My Interview with The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction About “Teardrop”
- Tell us a bit about "Teardrop."
“Teardrop” is about love versus duty. Personal responsibility to respect a native culture versus official responsibility to carry out the imperatives of an organization.
What I love about science fiction is that SF, of all the genres including mainstream, is the literature of ideas. Science fiction entertains but also speculates, comments, inquires, challenges.
“Teardrop” is told from two points-of-view, that of NanaNini, a native of Bakdoor, and John W. Dixon, an Executive Director sent by the Network to “cultivate” her planet.
But Dixon has fallen in love with NanaNini. He’s encountered “the Sparkle,” a mysterious intelligence that shapes Bakdoor’s culture. He’s had a change of heart and of mind.
When a trio of Networkers arrive, planning to relieve him of his post, Dixon has plans of his own for them.
- What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?
I love it when people ask this. Writers always have a flippant answer. “I got my inspiration in a brown paper bag.” Or, “At the bottom of a wine bottle.”
As for “Teardrop,” I was working in my office one day and listening to an oldies’ radio station. The station played what would become classic surfer tunes, “Teardrop” and “Sleepwalk.”
The strange, whiny sounds struck me as alien. An alien mother singing to her baby. Go figure science fiction writers.
In fact, those tunes were not played by Hawaiian surfers with bronzed biceps but by Santo and Johnny Farina, two Brooklyn brothers born in the 1930s and early 1940s. Santo bought a Fender and jerry-rigged the guitar to have three necks and eight strings so that it sounded like a manic steel guitar. Johnny accompanied him on a standard electric guitar.
The Farina brothers became so popular at local proms that the tunes were recorded in 1959. I can just imagine teenagers in New Jersey on the cusp of the nineteen-sixties slow-dancing in the school auditorium.
But to me, Teardrop sounds like an ocean beach with the surf pounding on the sand.
- Was "Teardrop" personal to you in any way? If so, how?
Yes. In a previous lifetime (so to speak), I was employed as a young lawyer in a one-hundred-male attorney, ten-female attorney law firm. It was a huge honor and an opportunity for a woman and I took my duties very seriously.
One day, a senior partner summoned me to his office and ordered me to cover up evidence in an ugly and contentious class-action lawsuit involving powerful interests.
I sort of feared for my life if I did what he asked. I also feared for the rest of my life if I didn’t get out of that game.
I submitted my resignation. No contest. And then went into law book publishing while I worked on my fiction career.
So John Dixon’s dilemma in “Teardrop” is pretty real to me.
- What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?
After listening to “Teardrop” and “Sleepwalk,” I wanted to write a surfer story.
But this had to be set on an alien world. When you think about the Earth, we’re set upon a planet with two “atmospheres”: air (and land) and water. We human beings can’t breathe water, but we breathe air.
I did some research into planets’ ecosystems and Jupiter leapt immediately into view.
As for the surfing angle, I discovered the wonderful Surf’inary published by Ten Speed Press. I collect slang dictionaries. The Surf’inary was a real find and delight.
- This is your first story for us since 1992; what have you been up to for the past twenty-three years?
Ooh, that’s a long time, isn’t it? The good news is I’ve been writing books, stories, and screenplays.
“Destination,” published in F&SF in 1992, is a part of my 2013 collection, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories. The collection includes stories I published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Unique Magazine, and anthologies such as Universe 2 (Bantam), Fantastic Alice (Ace), and Desire Burn: Women Writing from the Dark Side of Passion (Carrol & Graf).
I also published “The Sixty-third Anniversary of Hysteria” in Full Spectrum (Bantam), “Daughter of the Tao” in Peter S. Beagle’s Immortal Unicorn (HarperPrism), and “Every Mystery Unexplained” in David Copperfield’s Tales of the Impossible (HarperPrism). “Hummers” got chosen for Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (St. Martin’s Press). “Arachne” was published in Omni magazine. I expanded a novelet, published as “Deus Ex Machina,” into a short science fiction thriller, Shaken, about the next great Earthquake to strike the San Francisco Bay Area.
Many writers go through a phase when concentrating on writing books becomes paramount, and so did I.
It took me two-and-a-half years to write Summer of Love, first published by Bantam, which became a Philip K. Dick Award finalist and a San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book. And another two-and-a-half years to write The Gilded Age, also published by Bantam as The Golden Nineties, which became a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book.
Four more books in my backlist aren’t yet ebooks, my early cyberpunks Arachne and Cyberweb and my science fiction adventures Pangaea I and Pangaea II. I have plans!
For a slightly different readership, I wrote an historical romantic suspense miniseries, Celestial Girl (A Lily Modjeska Mystery), and an urban fantasy, The Garden of Abracadabra, Book 1 of the Abracadabra Series.
After one of my Omni stories, “Tomorrow’s Child,” optioned for four years and then sold outright to Universal Studios, I set off to learn how to write screenplays and wrote half a dozen. “U F uh-O, A Sci Fi Comedy,” is now a novella but started out as a screenplay for a producer looking for the next “Men in Black” meets “Galaxy Quest.” I spent a fulltime year researching and writing “Tesla: A Worthy of His Time,” an ambitious biopic about the eventful life of Nikola Tesla, the inventor of AC electricity (among many other things). That got read by the producer of “The Abyss” and is still under consideration.
But the truth is, for a prose author, there is nothing like being in print!
In the meantime, I’m committed to keeping fit, cooking healthy meals, and living with my husband, Tom Robinson, an acclaimed artistand studio jeweler in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- What are you working on now?
I’m working on Book 2 of the Abracadabra Series, a new suite of stories, and a high-concept science fiction.
When we left “Teardrop,” several major plotlines were brewing. I’m hoping to write more Bakdoor stories, as well.
- Anything else you'd like to add?
I love David Gerrold’s story, “Entanglements,” in the May-June 2015 F&SF issue. So laugh-out-loud funny and poignant at the same time.
By coincidence, I recently read a book that explores the quantum physics concept of “entanglement.” I know a little bit about quantum physics, but I’d never heard of entanglement before.
So I totally appreciated David’s story. But even if a reader isn’t conversant in quantum physics, he or she will surely understand and enjoy David’s wonderful story.
I truly hope everyone will enjoy another great issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction!
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2000-2017 by Lisa Mason. All artwork copyright 2000-2017 by Tom Robinson.
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