Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Shariann Lewitt on "Tainted Meat" in REALMS OF DARKOVER

Realms of Darkover®, the newest Darkover anthology, will be released in May 2016. You can pre-order it at Amazon (and it will be available at other outlets soon). Here’s a contributor interview to whet your appetite!
Marion Zimmer Bradley’s beloved world of Darkover encompasses many realms, from glacier-shrouded mountains to arid wastelands, from ancient kingdoms to space-faring empires. Now this all-new anthology welcomes old friends and new fans to explore these landscapes of time and place, history and imagination.

Shariann Lewitt is the author of “Tainted Meat,” the cover story for Realms of Darkover (and that amazing owl!) She has published seventeen books and over forty short stories, including “Wedding Embroidery” in Stars of Darkover and “Memory” in Gifts of Darkover. When not writing she teaches at MIT, studies flamenco dance, and is accounted reasonably accomplished at embroidery. Her expertise with birds arises in part from being the devoted servant of two parrots.

Deborah J. Ross: When and why did you begin writing?
Shariann Lewitt: I always knew I wanted to be a writer--and an astronaut.  Only my eyes were awful (I have since had Lasik and it is wonderful!) so astronaut was out of the question. The first purchase I ever made with my own money was an SF novel, and it was all over from there.  I started reading Darkover not terribly long after.

DJR: What about Darkover or its inhabitants drew you in?
SL: Darkover really spoke to me.  It had magic and adventure and an alien world to explore, but it also had science and technology. Above all, it had women who did things, but they had to fight for their right to do so.  When I was young, stories, especially SF/Fantasy, featured either active males, or feminist utopias where the women were simply accepted. Which sounded nice, but not at all like my life. Darkover felt--real.  And gave me role models and support during difficult times.  When I reread the books as an adult, they stood up.  So many of my favorites hadn't that I worried about going back to stories and characters I remembered so fondly.  I was thrilled to discover that they were rich and nuanced in ways I hadn't been able to quite understand as a youngster, and the books were just as satisfying for different reasons.

DJR: What do you see as the future of Darkover? Is there another story you would particularly like to write?
SL: Because of my own experience, I would expect that Darkover would continue to find an avid readership for decades to come. I know I've really been having fun with the early Ridenow, and may want to go back and explore more of Age of Chaos. I love the sophistication of the biology and the technology, and the sheer creativity of pursuits they explored with matrix technologies.  But now, well, I'm also quite taken with the characters in this story--especially the owl/human relationship.  So I may want to examine that more deeply as well.

DJR: What inspired your story in Realms of Darkover?
SL: "Tainted Meat" really comes from my love of writing animal characters.  I had some ideas I'd been playing with in my head--I'd already decided that I was going to set a story in a more modern era than my previous Darkover stories.  I wanted to think about some of the ideas of what honor means and how people approach it from different perspectives, but like any story that's worth anything, it totally got away from me and formed itself when Owl arrived. Sometimes an unplanned character can walk (or fly) in and take over, that that's exactly what Owl did.  I fell in love with her. 
You see, I have two pet parrots.  Many years ago I asked Dr. Irene Pepperberg, one of the foremost researchers into animal intelligence, what Alex the Grey parrot though of humans. She laughed and said, "Oh, he thinks we're dumb as dirt."  She then went on to explain in more detail, and in the intervening time I've noticed how often by the standards of other species, humans really do appear stupid.  My own parrots are certain that I don't understand object permanence.  So once she came onto the scene, I realized I had something more interesting than a cultural misunderstanding about the concept about honor.  I had a person and an owl with their own agendas and their own notions of how one should behave and what a reasonable creature wants.

DJR: What have you written recently? What lies ahead?
SL: I've been writing a lot of short stories lately. I've just finished a historical novella and I'm working on a giant steampunk book, so I'm going in many different and new directions!

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