The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Laini Taylor

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 Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, and the recently released Dreams of Gods & Monsters, as well as the companion e-novella, Night of Cake & Puppets. She is also the author of the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the National Book Award finalist Lips Touch: Three Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter, Clementine. Check out the Daughter of Smoke & Bone tumblr to view and submit fanart, and catch Laini on tour this spring, making stops in the US and Canada!

Join us as we cover subjects ranging from Flash Gordon to fantasy real estate, and more!

If you could choose your own personal theme music/song to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?

The Flash Gordon theme by Queen. FLASH! A-Ahhh, savior of the universe! I think that would really keep me on my toes.

Do you have a favorite word?

Callipygian!

First of all, print dictionaries kick dictionary.com’s ass when it comes to vocabulary building. You learn a thousand words while you skim for the one you want. I came into possession of “callipygian” like that, definition: having perfectly proportioned buttocks! A couple of years later, while I was tending bar, a customer bet me $20 over a single vocabulary word and the word was…callipygian. SUCKER!

Laini Taylor Dreams of Gods and Monsters Which language, real or fictional, would you like the ability to speak fluently?

One language? Feh. I want my character Karou’s ability to speak…how many is it? Twenty-six? To be clear, she didn’t have to learn them all. They were given to her as birthday presents. Many things about Karou are pure wish-fulfillment, and this definitely is. If I had to choose one, though, I think I’d take French.

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?

My favorite kind of apocalypse, and the kind most compatible with my survival skills, is the highly unlikely kind in which the population of the Earth simply vanishes, leaving everything just as it was. Like: a viral epidemic apocalypse, but without all the pesky dying. Is it terrible to admit that when I read The Stand, I thought it would be kind of fun to get to choose the best house in town and just move in? (I must have been a college student in a tiny apartment at the time.) Basically, take the single fun montage scene from some apocalypse movie, like when they fill up the shopping cart in 28 Days Later, and that’s my ideal apocalypse. Happy looting. Swiping up great real estate. I’d probably find a gorgeous horse too, and bond with it and ride it around town. That’s my apocalypse.

What kind of apocalypse would I avoid at all costs? Well, I avoided both reading and seeing The Road, but somehow the bleakness still managed to infect me. I honestly would rather have zombies and monsters than that kind of sheer human-on-human violent bleakness. *shudder*

Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?

I did some reading about parasites while I was writing my second book, Silksinger, and learned all kinds of crazy stuff. The most memorable may be the “vegetable caterpillar” of New Zealand. If I recall correctly, there’s a fungus that gets itself ingested by a caterpillar, then slowly colonizes it from the inside, essentially turning the caterpillar into vegetable matter before growing a shoot that will dispatch further fungal spores to transform more caterpillars. Horrifying, and a great alien takeover strategy. The detail I loved best about it is that the Maori used to use charred “vegetable caterpillars” as an ingredient in the ink for their “moko,” or tattoos. Fiction doesn’t get much weirder than this.

What’s your favorite method of procrastination?

Ooh, easy. Travel magazines, travel guidebooks, and planning trips. When the recent National Geographic Expeditions catalog was delivered to our house, my husband knew he was in for days worth of “would you rather go to Borneo or the Galapagos?” at the dinner table. Airbnb is a new browsing addiction, and “shopping” for villas in Italy or castles in Ireland takes time. You can’t rush fantasy real estate shopping.

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

Martians are all well and good, but YOUTH. Easy. I’ve gotten to this time in my life where I’m not exactly old (my four-year-old daughter, the other day, called me “young-old” so I guess I’m officially on the “old spectrum”) but the reality of time and its limitations has become undeniable. It’s kind of a bummer when you realize there just will not be enough days/weeks/years to do all the things on the vague mental life list.

Now excuse me while I cry.

What’s the most embarrassing guilty pleasure you’ll admit to? (music, movies, pop culture, food, drink, etc…all fair game!)

Dance movies. I love them, but pretty much only watch them in hotel rooms on book tour, probably while eating fattening room service food I would never eat at home. (Family, don’t read this.) Also, when super lurid romance novels fall into my lap, I get a kick out of them. I’d never buy them, though.

Sometimes I wish they’d fall into my lap more often…

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