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 David Edison, debut author of The Waking Engine. David was born in Saint Louis, Missouri. In other lives, he has worked in many flavors of journalism and is editor of the LGBTQ video game news site GayGamer.net. He currently divides his time between New York City and San Francisco. You can find him on Twitter. Read chapters one and two of The Waking Engine here on Tor.com!
Join us as we cover subjects ranging from queen consorts to wizards, and more!
Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.
I was born with situs inversus, which means that all of my organs grew on the wrong side of normal—my heart is a mirror image of a regular heart, on the right side of my chest—and so on.
If you could be reincarnated as any historical figure, who would you like to be?
Eleanor of Aquitaine. She knew all the secrets, ran half the world, and married all the best kings.
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?
I would go back to ancient Canaan and stop the Deuteronomists from rewriting the Old Testament. They were basically just modern conservatives—they stripped away Yahweh’s wife, Asherah, and temple prostitutes queer and straight, and necromancy! I think the western world would have developed much differently if the source of the Abrahamic religions hadn’t been Red Stated. What if the Gospels of Mary and Judas weren’t apocrypha? That kind of thing.
The future? I want to see all of it. How can I pick? Okay, I guess I’ll skip over any wars and internecine strife, but I want to see the technology we invent, and how we use it. If I have to pick a specific moment, I’d like to see us leave the planet, or the solar system. I’d love to see the human plague spread across space! Failing that, I’ll watch the sun explode.
Gardens and cafes, almost exclusively. I am one of those people who writes very well in a coffee shop. Being surrounded by people and noise helps me focus; my brain is a noisy and easily-distracted thing, but the quieter the environment the worse my concentration becomes. The only exception is a garden: put me next to a plant and I almost preen. More than half of The Waking Engine was written at Ost in the East Village, which is a lovely corner spot with lots of light. Now that I’m in San Francisco, the gardens and the coffee shops have kind of merged—in good weather, I love to write in Dolores Park or in the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park, which is one of the most peaceful places I know. In other weather, I’m at Philz for coffee or Samovar for a rainbow of gorgeous teas. God, Stubby, I’m such a cliché.
If you could choose your own personal theme music/song to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?
Entrance music is a BIG DEAL to me. I’m always awash in anxiety, so I like songs that build self-possession. There are a few of them that vary in tone from cocky to resigned, and I’d want them on shuffle to surprise me:
- “Take to the Sky” by Tori Amos
- “I Might Have Been Queen” by Tina Turner
- “Missionary Man” by the Eurythmics
- “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer
- “History Repeating” by the Propellerheads feat. Shirley Bassey
Do you have a favorite underrated author?
Storm Constantine. Her original Wraeththu trilogy changed the way I think about the possibilities of writing. After I read her, I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I can write the way I want to write? Maybe weird is a new path to follow, not an impasse.’ Also she showed me that a book full of queer people does not have to be a book about how those people are queer. To a queer kid, that was a pretty big revelation.
Bad news: You’re about to be marooned alone on a desert island—name the five things you would bring along.
How is this bad news?!?! I want a fuel cell/solar power generator, my laptop, my dog, a satellite internet thingy, and a kit for growing my own food. See ya, suckers!
If you could name a planet after anyone (other than yourself), who would you choose and why?
I’ve already done it: my dog is the princess of planet Pupponia, and she’s here to research Dads for the Department of Dad Studies at Puppy University, where she holds the Hachikō Chair and heads up the DoDS.
Name your favorite monster from fiction, film, TV, or any other pop culture source.
Liches. Liches are cooler than bow ties.
If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your (new/last/latest) book, who would it be?
The Waking Engine is a lot of Marina and the Diamonds and a lot of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. For the next book, it seems like Lorde and I may come from the same home planet.
Would you rather discover the fountain of youth or proof of life on Mars?
As an ageless immortal with the secret to eternal youth in my back pocket, I’ll have all the time in the world for science to prove that we are life from Mars. Duh!
What D&D character alignment best describes you first thing in the morning?
Chaotic Neutral until coffee.
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?
Wizard. I pretty much always pick magic over science.
Choose your preferred fictional vacation spot: Narnia or Middle Earth (or some other fictional realm)…
Not to harp on Wraeththu, but did I mention it’s set in a world full of ageless queer hermaphrodites who are essentially male and have magic gay sex? Because if I didn’t, I really should have. Keep your Narnia, keep your Shire—I want to live! Also Moya, from Farscape. I’d take any of Greg Egan’s novels in which humans live on as quantum simulations, too.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
David Eddings and Orson Scott Card, around fourth grade. Oz and Snow White earlier.
What would your Patronus/familiar be?
My dog Lena is my familiar, and she’d probably be my patronus, too. Or maybe my mom’s big blonde hair. Yeah, let’s go with mom-hair.
What’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to? (music, movies, pop culture, food, drink, etc…all fair game!)
I’m bad at not-admitting things, so I’ll just admit them all. There are very few vices that don’t know me. A Hobbit pipe and a meal, of course. I’ve been known to flirt, now and then. I play games and watch TV, most of which is genre… but I may have a Real Housewives obsession, too…
Name your three favorite fictional villains of all time. Alternately: Heroes vs. Villains—which are more fun to write?
I am not a fan of heroes, kind of ever. Likeable characters are not a big priority of mine, in reading or writing—I’d rather follow interesting, flawed characters who do heroic or villainous things. Top villains? Ursula the Sea Witch, Scorpius from Farscape and the Borg Queen.
What kind of apocalypse (zombie, robot, environmental, etc.) is most compatible with your survival skills? And what kind of apocalypse would you like to avoid at all costs?
I mean, I feel like we’re all more prepared for the ZA than anything, because it’s such a big fun pop culture trope. But I am probably better-equipped to deal with being the last human on earth. Zombies sound like a lot of cardio and, to be honest, I’m not really that committed? Let me survive a plague, if I must, but not fight my way through it. I’ll do the last-man-on-Earth thing, just so long as I don’t have to play PTSD with Rick and the Governor. Let me be the guy who wakes up from his coma AFTER all that sweaty whining. You do not want me around for Sweaty Whining Time.
Cast the main characters of your new novel (in other words, choose your dream cast for a Hollywood adaptation of your book).
Easy: Tilda Swinton as the Cicatrix, Tori Amos as Alouette, Oliver Platt as Oxnard, Zoe Saldana as Lallowë, Alexander Skaarsgard as Asher, Emily Blunt for Sesstri, John Krazinsky for Cooper, Jessica Capshaw for Prama, Asa Butterfield as Nixon, and Kate Mulgrew as the Lady.
If you were secretly going to write fanfic (or, even better, slashfic) about any two characters, who would they be?
John Crichton and Khal Drogo. …Why just two? You’re making Riddick jealous.
If you, as a ghost, could regularly haunt one celebrity, author, or literary figure, who would it be?
Courtney Love. I want to see that show 24/7.
List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.
That their enjoyment is my top priority, that I taught myself to write a book with The Waking Engine, and that I’m excited to make the next one a hundred times better in more ways than I could list.
If you could find one previously undiscovered book by a non-living author, who would it be?
I’d go bonkers for a new Mary Renault novel.
Which language, real or fictional, would you like the ability to speak fluently? Who would you talk to?
Better Latin and any Greek. Plutarch.