The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: John Joseph Adams

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 John Joseph Adams, the series editor of Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. He is also the bestselling editor of many other anthologies, such as The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, Armored, Brave New Worlds, Wastelands, and The Living Dead. Dead Man’s Hand, featuring stories of the Old West infused with elements of the fantastic, is available May 13th in the U.S. and May 30th in the U.K. from Titan Books! John is also the editor and publisher of the digital magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare, and is a producer for WIRED’s The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Join us as we cover subjects ranging from American Idol to minotaurs, and more!

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

I don’t feel guilty about liking any of these, but I acknowledge that they are things that other people often label “guilty pleasures.” (I say like what you like and don’t feel guilty about it!) But I watch a LOT of reality television—including American Idol, which makes no sense if you know my musical tastes at all since I listen to almost nothing but death metal. I almost always lose interest once it gets to the finals, but I LOVE the early rounds—like I seriously can’t wait to watch those episodes (I’ve even re-watched them!). (I think because there’s a lot of parallels between the auditions process and reading slush.)

Other than that, I watch a lot of cooking shows, which is weird because I’m not at all a foodie, but my wife got me hooked on Hell’s Kitchen and then it’s progressed from there. (It’s less surprising to me that I like HK in particular as opposed to something like Restaurant Impossible, as I really like “competition reality” shows like Survivor.)

I think part of it is that sometimes I just need a break from narrative fiction after dealing with it all day.

Dead Man's Hand anthology John Joseph AdamsHere’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?

Since one of my new books is a weird western anthology—Dead Man’s Hand, out May 13!—one of the first things that came to mind was to save Wild Bill Hickok from being gunned down by the coward Jack McCall. But that wouldn’t be a very useful thing to waste my time travel magic on, so I’d probably want to save the Library of Alexandria from being destroyed or something like that. Though honestly I’d be pretty terrified to change anything or to go back in time at all since it almost always seems to end in disaster and would almost certainly result in everyone I’ve ever known and loved being erased from existence, even if my change improved a lot of other things about the world.

(For Time Trivial, I’d go back in time to ensure that bass booming out of car stereos never became a thing that was perceived as cool in any way.)

If I could travel to the future, I’d want to be directed to the immortality treatment center so I can be made to live forever.

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 don’t really have any survival skills per se, but I’ve always thought the best sort of apocalypse to live through would be something viral, because that way much of the infrastructure of civilization will still be in place after the apocalypse comes.

I would want to avoid at all costs any apocalypse that destroys technology. Like in S.M. Stirling’s Change series, where all modern tech stops working and throws humanity back to medieval level technology—DO NOT WANT. Give me computers and internet or give me death.

I enjoy reading about all sorts of apocalypses though, as evidenced by the several books I’ve done about the apocalypse. Oh and hey—I just had a new one come out recently! The End is Nigh, an anthology of pre-apocalypse stories, is available now! There are a couple virus apocalypses in there, and at least one end-of-modern-tech apocalypse.

What is your preferred robot noise? A) Beep, B) Boop.

FALSE DICHOTOMY. Beep is nothing without the Boop.

If you want more profound insights about robots, you should check out my other new anthology, Robot Uprisings, which I co-edited with Robopocalypse author Daniel H. Wilson. It features work by Hugh Howey, Seanan McGuire, Scott Sigler, Charles Yu, Anna North, Robin Wasserman, Ernest Cline, Jeff Abbott, Julianna Baggott, and many more, plus a new novella from Daniel H. Wilson.

What’s your favorite method of procrastination?

I go through what I think of as a non-productivity spiral: I check email, check Twitter, check my RSS feeds; by the time I’m done with that, there’s new email, then new Twitter, etc. And this can go on and on for a while. Admittedly the email part of that isn’t REALLY procrastination since it’s usually stuff I need to do, but it does frequently distract me from the stuff I had been PLANNING to do. As a result I often end up most of the way through the day before I even get started actually reading or editing the stuff I’d been planning to get to.

But it’s debatable whether or not what I just described is even really procrastination, since all of that is essentially a professional activity (for the most part anyway). When I’m REALLY procrastinating—like if I’ve got so much to do that I’m overwhelmed and as a result can’t do ANYTHING, what I do is watch TV. But I’ve found sometimes vegging out with the TV for a while sometimes gives my brain the break it needs and then I can get to work.

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

I would choose fountain of youth—only if its effect can be explained by science though; I don’t think I want to live in a non-rational universe. On the other hand, I don’t want to ever die, so I’d probably actually still pick fountain of youth either way. Of course, that doesn’t make you invulnerable, so I could still be killed. Still, extraordinarily long-life sounds pretty great. (I can give my wife some youth juice too, right?)

Unless proof of life on Mars leads to alien immortality treatments, in which case I’d go for that.

Name your favorite monster from fiction, film, TV, or any other pop culture source.

I have an irrational love for minotaurs.

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

Prelude: It all started with me getting a goatee template thing and showing it off to my family because it looked ridiculous. When they said I looked like Bane from Batman, I said (in my best Tom Hardy/Bane voice) “…strawberries.” [Referencing the Auralnauts video, “Bane Outtakes.”] So then I started sometimes randomly saying “Strawberries” or “Bagel and cream cheese” in Bane’s voice.

Then one night my wife and I kind of accidentally wrote Batman/Bane slash in bed. Turns out she can do a fine Christian Bale Batgrowl. It started when I donned my contoured sleepmask that kind of looks like Batman’s cowl and then devolved from there. I’d describe the story for you but I swore I’d never tell.

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