Interview: James Alan Gardner

From our sister site,, comes an appealing interview with James Alan Gardner. It covers writing his Nebula nominated novelette “The Ray-Gun: A Love Story,” applied mathematics, publishing hurdles and interstellar travel

James Alan GardnerFirst off, what’s the appeal of science fiction for you?

Science fiction seems to be the only genre interested in large-scale events. I don’t just mean intergalactic wars and blowing up suns (although that stuff can be fun); I mean anything that leads to substantial changes in the world.

Consider, for example, how conventional literature would treat Einstein. It might talk about his home life or his relationships with other scientists; it might try to analyze what made him so brilliant; it might examine the psychological consequences of being idolized as the smartest man on Earth. What conventional literature *can’t* do is say, “This guy changed the world! This guy significantly altered how we look at ourselves and the universe.” Other genres of literature ignore everything but the personal.

Science fiction can and does do the personal—not always with nuance—but it also has bigger fish to fry. Its perennial message is, “The world of today is fleeting; it wasn’t here yesterday and won’t be here tomorrow.” Science fiction says the world can and will be changed by individuals, by societies, and by impersonal forces. That’s an enormously important message that other genres barely seem to notice, let alone address.