New Author Spotlight: Eleanor R. Wood
What drew you to writing stories that move across genres? Is this a new direction for your writing?
I’ve never liked boxes or strict labels, so combining genres has always felt natural to me. I like to mix and match themes and ideas and not feel a story has to be constrained by a specific genre type. I think I’ve always done it, although sometimes unintentionally.
The theme for this issue is Robots, Androids & Cyborgs. Did you write it for the theme, or was it something that you’d already completed that seemed to fit?
This was a previously completed story which I wrote about a year ago. I’d previously submitted it to a few other markets, but when I spotted the upcoming ‘Robots, Androids & Cyborgs’ theme, I realised it could be a great fit and held onto it until this issue of Crossed Genres opened for submissions. Turns out that was a good decision!
This was a very literal (though futuristic) example of the hardships which families endure during economic downturns. Did you draw this idea from a present-day example of similar hardships?
I don’t think I drew from anything specific, but the recent global recession had a definite impact on the backdrop and direction of the story. We’ve all been affected by it in one way or another, so it felt like a relevant theme. I enjoy taking realist themes to an extreme and seeing where they go.
It’s a pleasure to see a woman main character accept help – albeit grudgingly – from a colleague because of his expertise, not because he’s a man. Likewise, seeing Beth and Mark end the story as respectful colleagues, even friends, without an obligatory romance, is refreshing. Was this an intentional continuation of Beth’s lack of interest in romantic relationships, which we saw a glimpse of when she was sixteen?
I think it was, although perhaps not overtly. Beth’s a very driven character, and that drive and focus plays the dominant role in her life. Her lack of interest in romance stems mainly from the fact that she has more important things to do. It’s for the same reason we don’t see her engaging in an active social life or forming close friendships. She’s not necessarily introverted – she just has different priorities. It was also important to me to base Beth and Mark’s ultimate friendship on mutual respect and admiration. To me, that feels much more solid and meaningful than the standard (indeed, all too often obligatory) romance.
Over the last few decades, true artificial intelligence has always seemed to be “twenty years away.” One of the biggest obstacles to true scientific progress is funding; the struggle that Beth, and the company which built her father, experienced is analogous of countless technological advances which have been stymied. In your opinion, is true artificial intelligence something we’ll achieve in the near future – or something we’d already have reached – if someone would fund the research?
Phew… I think Beth would be more qualified to answer this question than I am! That said, I had a lot of fun researching this story and was quite astonished at some of the technology that is already out there. Robotic scientists like Hiroshi Ishiguro are making amazing advances into humanoid robot technology. If we define artificial intelligence as a computer mind that can assimilate new information in order to learn and reach its own conclusions, then I believe we’re on the verge of achieving technology along those lines. One thing’s for certain, though – without the funding to carry out dedicated research, the growth of any technology will flounder. Conversely, more funding ought to provide greater scope for leaps and bounds.
Tell us something about your future writing projects. Are you developing more short stories? Do you have a novel in the works?
I have a short story due out with Pseudopod next month and am currently working on a novel I’ve had in the pipeline for some time. I’m making slow but steady progress on it, which has picked up lately because I haven’t been bugged by quite so many short stories as in recent months. I have several completed shorts currently looking for homes, and I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before I’m putting the novel on temporary hold while I write another. I love writing short stories, but they can be terrible procrastination tools when you’re trying to make headway on something longer! I console myself in the knowledge that I always finish what I start, even if it takes a while…
Where is your favorite writing place? Can you draw us a visual picture of the kind of space you create for yourself when you write?
I write beside a tall window at my desktop computer, in a room where I’m surrounded with books. Somehow, just having them around me inspires creativity. ‘Desktop’ of course implies a desk, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen the surface of the thing I’m not entirely sure it’s under there. I call it organised chaos. I have everything I need to hand, including handwritten story notes, various lists and research books. While I’m writing, I often play music to help create the right atmosphere. And there is always a dog or two in the room, peacefully dozing while I work and eager to join me in stretching my legs when I’ve finished.
What’s the question that you wish someone would ask, but no one ever has?
What inspires you to write?
What’s the answer to that question?
This question is vastly preferable to the mundane ‘where do you get your ideas?’, because inspiration is where everything starts. I’m frequently inspired by both nature and science, whether theoretical or technology in practice. I’m also inspired by well-crafted science fiction, which opens up so many avenues for further exploration. The thing I love most about speculative fiction is its infinite scope and endless realm of possibilities. It’s like entering a marvelous shop of wonders and being totally spoilt for choice. There are so many potential stories to write.
Is there anything I didn’t ask that you think is important or that readers might want to know?
This story represents a significant milestone for me as a writer, as it’s my first pro sale. Achieving writing success takes a lot of self-belief, perseverance, and determination. When I was very young, my dad taught me the terrific value of persevering and being determined to reach your goals, a lesson which has proved invaluable. To me, that makes this the perfect story to receive this honour.