“My last novel The Remaking of Sigmund Freud came out in ’85. Judy-Lynn del Rey wanted that novel, and it was a sentimental occasion for all of us, and alas: I wrote it in utter hopelessness, knowing how good it was and that it was DOA. My agent 30 years ago, Clyde Taylor, said, ‘If you want to keep on in science fiction, you have to take a pseudonym. Otherwise, you can not sustain it.’ And that is the point at which I got out, essentially. He was a good agent and a good man and a decent, warm human being who was an editor, wholly supportive, and essentially he’s saying, ‘In terms of the market, as compared to an unpublished writer, everything you have done is worthless.’

“If you want to take a few steps to the right, or maybe a few miles to the right, Judy-Lynn del Rey was the equivalent of [John W.] Campbell – in the field of fantasy, in the mid-’70s, with a hundred times his budget. As was said at her memorial service, nobody since Campbell came near this kind of influence and power. She was enormous in that way, but that was fantasy. (She was a science fiction editor only by default, and resentfully.) She proved that you could make a bestseller of a genre fantasy: you just made it very long, and you aimed it for a core audience. She knew what the base was, and then you go expand from that base. There have been many publishers and properties that have come to grief trying to do it – these huge, ponderous fantasies. But for Judy-Lynn it worked.”

“Could I explain steampunk to my wife? Yeah, I guess I could, but isn’t it silly? How can this be a serious genre? To posit a Victorian culture which has a technological means to support and expand what we call modern computerization…. And now it’s become a style. In Engines of the Night, I said, ‘Decadence is where form overtakes function.’ And that’s steampunk and cyberpunk for you. Alternate history and counter-reality: there’s decadence. That was hot stuff in the ’80s: Elvis Presley as a politician, Winston Churchill as a rock star. My story of Arturo Toscanini as manager of the New York Yankees and Babe Ruth – that’s decadence. In that sense, steampunk is a late manifestation of a process already well advanced.”

“In Breakfast in the Ruins, I took Asimov’s death in 1992 as the single point at which you could say, ‘This before, that after.’ Science fiction as a one-generation field, with a common center and a common language, departed with Asimov. What has happened to science fiction is exactly what happened to classical music in 1920. When Schoenberg and the 12-toners came in, there was no longer a common language. Everybody from Palestrina to Bach to Mahler had written within a tradition, with a sense of extending a dialog. Debussy and Ravel were still there. Then came the 12-tone system, and everything exploded. There was no common language.

“Asimov in a sense was a common center: backward and forward. He had edited these huge anthologies of science fiction in the ’30s, and he extended forward. By the mid-’80s, his magazine was the hot SF magazine. The cutting-edge bore his name. Science fiction, from its inception to his death, was observed, spanned, written and anthologized by Asimov. He was the last vestige of the common voice.

“Not Clarke. Clarke had wandered off – he was in film, he was in popular science. Heinlein (as I wrote in Breakfast in the Ruins) was a strange, paranoid, isolated figure, living behind gun turrets somewhere. He was no rallying-point. It was Asimov! And it’s never been the same since. There are famous writers, but not only are they not famous outside the culture, they are not famous to all within the culture itself. There are plenty of folks who never read a word of Connie Willis and never will, and consider themselves science fiction readers. Same with Sterling and Gibson.”

“I put my life into this damn thing. Science fiction was the most important thing in the world to me, for many years. My work shows my seriousness and my intensity. It is still central to me, but I don’t confuse that centrality with anything external. Regardless of any considerations of the permanence of science fiction or the permanence of my work, I really feel I did the work God put me on Earth to do. I have that measure of peace. I don’t know how much talent I have, but I got the most out of it. I don’t have to prove anything. I did a body of work which represented my best possibility, and some of that could not have been done by anyone else. Budrys could have done Breakfast in the Ruins better, but he didn’t do it at all. Phil Klass could have done Herovit’s World better, but he didn’t. And I think it had to be done.”