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February 17-19, 2023 — Westin Boston Seaport District
February 16, 2017

B54 Mini Interviews: Jo Walton and Robert B. Finegold

With one day left until Boskone 54 begins, we give you the last of this year’s mini interviews. Thanks to all the program participants who took part!

Jo Walton

jowalton_55Jo Walton has published thirteen novels, three poetry collections and an essay collection. She won the John W. Campbell Award in 2002, the World Fantasy Award for Tooth and Claw in 2004, the Hugo and Nebula awards for Among Others in 2012, the Tiptree Award for My Real Children and the Locus Non Fiction award for What Makes This Book So Great in 2014. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal. She reads a lot, enjoys travel, talking about books, and eating great food. She plans to live to be ninety-nine and write a book every year.

Her most recent novel is Necessity. Find her online at her website or on Twitter.

What are you working on now? What excites or challenges you about this project?

I’m just finishing writing my first ever actual science fiction novel. Fantasy is easy for me, because fantasy leans on history, and I’m pretty good on that. Alternate history too, it’s history. Science fiction, while it has always been what I most like to read, is more challenging, because when you’re dealing with the future you have to make it all up but you can’t get it wrong. I always worry about scientific consistency and getting everything the right level of real. I’ve written science fiction at short length, but this is the first time I’ve done it as a novel. So that’s exciting!

If you could recommend a book to your teenage-self, what book would you recommend? Why did you pick that book?

Does it have to be something that was already written when I was a teenager? Because when I was a teenager I did nothing but read, and most of what I read was SF, and so there really wasn’t much that was available that I didn’t read at the time. I’d do insane things like order the complete backlist of Robert Silverberg from the library. Of course there have been a lot of things published since that I’d have loved when I was a teenager, and that would have been really useful to me, but they weren’t around then.

What were the gaps? Stuff that never had a UK publication, of course, but I’m blanking on what specifically would have been around then.

Hmm, waaaay back — oh, I know. Tale of Genji! I didn’t read that until this year and it’s really bizarre and really great. I’d have loved it. The Decameron! Yes, totally. Purgatorio and Paradiso. I read Inferno, but I never got on to the other two, and they’re amazing, did you know there’s no gravity in Paradiso? It all takes place floating in the air and rising upwards. It must be the first book in zero gravity. Some idiot told me they weren’t as good as the first volume, but I shouldn’t have listened, the whole trilogy is great. Not sure if the Ciardi translation was around then, but it is now. But not Orlando Furioso. I tried to read that when I was a teenager, because C.S. Lewis compared it to Tolkien, but I couldn’t.

Who is your all-time favorite fictional character? What is it about this character that you love?

I think today I’ll say Therem Harth rem i’r Estraven. I love his honour and his openness and his curiosity and his forward-looking open-eyed vision, and his practicality, and his tenderness, and the complexity of his past, and the fact he really is human without being a man or a woman. He’s always my first pick for “if you could have a dinner party with anyone from history or fiction”. I like to imagine him sitting down with Pico and Cicero and Ada and Emilie du Chatelet and Alexander the Great and asking them quiet incisive interested questions.

Robert B. Finegold, MD

robertb-finegold_275Robert B Finegold, M.D. is a radiologist living in Maine. He has an undergraduate degree in English (Creative Writing and British Literature), has been a university newspaper cartoonist, and served as a Major in the U.S. Army during the first Gulf War. He is a two-time Writers of the Future Contest Finalist whose work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, GigaNotosaurus, Straeon 2, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, and the anthologies Robotica: The Real Relationships of Artificial Lifeforms, 1st & Starlight, and 2nd & Starlight. On Facebook, find him at Robert B Finegold’s Kvells and Kvetchings.

What are you working on now? What excites or challenges you about this project?

I’ve a completed an “occult thriller”, a novel-length sequel to a Kabbalist novelette that will one day appear in Marc Blake’s Straeon 2. I’ve written the first third of a Jack Vance-like “science fantasy” that takes place on Precipice, the cliff world setting of my tale Lirazel’s Heart that appeared October 2015 in Elizabeth Hirst’s anthology Robotica: The Relationships of Artificial Lifeforms.

This is my “throw wide the doors” romp with world-building: descendants of crash-landed Society of Creative Anachronists, “alien” natives, political intrigue, loss of innocence/coming of age, a wealth of strange characters, unique cities and cultures above and below the Sea of Clouds, and…skyships. It has been a lot of fun to write.

What are you looking forward to at Boskone?

This is my first Boskone. I’ve long wanted to attend, but family, career, and nasty pixies have long thwarted my attempts.

What event or experience stands out as one of those ‘defining moments’ that shaped who you are today?

My grandfather, of blessed memory, shared a story of students who were told they each must speak to the learned assembly regarding chesed and tzedakah, i.e. kindness and charity…and the assembly had already begun! As the students ran to the assembly hall, each passed a beggar who sat shivering in the cold, his empty supplication bowl before him. In their alarm at being late, and in their self-absorption in recalling their lessons, none of the students paid heed to him–none save one.

The doors of the assembly hall closed. The students formed a line upon the stage, jostling for position. The first awaited his invitation to speak; but the seated rabbis said nothing, their expressions dour.

The door to the hall opened again, and the last student entered, hatless and coatless. Together, the rabbis and students turned and stared silently at him. He blushed; and murmuring apologies, got to the end of the line. Still, none spoke.

The door opened a final time, and the beggar came in, wearing the student’s coat and hat. From his bowl he placed a small coin into the tzedakah (charity) box, and took a seat among the assembly.

The rabbis smiled.

*[ It is not enough to learn our lessons, we need live them. ]*