Thursday, February 5, 2015

PR Special Edition: Ellizabeth Bear Interview

Poisoned Rationality Special  Edition

Welcome to another Poisoned Rationality Special Edition!  Today we  welcome Elizabeth Bear, author of the wonderful Eternal Skies trilogy, New Amsterdam series and of course the Promethean Age novels.  Her newest book, Karen Memory, is a steampunk western yarn with Jack the Ripper at its center.  She's answering some Q's from inquiring minds.
“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It's French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, is making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, beggin sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.
Welcome Elizabeth to Poisoned Rationality! Thank you so much for joining us today :)
I’m thrilled to be here! Hello!
If you had to distill KAREN MEMORY down to three important moments what do you think they would be?
Oh, man, that’s hard. But I feel like it has to be meetings. There’s the moment when Karen meets Priya and Merry Lee, which sets her on her road toward taking on the biggest injustice in her small world. And there’s the moment when she meets the Marshall and his posseman, which provides her with allies and important information. And then there’s the moment when she meets her greatest enemy and discovers the true measure of her courage and resolve.
What type of help does a working girl need with steam powered science afoot?
Anybody she can get! From a burly doorman to a granite­jawed Madam; from an ex­slave lawman to a resourceful escapee from the sex­slave trade. A one­armed engineer, a steel­fisted lady of the evening, or a deaf white cat. Karen ain’t picky, as long as she feels she can trust you.  
If you happen to have access to an airship, or know how to sling a shooting iron, that might come in handy...
Why this time period and place?
It honestly had a lot to do with where I came to the ideas for the book from. There was a real Seattle
madam named Mother Damnable, for example. She’s not my Madame Damnable—and Rapid City isn’t Seattle—but there’s definitely inspiration there. The girls at the Hôtel Mon Cherie grew out of a period photograph of the ladies of a similar ‘parlor house,’ also located in Seattle. And I have a long­standing love for those sorts of buried cities, raised by fill around the ground floors of the buildings already standing. It seems to have happened to most coastal cities once upon a time—Boston has neighborhoods like that as well.
Was there anything you wanted to include in this book that you couldn't (for whatever reason)?
I would have liked a little more cryptozoology than we got. In Karen’s world, the various so­called Creatures of the Lumberwoods—the critters from legendry and tall tales, such as the squonk, the hodag, the splintercat, the hoopsnake, the jackalope, the chupacabra, the glawackus, Champ, the sasquatch, the wendigo—they’re all real. I think they have Pacific tree octopuses too, even though those are a modern invention, because I love them.
I’m a sucker for all that stuff. Especially squonks, which are a legendary bird that can never be captured alive because if you put it into a sack it weeps so copiously that it dissolves into a puddle of its own tears and seeps away. I’d have loved to do more with all of that. I just didn't have room, without it turning into a distraction. Discipline is the hardest thing.
Without spoiling the ending, what do you think Karen would like to do the most if money (and ability) were no object?
Oh gosh. She’d take the love of her life and travel the world. Pony trekking in Mongolia. She’d go up to Anchorage and see it for herself. Sri Lanka. Shanghai. Hawaii. Australia, Antarctica, Chile. The whole Pacific rim. Maybe even someplace really exotic, like Boston or New York!

Thank you Elizabeth!!


 About the Author

Elizabeth Bear was born on the same day as Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, but in a different year. This, coupled with a childhood tendency to read the dictionary for fun, led her inevitably to penury, intransigence, the mispronunciation of common English words, and the writing of speculative fiction.

She lives in Massachusetts with a Giant Ridiculous Dog. Her partner, acclaimed fantasy author Scott Lynch, lives in Wisconsin.

Author Links:
The More You Know Links:
Fantasy Review Barn: Karen Memory Review (4 Stars)
SFF World: Karen Memory Review