I just realized that the interview I did with Maureen McHugh for the trade paperback edition of Mothers and Other Monsters, which includes all sorts of goodies and is out now, is online. (I’m working on a 75 Books update, but then realized I’d already talked about rereading it in preparation for the interview.)
Anyway, a little taste of Maureen’s wonderful answers:
I was drawn to science fiction for the ways in which it allowed me to skip parts of real life I hated. I liked SF that made life more romantic. I liked Andre Norton’s protagonists finding out they weren’t ordinary. I wanted to be a mutant, an escapee from a different reality where I was special.
I studied writing for years. Some of that was formal — I have a masters degree from New York University that would be an MFA in creative writing if I got it today. Some of it was the more traditional way to become of writer. Write a lot, most of it bad, find people who can tell you it’s bad. Learn to get better. I found power in realism. I liked psychological realism when I read it. Those details — the moments we have all experienced but maybe never seen written down — work like a kind of electric jolt in a good story. In the Lorrie Moore story I mentioned, her two-year-old son has cancer. She describes being in the office of the pediatric oncologist and her son is doing that thing toddlers do so joyously, flicking on and off the light switch, while the pediatric oncologist explains what the cancer means and what they’ll do. How many times have I seen a toddler entranced with a switch — a flashlight, a vacuum cleaner, anything. And juxtaposed against the patient doctor explaining the moment is almost unbearable.
Buy this collection immediately, okay? (I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU HAVEN’T READ THIS YET, and if you have, I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU HAVEN’T BOUGHT EXTRA COPIES TO GIVE AWAY.)