George R. R. Martin

George RR Martin standing near river in Dublin
Worldcon, Dublin, 2019

“You know, everything I’ve known about human nature . . . we have this innate quest for power and dominance. And if we had the power with just a few spells to undo armies, we would be the rulers. Whoever had that power would rule, they wouldn’t be the adviser to the ruler or someone who lives all alone in a tower. So you have to look, you know, if you’re gonna make pigs fly . . . it’s gonna change the pork industry. [laughter] Hugely! Capturing pigs is going to be much harder. So think through everything where you depart from real life, and where you don’t depart from real life. Make sure you learn everything you can about what you’re writing about, whether it’s, you know, medieval armies, or armor and weaponry, or care and feeding of horses, or whatever it is, try to get it right. Because if you get it wrong, somebody will notice and write you letters about it. [laughter]”

Listen or read our interview with George R. R. Martin on how to write great epic fantasy. 


Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi
Worldcon, Dublin 2019

“…a lot of people I feel like sort of move into these camps where you could either be true to your art or you can be a commercial sell-out hack, you know, f****r….and this is all you’ve got. And to me it really was more like okay so this is the puzzle box that we’re working with which is like I’ve got my values, there’s the commercial space that I want to be in if I want to transmit my values. Is there some kind of win-win? And you’re looking for that idea that there actually is, if you’re a clever monkey, you can figure out the win-win scenario. And so a lot of my early work was trying to figure out what’s my clever monkey version of like the win-win, where I get to talk about exactly things I want and the publishing houses are like ‘nom nom nom nom.'”

Watch or read our interview with Paolo Bacigalupi on the art of message fiction and how to talk about environmentalism through science fiction and fantasy. 



Scott Woods

Scoot Woods
Columbus, Ohio, 2019

“But it’s really hard to learn and grow because the opportunities as a Black artist here are not significant. Part of that is there were never many Black venues. And largely white venues only booked certain types of things. You can be Black and play rock and still not get the rock club guild. And then you can’t go to the Black club if you don’t play the right music. Now it doesn’t matter because all the clubs are gone. You know? Or they all are jukeboxes. Getting to play live here is not what it used to be.  Campus used to have venues all up and down the street, bars where you could play live. You could do a whole week of shows on campus, do it again and do it again. And all of those places are gone. And so Columbus just developed its culture, you know, the artistic culture out of itself. And it’s only largely interested in it now because it needs to sell.”

Watch or read our interview with Scott Woods who has been working in Columbus, Ohio, for 20 plus years, developing its arts scene and culture. 


Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson
Los Angeles, 2019

“I come out of a literary tradition in the Caribbean of privileging common speech. And that’s a movement that started when my father, who was a poet, a playwright, an actor, was still alive, and there’s people like Kamau Brathwaite, like Louise Bennett-Coverley, who are saying “We speak like this.” It is not ‘bad English;’ linguists are discovering it has its own grammar rules, it has its own logic.  And so there began a movement of writing the way people speak. So I already have permission, is what I’m saying. And also everybody’s speech is beautiful. I mean, if you listen, just listen to people talking on the street where they’re not trying to censor themselves for an English class. They flow. So one of the things I will do is put myself back in that space. I mean, my Caribbean English is middle class English, it still has its own stuff, but it’s not as, it’s not as deep, it’s not as basilectal….There’s three words I’ve learned from linguistics and they are acrolectal, mesolectal, basilectal. And it’s a way of not getting into the trap of saying “This is upper class speech, this is lower class speech.” So they actually go to the center. And they measure speech by how far it is from the center.”

Watch or read our interview with Nalo Hopkinson about the use of language.


Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott
Worldcon, Dublin 2019

“[W]hen we think about maps, we think about external maps.  We think about something we can look at. And it is important in a number of ways to place yourself in space. And I mean that either in the three dimensional space or the two dimensional space of a map….But the other thing that I have really come to understand over the years is that when people write…a lot of times when they think about map making, they’re also not thinking about the internal map that they’re bringing to what they’re writing….

So an external map might be a topographical map, where we can see where the mountains and the rivers are, and we can place the cities here and we can gauge how long it will take us to travel from this city to that battlefield or that village… these things begin to develop together. But one of the other things that happens is people don’t think about the internal map they’re bringing. And the internal map they bring to their creation, to world creation, and I include myself, is all the assumptions, the expectations, the stereotypes, the things they don’t know about.”

Watch or read our interview with Kate Elliott about the art of map making and its significance to world building.