The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt

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 Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt, editors of Rags & Bones, available now from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. This collection features classic stories reimagined and rewritten by contemporary authors within the realms of science fiction, dystopian fiction, fantasy, and realistic fiction.

Join us as we cover subjects ranging from gummy worms to petrichor, and more!

Melissa Marr grew up believing in faeries, ghosts, and various other creatures. After teaching college literature for a decade, she applied her fascination with folklore to writing. Wicked Lovely was her first novel. Currently, Marr lives in the Washington, D.C., area, writes full-time, and still believes in faeries and ghosts.

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 love my life, so I wouldn’t tinker with the past in any way nor do I have any desire to know what comes next.

What’s your favorite method of procrastination?

I read scholarly journals or folklore books. It looks like work, but it’s really just for my amusement.

Choose your preferred fictional vacation spot: Narnia or Middle Earth (or some other fictional realm)…

I want to go to a presently unknown planet that’s been terraformed or is otherwise acceptable for humans to live without suffocating or getting some strange exposure disease. I want to see a new world, new creatures, learn of a new religion, folklore, art, music, tastes, books, sensations, etc. As a kid, I thought that was the coolest part of Star Wars and Star Trek—the ideas of all sorts of new worlds and cultures that could be explored.

Rags and Bones Melissa Marr Tim PrattWhat’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to? (music, movies, pop culture, food, drink, etc…all fair game!)

I don’t do guilt. I surrendered it when I left the Catholic church several decades ago. Pleasure, on the other hand, is something to be embraced. As such, my taste tends to be all over. My music tastes runs from Five Finger Death Punch to Taylor Swift to Blue Stahli. My food/drink tastes range from Balvenie (especially the 17 year Sherry Wood they released a few years back) to a bowl of gummy worms for breakfast.

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?

Anything that takes us back to a “live off the land” would be my family’s best bet. I grew up rural (put up fruits and veg; made breads, jams, wines, and sauces; and raised and ground our own beef). I’m more than proficient with guns, basic first aid, and some herbal/folk remedies. Plus, my in-laws currently live “off the grid” in a self-sustaining, solar-powered house in the woods (with no external utility services), so between my rural parents, my hippie in-laws, and my retired Marine spouse, I think we’re good for a number of apocalyptic scenarios.  I’d rather skip all of them, though! I like having the time to write.

Would you rather discover the fountain of youth or proof of life on Mars?

The fountain…but I would hide the discovery from all but selected friends and colleagues.  We could start a secret society of Slow Aging Authors. *wanders off to plan*

What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?

The first was probably a book of Bible stories. (Seriously, that snake talks. The ones in my yard didn’t.) After that, it was the usual suspects: Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, A Wrinkle in Time, and Narnia (I spent so much time trying unsuccessfully to get Gramma’s wardrobe to work). Mixed in with that were the stories I was told about ghosts, faeries, and the like much as I was told about angels and God. I was much older before I realized that there were folks who didn’t believe in faeries.

If you were secretly going to write fanfic (or, even better, slashfic) about any two characters, who would they be?

Oh, I love fanfic, but I’m not keen on slash unless the characters are inclined that way. I think changing the essential nature of a character seems counter-logical. So, yeah, no slash-writing here (or non-con which disgusts me).  As to characters, I like Sirius Black or Severus Snape in Harry Potter, but not together.

If you could find one previous undiscovered book by a non-living author, who would it be and why?

Faulkner. I know he was a lousy human being with ridiculous issues with women, so I have no desire to ever go back in time to meet the man, but his prose. . . I love his prose to unholy degrees. No one comes anywhere near close to him for me.  He could do things with narrative structure that astound me in new ways with repeated readings, and his ability to draw me into a scene—while acknowledging the limitations of prose—has left me in awe more often than any other writer. He’s it for me.  Aside from his hunting stories, I’ve been consistently awed by his prose in both short and long fiction form.

 

Tim Pratt is the Senior Editor of Locus Magazine. His writing has won a Hugo Award, a Rhysling Award, and an Emperor Norton Award, as well as been nominated for Nebula, Mythopoeic, World Fantasy, and Stoker Awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies such as The Best American Short Stories and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, as well as two short story collections of his own. He novels include the contemporary fantasies The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl and Briarpatch; the Forgotten Realms novel Venom in Her Veins; and seven books in the Marla Mason urban fantasy series (as T. A. Pratt).

Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.

Family lore says I was named after the song “Timothy” by The Buoys, a lovely little ditty about three guys who get trapped in a cave-in and resort to cannibalism; they eat Timothy. (My mother was going to name me Jack, after my grandfather, until it was pointed out that “Jack Pratt” was a little too close to “Jack Spratt,” so she had to come up with an alternative quickly. She’d heard the song recently, without listening to it all that closely, so there you go.) “Timothy” was written by Rupert Holmes, better known for writing “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).” You can listen to my namesake on YouTube, at the moment.

It’s possible I’ve told that story online before, but this bit is new: I never actually bothered to look up the song online and listen to it until this very moment, and heard it for the first time as I was answering this question.

Describe your favorite place to read/write?

My backyard in the summer, under the fruit trees. Shady enough to see a laptop screen, also perfect for reading, surrounded by plants, and takes just a few steps out my back door to get there. (Convenience matters.)

What’s your favorite method of procrastination?

Cooking, because then at least there’s something to eat.

Once my writing-avoidance behavior involved me mixing up a cleaning concoction and getting some ancient stains out of the carpet. My wife liked that one.

Do you have a favorite unknown author?

When I was working on a Victorian-era novel, to get in the mood I read several historical novels set in approximately the same period and place, and really enjoyed the detective novels of John Dickson Carr.

Do you have a favorite word?

Oh, too many to name a favorite. I like “acnestis”—the place on your back you can’t reach to scratch yourself—because after I learned it, I realized how essential it was. “Petrichor” is also nice, though it’s not pretty enough for what it describes (the pleasant smell right after it rains). There’s a word of recent coinage (or, rather, a new definition applied to an existing word with a more boring definition), “Sonder”: the realization that random strangers you see on the street have lives as rich and complex as your own, utterly mysterious to you. Some say it’s not a “real” word since that definition was made up by the guy who writes the website The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (http://www.dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com/), but it’s certainly an evocative word for something many of us have experienced, and how do they think we get words, anyway? Someone makes them up. (Hell, “petrichor” was coined in the ’60s. By scientists!) I may put “sonder” in a book someday to add my own tiny weight to its legitimacy.

If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your new book, who would it be?

I’ve been listening to Sean Nelson’s album Make Good Choices a lot while writing my novel in progress, a contemporary fantasy. It’s smart, literate, snarky, dark, and surprising songwriting—all virtues I value highly. I don’t know if it works as a “soundtrack” for the book, exactly, but it certainly makes me want to write clever sentences.

What D&D character alignment best describes you first thing in the morning?

I’m usually chaotic good but when I first wake up I’m probably self-centered enough to qualify as chaotic neutral.

Choose your preferred fictional vacation spot: Narnia or Middle Earth (or some other fictional realm)…

Fictional realms are usually terrible places to vacation, as they tend to be full of monsters and conflicts—Narnia and Middle-earth would both be good places to get killed—but I wouldn’t mind visiting the worlds of Iain M. Banks’s Culture. You’d just have a hard time getting me to leave.

If you could find one previously undiscovered book by a non-living author, who would it be? Why?

Tom Reamy, because he died so young and at the top of his game. Though I’d prefer if it were a collection of undiscovered stories rather than another novel; based on the limited evidence available (one novel vs. many stories), he was better at short fiction.

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