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Elizabeth Moon
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26 February 2004




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Elizabeth Moon: Explorations March 2004

Elizabeth Moon earned degrees in history and biology and in between served in the US Marine Corps from 1968-1971, finishing as a First Lieutenant. Writing for her own pleasure since childhood, she sold her first story, "ABCs in Zero-G", to Analog in 1986. Her first novels were "The Deed of Paksennarion" fantasy trilogy: Sheepfarmer's Daughter (1988), which won the Compton Crook Award; Divided Allegiance (1988); and Oath of Gold (1989). Among many later novels are two in collaboration with Anne McCaffrey; SF series "The Serrano Legacy" beginning with Hunting Party (1993); first contact novel Remnant Population (1996), a Hugo Award nominee; and near-future SF novel The Speed of Dark (2002), about an experimental treatment that might "cure" an autistic child, and which is on this year's final Nebula Awards ballot. Trading in Danger, the first in far-future military space-adventure series "Vatta's War", appeared October 2003; book two, Moving Target, is due October 2004. She lives in Florence, Texas, with her husband and their adopted son Michael.    
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Excerpts from the interview:

“Writing books sometimes gives me insights into myself. In The Speed of Dark, the insight was not directly related to parenting an autistic child -- it's trying to step forward and look from the other end. What would it be like to have been that person and be grown? My experience certainly gave me some insight, but if I thought I was writing autobiography I wouldn't be able to do it -- I have to think it's someone else. Sometimes little bits of some of my books have wish fulfillment, but this book sure wasn't! I have to think I'm letting the character be free.

“We adopted Michael as an infant. We knew there were risk factors, but there are risk factors for any kids. We had talked about adopting a disabled child and decided we should 'practice' with a normal child. (Hah! The universe plays jokes on you.) At this point I've had almost 20 years with him. He was 17 or 18 when I started the book, and I knew things I was doing with him were working. That I'm comfortable with. Of course I'm going to think about the book when we get further along, if any kind of a cure shows up, but he will be an adult by then and I hope out of guardianship, in which case it will be his decision. I don't know what he would decide. He's a very happy person most of the time, though he is sometimes frustrated by his inability to communicate as well as he wants to. He's one of the social autistic people, quite gregarious, and likes being around people -- particularly pretty girls -- and I think he might be even happier if he could talk to them more easily. Is he going to push himself to take the next step? I don't know.

“Part of that concept for my book's characters came from talking to autistic people online, where I've had more insight into what sorts of people they are when they grow up. There's an online autistic group which non-autistic people can get on only after agreeing to a whole set of restrictions. When I was on it, we were not allowed to initiate topics or contradict any of the autistic people who were posting. It was their space. They are literate enough to communicate online, though I have watched one particular young woman go from being nearly incoherent online to a very coherent, good writer who is now in college and will undoubtedly graduate with degrees -- doing much better because she had people who understood her initial incoherence. They were a revelation to me. Their view of their disability is very, very different. They would talk about how everyone wanted them to change and be normal. Some of them like the lives they have. I looked at that and thought, 'Hmm. It's like the deaf community. Do you force your children to get an implant which removes them from the deaf community, puts them in the hearing community, and may estrange them from their deaf relatives?' That's a tough one.”


“What I'm pushing is to think about something from all sides. Don't answer the first thing that comes out. I don't have the answers; I have lots of questions. In my old SF adventure series 'The Serrano Legacy', a lot of it had to do with the effects of longevity. What would really happen if you had rejuvenation and people could live very long times? What would it do to the social structure, to economics, to politics? What would it do to the neighbors of the country that had that ability? (Even now that applies, with us and Mexico, for example, where the life span is very short. We live longer and keep getting richer, comparatively.)


“My next project is another far-future space opera series: fun, rollicking. There's going to be a lot about communication, both the physical aspects and what glitches in communication can do in society. What if suddenly the telephone doesn't work or the Internet goes down? (We all know what happens when the Internet goes down -- we go crazy till we can e-mail our friends and figure out what's going on!) In an interstellar setting, what will a massive communications failure do to the economy, to politics? And if someone is sabotaging communication, why? Who hates the idea of open communication? Are they just idiots or do they have a few points to make (other than on the tops of their heads)? Are some of their reasons valid? And there are more questions on an individual level, with a character who discovers that she's not a nice girl. She has something that is either going to fester as a deep dark secret or it's going to change her life radically. I'm at the point in the second book where I'm not sure which it's going to be. She'll tell me.”

The full interview, with biographical profile, is published in the March 2004 issue of Locus Magazine.

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