Via my wonderful editor, Susan Allison, from a New York Magazine piece on David Simon:

"Fuck the exposition," he says gleefully, as we go back into the bar. "Just *be*. The exposition can come later." He describes a theory of television narrative. "If I can make you curious enough, there's this thing called Google. If you're curious about the New Orleans Indians, or 'second-line' musicians--you can look it up." The Internet, he suggests, can provide its own creative freedom, releasing writers from having to overexplain, allowing history to light the charaqcters from within



From Cederic:
Q Lets trivialise.
A You go first!

Q You obsess in your books about the desired objects of days past, contemporarily still desirable with the added patina of rarity.
- What's your favourite old world treasure?
A I'm more a wunderkammer guy than a big masterpiece guy. I'm with Manny Farber's termites, that way. Sir John Soane's house is probably my favorite London museum.

Q - Which watch do you wear?
A Today, an 80s Vostok, a Soviet watch. It has a certain pleasant melancholy about it.

Q - Do you seek current objects of desire: iPhone or Android?
A Not so much. I've never been an early adaptor. It's getting to the point, though, where I actually need to get something along iPhone lines. But that would be upgrading from a Nokia flip (chosen because it had very good reception, four years ago).

Q - On more philosophical and complicated themes. You are an artist, a creator, but more: you are through your writing an influencer, a shaper of technology, of society itself. Does that scare you?
A I don't actually buy that, the mighty thunderer and shaper of technology thing. I think I'm more of an interpreter of technologies, an amateur anthropologist. I'm a sort of Victorian weekend naturalist of technology, who somehow found a way to make a living doing that (and a bunch of other things at the same time).



Q How much steeping do you do in your locations while writing? Hotels, cities, transportation options?
A Where I happen to have gone tends to produce the locations. For Pattern Recognition. I went back to Tokyo to upgrade my 80s/90s version. Hadn't been to Moscow at all. Filtered that through writer friends who had (Eileen Gunn, Jack Womack). I do virtual steeping, though. Google Earth Street View is a spooky thing, that way.

Q Do you visualize some locations from first-hand experience or do you take notes to refresh your memory while re/experiencing them again?
A I have no way of knowing what'll reemerge from the hopper as a novel-unit, so no reason to take notes. Everything goes into the hopper. Relatively few things come out of it.

Q Does this research get expensive for you? Is there a way for you to be compensated for this type of research?
A I spend almost nothing on research. A Wired article took me to Tokyo, when I was writing Pattern Recognition. I used to buy lots of magazines. Magazines are novelty-aggregators. But the Web's taken that function over, and is free.

Q Do you find that "going there" actually helps you write?
A Having been *somewhere* helps me to write. Having a hopper full of "place" is a good thing, but that's a lifetime accumulation. And there's a certain amount of composting that goes on, in the hopper. It's not journalism, not reportage.



From Bravus:
Q In general, do you think the barriers (filters?) to publication for new authors of fiction are working well? (Are they letting the good stuff through, or do you think there are lots of people who have surmounted the barrier of writing and written good stuff but fail to surmount the publishing barriers?)
A I'm not postioned to know. Not sure who would be. Someone who has some overview of what's happening?

Q And, related, how do you see technology helping and harming with this? Charles Stross has written some interesting blog posts on the economics of a writing career in the days of Amazon, for example, that were quite doomy...
A I read that Stross. The thing to remember is that a look at the actual economics of the thing, that way, would always have been doomy for the unpublished. Most of whom have no idea. Not that I don't think Stross is accurate. I do, but there's a way in which it's not a new scary story. New installment of the old scary story.



From Bictaker:
Q I'm picking up on a thread that seems to pervade several of your previous responses, in so much as your writing gift comes at a heavy price. It's almost a suffering ...something you can't and wouldn't want to live without, yet a beast that requires a great deal of time and effort to harness? A living hell for the duration of the work, no?

A Yikes! I must've sounded awfully whiny. Nothing quite as dramatic as that. Every job has its costs, some of which aren't so evident to people who haven't done it. But my intention was more to convey, to people who might want to write fiction, that the process they arrive at may not quite line up with our cultural paradigm of what writing fiction is, and that the blisters may form in places other than expected. When I started trying to write fiction, I read writers-on-writing collections, and very little of that, in retrospect, sounded much like what I've wound up having to do to make it happen.

When Bruce Sterling and I were writing The Difference Engine, I'd moan sometimes about the labor required (as much fun as that was, and often it was lots of fun, but I'm basically lazy). He always had the same response: "Yeah, but it beats loading concrete blocks." Which is so obviously true, and has since become a mantra of mine.

I don't always like writing, but I very much like having written.



From Anabel:
Q There's a highly successful writer who lived in my town, who ran a writers workshop where he said he used real people for some of his characters. Have you used real people to springboard some characters in your work? Was it dicey to do so?

A I'd assume we (writers) all must do that some extent, but for me that all goes through some process of unconscious randomization. When my characters arrive, I don't know who they are, let alone who might have contributed DNA. There are exceptions, but usually only with characters who are more broadly parodic of particular attitudes.

I had no idea who Cayce was, why she felt that way on waking, whose flat it was, why London. For months. I was inhabiting a very partial construct, waiting to see what attached itself. Waiting to find a center of gravity.



From Bictaker
Q How much quicker do you think you would complete Zero History in a world without Twitter?

A Not faster, just differently. Twitter, or the Internet at large, feels to me like an automation of what I have to do, anyway, in order to write: Stare out window. Read a magazine. Gaze at shoe. Answer a letter. Think about something new (or newly). *Access random novelty.*

The writing worth keeping happens within a matrix of mysterious but crucially related activities. I might order myself to write for X number of hours per day (though in fact I never do) but the writing worth keeping can't be ordered to happen at all, let alone for X number of hours per day. It has to be teased out. Fed.

Q Do publishers place pressure on authors for X number of hours output per day, or are there just agreed, albeit flexible, deadlines?
A We do it from our homes, and we refuse to let them in, no matter how many times they knock. There's a contract, and a deadline for delivery of the completed manuscript. That's actually a really scary deal: a contract, and a deadline, and nobody there in the morning to tell you to get to work. Or to start gazing at your shoe.

Q I guess there's less pressure on established writers, whereas newbies are pushed harder? Time management: do you place yourself under a strict regime?

A The arrangement forces you to manage your own time. In the old days, in Hollywood, screenwriters in studio employ were contractually obligated to turn in a specific number of pages per day. There is nothing like that in the world of professional fiction-writing, and if there were, we wouldn't be having this conversation, because I'd never have been published.

I have to force myself to turn up every day, in case the writing also decides to. Often, it doesn't choose to. There is more of that at the start of a book than later, mercifully. The book builds its own momentum, though each one has a different momentum. That momentum is what calls the shots, imposes the regimen.

The part of me that's writing this, now, is utterly incapable of writing a novel. The part of me that just wrote a novel is profoundly unavailable, right now, and will remain so until the next time I have to go out and walk for miles, whistling for it, convinced its finally run away for good and all.

People don't ordinarily meet the part of me that writes novels, and when they do, they must assume I'm not not doing very well. Which as a human being, right then, I'm not. In direct proportion to how well I might be doing, right then, as a novelist.



From Bravus:
Q In general, do you think the barriers (filters?) to publication for new authors of fiction are working well? (Are they letting the good stuff through, or do you think there are lots of people who have surmounted the barrier of writing and written good stuff but fail to surmount the publishing barriers?)

A I have no way of knowing, really. What your question reminds me of, though, is my having asked a couple of my literature profs at UBC, in the 70s, whether they thought there were important works of fiction that we didn't yet know of. This was greeted with a sort of amazed disgust. Of course there weren't. (Neither they nor I had ever heard of Cormac McCarthy, then, and he'd been published for over a decade.)

Q And, related, how do you see technology helping and harming with this? Charles Stross has written some interesting blog posts on the economics of a writing career in the days of Amazon, for example, that were quite doomy...
A The economics for the majority of writers, in my lifetime, have never been good at all. I suspect I imagined that the science fiction writers I read in the 60s were all doing rather well. Most of them, actually, were just scraping by, and moonlighting at other things. That was why, I'd guess, many of them seemed to write more often than was good for their writing.