know (and love) the sf world and wanted to join it. I began to sell stories almost right away. Later on I took classes with Anatole Broyard and Kay Boyle, but I learned the most from the class with the poet Kenneth Koch. No wait, I learned the most from the Milford science fiction workshops. I attended the very first one and most of them from then on.

I went to the University of Michigan, first to music school and then to art school, where I met Ed. After we married, we went off to France for a year and studied at the Beaux Arts. In the summer we rode all around Europe on a motorcycle.

I didn't begin writing until I was over thirty and had had my first child. (I had three, so I had to struggle to get any writing time at all.)

Ed started out as an science fiction illustrator, but then went into abstract expressionist painting and experimental film making. We influenced each other. I went into more experimental writing and became part of what others called the new wave in science fiction.

My husband and I lived the avant-garde through the sixties. And I do mean lived it. We knew all the musicians, painters and poets, and of course all the movie makers. We were enmeshed. Embedded. Passionate about that sixties world and nothing else. Nam June Paik was one of my husbands good friends. Also the Nicolais dance company (my husband made movies with them). I suppose the fact that we were so passionate about it, is why I no longer have much interest in writing of that sort any more. I still like some of the music and art, but not the writing. Now I'm passionate about what I think of as postmodern. (I've read all sorts of conflicting definitions of postmodern, so I'm not sure I'm right about what I think it is.) I feel as passionate about what I'm doing now, as I did about the avant-garde back then. Much (not all) of that sixties work — by me and by others — seems just plain sloppy. I still get excited when I see new ways of writing being done, but now I only like the...what? more thoughtful? new forms, not the improvistional kind.

I live in New York City in the winter, where I taught at New York University Adult Education until I retired in 2003. I live in CA in the summer, the Sierras on one side and the Inyo White Mountains (where the oldest bristle cone pines are) on the other.

About my writing, a lot of people don't seem to understand how planned and plotted even the most experimental of my stories are. I'm not interested in stories where anything can happen at any time. I set up clues to foreshadow what will happen and what is foreshadowed does happen. I try to have all, or most of the elements in the stories, linked to each other. Ed, used to call it, referring to his experimental films, structuring strategies. He taught a film course he named that.

I write from the point of view of an unreliable narrator most of the time. For instance, some people who've reviewed The Mount say the Hoots are smarter than people. Hey! That's what they think! That was supposed to be an ironic comment about how every country thinks they're the smartest and the best so of course the Hoots do, too.

How I write is by linking and by structures, and by, I hope, not ever losing sight of the meaning of the story. My favorite writer is Kafka. He kept everything linked and together and full of meaning!

Special Addendum: I'm so embarrassed. Tachyon Publications keeps putting on my books that I got the Hugo award...which I didn't. I keep telling them not to and they keep doing it. My theory is: If one award isn't true then they're all suspect. Anybody who knows science fiction knows that the Hugo is the hard science award. It would be unlikely that I'd ever get it.