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 Stephanie Saulter, author of the ®Evolution trilogy; her first novel, Gemsigns, was published in the UK in 2013 and will be launched in the US in May 2014. Its sequel, Binary, will be released in the UK in April. Born in Jamaica, she studied at MIT and spent fifteen years in the United States before moving to the United Kingdom in 2003. Stephanie blogs unpredictably at stephaniesaulter.com and tweets only slightly more reliably as @scriptopus. She lives in London.
Join us as we cover subjects ranging from procrastination to sea creatures, and more!
Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.
I’ve been shot. Yes, really. No, I’m not going to show you the scar.
What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
Twitter. Or is that just the most frequent? Hmm…
Favourite is probably something that gets me out of the house. A long walk in cool, sunny weather, an afternoon spent poking around in a museum or gallery. Procrastination that can be disguised as creative meandering is the absolute best.
Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?
One of the characters in Gemsigns, Gaela, has extraordinary eyesight; she can see far more of the electromagnetic spectrum than we can, from ultraviolet to infrared, and she has night vision like a cat’s. I already knew there were animals whose vision is either lower or higher on the spectrum than ours, but I thought I’d better check that I wasn’t pushing the bounds of plausibility too much with her. My research led me to the mantis shrimp: trinocular vision, twelve different photoreceptors (humans have three), and it can see polarised light, which we can’t do at all. It’s thought that this last feature enables it to see prey which would be transparent to an animal that had to rely on colour vision —like us—and possibly to navigate and communicate in ways we can barely imagine. They’ve also got the most powerful punch in the animal kingdom, capable of delivering a blow that approaches the force of a bullet, and breaking the odd aquarium from time to time.
So, yeah, the mantis shrimp. How I learned to stop worrying whether my fictional characters were too far-fetched. Nature trumps author every time.
Do you have a favorite unknown author?
I’m a big admirer of Richard Morgan’s work; he’s one of the few authors whose next book I will always buy, period. He’s hardly an unknown, but I don’t think he’s as famous a name as he deserves to be. He writes terribly damaged characters who lead very grim lives; but he does so with an empathy, and an awareness of the corroding effect of violence, that I think is quite rare.
If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your books, who would it be?
Florence + The Machine. I don’t listen to music while I’m actually writing, but there are things you’re drawn to in the spaces in between, when you’re driving or thinking or trying not to think. ‘Ceremonials’ never got put away the year I was writing Binary. And ‘Lungs’ also got a lot of play during the Gemsigns year.
Would you rather discover the fountain of youth or proof of life on Mars?
I think life elsewhere in the universe is a lot more likely than an elixir of youth here on earth, so I’ll go for that. It doesn’t have to be Mars though. Mars doesn’t have much to recommend it, other than proximity.
Do you have a favorite phrase?
It’s a good rule for life, and death too come to think of it. I’d be happy with that on my tombstone.