Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by Alyx Dellamonica, author of Indigo Springs, winner of the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, and its concluding sequel, Blue Magic. Her short stories have appeared in a number of fantasy and science fiction magazines and anthologies, as well as here on Tor.com. “Among the Silvering Herd” and “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti” are prequel stories to her novel Child of a Hidden Sea, available now from Tor Books! You can read an excerpt from the novel here, and be sure to check out Alyx’s latest stand alone story, “The Color of Paradox,” appearing June 25th on Tor.com!
What sort of apocalypse really terrifies Alyx? Dive in to find out!
Here’s a two-parter: If you could go back in time and change one thing in the past, what would it be? And if you could time travel to the future, who or what would you most like to see?
Right now, I’m thinking I’d like to find some way to preserve the charismatic megafauna of the Americas. Saber-toothed tigers, wooly rhinos, and mastodons were wiped out something like 13,000 years ago. I’m enchanted by imagining a world where they survived humanity and climate change and were still thriving in the forests of this continent.
As for the future… if one buys into the optimistic notion that humanity is not only going to survive some of our current challenges but actually transplant our civilization to other worlds, I’d want to go to a well-established colony, preferably one far enough along to have tourist traps. Imagine the offworld equivalent of Niagara Falls! Think of the cheesy items you could buy in a far-future gift shop! (This may reflect the fact that I was recently at the top of the CN Tower where they had, as far as I can tell, little CN Tower lightsabers.)
Do you have a favorite underrated author?
Now that you mention it, it does strike me as odd that people aren’t camped out at Ray Vukcevich’s house, ready to throw flowers and undergarments at the slightest hint of a glimpse of him. But this is something we could work on. I’ll try to get his home address out of him, and all of you go buy his books. Yes, all of them. Let me know when you can quote significant passages from Meet me in the Moon Room or have written filk about same, and we’ll take it from there.
If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your new book, who would it be?
I can easily imagine a rock video where Sophie Hansa and Garland Parrish are sailing aboard Nightjar, and we can hear Miniature Tigers singing “Cannibal Queen.” That’s the kind of fun music we’re looking for here.
If you could be incarnated as any historical figure, who would you like to be?
Who in history was sufficiently healthy, long-lived, materially comfortable, creatively fulfilled, happily married, politically liberated, cool and exciting? Who was well-dressed, or at least not in a corset, and also never in charge of any massacre-type activities that would make the reincarnated me lose sleep? My history favorites tend to be people like Joan of Arc, Edgar Allen Poe, Howard Ashman and Fredrick Douglass—most of whom died young from complications arising from SLS. (Sucky life syndrome).
Queen Victoria had a good run and lots of cash in her coffers, plus some nice real estate, but she gave birth… what? Seventy-five times? No, honest, I’m good at history! Then she went and got herself widowed just when the princes and princesses were ready to fly the nest. I can recommend an amazing book about this, but that doesn’t mean I want to be her.
Did any of the genuinely good Popes get to be very old? What about kings of places where it doesn’t get too cold in the winter? You know, the ones who never had to put down rebellions, got to pick their own queens and had kids and subjects who adored them?
If Lauren Bacall is one tenth as cool as she seems to be, she might make a good choice. But as far as I know, somebody named Lauren Bacall still has her job. Ditto William Shatner. It’s possible I even know most of his lines from TOS, so that’d save time. Or… spiritual energy?
What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
I should cook dinner now. That stew will be so much more delicious if the flavors get to set for six hours.
What kind of apocalypse (zombie, robot, environmental, etc.) is most compatible with your survival skills?
I don’t camp. I don’t hunt. It’s faintly possible I could learn to forage in a target rich environment. I’m allergic to many of the things commonly found outside my house. My chief survival skill, and it is a fabulous one, is drinking shocking amounts of coffee. My apocalypse would have to be some kind of thing where a tsunami of dark roast is rolling into shore, so the Army lines up me, four hundred thousand hipsters, and a bunch of night shift workers in its path, hoping we can consume it fast enough to save the Eastern seaboard. Note to the Joint Chiefs: burr ground, please.
You may have to call out the Avengers or Bruce Willis or someone similarly improbable afterward to deal with the subsequent apocalypse, which needs a catchier name than “Six hundred thousand hyped-up caffeine addicts are freaking out on the beaches!” But coordinating Operation Buzzkill won’t be my problem. And yes, you can just mail out my Medal of Heroic Impressiveness.
And what kind of apocalypse would you like to avoid at all costs?
How about the one where our collective economy activity turns up the heat on the planet one degree after another, year after year, and the oceans get more acidic even as they start to rise, and we run out of antibiotics that work, and fossil fuel and arable land get kinda scant, and it all moves slowly enough that everyone sits around the Food Court going, “Ah, it probably won’t happen, and if it does it won’t be that bad… and anyway I’ll be dead by then!”
Oh, wait. That’s probably how everyone answers this question. Let’s go with a plague of rapidly proliferating radioactive werewolves. That would be really hard to survive, right? They’d move way faster than zombies, they’d still have that whole infectious bite thing that everybody loves, the howling would be uber-creepy and we’d out all the people with cynophobia.