Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a new series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors! We’ve asked each author to choose 5-10 talking points from a much longer list of questions–some of which are serious and straightforward, some of which are admittedly pretty geeky and not serious at all, and some of which are probably just weird. Every Pop Quiz will be slightly different, and should be a fun and entertaining way of getting to know these writers a little bit better….
This week, SF author and futurist Madeline Ashby (whose first novel, vN, debuted in August) joins us to talk about mad scientists, Breaking Bad, Trent Reznor and her own favorite author…
Do you have a favorite underrated, unknown, or under-read author?
Yes. My partner, David Nickle. And while he has more novels out than I do, for the purposes of this question I’m going to say that he’s under-read, because, more importantly, he’s my favourite.
Cast the main characters of vN—who would you choose as your dream cast for a Hollywood adaptation of your novel?
Because vN is full of clades of self-replicating humanoids who all look alike, finding actors who could play multiple parts would be really tough. An actress playing the protagonist, Amy, would also have to switch over to playing Amy’s grandmother and primary antagonist, Portia. Ideally, I think each individual vN should be played by a different actor in a motion capture suit, so that you could record different performances in the same “skin,” while regular humans would be played by, well, regular humans. That would also heighten the Uncanny Valley effect in a story about robots. As for those actors, I’ve asked around and for Amy/Charlotte/Portia, I’ve heard every suggestion from Elle Fanning to Jennifer Lawrence to Lena Headey to Sigourney Weaver. I take that as a huge compliment, because those actresses are all immensely talented and capable of delivering intelligent, nuanced performances, and I like to think that people consider those actresses as right for the roles because the characters are similarly nuanced.
If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your new book, who would it be?
I’m going to be really boring and predictable here and say Trent Reznor. He’s been my favourite since I was fifteen, and he’s still my favourite now. His winning an Academy Award for scoring a film just confirmed what a lot of us have known since we first played Quake.
Two roads diverge in a yellow wood: one leads toward a mysterious laboratory in which a mad scientist is currently ensconced. The other winds its way toward a tower inhabited by a powerful wizard. You could really use a snack, and it would be nice to have somewhere to crash for the night—which road do you choose?
The scientist. Her lab is likely to be cleaner than the wizard’s tower, plus it’s less likely to have stairs. (Come on, I’ve been walking all day and you want me to climb a tower? Please. Let’s be real, here.) Also, the scientist probably has at least one package of ramen left.
If you were secretly going to write fanfic (or, even better, slashfic) about any two characters, who would they be?
Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, from Breaking Bad. Those two have serious chemistry.
Madeline Ashby was born in Panorama City, California in 1983. She is now a science fiction writer and strategic foresight consultant living in Toronto. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Escape Pod, and multiple anthologies, and her debut novel vN is now available from Angry Robot. Her non-fiction has appeared at BoingBoing, WorldChanging, Creators Project, io9.com and Tor.com. As a futurist, she has worked for Intel, the Ontario government, and design and communications firms in Toronto. She loves anime, avocados, cats, Nine Inch Nails, and staying in.