Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience with Wild Cards.
A. After finishing graduate school, I moved from Minneapolis to northern New Mexico to start a new job. Newly transplanted, and feeling more than a little isolated and culture shocked, I decided it was time to finally indulge my burning desire to write.
Little did I realize that New Mexico is the science fiction capital of the universe.
In 2005 I went off to the Clarion workshop, which changed my life. While there I had the good fortune to meet Walter Jon Williams, a long-time New Mexican. He invited me to join Critical Mass, a local group of science fiction and fantasy writers. So before I knew it, I was in a writing group with Walter, George Martin, Melinda Snodgrass, Daniel Abraham, Sage Walker, Vic Milan, John Miller… In other words, Wild Cards central.
After I’d been in the group a few months, Melinda asked if I’d be interested in talking with her and George about the new Wild Cards project. I jumped at the chance! A few weeks later, I met the man most people think is George R. R. Martin in a dimly-lit Santa Fe restaurant. I remember little of the evening; Melinda spiked my drink. Three days later, I woke in the cargo hold of a Dutch tramp steamer bound for Surabaya. I spent the next 87 days cowering from the captain’s whip when I wasn’t scrubbing the feet of sweaty, jowled Turkmen. On the 88th day I heard the dreaded click-thump, click-thump of George’s artificial leg when he emerged from his gilded stateroom for the first time in three months.(The real George R. R. Martin walks on a stone leg carved from the tomb of Ramses II.)He loomed over me, adjusted his bejeweled eye patch, and said, “You got spirit, kid.” Then he proceeded to explain the new Wild Cards project while the albino raven on his shoulder screeched obscenities at me.
Q. Tell us about the inspiration behind your story for Inside Straight.
A. Wild Cards stories can be a little bit like laws and sausages… sometimes it’s better not to know how they’re made.
I wanted to tell a story about a good-hearted guy who is deeply misunderstood. How do you win people over when they’ve already decided you’re despicable, and when you’re too shy and inarticulate to argue otherwise? Also, I’m always fascinated by characters who make the difficult choice to do the Right Thing.
Q. Ian, getting back to that tramp steamer for a moment, what could George Martin possibly do in that gilded stateroom for three months at a time?
A. His many appetites are too terrible to mention. The least shocking is his propensity for smashing Faberge eggs with a sledge hammer, an activity he carries out gleefully each vernal and autumnal equinox.